This Week in Princeton History for December 5-11

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Hoagie Haven stops delivering sandwiches, the campus holds its first beauty contest, and more.

December 5, 1950—University employees vote on whether to participate in the Social Security plan.

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Social Security election notice, November 29, 1950. Office of the Dean of the Faculty Records (AC118), Box 128, Folder 3.

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A Lotta Kicks: 125 Years of the Triangle Club

By Jessica Serrao

Join us at the Mudd Library as we celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Princeton University’s Triangle Club with an exhibit featuring archival materials from the Triangle Club Records housed in the University Archives. The exhibit walks you through some highlights from the past century and a quarter bringing to light the extensive history of this Princeton standard. Playbills, photographs, sheet music, memorabilia, travel plans, costume sketches, and, of course, punny titles, can all be found in this exhibit, and to a much greater degree in the Triangle Club Records.

The history of the Triangle Club is long and involved, but it’s still kicking today. During the mid-nineteenth century, dramatics at Princeton began in fits and starts as it struggled to take hold within a college steeped in Presbyterian morals. By 1883, religious views softened and Triangle Club’s predecessor formed as the Princeton College Dramatic Association (PCDA). “David Garrick” was PCDA’s first production held May 10, 1883. By 1891, PCDA had joined forces with the University Glee Club to stage its first musical performance, “Po-ca-hon-tas.” It was so successful, it was performed again the next year with revisions.

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Some of the cast of “Po-ca-hon-tas,” 1891. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 93.

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Howard Edwards Gansworth and the “Indian Problem” at Princeton

For people of European descent carving out space for themselves in the present borders of the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a major barrier: people already lived there. The nation did not regard this as an insurmountable hurdle, however. America tried a variety of things as it expanded westward: driving Native Americans across continually shifting borders, attempting to assimilate them into a dominant white culture, and employing a variety of approaches in between. As the United States consumed more and more territory occupied by American Indians who attempted to maintain ownership, conflicts worsened. In the late 19th century, a crisis point had been reached. In 1890 and 1891, the Lakota Sioux fought a losing battle over treaty violations and land use with the United States Army. The Ghost Dance War resulted in the deaths of dozens of combatants on both sides and hundreds of Lakota Sioux civilians during its best-known battle, the Wounded Knee Massacre. During this period, Native Americans came under particular scrutiny.

At the College of New Jersey (Princeton), opinions were mixed about this so-called “Indian Problem.” A few weeks after the Ghost Dance War ended, students debated what should be done. One claimed “that though the good Indian was not the dead Indian, yet the good Indian had not yet been found.” Samuel Semple of the Class of 1891, who was selected as the winner of the debate’s $1,000 prize, argued that the only thing to do was to adopt Richard Pratt’s program of forced assimilation, removing Native American children from their homes and sending them to boarding schools. Pratt later famously summed up his program’s rationale in this way: “All the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”

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Cliosophic Society Archives (AC016), Box 84, Folder 31.

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“This Is More Than a School”: James M. Stewart ’32’s Princeton

When we launched our Tumblr page in January 2015, we filled it with a variety of content on the history of Princeton University, but it didn’t take long for us to discover that one alumnus in particular consistently received a lot of attention on the platform: James Maitland Stewart ’32. In honor of this, we currently have an exhibit case in our lobby dedicated to Stewart’s long-term connection to Princeton: “‘This Is More Than a School’: James M. Stewart 32’s Princeton.”

Jimmy Stewart, the son of Alexander “Eck” Stewart of the Class of 1898, wrote on his 1928 application to Princeton that he chose it due to family connections and his belief that Princeton “is by far the best equipped to give me a broad, profitable education, provided that I apply myself diligently to the work.” His dreams of becoming a civil engineer, however, were short-lived. Diligent work proved a challenge in the face of tempting recreational activities. He later told Princeton Living, “College algebra was like a death blow to me.” He did especially poorly in a Shakespeare course and “did not survive Spanish.” Unable to keep up in his classes, Stewart was forced to attend summer school to avoid flunking out. At the end of Stewart’s freshman year, his math professor told him, “You’d better think very seriously about being something else [other than a civil engineer], or you’ll be in deep trouble.”

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Grade card for James Maitland Stewart ’32, Undergraduate Academic Records 1920-2015 (AC198), Box 25. To better understand Stewart’s academic struggles, see our previous blog post explaining the 1-7 grading system used here. N.B.: Access to student academic records is governed by this policy.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the first Triangle Show is performed, two freshmen kick a soccer ball to Manhattan and back, and more.

May 2, 1983—Reporters descend on Princeton University to ask current students for their reaction to the news that Brooke Shields has been admitted to the Class of 1987.

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Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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Sue Jean Lee and the Women of Triangle Club

The first thing that usually comes to mind with reference to the history of Princeton University’s Triangle Club is probably a kick line of men in dresses. Until 1969, admission to Princeton was for men only, so putting on student plays meant men often took women’s roles, and performances usually poked fun at this fact. Triangle was a launching pad for several prominent students. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jimmy Stewart, and Jose Ferrer are among its notable members, all of whom seem to have taken the experiences the Club gave them as the foundation for their later careers, just to name a few examples.

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Publicity photo for “Katherine,” 1892. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 246.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 16-22

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, James Brown performs, Jimmy Stewart ’32 reflects on his college days, and more.

February 16, 1996—James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul,” performs in Dillon Gymnasium.

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Photo from Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 26-February 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an Oscar winner dies, the University holds a winter Commencement to send students off to war more quickly, and more.

January 26, 1992—Jose Ferrer ’33 dies at the age of 80. Though best known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of the title character in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1949, he had already made an impression on Princeton. The Class of 1933 named him the “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” among them upon graduation. Like his friend James Stewart ’32, Ferrer was an architecture major who got his start in show business through involvement in Triangle Club.

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Jose Ferrer was named “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” by the Class of 1933 (photo from 1933 Nassau Herald).

January 27, 1934—An Ice Carnival held in Baker Rink raises $900 for charity, which is donated to the Princeton Nursery School.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 8-14

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Triangle Show appears on national television, the Board of Trustees votes to establish the Graduate School, and more.

December 8, 1988—The Student Friends of the Art Museum get the first look at the renovated museum’s new wing.

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Renovations of the Princeton University Art Museum underway, 1985, Historical Photograph Collection (AC111), Grounds and Buildings Series, Box AD1, Folder 7.

December 9, 1947—Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, president of the World Jewish Congress and co-founder of the NAACP, speaks in McCosh 50 during Hanukkah, with celebratory words about the founding of the modern state of Israel.

December 10, 1950—After suspension and flagging interest in the 1940s due to World War II, Princeton’s Triangle Show revives itself with the first of what will be many annual appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show.

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Mark Lawrence ’42, Robert Jennings, Ed Sullivan, and Fred Kelley, 1950, Triangle Club Records, AC122, Box 74.

December 13, 1900—The Board of Trustees votes to establish a Graduate School, and appoints Andrew Fleming West, Class of 1874, its first dean.

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Andrew Fleming West, 1889, Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series, Box FAC103.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

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

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Princeton Career and the Triangle Club

Written by Dan Linke

Today marks the 118th anniversary of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birth and 101 years since he entered Princeton University, the place he dubbed “the pleasantest country club in America.” That phrase, a great irritant to then University President John Grier Hibben, is found in his first novel, This Side of Paradise, which chronicles Amory Blaine’s time as an undergraduate and his fascination with eating clubs, sports, social life, and Fitzgerald’s true Princeton obsession, the Triangle Club.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s portrait from the Class of 1917 Nassau Herald.

Fitzgerald is the sole author of all the song lyrics for three consecutive Triangle Club shows (Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi!, 1914-1915; The Evil Eye, 1915-1916; and Safety First, 1916-1917), a prolific record unmatched in the Club’s nearly 125 year history.  When asked “what was your major?,” it is not uncommon for Club alumni to respond with “Triangle, with a minor in Chemistry” [or English, or any other subject that they ostensibly studied].  For Fitzgerald, the answer appears to be the same, as evidenced by his grade card and his failure to graduate.

Admitted on trial, as his card notes, Fitzgerald struggled with most of his classes and was placed in the fifth (the lowest) class throughout his three years.  This should encourage aspiring writers everywhere, however, given that one of the greatest 20th century American authors never received higher than a B+ (a 3, on a 1-7 scale) in his English classes, but went on to write works still read avidly almost 75 years after his death.

Images taken from Office of the Registrar Records, Box 103. Click to enlarge:

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N.B. Access to undergraduate alumni records is governed by this policy.