This Week in Princeton History for December 24-30

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Princeton pays its first phone bill, an undergraduate writes to his cousin to urge him to join him at school, and more.

December 24, 1895—The College of New Jersey pays its very first telephone bill ($40.00 for the year).

December 25, 1818—William Krebs writes to his cousin from Nassau Hall and encloses Princeton’s current catalogue. “This will doubtless prove amusing to you. … Do not abandon the idea of joining College next spring…”

Early catalogues for the College of New Jersey (Princeton) were in Latin, like this one William Krebs sent to his cousin on December 25, 1818. Catalogus Collegii Neo-Caesariensis is translated as Catalogue of the College of New Jersey.

December 26, 1906—News that Trenton vaudeville actress Edna Mae Chandler has secretly married a Princeton student in a 2:00AM ceremony performed by a local Justice of the Peace makes headlines throughout the region, but it will later come out that contrary to Chandler’s understanding, Harry F. Bibbins is not a 22-year-old Princeton senior and the son of a millionaire but rather a 17-year-old Trenton hotel clerk. They will divorce in 1913.

December 27, 1765—The St. John’s Grand Lodge of Massachusetts grants a petition from residents of Princeton, including Richard Stockton, to establish a Masonic Lodge.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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Training for Love and Family: Princeton University’s Marriage Course

In 1927, Ernest R. Groves developed a groundbreaking new course at the University of North Carolina focused on comprehensive preparation for marriage and family life. By the mid-1930s, scattered colleges throughout the United States were offering similar classes to undergraduates, but Princeton joined the group a bit late. The first serious discussions of the possibility of having such a course here occurred in the late 1940s. Students were pushing for a course to address sociology, psychology, religion, economics, law, and medicine as they related to marriage and family life. A 1949 editorial in the Daily Princetonian lamented the lack of such a class as “an astonishing fact.” The first marriage lecture at Princeton was given on February 15, 1950.

Due to its high demand, “A Course on Marriage and Family Life” was open only to Princeton seniors after the first couple of years, even though it was non-curricular (i.e., could not be taken for credit). One needed tickets to attend lectures, for which a fee was charged. Princeton faculty led smaller discussion groups, similar to precepts, following the lectures. The institution was not yet co-educational, so the focus was on how to be a good husband and father; wives- and mothers-in-training were presumably taking courses elsewhere. Some students found it difficult to discuss sensitive topics openly, but most reports indicate that they felt it had been a good experience for them.

Marriage course ticket sales. Photo from 1957 Bric-a-Brac.

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