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.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for October 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, students are taking a new kind of exam, a play written by a member of the Class of 1883 debuts on Broadway, and more.

October 19, 1859—The Princeton Standard reports on a new innovation at Princeton College: Closed-note, written exams.

October 21, 1896—As part of the Sequicentennial celebration at the institution formerly known as the College of New Jersey, Princeton University’s Class of 1861 meets for their 35th anniversary reunion.

The cover of the Princeton Class of 1861′s menu for the Sesquicentennial celebration in 1896. During this celebration of Princeton’s 150th year, the College of New Jersey, colloquially known as Princeton College, officially took the name “Princeton University.” Many classes returned to campus for the festivities. The entire menu can be viewed on our Tumblr page. Princeton University Class Records (AC130), Box 5.

Continue reading

West Meets East: Japanese Themes in Princeton’s Graphic Arts of the Late 19th Century

If you spend as much time immersed in the University Archives as I do, at times you will see intriguing patterns emerge. I have seen repeated examples of an unusual theme in the graphic arts associated with the College of New Jersey (as Princeton University was named until 1896) in the late 19th century and early 20th: a variety of seemingly out-of-place Asian imagery. For example, a menu for what is clearly Western-style food, written partly in French, features a drawing of potted bamboo and a person in a kimono. One finds drawings of Asians in the Bric-a-Brac’s section headings, though not in settings where any logic would imagine they would truly appear at this time, such as working as clerks in the Registrar’s office. The appearance of the “Mikado” eating club in the 1896 Bric-a-Brac, however, should clear up any confusion about the origins of these themes.

Class of 1870 reunion dinner menu, June 20, 1881. (Click to enlarge.) Princeton University Class Records (AC130), Box 7.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for September 2-8

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Frist Campus Center opens, an alum writes to Princeton about surviving a major earthquake in Japan, and more.

September 2, 1973—An article in today’s Sunday magazine of the New York Times provokes contentious correspondence between Dean of the College Neil L. Rudenstine ’56 and the author, Harvard professor Martin Kilson. Kilson claims that Princeton, like many other institutions, has lowered its standards when increasing its admission of African Americans. Rudenstine insists Kilson’s portrayal of academic performance among African Americans at Princeton as subpar is inaccurate.

September 5, 2000—Frist Campus Center opens.

Frist Campus Center, September 2000. Image from negatives found in Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 197, Folder 14.

Continue reading