This Week in Princeton History for August 31-September 6

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an increase in the cost of food inspires student entrepreneurs, the Civil War fells an alum, and more.

September 2, 1975—Prices on most items available at the Student Center go up by five cents. Empty cups, previously free, now cost a nickel. The move will inspire some students to form new student agencies to compete for food sales at lower costs.

Ad_Prince_25_July_1975

Ad from the Daily Princetonian, 1975.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for July 13-19

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the first African American head coach in the Ivy League is hired, a professor climbs a mountain, and more.

July 13, 1770—Students are outraged by a “Letter from the Merchants in New York to the Committee of Merchants in Philadelphia,” which they have somehow intercepted. The letter outlines the intent of the New York merchants to abandon a nonimportation agreement within the colonies. In response, the students process in front of Nassau Hall and burn the letter “with hearty Wishes, that the Names of all Promoters of such a daring Breach of Faith, may be blasted in the Eyes of every Lover of Liberty, and their Names handed down to Posterity, as Betrayers of their Country.”

July 14, 1970—Larry Ellis is named head coach of track and cross country at Princeton University, becoming the first African American head coach in the Ivy League. He will later coach at the 1984 Olympic Games.

Cross_country_team_1981_AC168_Box_168

Larry Ellis (far left, middle row) with the 1981 Princeton University cross country team. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 168.

July 16, 1799—Three students are brought before the faculty on charges of “a violation of those Laws of the College which forbid the carrying of firearms.” They write a letter of apology and are permitted to continue their studies.

July 17, 1877—Princeton professor William Libbey makes the first recorded ascent of Mount Princeton near Nathrop, Colorado.

Mount_Princeton_undated_AC126_Box_27

Mount Princeton, undated. Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 27.

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 January 26-February 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an Oscar winner dies, the University holds a winter Commencement to send students off to war more quickly, and more.

January 26, 1992—Jose Ferrer ’33 dies at the age of 80. Though best known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of the title character in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1949, he had already made an impression on Princeton. The Class of 1933 named him the “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” among them upon graduation. Like his friend James Stewart ’32, Ferrer was an architecture major who got his start in show business through involvement in Triangle Club.

Ferrer_Jose_Most_Entertaining_1933_Nassau_Herald

Jose Ferrer was named “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” by the Class of 1933 (photo from 1933 Nassau Herald).

January 27, 1934—An Ice Carnival held in Baker Rink raises $900 for charity, which is donated to the Princeton Nursery School.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for December 29-January 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, graduate alumni form their own organization, George Washington comes to town, and more.

December 29, 1939—William B. Scott (Class of 1877), Blair Professor of Geology, Emeritus, wins the Penrose Medal, the top prize in geosciences, from the Geological Society of America.

December 30, 1949—The Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA ) is founded.

1st_APGA_Meeting_AC109_Box10_F1

Promotional materials sent to graduate alumni following the founding of the Association for Princeton Graduate Alumni, 1950, Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), Box 10, Folder 1.

January 1, 1951—Princeton University begins participation in the Social Security system.

January 2, 1777—George Washington and the Continental Army march from Trenton to Princeton, where they will liberate Nassau Hall and the rest of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) campus from British occupation on January 3.

Washington's_Birthday_1900_AC200

Princeton has long celebrated its connection to George Washington and the American Revolution. This cover of an event program is found in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Records (AC200).

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 Rittenhouse Orrery

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Q: What is an orrery, and how did Princeton University come to own one? How was it damaged in the Battle of Princeton?

Repaired_Orrery_1954_AC112_Box_MP10

Rittenhouse Orrery on display in Firestone Library, 1954, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP10.

A: An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system. Orreries were regarded as essential teaching equipment for 18th-century lectures on “natural philosophy” (the physical sciences). Although invented ca. 1700 by George Graham, they have been called orreries because English instrument maker John Rowley named a copy he made of Graham’s machine “The Orrery” in honor of Charles Boyle, Earl of Orrery.

Rittenhouse_designing_Orrery_AC123_Box_302

Gillett G. Griffin, pen and ink drawing of David Rittenhouse designing his orrery, University Library Records (AC123), Box 302. Griffin was Princeton’s Curator of Graphic Arts 1952-1966.

David Rittenhouse, a Pennsylvania clockmaker, self-taught astronomer, and later the first director of the U.S. Mint, designed and built the College of New Jersey’s orrery (now Princeton University). In 1771, College President John Witherspoon purchased it from Rittenhouse for approximately £220 and installed it in Nassau Hall. The orrery instantly became the College’s most valuable asset. Rittenhouse’s original plans for the orrery included a central panel of four square feet showing the planets revolving around the Sun, and two smaller panels, one focused on Jupiter and Saturn, and the other on the Earth and the Moon, but all that remains today is the central panel, after damages during the military occupation of Nassau Hall in 1776-1777. A more complete example of a Rittenhouse Orrery has been preserved at the University of Pennsylvania Library.

Rittenhouse_shows_Orrery_to_Witherspoon_AC123_Box_302

Gillett G. Griffin, pen and ink drawing of David Rittenhouse showing his orrery to Princeton president John Witherspoon, University Library Records (AC123), Box 302.

Continue reading