Princeton’s Summer Trips Across North America

Although traveling significant distances is routine for many Princetonians these days, traversing North America was not always as easy as it is now. Our records reveal a variety of both academic and pleasure trips over the years that have used horses, trains, cars, and bicycles to reach their destinations.

Most of the lengthy North American journeys Princetonians took in the 19th century were scientific expeditions, starting with the astronomical expeditions of the early part of century. Most of those were along the east coast, but in July and August 1869, with help from institutional and federal funding, a group of Princetonians took trains to Ottumwa, Iowa, to view a total solar eclipse. It took nearly five days to reach Ottumwa and three days to return. One student later wrote that aside from the spectacular event of the eclipse itself, “The great impression I received was concerning the magnitude of our country. We had passed through very varied scenery for nights and days, travelling over a country large enough to comprise all the kingdoms of Europe, all teeming with life and prosperity, and yet had only passed over about one-third of the extent…”

The first Geological Expedition took its participants (18 students and two professors) further into the American west on an 11-week trek to Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah in the summer of 1877. Three Princeton juniors (William Berryman Scott, Henry Fairfield Osborn, and Francis Speir) had taken a geology course with Arnold Guyot and had read reports about fossil-collection trips Yale had taken. They were determined that Princeton should not be left out of these types of adventures and convinced others to join them.

They took a train to Denver. Princeton had two cars of its own, one for baggage and one for passengers. The expedition party boarded at the Dinky station at about 8:00PM on June 21 and arrived in Denver on June 25 after a few stops along the way, including Chicago and Kansas City. In his memoir, Some Memories of a Palaeontologist, Scott described the journey this way:

Of our journey, novel to most of us though it was, there was not much to be said. The Middle West was not then the busy, prosperous region it has since become, and the principal impression which it made upon me then was one of crudeness and shabbiness. The roads were quagmires of black mud; the towns were chiefly of wood and sadly in need of paint and, though there were a great many fine-looking farms, the journey was a depressing experience. (p. 60-61)

In Denver, the faculty secured horses and wagons and the group set up camp just outside the city, then a town of about 25,000 people, for a few days, where one traveler wrote that they “slept soundly in our blankets using our saddles as pillows.”

The Princeton Scientific Expedition camping out at Fairplay, Colorado, in the summer of 1877. Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection (AC012), Box 3, Folder 2.

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Margaret Niemann Rost ’85 on Softball and the Senior Thesis

By Cailin Hong ’17

With the women’s softball season underway, Mudd reflects on the team’s not-so-humble origins with a retrospective on Margaret Niemann Rost ’85, former co-captain and one of the team’s first members after the fledgling sport was promoted to varsity status. Rost was a religion major from Ridgewood, New Jersey, who played on both the varsity women’s basketball and softball teams before choosing to focus on softball her senior year. Rost played second base and during her time at Princeton led the team to incredible success, scoring wins against some of the top teams in the NCAA at Temple and University of Massachusetts, despite being a relatively new team and limited in practice dates by Ivy League regulations. As a multi-sport athlete on Princeton’s need-based scholarship, Rost was an example of the University’s commitment to supporting the nation’s brightest minds while promoting “education through athletics”. When asked about the challenges of being a varsity athlete and completing the academic capstone of the Princeton undergraduate experience, the senior thesis, Rost shrugged, “my roommate and I, who’s co-captain of the team, finished it [a 124-page analysis of the writings of Jewish author Chaim Potok] six weeks early so we could fully commit to enjoying the season.”

This recently digitized video highlights Rost’s timeless reflections on the challenges of senior year, balancing “going Independent” with a campus job, and the uncertainty of post-graduation plans. It was filmed just after Rost led the team to their third consecutive Ivy League Championship.

Sources:

Broadcast Center Recordings (AC362)

Daily Princetonian

Niemann, Margaret Ruth. “Varieties of Identities in the Writing of Chaim Potok.” 1985. Senior Thesis Collection (AC102).

Thesis Central: New for the Class of 2017

The senior thesis, the capstone of a Princeton student’s academic experience, has moved further into the 21st century with Thesis Central, a new thesis collection and management tool. Working closely with the Office of Information Technology and the Office of the Dean of the College (ODOC), the Princeton University Archives launched the site on Monday, March 27 in order to begin collecting the theses that are due during the months of April and May.

Courtney Perales ’17, Anthropology. Thesis Due: April 17.

Seniors will log into the system with their NetIDs, with much of the necessary information pre-populated into the collection form. In fact, seniors will only need to do three or four things after logging in: provide their thesis titles; upload the thesis files (and any supporting files such as datasets or videos); affirm they followed University rules regarding the work; and, if their department requires one, cut and paste their abstracts. Students are also provided a link to the ODOC page should they wish to request any type of restriction.

Antoine Crepin-Heroux ’17, Electrical Engineering. Thesis Due: May 8.

After departmental and library review, all theses will be available via DataSpace by the start of the new school year. Since its launch in 2014, use of the online database has been very high. Last year students on campus searched and downloaded over 14,000 theses, an impressive number given that the database has not yet reached 5,000 individual theses. (For copyright reasons, theses are not downloadable from off campus.)

See the Mudd Library website for detailed information about the new submission process.

This Week in Princeton History for November 30-December 6

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a dorm fire destroys a senior thesis, a football player wins the Heisman Trophy, and more.

November 30, 1834—On Princeton’s first astronomical expedition, Professor Stephen Alexander observes a solar eclipse in Georgia; his Fraunhofer telescope is the best refractor of its time.

December 3, 1969—A fire started by an unwatched candle in 114 Henry Hall destroys Willard Reynolds ‘70’s thesis and graduate school applications.

2015-11-06 13.41

Despite the setback, Willard Reynolds ’70 managed to complete his senior thesis. It is now a part of the Senior Thesis Collection (AC102).

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The History of the Princeton University Senior Thesis

The senior thesis has been a requirement of all undergraduate students at Princeton University since 1926.

Senior Theses lined up for exhibit. Historical Photograph Collection, AC112, MP012, Image 765

Senior Theses lined up for exhibit. Historical Photograph Collection, AC112, MP012, Image 765, 1942.

During a Faculty Meeting on February 19th, 1923, the Committee on the Course of Study submitted a report for a new study plan known as the “Four Course Plan.” The four course plan called for an extensive reading program for the student in his department under the supervision of an adviser, with the goal that students gain a better command of a subject during independent work. “The plan was instituted in 1924 for the degree of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science and put into operation for the Class of 1923 as juniors.” (Luther Pfahler Eisenhart, Dean of the Faculty)

By 1926, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree requirements included a senior thesis and a comprehensive examination, an innovation that soon became a hallmark of a Princeton education.
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