Reunions, reunions, 1915-2009

Princeton’s reunions are almost as old as Princeton University itself, going back to the days when the university was still known as the "College of New Jersey." In today’s blog, posted during the Reunions weekend of 2011, we are showing you the oldest reunion footage in the University Archives: an annotated film of the Class of 1895’s 20th and 30th Reunions in 1915 and 1925, followed by footage of the Class of 1915’s 40th Reunion in 1955, and the Class of 1944’s 65th Reunion in 2009, the most recent reunion footage in the University Archives. The films may be compared with reunion footage featured in previous blogs, including the Reunion of the Class of 1921 in 1923 and 1926, and the Reunions and P-rade of 1928, of 1960 and 1961, and of 1986. A compilation of this footage to welcome returning alumni in 2011 can be found here.

The Class of 1895’s 20th reunion footage is the first of its kind, and would well have been the very oldest film in the University Archives, if not for the newsreel footage of the inauguration of President John Grier Hibben in 1912. The film was made by the Connecticut Film Company, which had two men follow the class around campus on Reunions Saturday, then return the following Monday to show the film at the Class Dinner. As Class Secretary Andrew Imbrie put it in a letter to classmates in advance of Reunions, this would be “a stunt never before attempted at any Princeton reunion.”

The annotated film opens with alumni and their sons disembarking from the train (which is still in front of Blair Hall). We then see members of the Class of 1895 pass by their place of lodging, the Hill Dormitory at 48 University Place (0:48). Next we watch the class as they proceed through FitzRandolph Gate accompanied by Klingler’s Allentown Band (1:07). Class members have been instructed to wear straw hats, white trousers and a dark coat. Hat bands, buttons and white umbrellas were provided for the class. “Umbrellas keep hot sun off bald heads,” wrote Imbrie, “and when used en masse dispel the silly feeling which one has when one carries one by one’s self.”

Back at headquarters at the Bachelor’s Club, we see a crowd of men and children gathered around class member Howard Colby’s “‘sarsaparilla automobile,’ built, decorated and provisioned with thoughtful consideration for the small army of sons and daughters” of class members (2:23). As the film winds down, the camera pans over the 136 class members who returned for 1895’s 20th along with their sons (3:53). The D.Q. Brown Long Distance Cup is presented by Dickinson Brown to his classmate Henry “Spider” McNulty, who traveled the farthest, from China, to attend the reunion.

This twelve minute silent color movie captures the Class of 1915’s 40th reunion, opening with tents on campus and P-rade footage in the rain, which ends with the traditional Yale-Princeton Commencement baseball game at University Field at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Olden Street. The building at 3:44 is the former Osborn Club House (until recently the Third World Center). The P-rade footage is followed at 5:55 by indoor and outdoor dining scenes and additional reunion footage.

The Class of 1944’s “Greatest Generation” 65th Reunion honored the members of the class (89%) who served in World War II. The film (a gift of Herbert Hobler ’44) includes the Memorial Service the class held in Trinity Church, a special portion of which recognized the 22 members of the class who lost their lives in the war. The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” led the class in the P-rade.

–Christie Lutz and Helene van Rossum

The films featured here are part of the Princeton University Class Records (Class of 1895 and Class of 1944) and the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 0043).

One thought on “Reunions, reunions, 1915-2009

  1. The film of the Class of 1915’s Fortieth Reunion is a classic of color footage. Intimate views of the generation that fought World War One, although the cameraman seems unfamiliar with the focus knob. Unusual views of Quadrangle Club both front and rear, the Reunion HQ. Valuable views of a verdant University Field just before it was redeveloped as the E-Quad. The brick wall is vine-covered and Prospect Street looks to be lined with stately trees.

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