This Week in Princeton History for March 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Jacob Riis lectures on campus, four Princetonians are being held in the same German prison camp, and more.

March 12, 1925—The Jewish Student Congregation of Princeton University begins hosting a series of weekly lectures on aspects of Jewish history and religion. All are welcome to attend.

March 13, 1902—Jacob Riis, best known as the author of How the Other Half Lives, gives a lecture in Alexander Hall illustrated with stereopticon views of slums in New York.

March 15, 1871—The first issue of Princeton’s College World (precursor to the Princetonian) appears.

The first issue of Princeton’s College World, March 15, 1871.(Click to enlarge.) Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), Box 36. College World was short-lived. The Princetonian explained in 1885: “It was doomed to an early grave, however, as its managing editors, both Whigs, unfortunately touched on Hall matters in a way unsatisfactory to Clio and to avoid trouble the College World was discontinued. ”

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Dear Mr. Mudd: Who Was Princeton’s First Jewish Student?

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Who was the first Jewish student at Princeton?

A. An exhibit at the Historical Society of Princeton speculated that Albert Mordecai of the Class of 1863 was “very likely the first” Jewish student at the College of New Jersey (now named Princeton University). Although Mordecai might well have been the first Jewish student at Princeton, our records cannot offer a definitive confirmation.

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Albert Mordecai, Class of 1863. Historical Photograph Collection, Alumni Photographs Series (AC058), Box MP20.

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Proudly We Can Be Jews: The Jewish Experience at Princeton

“I never found Princeton a terribly comfortable place in terms of my being a Jew…”
–Morton Denn ‘61

In 1993, the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) opened at 70 Washington Ave. The mission of the CJL was to provide a place for all Jews (orthodox, conservative, reform or secular) to eat, worship, and socialize. Although the Center primarily served Jewish needs, it also allowed Jewish students to dine with their non-Jewish friends. The struggle to gain campus recognition was a long endeavor that lasted more than a century. Before the CJL opened, Jewish students gathered at Murray-Dodge, in off-campus housing, or in their dorm rooms, keeping Judaism and Jewishness alive.

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First page of a letter from Marcus Lester Aaron ’20 to Rabbi Louis I. Egelson, December 15, 1919. Marcus Lester Aaron Correspondence (AC420), Box 2, Folder 3.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 10-16

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Arthur Conan Doyle gives a reading of Sherlock Holmes, Theodore Roosevelt lectures, and more.

November 10, 1975—As part of the U.S. Postal Service’s Bicentennial campaign to honor Revolutionary War patriots, a nine-cent postcard depicting former College of New Jersey president John Witherspoon is issued. On the reverse, the card notes that Witherspoon is the only college president to have signed the Declaration of Independence. A ceremony at Maclean House marks the occasion.

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John Witherspoon Postcard, Office of the President Records (AC187), Box 330.

November 12, 1946—Thirty students meet in Murray-Dodge Hall to discuss forming a student group for Jews at Princeton.

November 15, 1894—Arthur Conan Doyle reads extracts from Sherlock Holmes, The Refugees, and the currently unpublished “Le Chateau Noir” at Alexander Hall. He also speaks on his career and inspirations for detective stories. Reserved seats are 75 cents; admission is 50 cents.

November 16, 1917—Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt gives an address in Alexander Hall. He encourages Princeton students to wait for their chance to fight in World War I—it will come, he says, but now they should focus on school.

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Theodore Roosevelt, “National Strength and International Duty,” lecture given at Alexander Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, November 16, 1917. General Manuscripts Collection (MC230), Box 6.

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

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