This Week in Princeton History for July 29-August 4

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Navy is slated to take over three dormitories, an arsonist’s attack on campus seems to be welcomed, and more.

July 30, 1942—The chair of the Undergraduate Council announces that the Navy will be taking over Brown, Cuyler, and Patton Halls in September. The Council votes to urge those students forced to move to attempt to find roommates.

July 31, 1963—George F. Kennan (Class of 1925) resigns as U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia.

August 2, 1865—After a sick homeless man found sleeping in the campus gym dies of smallpox, someone burns it to the ground to prevent the spread of the disease. Although fire alarms sound, attempts to put out the blaze are half-hearted due to ongoing fears of infection. No one ever attempts to discover the identity of the arsonist because the town is so relieved the danger is gone.

The first gymnasium at the College of New Jersey (Princeton), ca. 1865, shown in the foreground of this campus scene with Nassau Hall in the distance. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP15, Image No. 351.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 3-9

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a freshman requests the right to wear a top hat, women make national headlines for Commencement firsts, and more.

June 4, 1930—In a letter to the editor of the Princetonian, a member of the Class of 1933 requests an end to rules limiting the wearing of top hats to upperclassmen on the grounds that “this piece of apparel is indispensable to anyone having any regard for correct social usage… The Freshman or Sophomore feels self-conscious and is at a decided disadvantage in not being permitted to dress himself properly.”

Getting to wear top hats was one of the things that marked the transition from Princeton sophomore to junior in the early 20th century. Here, rising juniors march in Princeton’s annual High Hat Parade in 1915. The tradition began in the 1870s as a way to formally signify that one now had a right to wear a top hat and carry a cane on campus. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP16, Image No. 4072.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Class of 1877 takes a look at the Milky Way, a campus publication urges the institution to examine its own prejudices while continuing to fight bigotry beyond it, and more.

March 18, 1932—Campus proctors apprehend a bootlegger on campus and find 74 quarts of champagne and whiskey in his car hidden among golf bags, suitcases, and books.

March 20, 1877—The Class of 1877 has the opportunity to look at the Milky Way (the “Queen of Heaven”) through a telescope with the help of Prof. Stephen Alexander.

Stephen Alexander, ca. 1880. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC058), Box FAC03.

March 22, 1999—Over 200 people gather in Princeton University Chapel for an impromptu memorial service a few hours after Matthew Weiner ’02 died suddenly of cardiac arrest during a pickup basketball game.

March 23, 1944—In Princeton’s Roundtable News, John Kemeny ’46 editorializes, “Even one of the most enlightened of groups, the students of Princeton University, is hysterical at the thought of admitting negroes, and it makes them talk about forming lynching parties and copying the Nazi party in many other ways. … It is about time that we realized that a fascist is an enemy not only in Berlin and Rome, but also in Chicago and New York.”

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Jacob Riis lectures on campus, four Princetonians are being held in the same German prison camp, and more.

March 12, 1925—The Jewish Student Congregation of Princeton University begins hosting a series of weekly lectures on aspects of Jewish history and religion. All are welcome to attend.

March 13, 1902—Jacob Riis, best known as the author of How the Other Half Lives, gives a lecture in Alexander Hall illustrated with stereopticon views of slums in New York.

March 15, 1871—The first issue of Princeton’s College World (precursor to the Princetonian) appears.

The first issue of Princeton’s College World, March 15, 1871.(Click to enlarge.) Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), Box 36. College World was short-lived. The Princetonian explained in 1885: “It was doomed to an early grave, however, as its managing editors, both Whigs, unfortunately touched on Hall matters in a way unsatisfactory to Clio and to avoid trouble the College World was discontinued. ”

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This Week in Princeton History for March 4-10

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, competing protests take place on Nassau Street, dormitory phones get voicemail, and more.

March 4, 1965—Competing groups of students, faculty, families, and other locals march in Palmer Square, one group to protest escalation of America’s military intervention in Vietnam and the other to support it. The group supporting military intervention ends their demonstration by laying down their protest signs and singing “Old Nassau,” while opponents gather signatures for a petition asking for an end to the bombing.

Image from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, hazing makes national headlines, McCarter Theater opens, and more.

February 18, 1878—During a particularly severe outbreak of hazing, a gunfight breaks out on Nassau Street between freshmen and sophomores, with one student being shot in the thigh. Coverage in the national Police Gazette will follow.

Full-page ad from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 1-7

In this week’s installment of our returning series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a recent graduate engages in civil disobedience, Albert Einstein sets sail for Princeton, and more.

October 1, 1984—Leo Schiff ’83 breaks into a military facility in Rhode Island to disarm nuclear warheads as part of the “Plowshares” civil disobedience movement. He and three others will be sentenced to a year in prison for the act.

Leo Schiff ’83. Photo from 1983 Nassau Herald.

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An American University: An Audio Portrait of Princeton in 1946

By: Abbie Minard ’20

Abbie Minard ’20 is a history concentrator with a primary interest in early American history. On campus, she is a research associate at the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, music director and a DJ at WPRB, artistic director of the TapCats (tap dancing group), and a member of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra. She is also a poet with a love for dada and experimental performance.

As a part the exhibition, Learning to Fight and Fighting to Learn: Education in Times of War, we digitized a half hour BBC radio broadcast from 1946 that featured Princeton University for an audio portrait of university life in the United States.  The program, titled “An American University,” was one half of a radio exchange program with Oxford on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

The audio included in the segment was recorded in November and December as Princeton celebrated its bicentennial anniversary.  It features a wide array of Princeton voices, covering university history, academics, residential, and social life, with spotlights on the football team and the glee club, whose musical interludes are interspersed throughout the program.

We selected photographs from our collections to accompany the audio for this video.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 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 Judicial Committee makes its first disciplinary decisions, the campus debates housing policies for same sex couples, and more.

April 2, 1917—Senator Henry Cabot Lodge attacks Alexander Bannwart, Class of 1906, in the only known case of a U.S. Senator physically attacking a constituent. Bannwart and two others visited the Massachusetts senator to protest President Woodrow Wilson’s request for a Congressional declaration of war against Germany.

Alexander Bannwart, ca. 1906. Historical Photograph Collection, Student Photograph Albums Series (AC061), Box 116.

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World War II “Trainwomen” of the Long Island Railroad

In 1942, The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) took the unprecedented step of hiring women as engine cleaners. World War II’s labor shortages had opened new doors for women, especially in the transportation industry. The engine cleaners performed well, so the LIRR hired many more women for positions previously held only by men, dubbing them “trainwomen.” LIRR president M. W. Clement explained in a press release, “The substitution of inexperienced employees for the trained employees has been a problem so far well met, and many women are now in services that have generally been accepted as a man’s calling.”

Lillian Markowski, age 20, an engine cleaner for the Long Island Railroad. Markowski took over her fiance’s job when he joined the Army. Her brother was also a soldier. Photo by Roy Pitney, February 2, 1943, Ivy Ledbetter Lee Papers (MC085), Box 103, Folder 4.

Ivy Lee and Associates, the pioneering public relations company owned by Ivy Ledbetter Lee (Princeton University Class of 1898), represented the LIRR. As the LIRR began hiring women, Lee’s company sent out materials with text and images promoting this a positive move, not a threat to men currently fighting abroad. “Don’t worry about your jobs,” one said on a radio broadcast for troops in Australia and Great Britain, “We’ll hold the home front until you men come home. Then you can have your jobs back.” A press release about the broadcast praised this as evidence of “fine, whole hearted devotion to the cause of democracy” among women working for the railroad. Continue reading