This Week in Princeton History for June 22-28

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a math professor receives worldwide acclaim, the school colors appear for the first time, and more.

June 23, 1994—Professor Andrew Wiles draws international attention with his announcement that he has found a proof for Fermat’s Last Theorem, a problem whose solution has eluded mathematicians for 350 years.

Andrew_Wiles_Princeton_Bulletin_6_Sep_1993

Andrew Wiles. Photo from Princeton Weekly Bulletin.

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African Americans and Princeton University

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Q. What information do you have about African Americans and Princeton University?

A. Until the twentieth century, Princeton’s history has mostly been dominated by white men, typically from prosperous backgrounds. Though decidedly pro-Union during the Civil War, the campus had strong Southern influences, and its reputation as the “northernmost university town of the [segregated] south” was not undeserved. Yet that is not to say that Princeton’s story can only be told in terms of its loudest voices. Here, we give a brief overview of some of the ways African Americans fit into Princeton’s past.

Cheerleaders_1995_AC112_SP9_No.2484

Princeton University cheerleaders Holland Gary ’97 and Tiffany O’Brien ’97, 1995. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP9, Image No. 2484.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Woodrow Wilson refuses to have a ball, Princeton students fight to get into a class about married life, and more.

January 19, 1895—Marshall P. Wilder, the first comedian with a disability, performs at the Second Presbyterian Church in Princeton, with College of New Jersey (Princeton University) students in the audience.

Marshall Wilder flyer

Flyer advertising Marshall P. Wilder’s performance in Princeton January 19, 1895. Music Performance at Princeton Collection (AC205), Box 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 29-January 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, graduate alumni form their own organization, George Washington comes to town, and more.

December 29, 1939—William B. Scott (Class of 1877), Blair Professor of Geology, Emeritus, wins the Penrose Medal, the top prize in geosciences, from the Geological Society of America.

December 30, 1949—The Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA ) is founded.

1st_APGA_Meeting_AC109_Box10_F1

Promotional materials sent to graduate alumni following the founding of the Association for Princeton Graduate Alumni, 1950, Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), Box 10, Folder 1.

January 1, 1951—Princeton University begins participation in the Social Security system.

January 2, 1777—George Washington and the Continental Army march from Trenton to Princeton, where they will liberate Nassau Hall and the rest of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) campus from British occupation on January 3.

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Princeton has long celebrated its connection to George Washington and the American Revolution. This cover of an event program is found in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Records (AC200).

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

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

“The New Order”: How Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor (Briefly) Led to Women Enrolling in Classes at Princeton University

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan”: so began Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 8, in a speech asking the United States Congress for a declaration of war. Princeton University didn’t wait until Roosevelt’s speech; instead, the Princeton Senate declared war on Japan immediately following the attack. The Daily Princetonian reported on this story and others under the banner headline, “PRINCETON PRESENTS UNITED FRONT AS UNITED STATES FACES TOTAL WAR.”

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Army Specialized Training Program, ca. 1942-1945, Princeton University, Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4431.

It would be difficult to overstate the transformations that World War II brought to the United States at large and to Princeton University in particular in a nearly immediate and all-consuming way in the wake of the Japanese strikes on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A stunned administration under the leadership of University President Harold Willis Dodds (Graduate Class of 1914), who had only six weeks before asserted that the threat of war “will call for minor adjustments in the curriculum” (“Some Thoughts on Universities and National Defense,” October 31, 1941), suddenly and drastically revised its approach. Rather than minor adjustments, Princeton instead embraced major upheavals to nearly all of its traditions.

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British military class, Princeton University, ca. 1943, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4433.

On December 15, Dodds presented the rough outlines of a changed Princeton curriculum to a mass meeting of students in Alexander Hall. A Princeton A.B., typically a four-year degree, would have an accelerated option with year-round classes, so that it could be completed in three. Additional “emergency courses” would be added to teach skills deemed useful for war. Princeton would yield itself to the needs of the U.S. Army and Navy, whatever those needs happened to be. All of these anticipated changes quickly went into effect. Here, we highlight how the war effort brought one other dramatic change to the campus: for the first time, women enrolled in classes.

New_Order

“The New Order,” Princeton Tiger, December 1941.

Photogrammetry, or making maps from aerial photographs, was among many emergency courses added for the Summer 1942 term. Tuition was not charged for the class, taught by engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, but admission was competitive, as applications poured in from across the nation.

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Flyer advertising Princeton University Photogrammetry Course, 1942, Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), Box 421, Folder 3.

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Unidentified female student with engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, Princeton’s Photogrammetry class, 1942, Historical Photographs Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP212, Item No. 5577.

The class of 45 ultimately included 23 women, most from the East Coast region between New London and Philadelphia, and one from Royal Oak, Michigan. The Prince marveled, “One of the few remaining strongholds of the male, the classrooms of Princeton University, have been opened by the war to women students for the first time in the 196 years of its existence.” This was a bit of an exaggeration, however, as only a few classrooms were actually open to women, and the photogrammetry class was the only one taken by American women. Three female members of the British military also attended classes here during the war (Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 10, 1943), but afterward, coeducation at Princeton became nothing more than a memory until the 1960s. For more on the history of women at the University, see our previous blog post.

For further reading on World War II’s impact on Princeton University, see our previous blog posts about the bronze memorial stars that adorn some dormitory windows and the wartime love letters of alumnus Peter Page ’41.

Sources:

Board of Trustees Records (AC120)

Daily Princetonian

Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112)

Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109)

Office of the Dean of the College Records (AC149)

Princeton Alumni Weekly

The Princeton Tiger

Root, Robert K. The Princeton Campus in World War II. Princeton: Self-published, 1978.

 

This Week in Princeton History for December 1-7

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Daily Princetonian elects its first female chairperson, Andrew Carnegie gives Princeton a lake, and more.

December 2, 1978—The 102-year-old Daily Princetonian elects Anne C. Mackay-Smith ’80 its first female chairperson. In June 1980, she will be elected to the Princeton University Board of Trustees.

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Anne C. Mackay-Smith, 1980, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 125.

December 3, 1846—Natural philosophy (physics) professor Joseph Henry begins a new job as the first Secretary of the newly created Smithsonian Institution after 14 years at Princeton.

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“Sketch of the Life of Professor Joseph Henry,” Faculty Files, AC059, Box 229.

December 4, 1798—William Richardson Davie, a member of the College of New Jersey Class of 1776 and the 1787 “Tiger Nine,” is elected governor of North Carolina.

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William Richardson Davie, 1800, Undergraduate Alumni Records 1748-1920 (AC104), Box 33.

December 5, 1906—There is standing room only in Alexander Hall as steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie formally presents documents conveying legal title for Lake Carnegie to Princeton University.

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Washington Road bridge over Lake Carnegie, Princeton, New Jersey, 1907, Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 1.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

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

History of Women at Princeton University

Written by Vanessa Snowden

For much of its history, Princeton University had the reputation of being an “old-boys’ school.” Starting in the fall of 1969, Princeton became co-educational, and nine women transferred into the Class of 1970, with slightly greater numbers in the two subsequent classes. Women who matriculated as freshmen in 1969 graduated in the Class of 1973, the first undergraduate class that included women for all four undergraduate years. However, the first steps towards co-education came as early as 1887, with the founding of Evelyn College. From its inception, this women’s institution was associated with Princeton University, and it was hoped that the link would be similar to the Radcliffe and Harvard University relationship. Unfortunately, Evelyn College closed in 1897, due to financial problems and a lack of support from Princeton.

For the next half-century, women instead made their presence known in unofficial positions. Wives and daughters of Princeton faculty and administrators succeeded in exerting significant influence on campus life as advocates for students as well as assistants in research. Isabella Guthrie McCosh, wife of James McCosh, the 11th president of Princeton, was deeply involved in protecting the health and welfare of Princeton students. As a result of her unflagging dedication, the campus infirmary was built and named in her honor.

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“Reminiscences of Mrs. McCosh,” June 1935. Auxiliary to the Isabella McCosh Infirmary Records (AC175), Box 2.

Women were also important forces in the academic world. Margaret Farrand Thorp, wife of English professor, Willard Thorp, often assisted with her husband’s research while simultaneously producing her own independent work. Fittingly, she wrote a book entitled Female Persuasion: Six Strong-Minded Women, which was published in 1949. Speaking of her lot as a female at Princeton, Thorp once quipped, “We who practice the pleasant profession of faculty wife are often amused by Princeton University’s apparent hostility to the feminine sex. Hostility is probably too strong a word. The situation is, rather, that for the University, the feminine sex does not exist.” (See William K. Selden, Women of Princeton, p. 33.)
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