This Week in Princeton History for January 31-February 6

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the matriculation process is explained, local women report on their efforts to keep students from drinking, and more.

February 2, 1845—A letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun explains what it is like for a new student at Princeton:

When he arrives[,] he look[s] round, well pleased; the polished professors welcome him with a smile, advise him to take care of his health, and not study too hard, and then his name is inscribed, in a formal manner, in a book, which process is called matriculation. This is all very easy. Next day, however, he recites in Hebrew, next in moral philosophy, next in ecclesiastical history, and next in Theology. While this is going on, the professors are busily engaged in finding out his attainments, but in such a sly way as not to alarm the victim with the idea of an ordeal. By the time he gets through, however, he begins to think something more than usual was the matter with him, else he would not have perspired so hard, and at last actually sees that he has escaped from the very fingers of Moloch, and blesses his stars that he was not burned up. This whole operation, by the knowing ones, is technically called cutting, and when the victim gets through it he is permitted to run at large with the other dogs.

Selected page from Princeton’s Matriculation Register, 1821-1844. Office of the Registrar Records (AC116), Box 47.

February 3, 1767—College Steward Jonathan Baldwin defends himself against charges of having paid too much for some mutton, and his butcher against charges of swindling. The New York Journal will later publish Baldwin’s account of the facts behind the mutton controversy that has drawn significant colonial press.

February 5, 1881—The Women’s Christian Temperance Society of Princeton reports on its first year of operation in town, which has included having speakers repeatedly address crowds outdoors on the college campus to tell stories “in the most thrilling way” about the dangers of intoxicating drinks. The Society feels a particular responsibility to engage in activism among “that perpetually shifting part of the population, the 500 or 600 young men who come here for education.”

February 6, 1917—The new Senior Class Committee on Business Opportunities sends out a circular letter requesting that companies interested in hiring a member of the Class of 1917 write back about available openings.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 23-29

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a drawing is held for room assignments in a new dorm, the basketball team plays its first game ever, and more.

January 23, 1767—Jonathan Baldwin secures an affidavit from Job Stockton to defend himself against accusations that he has defrauded the College of New Jersey of about 30 pounds of mutton. “Tho’ I have been employed ten years in buying and providing for the college, this is the first instance, in which I have been charged with this surprising facility, in being imposed upon in my bargains,” Baldwin writes.

January 24, 1898—Students participate in a drawing to secure lodging in the newly-built Blair Hall. Rents range from $200-$300 per year including meals.


Blair Hall, ca. 1897. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP04, Image No. 69.

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