This Week in Princeton History for May 16-22

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the administration bans automobiles on campus, a student writes to a friend to say being admitted to Princeton has not improved him, and more.

May 18, 1925—In response to student complaints, starting today, private automobiles, motorcycles, and carriages will no longer be permitted on Princeton’s campus, except if needed for business purposes. Students have expressed concerns about the way these vehicles tear up the grass and make it too noisy to study.

Three students with a car on campus, ca. 1920s. Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box SP14, Item No. 3412.

May 19, 1951—In observance of Armed Forces Day, local shops include military exhibits in their window displays.

May 20, 1877—James McCosh permits students to experiment with a “camp prayer-meeting,” holding the usual prayer service outdoors instead of indoors.

May 21, 1782—Ashbel Green writes to a friend, “I can assure you that I am not one inch taller, nor, that I know of, one whit the better for my admittance to Nassau Hall.”

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This Week in Princeton History for May 2-8

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, Bob Hope jokes with students, a Pennsylvania newspaper questions James McCosh’s decision-making, and more.

May 2, 1836—The Mammoth Exhibition of the Zoological Institute in New York (an early traveling circus) is in town. Those who pay the 25-cent admission fee are promised a view of exotic animals, including live tigers.

May 3, 1984—The Whig-Cliosophic Society presents Bob Hope with the James Madison Award. Hope responds, “I love it when a relic gives something to a relic.”

Bob Hope with students at Princeton University, May 3, 1984. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 142.

May 4, 1881—The St. Albans Daily Messenger criticizes James McCosh for not allowing the Glee Club to perform a concert in Trenton for the benefit of the Grand Army Post. McCosh reasoned that the saloons and “houses of ill fame” in Trenton made the environment inappropriate for the students, but the Messenger disagrees. “If these Princeton students are what they ought to be there could be no harm in their fulfilling their engagement in Trenton if the saloons and houses of ill fame were as thick in that city as in Luther’s imagination devils might have been in the city of Worms.”

May 7, 1845—Philadelphia resident Sears C. Walker receives a letter from professor Stephen Alexander in Princeton, who writes that he has seen the tail of a comet.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 7-13

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, locals take note of the Gold Rush, the Emperor of Japan honors an alum, and more.

March 8, 1882—The Chicago Tribune reports that rumors are circulating that James McCosh will be forced out and replaced by John Hall after losing his temper in chapel when several members of the senior class showed up dressed up and prepared to do impersonations for their senior orations. The Tribune quotes an anonymous member of the Class of 1882:

There were thirteen of them, and they concluded to imitate Oscar Wilde in dress, floral decoration, and manner. You can imagine the disgust of the President when he saw a senior in such a rig. Well, the speaking was postponed by order of the Faculty, and Dr. McCosh was more than angry. He was fairly white with rage.

Oscar Wilde, ca. 1882. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Wilde, known for a flamboyant style of dress and eccentric behavior, and was touring the United States giving lectures on aestheticism in 1882. Ministers criticized him for influencing both men and women with what many saw as an inappropriate example of masculinity. He would later be prosecuted and incarcerated for sodomy and gross indecency for his relationships with a fellow poet (Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas) and other males.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 17-23

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, heavy snow holds up the mail, the McCosh family host a party for students, and more.

January 17, 1995—Paul Muldoon, director of the Creative Writing Program, wins the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry.

January 18, 1796—Israel Crane (Class of 1797) complains to the faculty that “Mr. Harvey of the same class” “laid a nuisance at his door last Saturday night.” The faculty agree to investigate.

January 19, 1836—The Boston Traveler reports that it took 10 horses and 10 men four hours to get from Kingston to Princeton to deliver the mail (about 3 miles) because of the heavy snow.

January 23, 1879—Isabella and James McCosh have the senior class over to their new house. Local women, as well as some from out of town, assist with hosting the reception. The students are especially impressed with the mansion’s library.

Home of Isabella and James McCosh, ca. 1880s. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC111), Box SP05, Image 1240.

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When the Great Blizzard of 1888 Hit Princeton

One of the worst storms ever to hit the United States is typically known as “Great Blizzard of 1888,” but you may find it referred to as the “Great White Hurricane.” In it, Princeton students played a historic role in rescuing passengers aboard a train stuck in a snowbank, people were trapped inside for a week or more in most northeastern cities, and residents of the Atlantic coastal region had stories they would tell for generations.

Princeton students freeing a trapped train during a blizzard, March 12, 1888. Historical Photograph Collection, Student Photographers Series (AC163), Box SP1, Image No. 39.

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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.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 14-20

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, John Maclean defends the expulsion of students, Quadrangle Club opens, and more.

September 15, 1870—James McCosh interrupts a brawl between sophomores and freshmen on Nassau Street over canes with a shout of, “Disperse, young men, or the bailiffs will be after you.”

September 16, 1861—John Maclean writes to the editor of the New York Evening Post to explain the unpopular decision to expel some students from Princeton for attacking another student who had expressed sympathy for the Confederacy: The faculty “will not permit the utterance of sentiments denunciatory of those who are engaged in efforts to maintain the integrity of the national government; nor will they allow of any public expression of sympathy with those who are endeavoring to destroy the government,” but “it must be evident that the Faculty could not permit his fellow-students to take the law in their own hands…”

Pencil drawing of the parade local residents gave for the three students dismissed in the “Pumping Incident,” September 1861. Pyne-Henry Collection (AC125), Box 1, Folder 18.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 10-16

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Alfred A. Woodhull enters the Class of 1856, the Princetonian asks town residents to stop looking at undergraduates, and more.

August 10, 1854—Having successfully passed the entrance exam, Alfred A. Woodhull enters the Class of 1856. He will later describe his experience as follows: “Although formidable in anticipation and rather terrifying in fact, the examination, as I look back upon it, was not well calculated to determine what one did or did not know.”

Title page of faculty minutes for the first semester of Princeton’s 1854-1855 academic year. Office of the Dean of the Faculty Records (AC118), Vol. 5.

August 11, 1962—Zimani David Kadzamira ’66 arrives in New York for orientation in a program bringing African students to American universities before starting his studies at Princeton. It is his first time outside Nyasaland (which will later be named Malawi).

August 14, 1942—In response to a Trenton Evening Times article on the concerns of the town about students in the summer session at Princeton University not wearing enough clothing (“Scanty Summer Attire of Princeton Students Raising Official Eyebrows”), the Daily Princetonian suggests “poor embarrassed townfolks” should simply stop looking at them.

August 15, 1868—The Dublin Evening Mail reports that friends in Belfast presented James McCosh with an engraved silver coffee and tea set and a gold bracelet to bring with him to America.

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

This Week in Princeton History for June 22-28

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, James McCosh expresses concerns about youth wasted in the gymnasium, the Princeton Rocket inspires Williams College, and more.

June 22, 1874—In his report to the Board of Trustees, College president James McCosh expresses concerns about students spending excessive time in the gym preparing for gymnastic competitions: “I have seen all along that there must be some limit to set to them, lest they so excite a portion of our students as to lead them to waste upon them their best energies, and thus waste their youth.”

Equipment in Princeton’s Bonner-Marquand Gymnasium, 1870s. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP47.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 27-May 3

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, James McCosh is elected president of the College, thousands turn out to witness Firestone Library open for the first time, and more.

April 27, 1980—Princeton Against Registration and the Draft (PARD) holds its second protest of Jimmy Carter’s proposal for requiring registration for selective service, in spite of the country not being at war.

April 29, 1868—The Board of Trustees elects James McCosh as president of the College of New Jersey.

James McCosh, ca. 1870s. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box AD13.

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