This Week in Princeton History for March 28-April 3

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, students join Anthony Comstock’s quest to rid America of vice, Princeton circulates a questionnaire for its “enemy aliens,” and more.

March 29, 1888—In a lecture to the Philadelphian Society, Anthony Comstock convinces many Princeton students to join his cause. This week, some of them will vote for a resolution to “express our thorough appreciation of Mr. Comstock’s work, and endorse his efforts in the suppression of vice.” Comstock opposes obscenity, abortion, contraception, gambling, prostitution, patent medicine, and women’s suffrage. The Philadelphian will note in its April issue, “It is a long time since the college has been stirred by any speaker as it was by the plain, straightforward, earnest words of Mr. Comstock.”

April 1, 1942—Princeton University circulates a questionnaire for its “enemy aliens” among its students, faculty, and staff.

Questionnaire sent to “enemy aliens” at Princeton University, April 1, 1942. (Click to enlarge.) Office of the Treasurer Records (AC128), Box 10. 

April 2, 1876—Some frosh take revenge on a mathematics tutor they say has wronged them by detonating a pound of explosives outside his door. The explosion breaks a window and sends part of his door flying into the room, damaging his sofa, Pittsburgh’s Daily Post will later report.

April 3, 1868—“Delta” writes in Princeton Standard: “This is a great town for customs, and for ancient, venerable, and time-honored things in general. We hear of them everlastingly. They are the burden of the song by day and by night. … Next to a ridiculous veneration for old customs, Princeton’s greatest enemy is her overweening self-conceit.”

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 29-February 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the death of a member of the Class of 1919 sparks national debate, the chess club organizes, and more.

January 29, 1975—Alum Henry Pitney van Dusen (Class of 1919) enters into a suicide pact with his wife. Their deaths will spark nationwide debate over euthanasia.

January 30, 1997—Sarina Sassoon ’00 appears on the Late Show with David Letterman, where she discusses Princeton’s mascot and her future plans, holds cue cards, and operates a camera.

Sarina Sassoon ’00. Photo from 2000 Nassau Herald.

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