This Week in Princeton History for August 17-23

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, three professors miss an eclipse, four juniors secure an apartment in Plainsboro to avoid eating tofu, and more.

August 17, 1788—At a meeting of the faculty, Henry Purcell, a minister’s son, is “found guilty of profane swearing and other irregularities.”

August 19, 1887—Three Princeton professors who have traveled to Russia to observe a total solar eclipse 30 miles northeast of Moscow are unable to see it due to an overcast sky.

August 20, 1983—Dissatisfied with options on campus, four members of of the Class of 1985 obtain a lease on a 3-bedroom apartment in Plainsboro. They considered the Dickinson co-op, but it was “too radical,” the Princetonian will explain, for one of the roommates to bear, quoting Peter Noto: “Tofu this, tofu that. We’d have had beancurd coming out of our ears.”

Photo of four roommates.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian.

August 22, 1911—The seventh annual conference of the Chinese Students Alliance of the Eastern States begins at Princeton today. There are 150 participants. The 15 women in attendance are staying at Cap and Gown Club.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 23-29

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, stranded undergrads sing in Trenton, the basketball team gets tickets with nobody’s face on them, and more.

November 23, 1939—When a train wreck blocks all traffic on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad near Princeton Junction Station, 300 stranded undergraduates returning from Thanksgiving break hold an impromptu “songfest” in Trenton Station.

November 24, 1781—James Caldwell, College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1759, is killed by an American sentry in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. The sentry will later be hanged for murder.

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Clipping from the New Jersey Gazette, December 12, 1781.

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Penumbral Eclipse of the Heart

by: Amanda Pike

A penumbral lunar eclipse took place earlier this morning, the last of four eclipses observed this year. Unfortunately, here in Princeton, the eclipse was not visible since it began after moonset. However, there is still an opportunity to observe an eclipse at the Mudd Library!

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The Princeton University Archives houses the Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection, which includes a series specifically on astronomical expeditions from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century. This collection documents the work of various scientific expeditions conducted under the aegis of Princeton University, though the history of these expeditions is fragmentary. From the information within the collection, it appears that the earliest such enterprises were astronomical, as the college’s professor Stephen Alexander journeyed to Georgia in 1834 to observe an eclipse of the sun. While no notice of this has been found in the trustees’ minutes of the time, at least two of three subsequent eclipse expeditions (in 1854, 1860, and 1869) were official college investigations, duly authorized and funded by the trustees. Alexander’s successor, Professor C. A. Young, led his own eclipse expeditions to Colorado in 1878, to Russia in 1887, and to North Carolina in 1900. An 1882 journey to observe the transit of Venus is, so far, the only other identified astronomic expedition of the 19th century.

The images below document a solar eclipse observed in Wadesboro, North Carolina in 1900, as well as the equipment used to capture the images.

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Further information on the Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection can be found using the collection’s finding aid online.