This Week in Princeton History for February 4-10

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, frozen pipes make bathing impossible, the campus celebrates the issuing of a new postage stamp for Chinese New Year, and more.

February 5, 1822—John Maclean, a tutor at the College of New Jersey, catches a student lighting the fuse of a bomb in an entry to Nassau Hall, stomps it out, and saves the building from damage.

February 6, 1919—Russell Conwell, founder of Temple University, gives his infamous “Acres of Diamonds” lecture at Princeton. (The full speech is available online.)

February 8, 1877—Because the gymnasium’s water pipes have frozen, using the campus’s only bathtubs will have to wait until the spring thaw.

Gymnasium at the College of New Jersey (later named Princeton University), ca. 1870s. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP47, Image No. 1544.

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The Temples of Cloacina

Today, behind Nassau Hall just beyond Cannon Green, visitors to the Princeton University campus will see stairs between two large tiger sculptures installed in 1969. This sharp incline had different scenery prior to the twentieth century, however. Students sometimes called it “South Campus,” “The Temples of Cloacina,” or “Cloaca Maxima.” Less euphemistically or poetically, it served a most basic purpose, which students studying ancient Rome will have already guessed from the last two names: this was where the College of New Jersey (Princeton) sent its sewage.


Photo by Denise Applewhite, 2015. Courtesy Princeton University Office of Communications.

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