This Week in Princeton History for December 21-27

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an Ohio newspaper weighs in on a judge’s decision, James McCosh recovers his stolen horse, and more.

December 23, 1893—The Cleveland Gazette complains about the decision of a Mercer County judge to fine two Princeton students $50 each for assaulting Sing Lee (a Chinese immigrant who operates a laundry on Nassau Street) and his assistant, Lee Why; ransacking Lee’s business; breaking the windows; and stealing $85 from Lee. The students themselves argued that the disapproval expressed in newspapers nationwide was punishment enough, but the judge disagreed. In addition to material losses, Lee and Why suffered burns from hot irons and boiling water, but the Gazette minimizes the incident and considers it normal behavior. “Civilization is rapidly growing effete and tottering to its fall. The next thing we know college hazing will be dragged into the courts and treated like any other ruffianism.”

December 24, 1868—James McCosh has recovered his stolen horse. The horse, worth $1,500 (approximately $27,500 in 2020 dollars), was stolen from its stable in Princeton recently. Police found the horse at a farm in Trenton attached to a buggy stolen from someone else.

Horses have played a significant role in the lives of Princetonians, as with these horses who pulled a buggy for visitors to Prospect House ca. 1900s. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD06, Image No. 8908.

December 25, 1874—Two students set off on foot for Washington, D.C. “The roads were in a very bad condition, but they are both men of indomitable energy and pluck.”

December 27, 1765—The St. John’s Grand Lodge of Massachusetts grants a petition from residents of Princeton to establish a Masonic Lodge. Members include Richard Stockton and John Witherspoon.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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The Horses of Princeton

When we say someone or something is a “workhorse” these days, it signifies working hard for a long time, but we rarely mean an animal. For most of Princeton’s past, however, this term would have referred to literal horses. Horses were a vital part of daily life well into the 20th century.

Horses with wagons and buggies on Nassau Street, ca. 1915. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AC05, Image No. 8621.

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