This Week in Princeton History for July 1-7

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Harriet van Ingen joins its geologists on a trip to Newfoundland, a fire means Commencement will have to find a new home, and more.

July 1, 1927—Princeton’s new “car rule,” which prohibits students from driving cars within the Borough of Princeton, takes effect.

July 3, 1913—Princeton geologists set sail for Newfoundland. Harriet Van Ingen, wife of professor Gilbert Van Ingen, is along to aid the expedition.

Harriet Van Ingen at the Princeton University geology expedition’s camp in Newfoundland, 1913. Department of Geosciences Records (AC139), Box 19.

July 4, 1937—Though fireworks-related deaths nationwide on this date reach a high of 563, a new statewide ban on private use of firecrackers is credited with preventing deaths in town.

July 6, 1835—Nassau Hall’s evening prayer service in the chapel is disrupted by a cry of “fire” from the street. Students flee, leaving College of New Jersey president James Carnahan standing at a pulpit in an empty room. It turns out that some leftover Independence Day fireworks have ignited at the nearby First Presbyterian Church, which is now engulfed in flames. The loss of the building is disruptive to college life, because it is typically used for Commencement and other events throughout the year.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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

Princeton’s Summer Trips Across North America

Although traveling significant distances is routine for many Princetonians these days, traversing North America was not always as easy as it is now. Our records reveal a variety of both academic and pleasure trips over the years that have used horses, trains, cars, and bicycles to reach their destinations.

Most of the lengthy North American journeys Princetonians took in the 19th century were scientific expeditions, starting with the astronomical expeditions of the early part of century. Most of those were along the east coast, but in July and August 1869, with help from institutional and federal funding, a group of Princetonians took trains to Ottumwa, Iowa, to view a total solar eclipse. It took nearly five days to reach Ottumwa and three days to return. One student later wrote that aside from the spectacular event of the eclipse itself, “The great impression I received was concerning the magnitude of our country. We had passed through very varied scenery for nights and days, travelling over a country large enough to comprise all the kingdoms of Europe, all teeming with life and prosperity, and yet had only passed over about one-third of the extent…”

The first Geological Expedition took its participants (18 students and two professors) further into the American west on an 11-week trek to Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah in the summer of 1877. Three Princeton juniors (William Berryman Scott, Henry Fairfield Osborn, and Francis Speir) had taken a geology course with Arnold Guyot and had read reports about fossil-collection trips Yale had taken. They were determined that Princeton should not be left out of these types of adventures and convinced others to join them.

They took a train to Denver. Princeton had two cars of its own, one for baggage and one for passengers. The expedition party boarded at the Dinky station at about 8:00PM on June 21 and arrived in Denver on June 25 after a few stops along the way, including Chicago and Kansas City. In his memoir, Some Memories of a Palaeontologist, Scott described the journey this way:

Of our journey, novel to most of us though it was, there was not much to be said. The Middle West was not then the busy, prosperous region it has since become, and the principal impression which it made upon me then was one of crudeness and shabbiness. The roads were quagmires of black mud; the towns were chiefly of wood and sadly in need of paint and, though there were a great many fine-looking farms, the journey was a depressing experience. (p. 60-61)

In Denver, the faculty secured horses and wagons and the group set up camp just outside the city, then a town of about 25,000 people, for a few days, where one traveler wrote that they “slept soundly in our blankets using our saddles as pillows.”

The Princeton Scientific Expedition camping out at Fairplay, Colorado, in the summer of 1877. Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection (AC012), Box 3, Folder 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 25-July 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior converts to Christianity, the centennial is celebrated, and more.

June 28, 1873—Rioge Koe, a Japanese student in the Class of 1874, gives his sword to Princeton president James McCosh. He writes a note to accompany the sword asserting that he has “surrendered a barbarous custom of ‘the East’ before the higher, nobler and more enlightened manner of the Western civilization” on the occasion of his conversion to Christianity.

We believe that this is Rioge Koe, Class of 1874, center, ca. 1873. This image is cropped from the Class of 1874’s junior year photo, found in the Historical Photograph Collection, Class Photographs Series (AC181), Box MP03. The Princetonian described Koe as “a popular and able man.” During McCosh’s presidency, ethnic diversity increased on campus. Koe’s time at Princeton overlapped with Hikoichi Orita of the Class of 1876, who also converted to Christianity while a student here, as well as Yokichi Yamada and Girota Yamaoka, who both pursued a partial course load in the 1871-1872 academic year.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a scientific expedition begins, the institution declines to pay for extra policing, and more.

June 21, 1877—A group of twenty sets off on Princeton’s first scientific expedition to the North American west, during which they will collect paleontological and geological information in Colorado.

Princeton’s first scientific expedition camping in Fairplay, Colorado, 1877. Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection (AC012), Box 3, Folder 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for July 20-26

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a beloved staff member dies, the opening of a new recreational center for military personnel on campus is announced, and more.

July 20, 1899—The Peary Relief Expedition arrives in the port of North Sydney, Nova Scotia with several Princeton professors on board. Their boat, the Diana, carries supplies for Robert Peary, who is exploring Greenland in his quest to reach the North Pole. The professors take the opportunity to conduct scientific research in the Arctic along the way.

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The Diana in port, July 20, 1899. Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection (AC012), Box 9.

July 22, 1902—James Johnson, an escaped slave who became known as the “students’ friend” during his long sojourn working at Princeton, dies at the age of 87.

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James Johnson in the 1894 Bric-a-Brac.

July 23, 1797—In a letter to his ward and stepgrandson, George Washington Parke Custis, College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1799, George Washington observes that “no college has turned out better scholars or more estimable characters than Nassau.”

July 26, 1943—In cooperation with the USO, the University announces the opening of a new recreation center in Murray-Dodge Hall for military personnel assigned to Princeton.

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Soldiers walking by Murray-Dodge Hall, ca. 1943. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP208, Image No. 5495.

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.

This Week in Princeton History for May 25-31

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the very first classes are held, a scientific expedition photographs an eclipse, and more.

May 26, 1888—The Glee Club performs for sitting First Lady Frances Fulsom Cleveland and a crowd of nearly a thousand at a reception in her honor. After the concert, she attends the Yale-Princeton baseball game wearing Princeton’s colors and carrying an orange and black bouquet.

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Frances Fulsom Cleveland. Grover Cleveland Collection (AC348), Box 1.

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