This Week in Princeton History for May 13-19

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, two professors accuse a third of stealing from them, Princeton’s first Japanese Ph.D. writes about his experiences on campus, and more.

May 13, 1869—Despite worries that bad weather would prevent women from attending Class Day, the Nassau Literary Review reports that they filled the Chapel.

College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1869 Class Day program. Note that school colors had not yet been chosen, so the program sported a red, white, and blue theme. Princeton University Class Records (AC130), Box 7.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 26-December 2

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, graduates react to the possible admission of female undergraduates, a dean’s comments in a local newspaper arouse concern, and more.

November 26, 1968—The Princeton Alumni Weekly prints several letters responding to the Patterson Report, which has concluded that Princeton would benefit from admitting female undergraduates. Logan McKee ’48 writes, “Mixing, ‘integrating’ and polluting seem to be the trend of the times, so it is natural that the mixers would want to homogenize Princeton. Of course this is just the next natural step in the pollution process. Long ago they removed the Presbyterian religious bias, the prep-school, the fraternity and the white race preference, and the School’s independence from government grants—so why not remove its last distinction, that of being a men’s college? Then Princeton can be as ‘democratic’ and just as friendly, folksy and mediocre as any outstate A. & M. institution.”

November 28, 1989—The Dean of the Graduate School’s comments in the Trenton Times alarm graduate students, including his assertion that “I think that a graduate student ought to be here to study 120 percent. I worry very, very much that a graduate student has so much time available to worry about a social life.”

Editorial cartoon from the Daily Princetonian. This cartoon refers to later claims the dean made that graduate students should not be offered housing after their second year of study.

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“Studying Is Fine, but Living Has Been Another Problem”: Mary Procter *71 and Coeducation at Princeton

Earlier this year, I began telling the story of the female graduate students who paved the way for undergraduate coeducation at Princeton University starting in 1961. This blog continues that story with a focus on Mary Procter *71 (often misspelled as Mary Proctor *71) and her unusually influential role while a Princeton graduate student.

Procter got then-Provost William Bowen’s attention with a 1968 letter to the Daily Princetonian that took campus men to task for their treatment of the few undergraduate women who were in Princeton classrooms at the time as exchange students in the Critical Languages Program. Procter made vague reference to the fact that the band had referred to these women as “cunning linguists” and made other crude jokes about them during the halftime show at the Princeton-Harvard game. Anonymously signing her letter as simply “Female Graduate Student,” Procter had written, “I had always thought that men’s universities produced men, lusty and bawdy if you will, but not sniggering sickly creatures, obsessed with double meanings which suggest that they are not interested in girls so much as lollipops or bits of mashed potato.” Procter later said she wrote in to the Prince because she was “furious” and felt “Princeton does not deserve to be coed.”

Jackie Johnson *70, Katie Marshall *69, and Mary Procter *71. Photo from the Princeton Alumni Weekly, May 13, 1969.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Langston Hughes recites poetry, a third of the women in the Graduate School drop out, and more.

March 19, 1877—At a temperance meeting on campus, nine students sign a pledge to abstain from alcohol.

March 22, 1928—Langston Hughes recites poetry in Alexander Hall.

March 23, 1987—Dragoljub Cetkovic, a former Princeton University graduate student, confesses to poisoning a tea bag at a local grocery store.

March 25, 1963—The Daily Princetonian reports that a third of the female students in the Graduate School are dropping out.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian. For more on the early history of women in the Graduate School, see our previous post on this topic.

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 End of a Monastery”: Princeton’s First Female Graduate Students

The Princeton University Graduate Announcement for 1961-1962 warned potential applicants, “Admissions are normally limited to male students.” Yet this “adverbial loophole,” as the Daily Princetonian termed it, left room for some admissions that were not “normal” for Princeton at the time. Within the loophole, dozens of women became degree candidates before the advent of undergraduate coeducation.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian, October 1, 1962.

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What Archival Silence Conceals—and Reveals: Recovering Princeton University’s 19th-Century African American Graduate Alumni

Archival silences distort the past, shaping our current and future self-understanding, so preserving Princeton’s history sometimes means attempting to correct the work of our predecessors. My struggle to bring 19th and early 20th-century African American graduate alumni to light illustrates one way white supremacy of that era continues to influence us today. It also supports the argument that archives are not neutral, so researchers and archival staff must pay close attention to the ways archival work reflects the values of those who did the preserving and discarding.

In our Graduate Alumni Records collection, I found files for Irwin William Langston Roundtree, George Shippen Stark, and Leonard Zechariah Johnson, African Americans previously known to have received masters degrees from Princeton. Contents were sparse. Stark’s and Johnson’s consisted primarily of the evidence that they had paid fees and earned course credit. Roundtree’s file had no information about the classes he took, but included an obituary that indicated he was a longtime resident of Trenton.

(Click to enlarge.) Academic record of Leonard Zachariah Johnson, graduate class of 1904. Graduate Alumni Records (AC105).

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This Week in Princeton History for January 1-7

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Baker Memorial Rink opens, the status of graduate alumni is in dispute, and more.

January 1, 1891—Students gather to ring in the new year, but become so absorbed in their recreational activities that they mostly fail to notice that midnight has come and gone. Undeterred from their original plan, they march through town in the early hours of the morning and wake residents with loud singing and horn blasts.

January 3, 1777—George Washington and the Continental Army defeat the British at the Battle of Princeton.

Princeton long celebrated Washington’s birthday as a major holiday. Programs for the day’s events like this one from 1897 usually commemorated his 1777 victory on the Princeton campus. Washington’s Birthday Records (AC200).

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Woodrow Wilson and the Graduate College

Written by Anna Rubin ’15

This is the second installment in a two-part series examining two aspects of Woodrow Wilson’s Princeton University presidency, featuring sources in our recently-digitized selections from the Office of the President Records. In the first, we looked at his attitude towards Princeton’s eating clubs. Here, we turn to his conflict over the location of the Graduate College.

At the start of Woodrow Wilson’s Princeton presidency, plans for a Graduate College had been in the works since 1896, as part of the transformation of Princeton from a college to a university. In the summer of 1905, graduate students moved to a building on an eleven acre tract called Merwick just to the north of Princeton’s main campus. Andrew F. West, the Dean of the Graduate College at the time, supported the Graduate College’s placement at Merwick, believing that the small, homey atmosphere of the house was precisely the right environment. In a report to Wilson, West said, “I am very anxious that Merwick shall not take on anything of the character of a boarding house, a club, or a hotel, but shall preserve at all times the aspect of a quiet studious home.” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 63, Folder 1)

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Andrew Fleming West, 1889. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC059), Box FAC103.

Graduate students appreciated Merwick’s removed but walkable location from the campus, “aloof” and secluded, yet homey air, beautiful and distinctive appearance, and distance from the raucous undergraduate happenings on campus and around Prospect Avenue. Those who lived there found it to have an “atmosphere of consistent and dignified work” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11). But Wilson feared that Merwick’s location would thoroughly remove the graduate student population both academically and socially from the life of the campus and the University at large. “Geographical separation from the body of the University has already created in the Graduate School a sense of administrative as well as social seclusion which, slight as it is and probably unconscious, is noticeable, and of course undesirable….” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11)

Wilson hoped to move the Graduate College to the heart of Princeton’s campus, between Prospect House (where as University President, he lived) and Class of 1879 Hall (where his tower office was located), in the area now occupied by Woolworth (music) and the School of Architecture. He was passionate about the move, framing it as the cornerstone of his Princeton presidency. In May 1907 he wrote:

My hopes and my chief administrative plans for the University would be injured and deranged at their very heart were the Graduate College to be put at any remove whatever from such a central site. I count upon it as model and cause of intellectual and social changes of the deepest and most significant kind. It is upon the model and by means of the inspiration of such a College, with its dignified, stimulating, and happy life, that, in my judgment, the University is to be made over into a body academic, vital and of universal example in America. (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11)

Wilson’s desire to have the graduate college at the heart of Princeton’s campus was not purely social or intellectual. The benefactor who was to pay for a portion of the new college, the estate of Josephine Thomson Swann, had specified that the fund must be used on “the grounds” of the University. Swann passed away before final plans for the placement of the College were made, causing the phrase to become the center of controversy among those determining where to place the College, including former U.S. President Grover Cleveland, a bastion of Princeton town and gown.

Wilson’s plans to relocate the graduate college to the campus were no secret and in fact were part of his original goals for the University upon taking up the presidency in 1902. In March 1907, as the plans began to move forward more rapidly, 30 graduate students wrote a letter to the Trustee’s Committee on the Graduate School, lamenting that “It is with the deepest regret that we have heard of the possibility that the graduate school may be removed to the campus. There are many reasons why the present situation of the house appeals to us, and we venture to hope that they may seem valid to you.” The committee cited the need of “retirement and seclusion,” defined as “freedom from the too easy intrusion of undergraduate friends, remoteness from the campus noise and excitement, and from the club street and club life of the college.” They believed it was especially important to for those who earned undergraduate degrees at Princeton to have a distinction between undergraduate and graduate life. “Proximity of their quarters to the campus would mean that they would continue to live the undergraduate life.” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11)

The Committee on the Graduate School ultimately resolved that the “Graduate College be fixed in the grounds of Prospect about midway between Seventy Nine Hall and the President’s house…” on April 9, 1908. In May 1909, William Cooper Proctor offered the Board of Trustees a $500,000 gift for the Graduate College, under the conditions that a) it be matched by another gift, b) only $200,000 of it would be used for the actual buildings of the graduate college and c) that the graduate college not be built in the middle of campus. Mr. Proctor preferred instead the golf links west of campus.

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Graduate College, Historical Postcards Collection (AC045), Box 1. This collection has been partially digitized and is viewable here.

Although Wilson attempted to convince the Board of Trustees not to accept the gift if it meant the graduate college must be placed elsewhere, they nonetheless did. The Committee of the Graduate School felt that too much emphasis was being placed on the graduate college residences, rather than the faculty and classroom facilities, and they wanted to commence with construction quickly with as little continued fanfare as possible. While Wilson believed that the residence, which played an integral role in his social reorganization of the University, was the most important aspect of bolstering the reputation of the new Graduate College, the Committee wanted the focus to be on academic and intellectual excellence. When the final decision was made in 1910, Wilson was outnumbered and, once again, lost. He left the Princeton presidency later that year, successfully running for New Jersey’s governorship. The initial buildings of the Graduate College were completed in 1913, just to the west of campus on the other side of what is today the Springdale Golf Club.

Anna Rubin ’15 worked as an archives assistant at the front desk here at Mudd while completing her senior year at Princeton. She was heavily involved in the digitization of this collection.

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 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.

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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.

Washington's_Birthday_1900_AC200

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.