Princeton University and “Meet Me in St. Louis”

By Madeline Lea ’16

In the opening scenes of the 1944 MGM motion picture Meet Me in St. Louis, Lon Smith receives his Princeton University Catalogue in the mail (view the clip here). Lon, the eldest child of the Smith family, has been accepted to Princeton in the fall, and his going away party is the excuse to invite John Truett, “The Boy Next Door”  to the Smith house. Lon’s sister, Esther (played by Judy Garland), has a crush on the new next door neighbor, and she believes Lon’s party will be the perfect excuse to meet him.

The University Archives receives numerous requests for information about the Catalogue of Princeton University: 1903-1904.

The Catalogue for the academic year of 1903-1904 (the edition fictional incoming freshman Lon Smith received) was fairly lengthy with 407 pages of Princeton facts and figures. The volume is 8 inches x 5 ¾ inches. The cover is tan with black lettering.

catalogue_cover

The Catalogue was given to every student and intended to provide basic information about Princeton University. Early Catalogues contained the following: names of the Board of Trustees, a list of the Faculty, a list of students (by class year), information about admission, courses of instruction, examinations, expenses, and commencement exercises. Over the years more detailed information was included, such as a history of the University, a map of the campus, an academic calendar, and library hours. As Princeton grew from a college to a university, it provided new services to its students, faculty, and staff. The Catalogue is a valuable resource that helps to document this growth.

Additional Related Source:

Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978). Also available online.

This post was originally written by Nancy M. Shader in 2003 for the FAQ section on our old website. It has been revised and expanded by Madeline Lea ’16 as part of the launch of our new website.