In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a freshman requests the right to wear a top hat, women make national headlines for Commencement firsts, and more.
June 4, 1930—In a letter to the editor of the Princetonian, a member of the Class of 1933 requests an end to rules limiting the wearing of top hats to upperclassmen on the grounds that “this piece of apparel is indispensable to anyone having any regard for correct social usage… The Freshman or Sophomore feels self-conscious and is at a decided disadvantage in not being permitted to dress himself properly.”
Getting to wear top hats was one of the things that marked the transition from Princeton sophomore to junior in the early 20th century. Here, rising juniors march in Princeton’s annual High Hat Parade in 1915. The tradition began in the 1870s as a way to formally signify that one now had a right to wear a top hat and carry a cane on campus. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP16, Image No. 4072.
It’s no secret that Princetonians love parades; thousands descend upon our small town for each annual celebration of Reunions, the capstone of which is the “P-Rade.” Each class wears its own specially-designed orange and black jacket for this parade. As the Alumni Association notes, this tradition has roots in other, older traditions. It began officially in 1896, when a parade to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the newly-renamed Princeton University (formerly the College of New Jersey) brought thousands of alumni back for a mile-long walk around town, many in costume. Yet a much less well-known and rather short-lived tradition from the early twentieth century was also called the “P-Rade” and treated locals to many unusual sights and sounds on St. Patrick’s Day each year. The St. Patrick’s Day P-Rade had its origins in the parade of students and alumni in 1896, too. This St. Patrick’s Day marks the 100-year anniversary of the last such P-Rade.
1913 St. Patrick’s Day P-Rade, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series, Box SP17, Image No. 4086.