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.”

Football and Love

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.

Accessing Early University History through Publications

 

Written by  Rossy Mendez

It can often be a daunting task to find University-related publications from the nineteenth century. Fortunately, a number are available in Princeton’s collections and online. You can search for these publications directly through the main library catalog or by using the finding aids site to search across the university’s special collections. You can limit your results by entering keywords such as “The College of New Jersey” and using date ranges.

Student Publications
The Princeton University Publications Collection (which dates from 1748-2012) contains a variety of publications written by students, from the informal social newsletter the Nassau Rake to the well-established Nassau Literary Magazine. The Princeton Tiger humor magazine, which started in the 1880s, is a significant part of the collection as some of its writers went on to literary careers. Lastly, this collection also contains articles and publications related to the university such as The Influence of Princeton on Higher Education in the South.

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The Tattler, Vol. 1, No. 16, February 26, 1840, Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), Box 52.

Athletics
The university has a rich athletic tradition and the documentation of this history can be found in several collections at Mudd. The Athletic Programs Collection contains a number of programs from Princeton’s early athletic history including the famous Princeton-Yale football games near the turn of the century. The C. Bernard Shea Collection on Princeton University Athletics contains clippings and statistics of sports events starting in 1869. In addition to this collection, the Bric-a-Brac yearbooks available in Mudd’s reading room also provide insight into sports events.

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Princeton vs. Cornell football souvenir program, October 31, 1896, Athletic Programs Collection (AC042), Box 1, Folder 4.

Visual and Performing Arts
The arts have always played a major role in Princeton’s history. The Music Performance at Princeton Collection (1875-2007) includes programs and advertisements from musical clubs within the university as well as visiting performers. In addition, the General Princeton Theater Collection and the Triangle Club Records have a number of programs and playbills from early performances at the university, while the University Broadsheets Collection has advertisements of important events on campus.

Student Speeches
Clippings and programs of the student orations related to Princeton’s commencement ceremonies can be found in the University Commencement Records and some in the College of New Jersey Pamphlets book, which has a selection of materials from the 1800s. These records provide information about the university’s traditions and practices and are a good way to learn more about the university involvement of a particular individual.

University Registries and Catalogs
A number of registries, yearbooks and catalog publications are available in our reference room. The Nassau Herald yearbook, which was first issued in 1864, contains biographical and academic information including names, field of study and place of residence. In addition to directory information it also provides information about the graduating class (photographs are also included after 1915). The Bric a Brac, an informal yearbook publication produced by the Junior class, documents the social aspects of the university including activities of various clubs and sports teams. Class reunion books include an up to date class directory, eulogies, quotes and other pieces of writing that allow insight into the post-graduation activities of alumni.

University catalogs dating from the early 1800s contain information about statistics, fees, coursework and other policies. Some of these catalogs can be accessed in our reading and reference rooms but some can also be found online (see below). There are a number of specialized catalogs like that of the Whig Society that record club activities and alumni.

Digital Resources
In addition to the abundance of information available at Mudd, there are several of online resources that are worth mentioning. If you are a student or faculty member at Princeton you have access to digital versions of some of these publications through the databases available through the main library catalog. The Nassau Monthly, for example can be accessed through ProQuest and EBSCO databases. In addition to these, ProQuest Historical NewspapersGale News Vault and the Newspaper Archive contain a number of other 19th century publications. If you cannot access Princeton’s digital resources, there are a number of other online resources. The entire archive of the student newspaper The Daily Princetonian, is freely available online and covers events, student issues and local news. The archive contains newspaper clippings that date to as early as 1875. Users can conduct keyword searches as well as limit results using various parameters.

Google Books contains a number of publications that have been digitized by Princeton and other universities. Some examples include catalogs such as the Princeton College Bulletin from 1895 and class reunion books such as the Decennial record of the class of 1874. You can also conduct general searches online to determine if the material you need has been digitized. Here are some examples of available items: an essay written for the student publication, The Tattler; an 1897 essay in Scribner’s magazine written about undergraduate life at Princeton; and a speech given by Charles Fenton Mercer at the University Chapel in 1826.

The Internet Archive has also made available several early images of Princeton’s history through the photo sharing site, Flickr. These images derive from publications and the link to the entire publication is available at the Open Library.

Whether it is using our collections at the Mudd Library or conducting research online, finding information from the 19th century need not be a difficult task. You can visit our website to find more helpful tips on using our collections or contact us via email.

This Week in Princeton History for October 27-November 2

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, reports of Martians landing nearby distress the University community, Bruce Springsteen packs Jadwin Gym, and more.

October 29, 1955—A Princeton undergraduate is arrested for disturbing the peace when found kicking a pineapple juice can in front of G & L Restaurant in the wee hours of the morning. He will later be found guilty and fined $5 for the crime.

October 30, 1884—Princeton trounces Lafayette in football 140 to 0.

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1884 College of New Jersey football team, Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Campus Life Series, Additions, Box AD34, Folder 6.

October 31, 1938—The Princeton campus and the rest of the nation are still reeling from Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds that began at 8:00 PM October 30. The broadcast made many people believe Martians had landed in Grovers Mill, New Jersey, a mere 4 miles from Nassau Hall. Later, the Princeton Radio Project, a group that analyzes the influence of radio upon listeners, will receive a grant of $3,000 from the General Education Board to study the panicked response.

November 1, 1978—Bruce Springsteen gives a concert in Jadwin gym. Tickets initially sold for $6.50-$8.50 are being scalped for $100.

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Bruce Springsteen in concert at Jadwin Gym, November 1, 1978. Photo from 1979 Bric-a-Brac.

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.