In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a group is disciplined for a bovine prank, an alumnus opens the Democratic National Convention, and more.
July 18, 1790—Three students are expelled and a fourth is disciplined for an incident the previous June 26 in which, following an evening of drinking at David Hamilton’s Tavern, they put a calf in the pulpit of Nassau Hall.
July 21, 1952—Adlai Stevenson ’22, governor of Illinois, opens the Democratic National Convention. Five days later, he will accept its nomination as United States president.
Democratic National Committee campaign handbook, 1952. Adlai Stevenson Papers (MC124), Box 226, Folder 5.
In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, juniors take up roller skating when cars are banned, a fire forces the school to start over almost from scratch, and more.
March 2, 1927—In order to protest the new “car rule,” which bans student use of automobiles on campus, Princeton juniors take to roller skating. The New York Times reports on their activities, noting the posters the skaters pinned to their shirts, with various comic slogans, including “And Mama said I could.” Five of the skaters will be photographed for the March 13, 1927 issue of the New York Herald Tribune. Although their efforts capture national attention, ultimately the car rule will remain in effect for decades.
Three students with a car on campus, ca. 1920s, presumably before the ban on student use of automobiles. Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box SP14, Item No. 3412.
Question: While at Princeton, did James Madison suffer a nervous collapse due to the intensity of his studies?
The story of Madison’s supposed nervous collapse in the days before commencement and its place in Princeton lore are primarily the result of a brief note in MacLean’s “History of the College of New Jersey” which states that at commencement in 1771, “Mr. James Madison was excused from taking part in the exercises.” Many other sources which discuss the young Madison as a student attribute the very same statement to a commencement program, however if such a document exists it is not in the holdings of the University Archives. The closest such resource is a handwritten reproduction of an article from the “Pennsylvania Chronicle” documenting the event in Commencement Records, which lists Madison among the graduates but makes no mention as to whether he was present or not.
Nonetheless, in Madison’s “Autobiography” (actually an untitled manuscript written/dictated at the age of 80) he writes that “His very infirm health, had been occasioned not a little by a doubled labor, in which he was joined by fellow student Jos. Ross, in accomplishing the studies of two years within one…” At some point later historians must have made the connection between this passage and MacLean’s note that he missed commencement. Note that in his correspondence as a student (compiled in the Papers of James Madison) the young statesman makes no mention whatsoever of these health troubles or of missing commencement, although later in life he did suffer from periodic bouts of an unknown malady which some historians suspect may have been epilepsy (as discussed in the Madison biographies of Ralph Ketcham and Irving Brant).