This Week in Princeton History for January 14-20

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a member of the Class of 1801 walks 20 miles round trip to attend a memorial for George Washington, a class is lit with electric lamps, and more.

January, 14, 1800—John Johnston, Class of 1801, walks with other Princeton students to Trenton to hear Samuel Smith’s oration on the life of George Washington. Attendance is so large that many, including the students, have no seats and stand for the three-hour ceremony that includes Smith’s address. “To walk ten miles going and ten miles returning, and to stand on our feet nearly three hours, was not a small day’s labor. It will be believed, that when we reached the college we were excessively fatigued and hungry, for we had no opportunity to get anything to eat during the day.”

Samuel Stanhope Smith’s address at the Trenton memorial for George Washington, January 14, 1800. Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 253.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 18-24

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a sleigh ride results in the arrest of 24 undergraduates, Theodore Roosevelt lectures on police reform, and more.

January 18, 1879—A Columbia student is surprised when an innocent-seeming sleigh ride with Princeton students in Trenton lands him in jail alongside 24 Princetonians. Sleighing having become a public nuisance in Trenton, the local police had decided to make an example of these students. The New York papers will report later that at the time of their arrest, the students had been drinking and were singing “Jingle Bells” and “Sweet By and By” loudly at around 1:00 AM. After being denied bail, all plead guilty to disorderly conduct and pay a fine of $3.85 each to avoid spending the night to stand trial in the morning. The College of New Jersey (Princeton) president, James McCosh, will be quoted in the New York Times: “They are a very honorable set of young gentlemen. I do not believe those who went to Trenton would use indecent language, insult ladies, or get intoxicated.”

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As noted by several newspapers in the aftermath of the Trenton arrests, sleighing was a popular form of recreation for College of New Jersey (Princeton) students in the late 19th century. Pictured here are four members of the Class of 1895 outside University Hall. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP14, Image No. 4856.

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