This Week in Princeton History for February 13-19

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a professor attempts to calm local protests, students are arrested after defacing buildings in Trenton and Lawrenceville, and more.

February 13, 1911—Louis Meyer, a Presbyterian who was raised Jewish, lectures to a large group of Princetonians in McCosh Hall’s East Room, which seats 600. As one of the progenitors of the American Hebrew-Christian movement, which will later become better known as Messianic Judaism, Meyer’s work focuses on converting other Jews to Christianity.

February 17, 1967—Princeton’s Students for a Democratic Society host the first regional Radical Education Project conference, where they unveil their “Port Authority Statement.” It encourages white collar workers to become revolutionaries who reject American imperialism and embrace Marxism.

February 18, 1935—Acting in a capacity as emergency arbitrator, Princeton University professor Charles Erdman, Jr. informs 200 unemployed protesters at the local Social Service Bureau that there is inadequate funding to meet their demands. Erdman says that there has been no discrimination from the Bureau, but Black residents argue otherwise.

February 19, 1902—Twelve students are arrested in Trenton for malicious mischief after painting “‘05” on the battle monument, twenty houses on Princeton Avenue, and several farms in Lawrenceville. The incident will make headlines nationwide. Urging upperclassmen to rein in the lower classes, the Princeton Alumni Weekly will observe with frustration,

the freshmen went about their work of painting this part of the state with more thoroughness than ever before, and were so self-sacrificing for the cause that some of them might have frozen to death if they had not taken refuge in a farm-house, whence they were conveyed to Princeton, with feet wrapped in grain bags, by a rescuing party in a sleigh.

A man holding a paintbrush and paint can standing in front of a wall with "1905" painted on it

This illustration in the Class of 1905’s Nassau Herald looks back on their 1902 arrests.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 3-9

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, posting bills in Trenton gets four students arrested, F. Scott Fitzgerald is not doing well, and more.

October 3, 1970—A dozen state and local feminist groups, in their first general convention, join to discuss the basic issues of the women’s rights movement in the Princeton Inn. The University is held up as an example of discrimination at the meeting, with 600 faculty but only 13 women who hold a rank above “Instructor.”

October 4, 1889—According to a report that will later appear in the Trenton Times, Trenton police arrest and take four students to their station while the students are posting bills warning “Ye Mongrel Herd of Freshmen” not to carry canes, use tobacco, sing “Old Nassau,” or wear orange and black. As there is nothing obscene in the bills, however, they are released.

“Attention Ye Mongrel Herd of Freshmen,” 1889. (Click to enlarge.) Princeton University Class Records (AC130).

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This Week in Princeton History for May 2-8

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, Bob Hope jokes with students, a Pennsylvania newspaper questions James McCosh’s decision-making, and more.

May 2, 1836—The Mammoth Exhibition of the Zoological Institute in New York (an early traveling circus) is in town. Those who pay the 25-cent admission fee are promised a view of exotic animals, including live tigers.

May 3, 1984—The Whig-Cliosophic Society presents Bob Hope with the James Madison Award. Hope responds, “I love it when a relic gives something to a relic.”

Bob Hope with students at Princeton University, May 3, 1984. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 142.

May 4, 1881—The St. Albans Daily Messenger criticizes James McCosh for not allowing the Glee Club to perform a concert in Trenton for the benefit of the Grand Army Post. McCosh reasoned that the saloons and “houses of ill fame” in Trenton made the environment inappropriate for the students, but the Messenger disagrees. “If these Princeton students are what they ought to be there could be no harm in their fulfilling their engagement in Trenton if the saloons and houses of ill fame were as thick in that city as in Luther’s imagination devils might have been in the city of Worms.”

May 7, 1845—Philadelphia resident Sears C. Walker receives a letter from professor Stephen Alexander in Princeton, who writes that he has seen the tail of a comet.

For the previous 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 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.”


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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