Princeton’s Bulletin Elm

By Zachary Bampton ’20 with April C. Armstrong *14

On September 29, 1882, one writer for the Princetonian (then published every other week rather than daily) remarked that the Bulletin Elm was “fast filling out its days” and would soon be “a thing of the past”. Almost 140 years later, few remember the role the Bulletin Elm played in Princeton tradition. It was a physical bulletin for generations of students, and then for nearly forty years, a section of our campus newspaper bore its name. Looking back more than a century now, we hope to shine some light on this fabled tree and probe its place in our historical memory.

Princeton’s Bulletin Elm, ca. 1880. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP007, Image No. 160.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 16-22

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a longstanding but dangerous tradition comes to an end, a sophomore writes to his mother about attending Aaron Burr’s funeral, and more.

September 19, 1990—Students nab the Nassau Hall clapper for the last time.

It’s unclear exactly when the tradition of stealing the clapper began, but documentation indicates it was sometime in the 1860s. More than merely a nuisance to staff who had to keep replacing the clapper, scaling the bell tower was a dangerous feat that occasionally resulted in injuries when students fell from the tower and then off the roof onto the ground. In 1991, administrators decided to remove the clapper indefinitely. Today, Nassau Hall’s bell rings only on special occasions, such as Commencement, after which the clapper is again removed. The students pictured above were members of the Class of 1952 who stole the clapper in 1948. Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box MP199, Image No. 5278.

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