Accessing Early University History through Publications

 

Written by  Rossy Mendez

It can often be a daunting task to find University-related publications from the nineteenth century. Fortunately, a number are available in Princeton’s collections and online. You can search for these publications directly through the main library catalog or by using the finding aids site to search across the university’s special collections. You can limit your results by entering keywords such as “The College of New Jersey” and using date ranges.

Student Publications
The Princeton University Publications Collection (which dates from 1748-2012) contains a variety of publications written by students, from the informal social newsletter the Nassau Rake to the well-established Nassau Literary Magazine. The Princeton Tiger humor magazine, which started in the 1880s, is a significant part of the collection as some of its writers went on to literary careers. Lastly, this collection also contains articles and publications related to the university such as The Influence of Princeton on Higher Education in the South.

19centurypub_11

The Tattler, Vol. 1, No. 16, February 26, 1840, Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), Box 52.

Athletics
The university has a rich athletic tradition and the documentation of this history can be found in several collections at Mudd. The Athletic Programs Collection contains a number of programs from Princeton’s early athletic history including the famous Princeton-Yale football games near the turn of the century. The C. Bernard Shea Collection on Princeton University Athletics contains clippings and statistics of sports events starting in 1869. In addition to this collection, the Bric-a-Brac yearbooks available in Mudd’s reading room also provide insight into sports events.

cornell

Princeton vs. Cornell football souvenir program, October 31, 1896, Athletic Programs Collection (AC042), Box 1, Folder 4.

Visual and Performing Arts
The arts have always played a major role in Princeton’s history. The Music Performance at Princeton Collection (1875-2007) includes programs and advertisements from musical clubs within the university as well as visiting performers. In addition, the General Princeton Theater Collection and the Triangle Club Records have a number of programs and playbills from early performances at the university, while the University Broadsheets Collection has advertisements of important events on campus.

Student Speeches
Clippings and programs of the student orations related to Princeton’s commencement ceremonies can be found in the University Commencement Records and some in the College of New Jersey Pamphlets book, which has a selection of materials from the 1800s. These records provide information about the university’s traditions and practices and are a good way to learn more about the university involvement of a particular individual.

University Registries and Catalogs
A number of registries, yearbooks and catalog publications are available in our reference room. The Nassau Herald yearbook, which was first issued in 1864, contains biographical and academic information including names, field of study and place of residence. In addition to directory information it also provides information about the graduating class (photographs are also included after 1915). The Bric a Brac, an informal yearbook publication produced by the Junior class, documents the social aspects of the university including activities of various clubs and sports teams. Class reunion books include an up to date class directory, eulogies, quotes and other pieces of writing that allow insight into the post-graduation activities of alumni.

University catalogs dating from the early 1800s contain information about statistics, fees, coursework and other policies. Some of these catalogs can be accessed in our reading and reference rooms but some can also be found online (see below). There are a number of specialized catalogs like that of the Whig Society that record club activities and alumni.

Digital Resources
In addition to the abundance of information available at Mudd, there are several of online resources that are worth mentioning. If you are a student or faculty member at Princeton you have access to digital versions of some of these publications through the databases available through the main library catalog. The Nassau Monthly, for example can be accessed through ProQuest and EBSCO databases. In addition to these, ProQuest Historical NewspapersGale News Vault and the Newspaper Archive contain a number of other 19th century publications. If you cannot access Princeton’s digital resources, there are a number of other online resources. The entire archive of the student newspaper The Daily Princetonian, is freely available online and covers events, student issues and local news. The archive contains newspaper clippings that date to as early as 1875. Users can conduct keyword searches as well as limit results using various parameters.

Google Books contains a number of publications that have been digitized by Princeton and other universities. Some examples include catalogs such as the Princeton College Bulletin from 1895 and class reunion books such as the Decennial record of the class of 1874. You can also conduct general searches online to determine if the material you need has been digitized. Here are some examples of available items: an essay written for the student publication, The Tattler; an 1897 essay in Scribner’s magazine written about undergraduate life at Princeton; and a speech given by Charles Fenton Mercer at the University Chapel in 1826.

The Internet Archive has also made available several early images of Princeton’s history through the photo sharing site, Flickr. These images derive from publications and the link to the entire publication is available at the Open Library.

Whether it is using our collections at the Mudd Library or conducting research online, finding information from the 19th century need not be a difficult task. You can visit our website to find more helpful tips on using our collections or contact us via email.