This Week in Princeton History for January 21-27

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Indiana University’s new song is found to be plagiarized from “The Orange and the Black,” students take the first unproctored final exams, and more.

January 21, 1905—The Princeton Alumni Weekly publishes evidence that Frances Morgan Swain has plagiarized Princeton’s song, “The Orange and the Black,” for Indiana University’s “The Crimson and the White.”

Compare the lyrics to “The Orange and the Black,” as printed in the 1905 edition of the Carmina Princetonia and first copyrighted in 1894 (Princeton Music Collection (AC056), Box 2), to this excerpt from “The Crimson and the White” below:
Although Yale has always favored
The violets dark and blue
And the gentle sons of Harvard
To the crimson rose are true
We will own the modest May flower,
With its colors fair and bright
And pledge our love forever
To the Crimson and the White
Notably, this is not the only such example we’ve seen. Knox College used strikingly similar lyrics in 1902’s “The Purple and the Gold.”

January 23, 2003—Maurice Cohill Jr. ’51 wins a Jefferson Award for his work with the National Center for Juvenile Justice, which he founded.

Maurice Cohill ’51. Photo from the Class of 1951’s 50th reunion book, 2001.

January 24, 1936—A memorial service is held in Princeton University Chapel for King George V of England.

January 26, 1893—At the first exam given under the Honor Code, H. G. Murray observes a change in his classmates: “Upon entering, the difference was at once noticeable and the men instead of taking the back seats as was the custom in those days all rushed to the front of the room. … To my knowledge, this was also the first examination at which men smoked openly and I recall the relief which I experienced from lighting my pipe at that time. The nervous strain was naturally very great but several men handed in papers which they knew could not pass, without the slightest regret.”

This is H. G. Murray’s English Literature exam from January 26, 1893. Historical Subject Files (Ac109), Box 5, Folder 20.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for January 16-22

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a riot paralyzes the campus, a senior performs for the U.S. president, and more.

January 18, 1893—The faculty approve a resolution ending supervision of exams, provided that students sign a pledge stating that they have “neither given nor received aid” during the test.

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First exam given at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) under the Honor Code, January 26, 1893. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 5, Folder 20.

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“I Pledge My Honor”

Final exams begin at Princeton University today. Professors, Lecturers, and Assistants in Instruction (Preceptors) will not be present while students are taking them, trusting them to police themselves. In return, the students will sign their exams under this handwritten statement: I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination.

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Students taking an exam in Princeton University’s McCosh 50, ca. 1950s. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP163, Item No. 4402.

The Honor System, one of Princeton’s most distinctive traditions, was established and has been maintained almost exclusively by undergraduates. Cheating ran rampant at the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) in the late nineteenth century; students saw it as a way to outwit the faculty, while professors expended a great deal of energy trying to catch cheaters. Booth Tarkington (Class of 1893) described this rivalry as a “continuous sly warfare between the professor and the student.” Crib sheets were common, as was sharing answers during tests. Students who refused to collaborate were ridiculed. Reporting fellow students to the faculty was seen as dishonorable and unthinkable for most, while professors would stalk exam rooms looking for any inconsistencies. Sometimes faculty also hired extra proctors help keep an eye on students.

Student dissatisfaction with this culture of cheating and “sly warfare” peaked in 1893, when some of the most influential juniors and seniors proposed an honor pledge. Honor systems were not uncommon at southern schools, such as the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia, and many Princeton undergraduates had gone to southern preparatory schools with prominent and successful honor systems. Senior Charles Ottley  (Class of 1893) and several juniors drew on their practical experience with the honor system at the Webb School in central Tennessee as they pushed for an honor system at Princeton.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, final exams prove stressful, the Nude Olympics meet their end, and more.

January 12, 1941—A pre-finals blackout distresses residents of five Princeton dormitories. The next morning, the Daily Princetonian will report: “After hesitatingly peering skyward to assure themselves that no Nazi bombers were heaving over the horizon, they swore that even in London they didn’t have to take exams the day following a blackout.”

January 13, 1893—In response to widespread cheating that many fear diminishes the accomplishments of those who do their own work, College of New Jersey (Princeton University) students call for an honor system. The Honor Code will be adopted and first used on an English Literature exam on January 26.

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Philip Ellicott Barringer ’38’s final exam in History 314 (The Renaissance and the Reformation), Spring 1938. Note the Honor Pledge’s now-outdated wording. Course Examinations Collection (AC054), Box 22. (Access to students’ academic records is governed by this policy.)

January 14, 1969—To protest the concept of grades, 27 Princeton philosophy majors go on “strike,” refusing to sign their final exams. Several other students in Philosophy 300 reportedly follow their lead in solidarity. Their effort to rid Princeton of grades ultimately fails, and the students will all identify their exams and accept the grades assigned by their professors several weeks later.

January 15, 1999—The New York Times reports that the Nude Olympics will likely not continue at Princeton after the year’s event resulted in the hospitalization of five students. The tradition, which evolved during the 1970s streaking fad and has been discouraged by the administration for years, consists of the sophomore class running laps in the nude around the Holder Courtyard after each year’s first snowfall. The Times article quotes Peter Dutton ’91: “Can’t undergraduates run naked in a restrained and dignified manner anymore?” (Ultimately, 1999’s Olympics will be the last naked frolic in the snow for Princeton’s undergraduates.)

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 1974 cartoon from the Daily Princetonian. Video of the 1986 Nude Olympics can be found here.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

Exhibition celebrates 50th anniversary of University Archives

The richness and depth of the collections of the Princeton University Archives are the focus of “‘The Best Old Place of All’: Treasures From the Princeton University Archives,” a new exhibition at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library opening Friday, Feb. 20.

The exhibition coincides with the yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the University Archives and features some of the most historically significant documents and objects from the collection alongside seldom-seen treasures. It will run through Friday, Jan. 29.

“The goal of this exhibition is to illustrate the University’s long and impressive history and, in doing so, to celebrate and reflect upon the vital role of the University Archives in preserving and documenting that record,” said University Archivist Dan Linke.

Featured in the exhibition are documents, photographs and objects from the University Archives covering the time of the institution’s founding to the modern era. A page from the 1783 minutes of the Board of Trustees contains the trustees’ request that George Washington sit for a portrait so that they might replace the work of King George that was destroyed in the Battle of Princeton. Nearby, a draft of then-University President Woodrow Wilson’s vehement argument on the matter of the location of the Graduate College hints at another battle fought on campus more than a century later.

Many of the objects capture the ever-changing nature of student life and academics at Princeton. Early course examinations, class schedules and a set of handwritten student lecture notes from the time of John Witherspoon (who was University president from 1768 to 1794) exemplify how, though times may have changed, the purpose of the typical Princeton student has remained largely the same. One notable exception to that credo can be seen in the form of a so-called “cheating cuff,” which hearkens back to the days before the Honor Code. Early 20th-century football programs and photographs from Triangle Club shows point to extracurricular pursuits.

In addition to paper documents and photographs, “‘The Best Old Place of All'” draws upon the extensive memorabilia collection of the University Archives. Items such as canes, clay pipes and the Reunion jacket of Adlai Stevenson — the influential politician and diplomat who graduated from Princeton in 1922 — are all a part of the University’s heritage. Other objects such as the discus that 1897 alumnus Robert Garrett threw in the 1896 Athens Olympics and a blackball box used during eating club “bicker” selections represent some of many curiosities that have found their way into the archives in the last 50 years.

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