This Week in Princeton History for May 11-17

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Charles Lindbergh sneaks through campus, baseball makes its television debut, and more.

May 12, 1999—The Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Princeton University hold a memorial service in Firestone Plaza for three Chinese journalists killed in a NATO bombing on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

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Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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“The Present Unsettled State of Our Country”: Princeton and the Civil War

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the end of Civil War, a conflict that had implications for every facet of American life. The “unhappy condition of the country,” as the College of New Jersey (Princeton) President John Maclean described it in 1861, had a profound impact on the school. Here we highlight the mass exodus of southern students from Princeton, as well as some of the emotional toll the war took on alumni of the era.

Though located in Union territory, Princeton had the reputation of being the “most southern of all the northern colleges,” due to its significant number of wealthy southern students. Relationships across the Mason-Dixon were strong at Princeton. Edwin Mark Norris later wrote of this period, “When it became apparent that, faithful to their convictions, the students from opposing sections would soon be opposing each other in arms, rather than merely in argument, the friendships formed beneath the elms became even more closely cemented, and it was with genuine sadness that these intimate ties were severed” (The Story of Princeton, 186). This inscription on Bazil F. Gordon’s senior portrait sums it up: a student on the other side was “your true friend and enemy.”

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Bazil Gordon, senior portrait, 1861. Gordon later served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army. Historical Photograph Collection, Student Photograph Albums Series (AC061), Box 27.

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Princeton Presidential

By Dan Linke

Since tomorrow is Presidents Day, we wanted to take the opportunity to share some of Princeton University’s many connections to the presidents of the United States. We note that of the 43 men who have served as America’s presidents, we have confirmed that at least 26 and possibly as many as 30 have visited Princeton at some point, with eight gracing campus while serving as the nation’s chief executive.

Presidential Chart

This chart is arranged in the order in which each held the office of President. The names in parentheses indicate those for whom we have some records asserting they visited, but have not been able to definitively verify the visit with contemporary accounts.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior saves two friends after an avalanche, Tiger Inn holds its first coed bicker, and more.

February 2, 1953—Princeton University junior John K. Ewing ’54 saves the lives of Richard H. Evans ’55 and John E. Stauffer ’54 in the aftermath of an avalanche on Mount Washington. The following May, Ewing will die tragically in another mountain climbing accident in Connecticut’s Sleeping Giant State Park, at the age of 19.

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John Kennedy Ewing IV’s Class of 1954 Freshman Herald photo (taken ca. 1950).

February 3, 1991—Tiger Inn holds its first coed Bicker.

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This group photo from the 1992 Bric-a-Brac is the first such Tiger Inn photo to include female Princetonians.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Woodrow Wilson refuses to have a ball, Princeton students fight to get into a class about married life, and more.

January 19, 1895—Marshall P. Wilder, the first comedian with a disability, performs at the Second Presbyterian Church in Princeton, with College of New Jersey (Princeton University) students in the audience.

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Flyer advertising Marshall P. Wilder’s performance in Princeton January 19, 1895. Music Performance at Princeton Collection (AC205), Box 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 22-28

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a dorm thief is caught, a movie about an alum premieres in town, and more.

December 22, 1898—A granite monument in Arlington National Cemetery at the grave of Major General William W. Belknap, Class of 1848 and former Secretary of War under Ulysses S. Grant, is presented to the U.S. government.

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Photo taken in Washington, D.C. at what the caption describes as “a chance meeting of Bradley M. Thomas (Class of 1849), George Alexander Otis (Class of 1849), Alfred Alexander Woodhull (Class of 1856), Princeton President John Maclean (Class of 1816), and Gen. William Worth Belknap (Class of 1848).” Belknap is on the bottom left. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP1, Item No. 4599.

December 23, 1952—A young man recently expelled from Harvard University’s English Ph.D. program who had been going into Princeton dorms and stealing a variety of student possessions is apprehended by a University proctor. At the time, he was wearing shoes he had stolen from a dorm room. The Mercer County Court will later send him to the Menlo State Insane Asylum.

December 24, 1915—University president John Grier Hibben and his wife invite any students still on campus to have dinner in their home.

December 25, 2001—A Beautiful Mind opens at the Garden Theatre, four days before being shown nationwide. The movie, filmed on the Princeton University campus, is loosely based on Sylvia Nasar’s biography of John Nash *50 by the same name.

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Ron Howard directs Russell Crowe during filming of A Beautiful Mind, 2001. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 198.

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 New Order”: How Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor (Briefly) Led to Women Enrolling in Classes at Princeton University

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan”: so began Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 8, in a speech asking the United States Congress for a declaration of war. Princeton University didn’t wait until Roosevelt’s speech; instead, the Princeton Senate declared war on Japan immediately following the attack. The Daily Princetonian reported on this story and others under the banner headline, “PRINCETON PRESENTS UNITED FRONT AS UNITED STATES FACES TOTAL WAR.”

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Army Specialized Training Program, ca. 1942-1945, Princeton University, Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4431.

It would be difficult to overstate the transformations that World War II brought to the United States at large and to Princeton University in particular in a nearly immediate and all-consuming way in the wake of the Japanese strikes on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A stunned administration under the leadership of University President Harold Willis Dodds (Graduate Class of 1914), who had only six weeks before asserted that the threat of war “will call for minor adjustments in the curriculum” (“Some Thoughts on Universities and National Defense,” October 31, 1941), suddenly and drastically revised its approach. Rather than minor adjustments, Princeton instead embraced major upheavals to nearly all of its traditions.

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British military class, Princeton University, ca. 1943, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4433.

On December 15, Dodds presented the rough outlines of a changed Princeton curriculum to a mass meeting of students in Alexander Hall. A Princeton A.B., typically a four-year degree, would have an accelerated option with year-round classes, so that it could be completed in three. Additional “emergency courses” would be added to teach skills deemed useful for war. Princeton would yield itself to the needs of the U.S. Army and Navy, whatever those needs happened to be. All of these anticipated changes quickly went into effect. Here, we highlight how the war effort brought one other dramatic change to the campus: for the first time, women enrolled in classes.

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“The New Order,” Princeton Tiger, December 1941.

Photogrammetry, or making maps from aerial photographs, was among many emergency courses added for the Summer 1942 term. Tuition was not charged for the class, taught by engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, but admission was competitive, as applications poured in from across the nation.

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Flyer advertising Princeton University Photogrammetry Course, 1942, Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), Box 421, Folder 3.

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Unidentified female student with engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, Princeton’s Photogrammetry class, 1942, Historical Photographs Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP212, Item No. 5577.

The class of 45 ultimately included 23 women, most from the East Coast region between New London and Philadelphia, and one from Royal Oak, Michigan. The Prince marveled, “One of the few remaining strongholds of the male, the classrooms of Princeton University, have been opened by the war to women students for the first time in the 196 years of its existence.” This was a bit of an exaggeration, however, as only a few classrooms were actually open to women, and the photogrammetry class was the only one taken by American women. Three female members of the British military also attended classes here during the war (Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 10, 1943), but afterward, coeducation at Princeton became nothing more than a memory until the 1960s. For more on the history of women at the University, see our previous blog post.

For further reading on World War II’s impact on Princeton University, see our previous blog posts about the bronze memorial stars that adorn some dormitory windows and the wartime love letters of alumnus Peter Page ’41.

Sources:

Board of Trustees Records (AC120)

Daily Princetonian

Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112)

Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109)

Office of the Dean of the College Records (AC149)

Princeton Alumni Weekly

The Princeton Tiger

Root, Robert K. The Princeton Campus in World War II. Princeton: Self-published, 1978.

 

This Week in Princeton History for November 17-23

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an alum takes the school flag to the moon, Ella Fitzgerald performs, and more.

November 17, 1983—Diplomats from the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Great Britain are in Alexander Hall to commemorate the bicentennial of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended America’s Revolutionary War. Princeton is chosen because the Continental Congress resided here in 1783.

November 19, 1969—Astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. ’53, third man to walk on the moon and Commander of the Apollo XII mission, brings a Princeton flag to the moon’s Ocean of Storms. Princeton President Robert F. Goheen observes that this is “a noble summit for the Orange and Black,” and Dean of the Faculty J. Douglas Brown orders Princeton’s rarely-flown flag to be raised atop Nassau Hall in honor of the occasion. The flag is typically flown only for Commencement exercises, or at half-staff upon the death of a faculty member.

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Princeton University’s flag, back from the moon and signed by Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53, Commander of NASA’s Apollo XII. Memorabilia Collection (AC053).

November 20, 1936—A teenager from  Harlem performs at Princeton for the first time as the featured vocalist at a dance in the old gymnasium. At the 1990 Commencement exercises nearly 54 years later, Princeton will award the woman—Ella Fitzgerald—an honorary Doctorate of Music.

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Ella Fitzgerald with University president Harold Shapiro at Princeton’s 1990 Commencement. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 170.

November 21, 1933—A self-described “most desirable, good-looking northern girl, unfortunately stranded in the South” writes to the Daily Princetonian asking for a “most desirable, good-looking northern Princetonian” with whom to correspond. “Hurry up before I weaken,” she says. “I am in demand here.”

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 November 10-16

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Arthur Conan Doyle gives a reading of Sherlock Holmes, Theodore Roosevelt lectures, and more.

November 10, 1975—As part of the U.S. Postal Service’s Bicentennial campaign to honor Revolutionary War patriots, a nine-cent postcard depicting former College of New Jersey president John Witherspoon is issued. On the reverse, the card notes that Witherspoon is the only college president to have signed the Declaration of Independence. A ceremony at Maclean House marks the occasion.

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John Witherspoon Postcard, Office of the President Records (AC187), Box 330.

November 12, 1946—Thirty students meet in Murray-Dodge Hall to discuss forming a student group for Jews at Princeton.

November 15, 1894—Arthur Conan Doyle reads extracts from Sherlock Holmes, The Refugees, and the currently unpublished “Le Chateau Noir” at Alexander Hall. He also speaks on his career and inspirations for detective stories. Reserved seats are 75 cents; admission is 50 cents.

November 16, 1917—Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt gives an address in Alexander Hall. He encourages Princeton students to wait for their chance to fight in World War I—it will come, he says, but now they should focus on school.

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Theodore Roosevelt, “National Strength and International Duty,” lecture given at Alexander Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, November 16, 1917. General Manuscripts Collection (MC230), Box 6.

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.

History of Women at Princeton University

Written by Vanessa Snowden ’04

For much of its history, Princeton University had the reputation of being an “old-boys’ school.” Starting in the fall of 1969, Princeton became co-educational, and eight women transfer students graduated in June 1970, with slightly greater numbers graduating in the two subsequent years. Women who matriculated as freshmen in 1969 graduated in the Class of 1973, the first undergraduate class that included women for all four undergraduate years. However, the first steps towards co-education came as early as 1887, with the founding of Evelyn College. From its inception, this women’s institution was associated with Princeton University, and it was hoped that the link would be similar to the Radcliffe and Harvard University relationship. Unfortunately, Evelyn College closed in 1897, due to financial problems and a lack of support from Princeton.

For the next half-century, women instead made their presence known in unofficial positions. Wives and daughters of Princeton faculty and administrators succeeded in exerting significant influence on campus life as advocates for students as well as assistants in research. Isabella Guthrie McCosh, wife of James McCosh, the 11th president of Princeton, was deeply involved in protecting the health and welfare of Princeton students. As a result of her unflagging dedication, the campus infirmary was built and named in her honor.

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“Reminiscences of Mrs. McCosh,” June 1935. Auxiliary to the Isabella McCosh Infirmary Records (AC175), Box 2.

Women were also important forces in the academic world. Margaret Farrand Thorp, wife of English professor, Willard Thorp, often assisted with her husband’s research while simultaneously producing her own independent work. Fittingly, she wrote a book entitled Female Persuasion: Six Strong-Minded Women, which was published in 1949. Speaking of her lot as a female at Princeton, Thorp once quipped, “We who practice the pleasant profession of faculty wife are often amused by Princeton University’s apparent hostility to the feminine sex. Hostility is probably too strong a word. The situation is, rather, that for the University, the feminine sex does not exist.” (See William K. Selden, Women of Princeton, p. 33.)
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