This Week in Princeton History for March 15-21

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, 100 Princetonians picket a local bank for ties to apartheid, an unexpected loss of housing causes financial stress, and more.

March 16, 1816—A trunk is discovered open on the lawn of Nassau Hall with $3,000 stolen from it (about $46,000 in 2020 dollars, adjusted for inflation). The trunk belongs to a traveler on his way to New York who was robbed at the local Rowley’s Inn.

March 17, 1977—More than 100 students picket the Princeton Bank and Trust on Nassau Street for more than 90 minutes to demand an end to sales of Krugerrand, a South African gold coin. Sales of the coin help support apartheid, and students want to raise awareness of such entanglements locally, beyond the university’s investments. Emery Witt, a pharmacist next door, is frustrated that the picketing seems to be hurting his own business, but says he is pleased that students are expressing themselves.

Princeton University students picket Princeton Bank and Trust, March 17, 1977. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

March 18, 1997—Ashley Stevenson ’99 and Dan Morris ’98 marry each other at a Spring Break wedding in Salt Lake City, Utah.

March 20, 1843—Charles Godfrey Leland writes to his father to ask for money to cover his expenses after he has unexpectedly lost his room in town and none are available on campus:

The next and greatest question is, what shall I do next session for board—the only way to get a room in College is to take a room and buy the furniture, for every room in College is now occupied and will be still more so next session. Fonte, however, intends going out of College and will give his room (one of the very best) to any one who will buy his furniture (which, with the exception of the carpet, is the same that George Boker had)—for 30 or 40 dollars—which is very cheap. I have promised him I would let him know by the end of this week whether I would take his room or not.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

Marriage and Undergraduate Life at Princeton University in the 1970s

By Iliyah Coles ’22

Married undergraduates have been at Princeton for decades, even though they might appear to be relatively scarce at the University now. In fact, students who got married before attending college weren’t even allowed to be admitted until around 1970, most likely in part due to the difficulty in finding adequate housing for couples. Because of this rule, many students waited until they were enrolled to get married, which still presented a problem for the University in terms of living situations, especially since the number of married students was steadily increasing. The 1970s saw a substantial rise in the number of married undergraduates at the university. The problem was that married students wished to live with their spouses, even though some of them did not attend Princeton, and the University claimed that lack of availability and finances prevented this arrangement from occurring. 

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian, April 3, 1975.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 20-26

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, married undergraduates face a housing shortage, two Charter Club officers are sentenced to prison, and more.

May 20, 1782—Princeton president Samuel Stanhope Smith signs a receipt for Peter Elmendorf, Class of 1782, for payment of the rent of his room for the year (40 shillings).

May 21, 1971—The Daily Princetonian reports on a housing shortage facing 96 married undergraduates.

May 24, 1864—Twenty-three-year-old Abram Zabriskie, Class of 1859, a colonel in the Union Army, dies from wounds originally sustained in the Battle of Drury’s Bluff on May 16.

Abram Zabriskie, Class of 1859, ca. 1860. Historical Photograph Collection, Alumni Photographs Series (AC058), Box MP10.

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“Womanhood on Tiger Territory”: The First Women to Live in Princeton University Dormitories

We have previously written about the first women to take a class at Princeton University, unseating nearly two centuries of tradition. Today, we’re highlighting what our collections tell us about another group of women who changed Princeton’s established patterns as the first to live in campus dorms, another result of World War II’s radical changes to nearly every corner of American life.

During the war, many students left before graduating to enter military service. Completing their degrees posed challenges for both Princeton and its students. James M. Donnelly, Jr. ’43 wrote to administrator C. William Edwards on August 25, 1945. He hoped to return to Princeton, but there were special considerations. “I am also married and hope to bring my wife to Princeton when I return. However, the procedure I must follow to procure housing, with University aid, is also unclear.”

This wasn’t unclear only to Donnelly. Despite a commitment to allow its students to complete educations disrupted by war, the surge of returning veterans presented huge logistical problems for Princeton. Like Donnelly, many had married; some also had children. But residential colleges are not generally equipped to handle a large population of married undergraduates, and Princeton was no exception. This was, they anticipated, only a temporary problem, but nonetheless an urgent one.

One way Princeton responded to this new housing crisis was to build apartments, but these weren’t ready in time for Donnelly and many others. Thus, Princeton decided to have couples move into Brown Hall and a few other campus locations. For the first time in 200 years, women would live in dormitories at Princeton. If the students accepted these cramped accommodations, Princeton would allow them to return before the new Butler Apartments were constructed. A letter sent to one veteran by the Department of Grounds and Buildings warned, “None of the accommodations offered are at all satisfactory or desirable and very few have private baths or cooking facilities. Those which do are used for assignment to couples with a child.” Despite such ominous words, a significant number of veterans and their wives decided to come back to Princeton anyway.


Couples arriving at Brown Hall, 1946. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP166, Image No. 6055.

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