This Week in Princeton History for November 7-13

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a member of the Class of 1903 casts his vote, students burn the American flag in protest, and more.

November 7, 1955—Today’s issue of Life features Princeton mascot Michael A. Briggs ’57.

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The Princeton University cheerleading squad with Michael A. Briggs ’57 as the tiger, ca. 1955. Photo from 1956 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 1-7

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a movie featuring the campus premieres, the library implements a new security policy, and more.

August 1, 1944—Wilson, a biopic film about Woodrow Wilson of the Class of 1879 partially set and filmed on campus, premieres at Roxy Theatre in New York.

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Ticket to the premiere of Wilson, August 1, 1944. Woodrow Wilson Collection (MC168), Box 45, Folder 6.

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“A Princeton Student’s Letter to His Father” and the Election of 1912

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend and the United States in the midst of a particularly contentious election season, this seemed like perfect timing to highlight a 1912 pamphlet found in the Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), “A Princeton Student’s Letter to His Father and His Father’s Reply” (Box 2).

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This Week in Princeton History for June 6-12

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a decision is reached about the location of the Graduate College, swords are banned from campus, and more.

June 7, 1910—A long battle ends when the Board of Trustees accepts the bequest of Isaac Wyman, Class of 1848, and with it Dean Andrew Fleming West’s plan to build the Graduate College across from the Springdale Golf Club. Woodrow Wilson, whose hopes of locating the College in the center of campus have been dashed, will resign his University presidency and leave Princeton for politics as a result.

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Woodrow Wilson’s plan for the Graduate College imagined dormitories built adjacent to the existing 1879 Hall (at Washington & Prospect) to create inner and outer courtyards. Today, this space is occupied by the Woolworth Center, home of the Department of Music. Graduate School Records (AC127), Box 27, Folder 5. Click to enlarge.

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Woodrow Wilson and the Graduate College

Written by Anna Rubin ’15

This is the second installment in a two-part series examining two aspects of Woodrow Wilson’s Princeton University presidency, featuring sources in our recently-digitized selections from the Office of the President Records. In the first, we looked at his attitude towards Princeton’s eating clubs. Here, we turn to his conflict over the location of the Graduate College.

At the start of Woodrow Wilson’s Princeton presidency, plans for a Graduate College had been in the works since 1896, as part of the transformation of Princeton from a college to a university. In the summer of 1905, graduate students moved to a building on an eleven acre tract called Merwick just to the north of Princeton’s main campus. Andrew F. West, the Dean of the Graduate College at the time, supported the Graduate College’s placement at Merwick, believing that the small, homey atmosphere of the house was precisely the right environment. In a report to Wilson, West said, “I am very anxious that Merwick shall not take on anything of the character of a boarding house, a club, or a hotel, but shall preserve at all times the aspect of a quiet studious home.” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 63, Folder 1)

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Andrew Fleming West, 1889. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC059), Box FAC103.

Graduate students appreciated Merwick’s removed but walkable location from the campus, “aloof” and secluded, yet homey air, beautiful and distinctive appearance, and distance from the raucous undergraduate happenings on campus and around Prospect Avenue. Those who lived there found it to have an “atmosphere of consistent and dignified work” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11). But Wilson feared that Merwick’s location would thoroughly remove the graduate student population both academically and socially from the life of the campus and the University at large. “Geographical separation from the body of the University has already created in the Graduate School a sense of administrative as well as social seclusion which, slight as it is and probably unconscious, is noticeable, and of course undesirable….” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11)

Wilson hoped to move the Graduate College to the heart of Princeton’s campus, between Prospect House (where as University President, he lived) and Class of 1879 Hall (where his tower office was located), in the area now occupied by Woolworth (music) and the School of Architecture. He was passionate about the move, framing it as the cornerstone of his Princeton presidency. In May 1907 he wrote:

My hopes and my chief administrative plans for the University would be injured and deranged at their very heart were the Graduate College to be put at any remove whatever from such a central site. I count upon it as model and cause of intellectual and social changes of the deepest and most significant kind. It is upon the model and by means of the inspiration of such a College, with its dignified, stimulating, and happy life, that, in my judgment, the University is to be made over into a body academic, vital and of universal example in America. (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11)

Wilson’s desire to have the graduate college at the heart of Princeton’s campus was not purely social or intellectual. The benefactor who was to pay for a portion of the new college, the estate of Josephine Thomson Swann, had specified that the fund must be used on “the grounds” of the University. Swann passed away before final plans for the placement of the College were made, causing the phrase to become the center of controversy among those determining where to place the College, including former U.S. President Grover Cleveland, a bastion of Princeton town and gown.

Wilson’s plans to relocate the graduate college to the campus were no secret and in fact were part of his original goals for the University upon taking up the presidency in 1902. In March 1907, as the plans began to move forward more rapidly, 30 graduate students wrote a letter to the Trustee’s Committee on the Graduate School, lamenting that “It is with the deepest regret that we have heard of the possibility that the graduate school may be removed to the campus. There are many reasons why the present situation of the house appeals to us, and we venture to hope that they may seem valid to you.” The committee cited the need of “retirement and seclusion,” defined as “freedom from the too easy intrusion of undergraduate friends, remoteness from the campus noise and excitement, and from the club street and club life of the college.” They believed it was especially important to for those who earned undergraduate degrees at Princeton to have a distinction between undergraduate and graduate life. “Proximity of their quarters to the campus would mean that they would continue to live the undergraduate life.” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11)

The Committee on the Graduate School ultimately resolved that the “Graduate College be fixed in the grounds of Prospect about midway between Seventy Nine Hall and the President’s house…” on April 9, 1908. In May 1909, William Cooper Proctor offered the Board of Trustees a $500,000 gift for the Graduate College, under the conditions that a) it be matched by another gift, b) only $200,000 of it would be used for the actual buildings of the graduate college and c) that the graduate college not be built in the middle of campus. Mr. Proctor preferred instead the golf links west of campus.

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Graduate College, Historical Postcards Collection (AC045), Box 1. This collection has been partially digitized and is viewable here.

Although Wilson attempted to convince the Board of Trustees not to accept the gift if it meant the graduate college must be placed elsewhere, they nonetheless did. The Committee of the Graduate School felt that too much emphasis was being placed on the graduate college residences, rather than the faculty and classroom facilities, and they wanted to commence with construction quickly with as little continued fanfare as possible. While Wilson believed that the residence, which played an integral role in his social reorganization of the University, was the most important aspect of bolstering the reputation of the new Graduate College, the Committee wanted the focus to be on academic and intellectual excellence. When the final decision was made in 1910, Wilson was outnumbered and, once again, lost. He left the Princeton presidency later that year, successfully running for New Jersey’s governorship. The initial buildings of the Graduate College were completed in 1913, just to the west of campus on the other side of what is today the Springdale Golf Club.

Anna Rubin ’15 worked as an archives assistant at the front desk here at Mudd while completing her senior year at Princeton. She was heavily involved in the digitization of this collection.

Woodrow Wilson and the Eating Clubs

Written by Anna Rubin ’15

We are pleased to announce another newly digitized collection: the Woodrow Wilson Correspondence in the Office of the President Records. Wilson was president of Princeton University from 1902-1910, Governor of New Jersey 1911-1913, and U.S. President 1913-1921. This collection contains correspondence between Wilson and University faculty, administrators, alumni, and parents, as well as departmental records and information on University projects that were taking place during his term, such as the construction of the Graduate College. Wilson’s Princeton presidency presented him with many challenges, the most ultimately significant of which was conflict over campus social life. In the first of a two-part series, we take a look at Wilson’s battle with the eating clubs.

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Woodrow Wilson as Princeton’s president. Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project Records (MC178) Box 445.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 28-January 3

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Woodrow Wilson stamps are selling fast, all computers go offline, and more.

December 28, 1925—The Princeton post office sells more than 3,000 Woodrow Wilson stamps on their first day of issue to approximately 700 people. Among the sales is a sheet of 100 to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of the Princeton University Library.

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We believe these are from the sheet of stamps purchased by the Princeton University Library on December 28, 1925. Woodrow Wilson Collection (MC168), Box 45, Folder 12.

December 31, 1999—In anticipation of the “Y2K bug,” Princeton University disconnects all of its computers and servers from the internet.

January 1, 1814—James M. Garnett (Class of 1814) writes of an incident in Nassau Hall: “Today to refresh us after our labours, we had a great dinner, composed of Pigs, Geese, Irish potatoes, minced-pies, hickory nuts, cider, & wine. The President [Ashbel Green] did us the honour to dine with us, and gave us a toast; when he rose to give it he commanded silence which want of politeness gave such offence to some of our well-bred company that they returned the toast with a scrape” (i.e., the students scraped their shoes on the floor to protest).

January 2, 1946—Ground is broken on Firestone Memorial Library.

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Early construction of Firestone Memorial Library. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD04, Image No. 8264.

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.

This Week in Princeton History for October 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian suggests the grading “vogue” is a bad idea, the campus mourns Thomas Alva Edison, and more.

October 19, 1876—The Daily Princetonian laments that the College of New Jersey (Princeton) has joined in the grading “vogue,” and urges that the practice of giving students grades be stopped.

October 21, 1931—In memorial of inventor Thomas Edison, who died on October 19, the University observes a one-minute period from 7:00-7:01 PM when all electric lights are extinguished.

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Thomas Alva Edison, Allen West, and George W. Goethals, at Princeton University Commencement, June 15, 1915. Edison, along with Goethals (builder of the Panama Canal), received honorary degrees that day. Honorary Degree Records (AC106), Box 6.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Woodrow Wilson refuses to have a ball, Princeton students fight to get into a class about married life, and more.

January 19, 1895—Marshall P. Wilder, the first comedian with a disability, performs at the Second Presbyterian Church in Princeton, with College of New Jersey (Princeton University) students in the audience.

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Flyer advertising Marshall P. Wilder’s performance in Princeton January 19, 1895. Music Performance at Princeton Collection (AC205), Box 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 15-21

For last week’s installment in our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its students and alumni, click here.

For the week of September 15-21:

Woodrow Wilson makes a move into politics, a new Pablo Picasso sculpture is under construction, and more.

September 15, 1910—The New Jersey Democratic Convention nominates Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson as its candidate for governor.

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Woodrow Wilson with his family, Woodrow Wilson Collection, MC168, Box 41.

September 17, 1787—The U.S. Constitution, largely written by James Madison of the Princeton Class of 1771, is signed in Philadelphia’s Constitution Hall.

September 18, 1971—Pablo Picasso’s “Head of a Woman” is under construction at the art museum.

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Pablo Picasso’s “Head of a Woman” being installed (1971), Historical Photographs Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series, AC111, Box MP81, Item #3305.

September 20, 1964—University President Robert F. Goheen formally announces the abolishment of the “Chapel Rule,” which had made chapel attendance mandatory for freshmen, during the University’s opening exercises.

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