This Week in Princeton History for April 16-22

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a young professor dies of AIDS, the Princetonian begins publishing every other day, and more.

April 16, 1995—Assistant professor of English Walter C. Hughes, age 34, dies of AIDS.

Walter C. Hughes, ca. 1990s. Photo from the Princeton Weekly Bulletin.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 18-24

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a newspaper’s editorial cartoon satirizes the contrast between the presidential leadership of John Maclean and James McCosh, a Princetonian becomes Senate Majority Leader, and more.

December 18, 1772—John Witherspoon writes to the New York Gazette to defend himself against charges that by praising the College of New Jersey (Princeton) he is denigrating the College of New York (most likely this refers to King’s College, which will later be renamed Columbia University). “There are many real Advantages attending a College in a large City, for the Instruction and Improvement of Youth. Should any Gentleman think fit to recommend the College of New-York, on these Accounts, pray how would it be taken if I should resent it as an Injury to the College of New-Jersey?”

December 22, 1875—The Daily Graphic runs a front-page editorial cartoon depicting the faculty of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) as the frogs, former president John Maclean as the Log King, and current president John McCosh as the Stork King in Aesop’s fable, “The Frogs who Desired a King.” Three student fraternities waving signs in the background reference recent controversies over secret societies at Princeton.

Cartoon from Daily Graphic, December 22, 1875. Click to enlarge.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 13-19

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the first football season concludes, the Graduate Student Union holds its first meeting, and more.

November 13, 1869—The first college football season ever finishes with a game at Princeton, who defeats Rutgers 8 to 0. (A game planned for November 27 will not be played, because the faculty of both Princeton and Rutgers feel the contests are interfering too much with the students’ coursework.)

Early football at Princeton bore greater resemblance to soccer than rugby, including the use of a spherical ball rather than an oval, as seen in this College of New Jersey (Princeton) 1873 team photo. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box LP036, Image No. 2522.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 29-June 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the University Chapel is dedicated, a professor spirits a Chinese dissident to safety, and more.

May 30, 1928—The University Chapel, which replaces the destroyed Marquand Chapel, is dedicated in a Sunday morning service. It is the largest such chapel in the United States.

Princeton University Chapel, May 29, 1928. Associated Press photo. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP30, Image No. 744.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 28-December 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, residents flee Nassau Hall, Theodore Roosevelt goes to a football game, and more.

November 29, 1776—John Witherspoon calls all the students of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) together in the Prayer Hall in Nassau Hall to dismiss them to safety. Taking what they can carry with them and leaving the rest to become spoils of war for the rapidly approaching British soldiers, the students say good-bye to one another and take flight from campus.

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Nassau Hall, 1760. Nassau Hall Iconography Collection (AC177), Box 1.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 10-16

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian says they can’t drink the water, the first “Gay Jeans Day” causes controversy, and more.

October 10, 1878—The Princetonian warns the administration in an editorial that the shortage of potable water on campus will likely drive students to drink things that are “stronger than water.”

October 11, 1989—Princeton’s first “Gay Jeans Day,” which encourages students to wear jeans to show support for gay rights, provokes controversy on campus.

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Flyer advertising Gay Jeans Day, 1989. Lesbian Gay Bisexual Alliance Records (AC037), Box 1, Folder 5.

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The Rittenhouse Orrery

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Q: What is an orrery, and how did Princeton University come to own one? How was it damaged in the Battle of Princeton?

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Rittenhouse Orrery on display in Firestone Library, 1954, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP10.

A: An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system. Orreries were regarded as essential teaching equipment for 18th-century lectures on “natural philosophy” (the physical sciences). Although invented ca. 1700 by George Graham, they have been called orreries because English instrument maker John Rowley named a copy he made of Graham’s machine “The Orrery” in honor of Charles Boyle, Earl of Orrery.

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Gillett G. Griffin, pen and ink drawing of David Rittenhouse designing his orrery, University Library Records (AC123), Box 302. Griffin was Princeton’s Curator of Graphic Arts 1952-1966.

David Rittenhouse, a Pennsylvania clockmaker, self-taught astronomer, and later the first director of the U.S. Mint, designed and built the College of New Jersey’s orrery (now Princeton University). In 1771, College President John Witherspoon purchased it from Rittenhouse for approximately £220 and installed it in Nassau Hall. The orrery instantly became the College’s most valuable asset. Rittenhouse’s original plans for the orrery included a central panel of four square feet showing the planets revolving around the Sun, and two smaller panels, one focused on Jupiter and Saturn, and the other on the Earth and the Moon, but all that remains today is the central panel, after damages during the military occupation of Nassau Hall in 1776-1777. A more complete example of a Rittenhouse Orrery has been preserved at the University of Pennsylvania Library.

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Gillett G. Griffin, pen and ink drawing of David Rittenhouse showing his orrery to Princeton president John Witherspoon, University Library Records (AC123), Box 302.

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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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