A Brief History of Latinx Students at Princeton, 1880s-1990s

Although we are always continuously learning and expect to have more to say on this topic in the future, in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month we are presenting this brief history of Latinx students at Princeton University prior to this century.

It’s never clear who the “first” person of a given demographic might be, but here are some early records we have for Latinx students:

Pedro Rioseco, Class of 1888. Historical Photograph Collection, Alumni Photographs Series (AC058), Box SP12.

  • Pedro Rioseco, Class of 1888, was born in Cuba, where his father had been a cigar manufacturer. Rioseco attended secondary school at Fewsmith’s Academy in Philadelphia. At Princeton, he helped start a Spanish class and was known as Peter.
  • Harold Medina, the son of a Mexican immigrant father and a mother of Dutch and Swiss descent who banned Spanish from their home, came to Princeton in 1905 to join the Class of 1909. Medina struggled to fit in at first, but eventually found a robust social world on campus, joining the fencing, gun, and water polo teams and securing a position on the editorial board of the Princeton Tiger. Medina later had a long career as a federal judge as an appointee of the Truman administration, ultimately sitting on the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1951-1980.
  • A Puerto Rican student, José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón, better known as  José Ferrer, was a member of the Class of 1933. He was born in San Juan, but his family moved to New York in 1914. At Princeton, Ferrer was involved in a few different aspects of show business. He directed an orchestra that played for student dances, the Pied Pipers, and Triangle Club gave him some further training for his future career as an entertainer. Ferrer became famous for his portrayal of Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway and later on film, for which he won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award, making him the first Latinx recipient of an Oscar. In 1985, Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Arts.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 9-15

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a graduate student gets help from the FBI to track down stolen microscopic slides, the YWCA opens a Hostess House for Navy officers in training, and more.

Couple at Princeton, ca. 1950. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 1, Folder 2.

November 9, 1959—A graduate student has gotten the help of the FBI and is offering a $100 reward to anyone with information that leads to the discovery of his 500 stolen microscopic slides, which represent 3 years of research.

November 11, 1949—Princeton’s debate team loses to Yale on the question of whether women should commit suicide to avoid premarital sex or rape. Princeton argues that they should. Yale’s winning dissent focuses on how men will suffer if women die to avoid “dishonor.” “Dishonor can be fun. … Princeton’s theory can only result in mass feminine suicide. Shall we deprive the world of a ravishing woman simply because she is in danger of being ravished?”

November 12, 1928—Wallace M. Sinclair, Class of 1904, survives the sinking of the SS Vestris off the coast of Virginia, which kills more than 100 people.

November 13, 1918—The Princeton Girls Patriotic League (later the YWCA) opens a Hostess House in Quadrangle Club for the men training to be Navy paymasters who are living at the Graduate College.

Princeton’s Girls Patriotic League is visible behind the women of the New Jersey Red Cross in this parade down Nassau Street to raise money for the Liberty Loan Fund in 1918. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD05, Image No. 8646.

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.

This Week in Princeton History for June 10-16

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a delayed cookie shipment arrives, Commencement moves to a new home, and more.

June 12, 1996—Cookies mailed to Princeton-in-Asia intern Laura Burt on November 1, 1995 finally arrive unopened in Wuhan, China.

June 13, 1894—Commencement Exercises are moved from the First Presbyterian Church (which will later be renamed Nassau Presbyterian Church) to the new Alexander Hall (also known as Commencement Hall) for the first time, where they will be held until 1922.

The 1894 program for the College of New Jersey’s 147th annual Commencement (later named Princeton University but we often find “Princeton College” on official documents rather than its official name; see caption below for June 15th’s entry for more details. (Princeton University Commencement Records (AC115), Box 3.)

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Princeton University and the Spanish American War

This post is part of a series on education and war related to our current exhibition, “Learning to Fight, Fighting to Learn: Education in Times of War,” on display through June 2018. Please stop by to learn more.

When the United States intervened on behalf of Cuba in 1898, the naval ship USS Maine sank in Havana Harbor. Though the cause remains unclear, popular belief was that Spain was responsible. Americans were outraged. Princeton University students, enthusiastic about the possibility of fighting for their country, agitated to enlist to fight in the Spanish-American War.

On April 2, 1898, students demonstrated their feelings in what the Chicago Daily Tribune called “an outburst of patriotism.” They cheered for U.S. President William McKinley, the American flag, and Cuba. They marched through town dragging the Spanish colors through the streets and carrying pro-American and pro-Cuban slogans, a dozen American flags, and one Cuban flag. Finding their way to the residence of former U.S. President Grover Cleveland on Bayard Avenue, they cheered for him as well. They then went on to the home of Princeton president Francis Landey Patton, who addressed the students with praise for McKinley. Patton’s words were met with more cheering. After this parade through town, the students returned to Cannon Green, where they burned Spain’s King Alfonso XIII in effigy, waved flags, joined hands, danced in circles around the cannon, and sang, “O me, O my; how we’ll make the Spaniards cry!”

Following this display, physical geography professor William Libbey encountered Patton and James Ormsbee Murray, Dean of the Faculty, looking deeply unsettled, “so much so that the gloom impressed me,” Libbey later wrote. Students were planning to enlist en masse, and Patton worried that this would be the end of Princeton University. “We are afraid that they are going to break up [the] College,” Patton told Libbey. Libbey said he had an idea: he could go to the enlistment meeting the students planned and organize military drills for them on campus, providing an outlet for their emotions while keeping them in school. Patton agreed to the plan.

William Libbey, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC067), Box FAC59.

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Tracing Princeton’s Connections to Slavery through Intentional Serendipity

The Princeton and Slavery Symposium, a presentation of several years of “scholarly investigation of Princeton University’s historical engagement with the institution of slavery,” is scheduled for November 17-18, 2017. As we lead up to that date, we will be blogging about Mudd’s involvement in this larger project.

Last November, the University of Houston-Downtown Archives wrote about their staff’s annoyance at headlines about items “Found Buried in the Archives!” Articles like these often rub staff in archives the wrong way, because they render their ongoing efforts (necessary for scholars to uncover such material) invisible. Working day-to-day in the archives of a university, we often know a lot more about our institutions than we’re ever able to share in writing, leaving it to the researchers who visit us to record most of the stories that the materials we show them reveal. It is sometimes our jobs to tell the stories of our schools, but not always; even when it is, there will never be enough time for us to write them all down. My multi-page list of blogs-in-progress attests to this.

Even so, there are still discoveries made on a daily basis, “buried” materials or not. Not everything is easily found. My work at Mudd often highlights our collections from new angles and/or reveals forgotten stories about Princeton’s past. In order to do this, I keep records of what I discover in the course of my workday. Themes sometimes emerge and eventually become social media posts, blogs, or exhibit fodder as I transform the messy notes in my legal pads and Word documents and the connections in my head into more coherent pieces for public consumption. I also recruit my student assistants to help in this endeavor. Just as I do, they sometimes intentionally set out to tell a specific story, but we also write the stories that find us rather than vice versa. Our discoveries about Princeton’s connections to slavery reflect this kind of intentional serendipity (not quite the oxymoron it seems). The work of Mudd’s Public Services is both visible and invisible to the patrons who use our library. In today’s blog, I will reveal some of the invisible work that we do to support Princeton’s educational mission.

The first such item I want to highlight is one I uncovered in the course of collecting items for the weekly blog feature, “This Week in Princeton History.” The notice of a slave sale held on the Princeton campus in 1766 was worth including in this weekly roundup of events in mid-August 2015 in part because I had talked with students in the “Princeton and Slavery” course about their research and knew it was of interest to the public we serve. The professor for the course, Martha A. Sandweiss, referred to the slave sale in an article about her class that appeared in The Nation a few months later.

Clip from the Philadelphia Journal, August 14, 1766.

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“A Haven for Radicalism, Intolerance, and Lesbianism”: The Ongoing Struggle for an LGBTQ+-Inclusive Princeton

Mudd Library’s University Administrative Fellow for the fall 2016-2017 semester curated an online HistoryPin exhibit to document the history of minority sexualities at Princeton University. In this post, she provides broader context for the materials she chose to highlight.

By Ariana Natalie Myers GS

For much of its history, Princeton University students who experienced attraction toward their own gender kept it secret. Some alumni were later outed as homosexuals, such as Alan Turing ’38 (GS), famed World War II cryptographer who was the victim of brutal punishment by the British government once his sexuality was uncovered. Kirk LeMoyne Lem” Billings ’39, onetime roommate of President John F. Kennedy at Princeton and close associate of the Kennedy family, was outed by friends after his death in 1981.

Princeton University opened its doors to female undergraduates in 1969, and the first 130 women moved in for the fall semester. The decision-making process and its aftermath was fraught with controversy, with concerns ranging from the presumed “unproductivity” of female alumni to the costs of campus expansion to the anticipated loss of Princeton’s “unique charisma” and “manly dedication.” Many of those opposed to coeducation coalesced into the organization Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP). Proponents of coeducation argued that the proximity of women would decrease homosexuality. This latter position was tacitly supported by Dr. Louis E. Reik ‘33, University Director of Mental Health, and his associate Dr. Willard Dalrymple, Director of University Health Services, in an interview with the Daily Princetonian in 1966 in which Reik stated that a “tendency which was latent before might well be strengthened here” (on a single-gender campus). In a subsequent interview with Dr. Reik in 1969, he contradicted his prior statements and argued that coeducation would not have a notable effect on homosexuality, since he considered that it developed before the age students typically attended college.

Photo from Daily Princetonian.

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Howard Edwards Gansworth and the “Indian Problem” at Princeton

For people of European descent carving out space for themselves in the present borders of the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a major barrier: people already lived there. The nation did not regard this as an insurmountable hurdle, however. America tried a variety of things as it expanded westward: driving Native Americans across continually shifting borders, attempting to assimilate them into a dominant white culture, and employing a variety of approaches in between. As the United States consumed more and more territory occupied by American Indians who attempted to maintain ownership, conflicts worsened. In the late 19th century, a crisis point had been reached. In 1890 and 1891, the Lakota Sioux fought a losing battle over treaty violations and land use with the United States Army. The Ghost Dance War resulted in the deaths of dozens of combatants on both sides and hundreds of Lakota Sioux civilians during its best-known battle, the Wounded Knee Massacre. During this period, Native Americans came under particular scrutiny.

At the College of New Jersey (Princeton), opinions were mixed about this so-called “Indian Problem.” A few weeks after the Ghost Dance War ended, students debated what should be done. One claimed “that though the good Indian was not the dead Indian, yet the good Indian had not yet been found.” Samuel Semple of the Class of 1891, who was selected as the winner of the debate’s $1,000 prize, argued that the only thing to do was to adopt Richard Pratt’s program of forced assimilation, removing Native American children from their homes and sending them to boarding schools. Pratt later famously summed up his program’s rationale in this way: “All the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”

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Cliosophic Society Archives (AC016), Box 84, Folder 31.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 29-March 6

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Ethel Barrymore is on campus, undergraduates head to Washington to celebrate a presidential inauguration, and more.

March 1, 1969—The new Jadwin Gym is dedicated at a Harvard-Yale-Princeton track meet.

March 2, 1931—Ethel Barrymore appears in the opening of “Love Duel” at McCarter Theater.

Ethel_Barrymore_Prince_28_Feb_1931

Ethel Barrymore, ca. 1931. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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William Taylor’s “Doggie Wagon”

Searching for materials in archival collections means, at times, trying to figure out how the people of the past would have labeled their photos, named their articles, or categorized their artifacts. They didn’t always use the same terms we would now. For this Black History Month, we examine William Taylor and how he illustrates the challenges we sometimes face when we’re trying to research the experiences of prior generations.
A tradition of longstanding at Princeton University ended in 1949. Last year, we told you about James “Jimmy Stink” Collins Johnson, a fugitive slave who went into business for himself on the College of New Jersey (Princeton) campus after abolitionist-minded townspeople and students helped him buy his freedom. Johnson sold snacks and drinks from a cart he pushed around campus. In his later years, Johnson took an apprentice named A. C. Seruby and nicknamed “Spader”, who sold peanuts from a large bag while wearing a top hat, an ascot, and a cutaway jacket. As the third and last African American campus vendor among the salesmen who have pushed carts around Princeton, William Taylor had the longest tenure, from 1904-1949. Taylor’s death on March 26, 1949 was a blow to the community. A local newspaper, Town Topics, wrote that “When he went, Princeton became a smaller town.”

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William Taylor, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box LP1, Image No. 294.

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Who Founded Princeton University?

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Who founded Princeton University? 

A. The founding of Princeton University is nearly as complex as the courses that have been and continue to be taught within its hallowed lecture halls. The College of New Jersey (as Princeton University was known until 1896) was a child of the Great Awakening, an institution born in opposition to the religious tenets that had ruled the colonial era.

The principles on which Princeton University was founded may be traced to the Log College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, founded by William Tennent in 1726. Tennent was a Presbyterian minister who, along with fellow evangelists Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies, and George Whitefield of England, preached and taught an approach to religion and life that was the very essence of the Great Awakening period. The seven founders of the College of New Jersey were all Presbyterians. Ebenezer Pemberton, a minister and a graduate of Harvard, was the only one of the seven who did not graduate from Yale. The remaining six were Jonathan Dickinson, Aaron Burr Sr., and John Pierson, who were ministers; William Smith, a lawyer; Peter Van Brugh Livingston, a merchant; and William Peartree Smith.

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Original location of Pennsylvania’s Log College (photo taken in 1914). Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP62, Image No. 2402.

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