An American University: An Audio Portrait of Princeton in 1946

By: Abbie Minard ’20

Abbie Minard ’20 is a history concentrator with a primary interest in early American history. On campus, she is a research associate at the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, music director and a DJ at WPRB, artistic director of the TapCats (tap dancing group), and a member of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra. She is also a poet with a love for dada and experimental performance.

As a part the exhibition, Learning to Fight and Fighting to Learn: Education in Times of War, we digitized a half hour BBC radio broadcast from 1946 that featured Princeton University for an audio portrait of university life in the United States.  The program, titled “An American University,” was one half of a radio exchange program with Oxford on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

The audio included in the segment was recorded in November and December as Princeton celebrated its bicentennial anniversary.  It features a wide array of Princeton voices, covering university history, academics, residential, and social life, with spotlights on the football team and the glee club, whose musical interludes are interspersed throughout the program.

We selected photographs from our collections to accompany the audio for this video.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 14-20

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, football rivalry with Yale begins, an African American graduate breaks through a color barrier, and more.

November 14, 1969—Charles Conrad, Jr. ’53 is in command of the Apollo 12 mission, the second mission in which humans will travel to the moon, when it launches today. He carries four Princeton University flags with him.

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Flag taken to the moon by Charles Conrad, Jr. ’53. Memorabilia Collection (AC053).

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This Week in Princeton History for November 7-13

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a member of the Class of 1903 casts his vote, students burn the American flag in protest, and more.

November 7, 1955—Today’s issue of Life features Princeton mascot Michael A. Briggs ’57.

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The Princeton University cheerleading squad with Michael A. Briggs ’57 as the tiger, ca. 1955. Photo from 1956 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 31-November 6

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the football team scores a historic win, the campus mourns a favorite squirrel, and more.

November 1, 1877—The Princetonian complains that everyone is annoyed “by the too boisterous singing of Freshmen” on the north end of campus.

November 3, 1888—In one of their highest scoring games in history, Princeton’s football team defeats Johns Hopkins University 104-0.

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The College of New Jersey (Princeton) football team, 1888. Photo from 1891 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 24-30

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a member of the Class of 1922 tries to avert nuclear war, a brawl breaks out in chapel, and more.

October 24, 1914—Princeton University plays its first game in the newly constructed Palmer Stadium, defeating Dartmouth 16-12.

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Palmer Stadium during a game played on November 14, 1914. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP73, Image No. 2907.

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Kidnapping Handsome Dan XII

Princeton University’s intense football rivalry with Yale is a longstanding tradition. The tiger has been challenging the bulldog on the gridiron for well over a century. The mascots have done figurative battle with one another about as much as the students have, a fight commemorated in song, line drawings, and magazine covers. In 1979, a group of four Princeton students took this rivalry a bit farther when they kidnapped Handsome Dan XII, Yale’s first female mascot.

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Handsome Dan XII with her Princeton counterparts, November 1979. Photo from 1980 Bric-a-Brac.

Dan, also known as Bingo Osterweis, lived with Yale emeritus history professor Rolin Osterweis. It was common for the Yale cheerleaders to ask to borrow the dog for photographs, which the Princetonians—Mark Hallam ’80, Jamie Herbert ’81, Rod Shepard ’80, and Scott Thompson ’81—knew. Wanting to boost the morale of Princeton’s football team, they came up with a plan to take Dan. They posed as Yale cheerleaders and approached Osterweis to ask if they could take her for an hour to pose for pictures in a football program. Osterweis later described the students as “ingenious.” Fully convinced that he was dealing with Yale cheerleaders, Osterweis handed Dan over to her kidnappers, along with a leash and some dog biscuits.

Rather than returning Dan when the hour was up, the students instead called Osterweis from a payphone, telling the professor the dog was going to be out of town for a few days. Osterweis then thought to himself that it was most likely he was talking to Princeton students and warned them that they were “about to take stolen property over a state line” and he would have to report them to the police.

The kidnappers did not take Dan to Princeton right away, but instead holed up with her in a New York apartment in an effort to avoid both Connecticut and New Jersey police, finally bringing her to Princeton the following Friday. Osterweis did not report them to the local police, but only Yale authorities, explaining, “I was certain Princeton undergraduates would be kind to her. Most undergraduates, I suspect, are likely to be kinder to dogs than to their fellow undergraduates.”

While at Princeton, sometimes wearing an orange and black t-shirt, Dan visited the eating clubs and football practice, where she was greeted with enthusiasm. She spent the night at the home of Howard Menard ’36, emeritus dean of the School of Engineering, then went to Palmer Stadium for Princeton’s football match with Yale. During the first half of the game, she was in the refreshment booth, but at halftime, made an appearance on the field in a golf cart to the cheers of the crowd. Finally, Princeton’s own mascot carried Dan, who wore an orange and black scarf around her neck, to the waiting Yale cheerleaders.

Yale got its revenge on the field, beating Princeton 35-10. Afterward, Dan returned home to New Haven “happy and looking fat as a pig.” Osterweis said he assumed that she must have been fed everywhere she went.

Though the caper made the news across the region, it was not the first time a rival had stolen Handsome Dan. In 1934, Harvard took Handsome Dan II to Cambridge, where with a bit of hamburger they coaxed him to lick the boots of a statue of John Harvard. Mostly, however, Yale’s bulldogs have historically avoided capture.

 

Princeton sources:

Bric-a-Brac (1980)

Daily Princetonian

Princeton Alumni Weekly

 

Other sources:

New York Times

Trenton Times

Yale Daily News

Yale Herald

The Changing Shape of American Football at the College of New Jersey (Princeton)

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, our thoughts have turned toward the history of American football. We’ve repeated the fact several times: On November 6, 1869, the first intercollegiate football match ever was played on College Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, between the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and Rutgers College. Yet some dispute this. The game Princeton and Rutgers played that day looked a lot more like soccer than what we now know as American football. The ball was perfectly round, not the oval we use now. The teams had about 25 players each on the field, rather than 11. But even if this wasn’t “football” as we know football, without that game to attract the attention of other colleges, American football would probably have never gotten off the ground. Thus, we’ll still continue to say that the first intercollegiate American football game happened on November 6, 1869.

Questions might still remain, however. How did Princeton go from playing with approximately 25 men on the field chasing a round ball to playing with 11 men on the field chasing an oval ball?

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The College of New Jersey (Princeton) 1873 football team. Note the round ball in front of the man in the top hat. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box LP36, Image No. 2522.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 9-15

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the school holds its first Commencement, a “food revolt” causes tension between students and administrators, and more.

November 9, 1748—The College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) holds its first Commencement in Newark, where six students are granted the degree of Bachelor of the Arts. The New York Gazette reports “That Learning, like the Sun in its Western Progress, had now began to dawn upon the Province of New Jersey…”

November 11, 1985—Director of University Health Services Dr. Louis Pyle ‘41 speaks to the University Council on medical and administrative issues arising from a new national concern: the spread of AIDS. Though no cases have been found at Princeton, Pyle believes it is only a matter of time before UHS begins facing the issue head on, and refers to the syndrome as “medicine’s most challenging current problem.”

November 13, 1978—Princeton administrators warn 180 students who have signed a petition threatening to cancel their meal plans if food quality does not improve that they will not allow contract cancellations related to what is known as the Wilson College “food revolt.” (Students organized under the slogan “The food is revolting, so why aren’t you?”) In response, hundreds more will sign the petition, for a total of 715 students.

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Princeton University dining hall, ca. 1970s. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP192.

November 15, 1877—The Princetonian editorializes, “We regret that Yale has again been constrained to make herself obnoxious,” in response to Yale’s refusal to modify the rules of American football to have 15 players per team rather than 11.

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 Origins of the “Ivy League”

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Where did the term “Ivy League” come from, and what schools are in it?

A. The eight universities belonging to the Ivy League are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale. The idea dates back to October 1933 when Stanley Woodward, a sports writer for the New York Herald Tribune, used the phrase “ivy colleges” to describe these schools, which had common athletic programs. In 1936, the student newspapers of these colleges printed an editorial calling for the formal establishment of an athletic league for the “ivy colleges.”

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Clipping from New York Herald Tribune, October 16, 1933.

When initiated by administrators in the eight schools in September 1946, the “Ivy Group” was concerned about growing interest in college athletics as a form of national entertainment, especially football. The advent of televised college football games only intensified the colleges’ resolve to develop rules governing the sport. The Ivies were to be places where athletes were primarily students who participated in sports as a part of an overall educational program, not professionals who were recruited for their physical abilities nor students who were exploited for the material gain of their institutions. Continue reading

A Princeton Thanksgiving

Last year, Princeton University extended its Thanksgiving break, after lengthy discussions on the merits of canceling Wednesday classes before the holiday. Now, students have the equivalent of a five day weekend to observe Thanksgiving. Most will probably leave campus for feasts involving turkey and cranberry sauce, but that hasn’t always been the Princeton way.

Thanksgiving has meant football and fun in the city rather than turkey and time with family to many students in the University’s past. As the Tiger explained in 1892, “The day of days of the football season is, of course, Thanksgiving. The customs of the day have changed somewhat … Empty chairs are plentiful at the erst-while all important dinner.” The dedication to football is further revealed in a 1920 proposal to shorten the Thanksgiving break to allow time off from classes at other times in the semester to accommodate other football games. Princeton typically played Yale in New York on Thanksgiving day, a tradition so revered that in 1892, Princeton rebuffed Harvard’s offer of a Thanksgiving game. (Harvard responded by refusing to play Princeton at all.) (“Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving Day 1893,” Athletic Programs Collection (AC042), Box 1, Folder 1) “Thoughts of the quiet home-scenes and the usual Thanksgiving turkey fade before the highly-wrought enthusiasm incident to the game with Yale.” (Tiger November 26, 1891, p. 32)

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Yale-Princeton Football Program, November 28, 1889, Athletic Programs Collection (AC042), Box 1, Folder 1.

The Princeton-Yale Thanksgiving game was so popular that it became a source of revenue for New York’s merchants, who decorated their shops with Princeton orange and black, as well as Yale blue. In 1893, Harper’s Weekly referred to the Princeton-Yale game as “the greatest sporting event and spectacle combined that this country has to show. … No one who does not live in New York can understand how completely it colors and lays its hold upon that city, how it upsets and overturns its thoroughfares, and disturbs its rapid routine of existence, and very few even of those who do live in New York can explain just why this is so; they can only accept it as the fact.” New Yorkers, too, were more inclined to view Thanksgiving as the day Princeton played Yale, rather than as a day for feasting: “The significance of that day, which once centered in New England around a grateful family … now centers in Harlem about 22 very dirty and very earnest young men who are trying to force a leather ball over a whitewashed line.” New York “surrenders herself to the students and their game as she never welcomes any other event, except a presidential election.”

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Poster from Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving weekend game, 1894, Princeton Artwork Collection (AC376), Box 2.

Charles V. Kidd ’35 wrote in his diary about seeing a football game on Thanksgiving in 1930: “It wasn’t such hot football, but we had fun yelling.” Football wasn’t the only non-traditional diversion students sought, however. After the game, Kidd went for a drive with friends. “Margaret,” he noted, “is a crazy driver.” (Diary, November 27, 1930, Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334), Box 5) Leonard Bleecker ’19 dispensed with football and New York altogether in 1916, and went to an arcade in Trenton, where he wrote that he had “a good time.” (Diary, December 8, 1916, Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334), Box 1)

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Clothing Store ad pasted in the scrapbook of Charles Howard McIlwain (Class of 1894), 1890, Scrapbook Collection (AC026) Box 172.

That is not to say that students never went the traditional route, nor that Princetonians were universally in favor of the typical revelry of a Princeton Thanksgiving. In 1930, the Daily Princetonian editorialized, “economic misery and the likelihood of a hard winter for the victims of the depression and the possible necessity of a bread line to stave off starvation” should give students pause. Instead of the usual frolicking in the city, the Prince suggested finding other ways to spend the holiday on campus. Some also chose to spend time with family. Christopher Donner ’35 went to his aunt’s farm in nearby Skippack, Pennsylvania, “where we had a pleasant day with everything good to eat,” but still, he missed Princeton—as “It is quite a long time since I last used an outhouse—especially with a northwest wind blowing.” (Diary, November 30, 1933, Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334), Box 4)

Motivations for choosing to spend Thanksgiving weekend near Princeton varied, but a major factor was the length of the break. In 1943 and 1944, there was no break at all; for most other years, only Thursday was granted. Students were also penalized for skipping classes, and missing a class just before or just after Thanksgiving was counted against them as “double,” or as if they’d missed two rather than one. Travel costs and penalties for missing class were Bleecker’s reasons for the Thanksgiving arcade visit mentioned above. The breaks were occasionally lengthened to accommodate the Princeton-Yale football game if it fell on a day other than Thanksgiving itself, but the standard break remained only one day—and students were expected to attend classes on both the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving. In 1939, they may not have wanted to plan an out-of-town trip for other reasons. Not knowing whether Princeton’s observation of Thanksgiving would fall on the same day as the one at home complicated matters. After President Franklin Roosevelt asked governors across the United States to move Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November, non-compliant New Englanders kept their celebration on November 30, rather than November 23, as it was in New Jersey and elsewhere in the country.

After World War II, widespread absences made Princeton a much quieter campus on Thanksgiving and the following weekend. In 1957, the faculty decided to extend the break from Wednesday afternoon until Monday morning, noting that most students were leaving campus anyway. Yet those who find themselves on the largely-deserted campus this Thursday may find comfort in the idea that being here for Thanksgiving has been, by choice or necessity, something thousands of other Princetonians have experienced, too.

Sources:

Athletic Programs Collection (AC042)

The Daily Princetonian

Princeton Artwork Collection (AC376)

The Princeton Tiger

Scrapbook Collection (AC026)

Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334)

For more on the history of Princeton football, see our previous blog post.