This Week in Princeton History for June 13-19

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus newspaper gets its start, a senior carries the Olympic torch, and more.

June 13, 1908—The first-ever session of Princeton Summer Camp begins with 17 boys from Philadelphia. In later years, the camp will become the Princeton-Blairstown Center.

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Princeton Summer Campers at the shore, 1916. Student Christian Association Records (AC125), Box 11, Folder 13.

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Princeton’s Bicentennial: Charter Day, October 19, 1946

In the 1946-1947 academic year, Princeton celebrated its 200th anniversary with a series of convocations and events, ending with a concluding ceremony, captured in a newsreel, which included a convocation address by US President Harry Truman. Today’s blog features another newsreel about the University’s bicentennial year that focuses on “Charter Day,” October 19, 1946. In addition to Princeton’s almost 200-year old charter and the “largest procession in Princeton history” at the time (which included 23 honorary degrees recipients), the newsreel addresses the beginning of intercollegiate football, depicting a re-enactment of the first football game between Princeton and Rutgers from November 6, 1869 during halftime of the 1946 Princeton-Rutgers game.

Princeton’s charter, granted to the University on October 22, 1746 (then still known as the “College of New Jersey”) is shown fleetingly in the newsreel (0:38). Readers of our regular blog already know that the charter, on intermittent display during the celebration of Mudd Manuscript Library’s 50th anniversary, is actually not the original (which was lost) but the second charter, drawn up in 1748. (An explanation can be found in our Frequently Asked Questions.) The famous early picture of Nassau Hall that follows at 0:48 is the copper engraving by Philadelphia artist Henry Dawkins (copied from a drawing by Princeton student William Tennent, Class of 1758), which was printed in Samuel Blair’s Account of the College of New Jersey (1764). For more information about the engraver, who was also a counterfeiter of paper money, see Julie Mellby’s Graphic Arts blog.

Over 500 people comprised the academic procession that opened and closed the morning’s convocation, according to the Prince, including faculty, trustees, representatives of all alumni classes and members of the Undergraduate Council. The procession included an official delegation from the United Nations, headed by Secretary General Trygve Lie, and members from the State Bicentennial Commission, including Walter E. Edge, Governor of New Jersey. Lie (1:42) and Edge (2:11) were among the 23 honorary degree recipients, as were the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, the Spanish writer Salvador De Madariaga, and the French philosopher Jacques Maritain (2:21–not all recipients are clearly visible).

The last eight minutes of the newsreel are occupied by the 38th Rutgers-Princeton football game in the afternoon (2:47), with a humorous reenactment of the first Rutgers-Princeton game of November 6, 1869 (5:51), considered the ‘birth’ of intercollegiate football. A description of the football game and the reenactment by Theatre Intime and members of the Rutgers soccer team can be found in the Prince. A copy of the program notes about the 1869 football game, with an explanation of the rules, may be downloaded at Twenty-four Stalwart Men.pdf. A second article from the program, summarizing the history of the Princeton-Rutgers football rivalry, can be viewed at  77 Years Princeton-Rutgers.pdf. More information about early football can be found in Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession by Mark Bernstein ’83, who wrote our previous blog entry.

The footage on this 16mm film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (part of item no. 0092).

Past, present and future US presidents at Princeton’s bicentennial, 1947

Princeton University celebrated its 200th anniversary with a year-long series of events, starting on September 22, 1946 and ending with a convocation on June 14-17, 1947. The newsreel posted here was shot during the conclusion of the bicentennial celebrations on June 17th, when thirty-six notables received honorary degrees, including US President Harry Truman, who gave the convocation address.

The newsreel opens with footage of Harry Truman, posing with former president Herbert Hoover (already a recipient of an honorary degree) and the widows of US presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, who were special guests. The first recipients featured are General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who would succeed Harry Truman as US President in 1953, and Admiral Chester Nimitz (0:37). Both were honored for their leadership during the war, Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander, and Nimitz as commander of the Pacific Fleet. Other recipients shown are Dr. Vannevar Bush, wartime director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (organizer of the Manhattan Project) and Bernard Baruch, presidential adviser during both world wars. They are followed by Warren Austin, US representative of the United Nations, and Viscount Harold Alexander, governor general of Canada (0:43-0:51). Albert Einstein, based at the Institute of Advanced Studies, but an honored guest on campus, also participates in the procession (0:31). The film ends with President Harry Truman’s rallying address, in which he urges the adoption of universal military training (1:28).

The newsreel is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (part of item no. 1344).