This Week in Princeton History for March 20-26

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, seniors make a fashion statement, a new discovery is poised to revolutionize medicine, and more.

March 23, 1893—The Class of 1893, like the Class of 1892 before them, has chosen to wear caps and gowns throughout their final spring semester. The Princetonian praises this development:

There is no more pleasing distinction nor one that is more in keeping with the dignity of the class that has reached the highest position of college authority and is about to sever forever its connection with undergraduate life…

Group portrait of Princeton Class of 1893

Princeton’s Class of 1893 may have agreed to wear caps and gowns generally until the end of the semester, but in this senior portrait taken in 1893, only one member of the class (see back row) appears to have remained committed to the plan. Historical Photograph Collection, Class Photographs Series (AC181), Box 13.

March 24, 1932—To facilitate spring travel for Princeton students, Ludington Airlines offers two flights out of Princeton Airport today. Students can take the shuttles to Baltimore, Washington, and Norfolk from Princeton.

March 25, 1896—W. F. Magie (Class of 1879) lectures on campus about the recent discovery by German physics professor Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen and the possible clinical applications of his “Roentgen Rays,” which in future generations will become commonly known as X-rays.

March 26, 1845—Famed temperance orator John Bartholomew Gough is in town, offering dramatic lectures peppered with humor about the dangers of drunkenness.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 30-February 5

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, students send egg rolls to a celebrity, an agricultural program is proposed, and more.

January 30, 1898—Princeton president Francis Patton urges students to join the Temperance Movement and accept college rules against drinking, even if their own consciences would permit them to drink.

I should be exceedingly sorry if the professional career of any one of you were blighted by habits contracted here. I should be sorry to see you start in the great race of life under the handicap of ill repute.

February 3, 1983—In honor of the first anniversary of The Late Show with David Letterman, the student staff of Princeton’s Tiger sends him 100 egg rolls.

Yes, David, here they are! 100 egg rolls to hail your landmark anniversary--100 because this is our centennial year; egg rolls because of our fond memories of the unforgettable human state vs. Szechuan U. delivery race and to express our sincere hope that you, Paul, the band, and the whole crew will just keep rolling along. With clapping paws and a great roar, HAPPY FIRST! From the Princeton Tiger Magazine.

Letter from Princeton Tiger staff to David Letterman, February 3, 1983. Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), Box 9.

February 4, 1920—This week, Princetonians will consume 10 barrels of white flour, more than 6,000  pounds of meat, 42 barrels of potatoes, 4,500 quarts of milk, and 2,600 shredded wheat biscuits at a cost of $900 per day (approximately $13,500 in 2023 currency) in University dining halls.

February 5, 1864—A letter to the editor of the Princeton Standard argues in favor of Princeton establishing a program for the study of agriculture, noting its ideal location among extensive farmland.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 31-February 6

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the matriculation process is explained, local women report on their efforts to keep students from drinking, and more.

February 2, 1845—A letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun explains what it is like for a new student at Princeton:

When he arrives[,] he look[s] round, well pleased; the polished professors welcome him with a smile, advise him to take care of his health, and not study too hard, and then his name is inscribed, in a formal manner, in a book, which process is called matriculation. This is all very easy. Next day, however, he recites in Hebrew, next in moral philosophy, next in ecclesiastical history, and next in Theology. While this is going on, the professors are busily engaged in finding out his attainments, but in such a sly way as not to alarm the victim with the idea of an ordeal. By the time he gets through, however, he begins to think something more than usual was the matter with him, else he would not have perspired so hard, and at last actually sees that he has escaped from the very fingers of Moloch, and blesses his stars that he was not burned up. This whole operation, by the knowing ones, is technically called cutting, and when the victim gets through it he is permitted to run at large with the other dogs.

Selected page from Princeton’s Matriculation Register, 1821-1844. Office of the Registrar Records (AC116), Box 47.

February 3, 1767—College Steward Jonathan Baldwin defends himself against charges of having paid too much for some mutton, and his butcher against charges of swindling. The New York Journal will later publish Baldwin’s account of the facts behind the mutton controversy that has drawn significant colonial press.

February 5, 1881—The Women’s Christian Temperance Society of Princeton reports on its first year of operation in town, which has included having speakers repeatedly address crowds outdoors on the college campus to tell stories “in the most thrilling way” about the dangers of intoxicating drinks. The Society feels a particular responsibility to engage in activism among “that perpetually shifting part of the population, the 500 or 600 young men who come here for education.”

February 6, 1917—The new Senior Class Committee on Business Opportunities sends out a circular letter requesting that companies interested in hiring a member of the Class of 1917 write back about available openings.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 24-30

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, an alum urges Americans to put the Civil War behind them in order to defeat a new mutual enemy, the local newspaper advocates scrapbooking, and more.

January 24, 1817—The New York Commercial Advertiser reports that students at Princeton “are in a state of revolt.”

January 25, 1764—Around this date, the Pennsylvania Gazette reports that a fire has damaged Nassau Hall.

January 26, 1889—Students and others gather at a Temperance meeting at the town’s Second Presbyterian Church, where Alfred H. Colquitt, Class of 1844, now a senator from Georgia, warns that Americans must band together against liquor sales. “The Rebellion is over but a new war is upon us. No foreign enemy, but an enemy at home. Let the North and South unite and with combined strength overthrow this threatening evil.”

January 27, 1860—The Princeton Press encourages local residents to take up scrapbooking, and suggests they paste its own articles in their books.

Student scrapbooks do have plenty of newspaper clippings, local and otherwise, but often also a wealth of other contextual information. In this scrapbook made by Benjamin S. Morehouse, Class of 1862, we find an artifact not mentioned in the newspaper article he pasted in its pages, along with this note: “This ‘Golden Circle’ was one of a large no. tacked upon the trees in Princeton by some persons unknown during the night following the troubles mentioned in a preceding article in this scrapbook, ‘Treason Punished in Princeton College’ dated Sept. 16, [18]61. I took it down from a tree. The design thereof did not appear. Whether it is a sign of the ‘Golden Circle’ or not, I do not know. There was much excitement in the place during the few days mentioned in the article.” (The Knights of the Golden Circle was a secret society that formed in 1854 with an aim to establish a new country where slavery would be legal. During the Civil War, some northerners sympathetic to the Confederacy were part of the group.) Scrapbook Collection (AC026), Box 11.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 6-12

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the alum who chose Princeton’s colors passes away, a local quarantine is in place, and more.

September 6, 1927—William Libbey, Class of 1877, who was responsible for choosing orange and black as Princeton’s colors, was the first person to earn a doctorate from Princeton (in 1879), and taught geography at Princeton for 41 years, dies at the age of 72 after a long and surprisingly diverse career. In the world at large, he will also be remembered for winning a silver medal in the 1912 Olympics, serving in the Army during World War I, and serving a term as president of the National Rifle Association.

William Libbey, ca. 1880s. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067).

September 7, 1900—Due to a local outbreak of diphtheria, some residents of Princeton are in quarantine.

September 8, 1830—At the meeting of the Nassau Hall Temperance Society, a professor in the process of compiling an alumni directory said that “he had been astounded, and most deeply pained to find the ravages which intemperance had in a few years made among the graduates of the institution. In some instances, as many as one-fourth of large classes had fallen sacrifices to the devouring monster, and some of them under the most afflictive and heart-rending circumstances.”

September 10, 1792—Four students found to have played cards on the Sabbath are disciplined. They must confess their actions to the whole student body, return property won during the game, and “solemnly promise never to do the like again while at College.”

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This Week in Princeton History for March 22-28

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the temperance movement finds support, A Beautiful Mind begins filming on campus, and more.

March 23, 1843—Princetonians are collecting data about the Great Comet passing by.

March 24, 1830—The Boston Recorder reports that a Temperance Society “on the plan of entire abstinence has been recently formed by the students of Nassau Hall, the majority of whom have attached themselves to it. One or two young gentlemen who had been in the habit of a pretty free use of ardent spirits, were among the first to attach their names to the constitution.”

March 25, 1986—The Korean Students Association meets with faculty in the East Asian Studies department to discuss a proposal to reinstate Korean language studies at Princeton. Korean classes have not been available to students since the 1960s.

March 27, 2001—A Beautiful Mind begins filming at Princeton University.

Russell Crowe and Ron Howard talk on the set of A Beautiful Mind, 2001. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 198.

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Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.