“She Flourishes:” Chapters in the History of Princeton Women.

Mudd Manuscript Library’s new exhibition features women at Princeton, from the days of Evelyn College (1887-1897), mainly attended by daughters of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary professors, to the appointment of Shirley Tilghman as the first woman president of Princeton University in 2001. For the first time our exhibit is accompanied by historical film footage from the archives. This compilation of segments from films and videos, most of which was featured previously in The Reel Mudd, is shown here.

The footage covers forty years of history of Princeton women, from the admission of Sabra Meservey as the first woman at the Graduate School in 1961 to Shirley Tilghman’s presidency. Subjects covered include the introduction of coeduation, student activism and Sally Frank, and activities of the Women’s Center and SHARE (Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources, and Education).

The compilation opens with footage of the Class of 1939′s junior prom in 1938 (taken from its Class film), which was attended by 606 women (all listed by name in the Daily Prince). Women only entered academic life at Princeton in 1961, when Sabra Meservey was admitted at to the Graduate School. The footage at 0:37 shows Meservey’s humorous account of her initial conversation with President Robert Goheen, who ultimately oversaw the introduction of undergraduate coeducation in 1969, and wanted to use Meservey as a “test case” at the Graduate School. (For the full story, see the the blog about the Celebration of Coeducation at the Graduate School.)

The only filmed recollections about the early years of coeducation were found on the documentary Looking Back: Reflections of Black Princeton Alumni (1:32), created on the occasion of Princeton’s 250th anniversary in 1996. The changes on campus did not please everybody. In 1974 Princeton icon Frederick Fox ’39 reached out to disgruntled alumni in the film A Walk in the Springtime, pointing out, perhaps tongue in cheek, that Nassau Hall’s two bronze tigers were male and female (3:19). In the following fragment, taken from the short Academy award winning film Princeton, A Search For Answers (1973), women feature prominently (3:55).

The last fragments feature woman activism and the gains of the women’s movement of the 1970s and the 1980s. Two fragments were taken from the Class of 1986′s Video Yearbook: a speech from Sally Frank ’80, who sued the last three all-male eating clubs (4:18), and a Women’s Center sit-in in May 1, 1986 (4:45). The last two fragments have not been featured yet in The Reel Mudd but will be shortly. The first is a sketch from “Sex on a Saturday Night,” a theater performance for freshmen about sexual harassment, presented by SHARE (5:11), The film ends with the inauguration of Shirley Tilghman (5:11) in 2001, taken from the documentary “Robert F. Goheen ’40, *48; Reflections of a President” (2006).

The exhibit “She Flourishes:” Chapters in the History of Princeton Women may be visited during Mudd Library’s opening hours on weekdays between 9.00 am and 4.45 pm. from now until the end of August 2012.

“Princeton: A Search for Answers,” 1973

During a morning session of the President’s Conference in the early 1970s, a member of the student panel told the assembled alumni that she had come to Princeton “not to find a way of making a living, but instead to find a way of making a life.” Filmmakers Julian Krainin and DeWitt Sage used this statement in their proposal in 1972 for a new recruitment film for Princeton University. “It seems that it should be the responsibility of a great university not so much to answer the question of how to “make a life,” but to present the student with at least the tools and courage with which he or she might discover the answer.”

The resulting film Princeton: A Search for Answers won an Oscar  in 1974 for Documentary Short Subject. Film producer and director Joshua Logan ’31, who had started his stage writing and directing career in Princeton’s Triangle Club, was one of the first to see it. “I not only believe that it is a moving, funny, and stimulating account of a University I once knew but had almost forgotten,”  he wrote to his fellow members of the Academy. “It tells about the gleam that flits across the human mind and gives us all something to hope for, to live for. It makes the human race quite a bit more respectable then (sic) we have recently thought it to be.” The film which has recently been remastered (2013) is featured here.

In order to write the film treatment and script, Dewitt Sage spent several months on campus, attending classes and seminars, and talking with students, faculty and staff. Once the film treatment was approved, Julian Krainin took over to supervise the actual camera work. During 1972 and early 1973 fourteen and a half hours of 16mm color footage was shot for the thirty minute film. The outtakes are kept in the University Archives. To accompany the film, the Office of Communications produced a handsome brochure with quotes and information about the faculty featured (see SearchForAnswers.pdf).

As already suggested by the title, the film’s main emphasis is on education, scholarship, and student-instructor relations. The film includes footage of tutorials and lectures by physics professor and Dean of the Faculty Aaron Lemonick (1:50, 9:11), and professors Edward Cone (Music, 3:01, 29:48), John Wheeler (Physics 7:05), Daniel Seltzer (English, 12:39), and Ann Douglas Wood (English, 25:02). Wheeler is filmed during a lecture about the implications of black holes (he is credited with coining the phrase in 1967), while Dan Seltzer teaches a Shakespeare acting class and lectures about Henry IV (Part 2). Additional footage features Princeton president William Bowen during a question and answer session with alumni and undergraduates (9:55, 26:11, 27:49) and the work of two graduate students: Niall O’Murchadha (Physics, 5:10, 26:51) and Maury Wolfe (Architecture, 16:11).

Produced only a few years after the introduction of co-education in 1969, at a time when diversification of the student body was a priority for Princeton, women and African American students feature prominently in campus scenes (9:40, 20:56, 24:36) and in the class rooms. There is little emphasis in the film on extracurricular activities. In addition to footage of the Glee Club singing Bach in Alexander Hall (directed by Professor of Music Walter Nollner, 17:47), sport scenes are limited to marathon running and rowing (23:25). Additional footage includes students sharing their views of Princeton in a pub (19:45, the legal drinking age was still eighteen!) Some historical photographs and footage is shown at 22:27, including a fragment of a chemistry lecture by the famous Hubert Alyea (previously featured) and the Triangle Club.

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Being Jewish at Princeton: from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s days to the Center of Jewish Life

“The Princeton of today is not the Princeton of Scott Fitzgerald. And by that I mean you can feel comfortable being Jewish, you can feel comfortable being Asian, you can feel comfortable being African American. And while this might not always have been true (…) it is definitely true today.” The speaker is Erik Ruben ’98 (1:46), one of the students featured in the promotional video below about the Center for Jewish Life, which opened in 1993. Today’s entry takes a brief look at the history of the admission of Jewish students at Princeton since the 1920s.

F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s 1920 debut novel, This Side of Paradise, was set at Princeton and reflected the atmosphere of the eating clubs and of the university itself, which (not to Princeton’s liking) he described as “the pleasantest country club in America.” Fitzgerald wrote his book at a time when some northeastern colleges and universities, particularly in urban areas where many Eastern European Jewish immigrants had settled, perceived they had a “Jewish problem” in that if they admitted too many Jewish students, Protestant middle and upper class students would be driven away. Columbia, which had the largest Jewish enrollment at 40%, was the first to impose a quota in 1921. Princeton, however, always claimed not to use quotas. As late as 1948 Radcliffe Heermance, Princeton’s first director of admissions from 1922 to 1950, vehemently denied a claim that Princeton used a quota to keep Jewish students under 4%. “We’ve never had a quota system, we don’t have a quota system, we will never have a quota system” he told the Daily Princetonian.

Hutchins121770.jpgA letter from former University of Chicago president Robert Hutchins, who visited Princeton President John Grier Hibben in the early 1930s, indicated otherwise. Hutchins wrote Princeton senior Steven L. Buenning ’71 In December 1970, as Buenning was seeking information for his senior thesis, a biography about Hibben. In the letter Hutchins recalls how he had asked Hibben about the number of Jewish students at Princeton. According to Hutchins, Hibben claimed that the number just happened, whereupon his wife exclaimed: “Jack Hibben, I don’t see how you can sit there and lie to this young man. You know very well that you and Dean Eisenhart get together every year and fix the quota.”
This anecdote has been quoted in several books, and in their footnotes the authors refer to Buenning’s thesis only, which includes quotes from the letter. Above we reproduce the original letter, which is found in Hibben’s presidential papers in the Office of the President Records (AC117, Series 14, Box 65, folder 6). The first paragraph, in which Hutchins recalls Hibben’s professed ignorance about the reasons why black students did not come to Princeton, is remarkable in itself. Unlike Yale and Harvard, Princeton did not admit African American students  until World War II (the first four African Americans were in the Navy V-12 program).  For more information about African American students at Princeton, see our previous blog.

Heermance limited Jewish enrollment by developing an admission policy that put an emphasis on “character,” which, however subjective, was still regarded as defensible in public. Criteria like “manhood,” “leadership” “participation in athletics” and “home environment and companions” were assessed by using interviews, letters of recommendation, and a social ranking system. A powerful disincentive to even apply was the anti-Semitic reputation of Princeton’s eating clubs, which considered most Jews “unclubbable.”

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Princeton traditions, old and new: the Class of 1986′s “video yearbook”

The Class of 1986 was a ‘historic’ class, so the freshmen were told: they were the first to begin their Princeton years in the new social system of the residential colleges. According to their Class History in the Nassau Herald, however, the students carried on as the generations before them. “We worked hard and we partied hard. This blend of continuity and change, of tradition and transition, would characterize our four year stay at Old Nassau.” The ‘video yearbook’ featured here, in itself a reminder of the “class films” of the 1920s and 1930s, is an expression of that experience. A fast-paced arrangement of videotaped snippets capturing campus events and student life, the 26 minute film is a celebration of both old and new.

The video yearbook, produced by “Ground Floor Video,” a group of students under the direction of Glenn Picher ’86, was filmed during the class’ junior and senior year. Meant as a complement to the print yearbook, according to the Prince, the film contains selections from some thirty to forty hours of videotape, accompanied by original music composed by Peter Curtiss ’86 (other music credits can be found at 25:55). The film is divided into seven chapters: Student Life (1:03), Academics (5:33), Sports (7:08), Holidays (10:39), Campus issues (15:09), Spring (17:15), and Graduation weekend (20:50).

The sports and spring scenes, along with the Graduation weekend events were already traditional elements in the class films of the 1920s. Incoming freshmen were introduced to other Princeton traditions in the Special Class of 1986 issue of the Daily Princetonian. Some of those traditions are captured in the “video yearbook” featured here. They include the bonfire on Cannon Green after a major sports victory–in this case the football team’s “Big Three Title,” the first since 1967 (9:44, compare with the bonfire of the Class of 1923); House Parties (19:29; compare with the class film of the Class of 1939); and “Arch Sing” (12:48), reminiscent of the tradition of “Senior Singing” as seen in the Class of 1928 footage. The footage in the  “Graduation Weekend” (20:50), capturing the P-rade, the breaking of the pipes on Cannon Green, and the commencement ceremonies is very similar to the films from six decades previous depicting the graduation of the Classes of 1921 and 1928.

Additionally, more recent traditions featured here include the “Nude Olympics (12:00), and the party activities of “blow pong” (3:35 and 4:47), and what is assumed to be the “Trees and Trolls,” the annual rumble between the over 6 ft tall and the shorter members of the then still all-male eating club, the Tiger Inn (4:23). Both activities were accompanied by copious amounts of beer. During 1986′s freshmen year the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, making senior year the first year that most students could legally drink alcohol.

Of particular interest for the topic of “traditions” is the address of Sally Frank ’80 at the Woodrow Wilson School on November 20, 1985 (16:28). Earlier that year, Sally Frank had won her lawsuit against the all-male eating clubs of Cottage, Ivy, and Tiger Inn, which she had filed in 1979 after they refused her a chance to bicker due to her gender. Additional issues addressed in the section ‘Campus protests’ include the blockade of the entrance to Nassau Hall on May 23, 1985 to protest Princeton’s  investments policies with respect to South Africa (15:09) and the Women’s Center sit-in of May 1, 1986 (16:52).

Within the video a few other faces have been identified as the following.

  • English professor John Fleming is shown lecturing (5:39)
  • The late art historian John R. Martin (5:56)
  • President Bill Bowen (6:32, appears again 19:05).
  • The late art professor Jerry Buchanan critiques a student’s work (5:42).
  • Harold Medina ’09 is seen riding in a golf cart (21:20)
  • Dr. Ruth Westheimer makes a brief appearance (22:41)

This VHS tape is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1324).

Commencement and reunions in 1928, and Princeton’s penultimate flour picture

In a recent blog we shared our oldest film depicting President Hibben’s inauguration in 1912 and some unexpected footage of Woodrow Wilson. In today’s post we show you more surprise footage from that reel: commencement activities and P-rade scenes, most of which we had already found in a puzzling “film mosaic” on another reel. We now have identified the mystery footage as scenes from the class films of the Class of 1928. The footage from both reels is featured here, along with two reunion films that helped date the materials. Together the four films capture the commencement and reunion weekend of 1928, which included a particularly spectacular P-rade, when many classes were, according to the Prince, “decked in gaudy and grotesque costumes.”

As a bonus there is footage of the Class of 1928′s freshmen ‘flour picture’ from 1924–the first in many years in which only water and flour were used, which apparently made this hazing tradition too tame to survive–it was abolished in 1926.

According to the list of class films in the records of the Graduate Council, the Class of 1928 had three  film reels capturing their commencement, with some of the footage similar to the graduation film of the Class of 1921. The footage featured here contains only a few scenes, without the titles that originally accompanied them. The film, which is not in chronological order, opens at the end of the class exercises on Monday, June 18 with the breaking of the pipes on Cannon Green, which symbolized the breaking of ties with undergraduate life. The footage is followed at 0:22 by the commencement exercises on Tuesday, June 19, ending with the singing of “Old Nassau” (0:44).

1928gradsx.jpgThe film continues on Saturday, June 16 in front of Nassau Hall (0:54), where all alumni were waiting for the Class of 1928 to lead the P-rade. After the arrival of the 466 graduating seniors, carrying white umbrellas (1:04, left), the other classes would join in, beginning with the youngest. The footage at 1:16 shows various classes coming through the Arch at Prospect Avenue, from where the procession proceeded to University field.

FoxHunt2x.jpgFrom 1:30 the procession is seen marching around the baseball field, prior to the traditional game against Yale. The cameraman zoomed in on classes with particularly interesting costumes. These include what is thought to be the Class of 1918 with feather hats (1:39), and an unknown class (possibly the Class of 1912) acting out a fox hunt (1:59, right). The film ends with footage of presumably the Class of 1928′s last Senior Singing on the steps of Nassau Hall (2:19), with the seniors traditionally dressed in white.

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Princeton’s Polo Team and ROTC Field Artillery Brigade in Action! (circa 1928)

The film featured here, shot around 1928, contains three distinct sections. The first contains images of the Princeton Polo Team playing on W. B. Devereux Jr. ’04 Field (0:00-5:52). The second section opens with a woman and a small boy after the polo tournament (5:53-5:58), followed by scenes of Prospect Avenue and the various eating clubs located on this street (5:59-6:45). The third section documents the annual inspection of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Field Artillery Unit, performed by representatives of the United States War Department. The origins of the film, which does not appear on the list of films that were kept by the Graduate Council in 1931, are unclear.

Polo at Princeton

Although polo has been around for millennia, the first documented games on Princeton’s campus occurred in 1902, when Walter Bourchier Devereux Jr. ’04 and a few classmates organized a group of polo matches. The popularity of the sport grew quickly among the students, and by the spring of 1903, Princeton was the first college to officially adopt polo as a collegiate sport. Harvard and Yale soon followed suit. As rapidly as the sport emerged on campus, it soon diminished, due to a number of factors including the cost to secure and maintain horses and lack of interest from later classes.

poloridersx.jpgIt was not until 1919, with the creation of the ROTC Field Artillery Battalion, that polo would once again be played at Princeton under the leadership of Major J. E. McMahon, 1st Commandant of the Princeton Unit. He introduced the sport to the unit in order for its members to develop fundamental combat skills. Most of the polo players were members of the ROTC unit and were provided auxiliary horses and equipment by the Unites States War Department; those players, however, who were not members of the unit had to provide their own horses.

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Princeton’s last class film: Freddie Fox’ Class of 1939

Although we have a fairly good idea about the class films of the 1920s, there is virtually no information about the class films of the 1930s. The exception is the film of the Class of 1939. That is probably not an accident: it was the class of previously featured Frederic Fox ’39, who was the first and only keeper of Princetoniana from 1976 until his untimely death in 1981. The 16mm film in the archives turned out not to be the two hour long film that was announced in the Daily Princetonian on May 1938, and it sadly also lacks the sound that was supposed to have been a major innovation. How much the ultimate film ‘shattered precedents’ by depicting ‘intimacies during campus years’ as the Prince announced in March 1938, we may never know. But one thing is clear: the Class of 1939 had a lot of fun that included women and beer.

 

The footage is in chronological order, starting with freshmen football practice during days, nights, and in the snow. After this, athletics (always emphasized in previous class films) get very little attention: only football and rowing are featured without any identifications, other than a Yale-Princeton game (6:49). The freshmen scenes continue with footage about the Veterans of Future Wars (VFW) (1:50), founded in March 1936 by members of the Class of 1936 and 1937, which became one of the most famous college pranks in the country. The footage is part of a newsreel of March of the Times, which can be viewed online (with sound!). The three “likely pieces of cannon fodder” (shown at 2:19 in the chairs), who came up with the idea, are  Lewis J. Gorin ’36, “National Commander” (middle), Urban Rushton ’36 (left), and probably Richard Waters ’36 (right). According to 1939′s class history in the Nassau Herald, it was the “main event” of the second term that year, and the movement received the freshmen’s “whole-hearted backing.” The records of the Veterans of Future Wars are kept in the University Archives.

FoxHayesx.jpgThe Triangle Club gets quite some attention in the class film, which is understandable: Fred Fox ’39, Mark Hayes ’39 and Sanders (“Sandy”) Maxwell ’39 were involved in three productions, the first two as actors (Hayes played Mandy Magnum in previously featured Take it Away) while Maxwell contributed music. The footage shows scenes from Fol-de-Rol, Triangle’s production for 1937-1938, including chorines dancing (7:20) and Mark Hayes singing with Fred Fox, who had a leading roll as King Charles II (8:33). It is not possible to determine if the party scene with whiskey and bear that follows is related (8:43). Triangle’s 50th anniversary production Once Over Lightly, in which Hayes and Fox both played leading roles (Sandy Maxwell, Triangle’s director, contributed most of the music), is featured at 16:18. It is not known who the man and woman are who are presented with a gift by Fred Fox at 16:32.
The footage following the first Triangle show is thought to capture the Junior Prom on March 18; 1938, with music by the swing band of trumpeter Larry Clinton (11:14). The prom was attended by 606 girls (all listed by name in the Daily Prince). promcrasherx.jpgFunnily enough, the one junior student who is shown alone among the dancing couples is Fred Fox (at 10:49 with bow tie and glasses), who was voted ‘most likely bachelor’ in his senior year. In an article in the Prince 35 years later, Fox explains that he probably got the vote because he never had a date until his senior year, when he shared one with his roommate. More scenes with girls are shown at 5:37 (presumably watching a rowing regatta), as well as at 11:52 and  at the senior house parties (21:51).
Remaining footage shown must have been shot at the ROTC training camp at Madison Barracks, NY, in the summer of 1938, at the end of the Junior year (13:10). SandyMaxwellx.jpgSimilar footage is featured in our previous blog, which may even have been shot on the same occasion. The footage at 11:59 shows J.C. Hurdman ’39 at the microphone and Sandy Maxwell at the piano during a WTNJ radio broadcast of “Princeton On The Air,” featured in the Prince. The film ends with brief footage of the Commencement.

It is not known why the class film ended up in the University Archives without sound. The original idea to have a two-hour film with sound seems to have been too ambitious: on June 7, 1939 the Prince announced that the senior class film was delayed by audio editing. The final result, to be premiered at the Class’ first reunion, would only be 1000 feet long, due to the extensive costs of the sound track. The Prince‘s description of the final film, which would also include some added campus scenes in color, is very different than the footage that is featured here. What happened? Did the sound track get lost? Or could this be the footage that was excluded from in the final film? If anybody could explain the mystery, we would love to hear it!

This 16mm silent film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 0199)

“The Class of 1923–its deeds and its antics,” 1922-1923

Among the earliest silent films that were shot on the Princeton campus are those produced and financed by the classes of 1921 to 1939 (see our previous blog). The first true ‘class film’ was titled “The Class of 1923–its deeds and its antics.” A compilation of footage from this film and of the film “Champions 1922,” with football highlights of the fall of 1922, survive in the archives. Be ready to watch the “football team that wouldn’t be beaten,” the building of a championship bonfire, a dirty flour fight, Triangle chorines and more Princeton lore.

The two 16mm film reels on which this footage was found contain almost all scenes (though in different order) of the original nitrate base films that were kept by the Graduate Council. According to the Graduate Council’s lists of captions or “titles” of the films, the original “Champions 1922,” which was rented out to alumni groups, took up one reel, and the film with the class’ “deeds and antics” took up six. Portions of six of the seven original reels were used, with only the class’ commencement scenes omitted.

Princeton’s three football victories that clinched the championship in the fall of 1922 are found at separate places: the Yale game (November 18) at 0:00, the Harvard game (November 11) at 3:18, and the Chicago match (October 28, 1922) at 11.42. 1923tigerx.jpgThe film features a live tiger cub (2:33) that, according to the note found with the film reel, was donated by the father of one of the players “since Princeton won (the) Harvard game.” An article in the Prince identifies the donor as J.F. Howard from Haverhill, MA, father of Albert “Red” F. Howard ’25, who had caught the cub while hunting in the jungles of India. The note indicates that the tiger was given to Philadelphia Zoo after graduation.

To our surprise, we had already seen the bonfire footage at 4:22. It was featured in Gerardo Puglia’s 250th anniversary documentary and was thought to be the championship bonfire of 1926 when it was put online by the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Now we know that it was actually the championship bonfire of November 21, 1922. Given the caption on 1923′s Class film, it is easy to understand the mistake: it was traditionally the task of the freshmen (in this case the Class of 1926) to find wood for the celebratory bonfires. That this involved quite a bit more than gathering brushwood is demonstrated in the film. A photo montage of the events can be found in the Daily Princetonian of November 25, 1922.

Another Princeton tradition depicted on the film is the annual “flour picture,” the first photograph of the freshmen class on the steps of Whig or Clio Hall, which was taken after the sophomores dumped flour on the freshmen. The seniors of 1923 were merely bystanders when the Class of 1926′s flour picture was filmed on October 30, 1922 (5:40). The footage must have ended up here because the Class of 1923 had taken the initiative for the combined Motion Picture Committee that would coordinate the class films for all four classes, including the filming of the freshmen’s flour picture. (See our previous blog.)

1923flourx.jpgThe title that accompanied the original footage apparently was removed:  “Flour (?) picture: 1926 undergoes its baptismal rites.” The question mark indicates that more than flour was dumped during this hazing ritual, and a year later, the Class of 1926, now sophomores, added their own special ingredient to the mix: acid! Not surprisingly, the flour picture was abolished immediately. The Prince wrote solemnly: “This action was necessitated by the degeneration of the Flour Picture in recent years until this fall it was a distinctly non-Princeton affair.”  A later article detailed what may have been mixed with the flour on this footage: eggs, tar, paint, molasses “and whatnot.” The flour picture was reinstated in 1924 with water and flour only, but the interest of the sophomores waned, and the practice stopped after 1925.

The photographer of the flour picture is probably Orren Jack Turner, who appears at 6:28, followed a bit later by B.F. Bunn ’07 (6:36), manager of the University store and financial adviser to many campus organizations, who advanced the money for the camera purchased by the Motion Picture Committee. The footage of Bunn is followed by scenes from the Triangle show “The Man from Earth” (6:46), the annual show for 1922-1923, with Wally Smith ’24 in the title row, singing “That’s why I left the world behind” (7:36). This is the earliest Triangle footage in the University archives, preceding even the footage of “The Golden Dog” of 1929 that was featured in a previous blog.

1923sundialx.jpgThe remainder of the footage includes athletic teams and  training sessions, as well as class officers and members of the boards. Sports featured include soccer (1:21, 5:28), cross country (2:15), baseball (7:49. 14:31), rowing (8:25. 17:33) and golf (16:12), while footage of construction of the Hobart Baker ice hockey rink can be found at 6:42. The footage includes members of Theatre Intime (14:00) and the board of the Daily Princetonian. The latter footage captures another Princeton’s tradition: the privilege, exclusive to seniors, to sit on the steps of the Mather Sundial, in the center of McCosh Courtyard (16:44).

This footage on this 16mm film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 0195 and 0196). 

What happened to Princeton’s silent movies?

ArthurPenrose.jpg Filming of the comedy “Arthur Penrose” (1923)  (Photo The Princeton Bric-a-Brac,1925)

It started at Yale
On February 19, 1920 the Daily Princetonian announced Yale’s decision to record important campus events on film, to be kept by the classes and used for reunions. By the end of that year, according to the Prince, Princeton’s Class of 1921 had established a “fund by which a class motion picture could be taken, including scenes which might prove to be of interest to the Class in later years.” The film of its graduation weekend in June 1921, featured in our first post, must have been the result. Following the example, the Class of 1922 appointed a Motion Picture Committee at the beginning of its senior year to coordinate its own class and football films, thus starting a tradition  that lasted through the 1930s. Only a few class films have survived in the University Archives. What happened to the others? Do we know what was lost? A recently discovered box of records of the Graduate Council, part of the yet unprocessed Records of the Alumni Organizations provides some answers.
Champions1922y.jpgRenting a film from the Graduate Council

The box contains correspondence (1921-1950) about Princeton’s class and football films, which were the property of the classes. They were kept by the Graduate Council on their behalf, which rented the football films to alumni groups around the country. The records include detailed handwritten and typescript lists, drawn up in 1931, of seventy silent movies, usually one to three reels long. The summaries and lists of the film captions or “titles” that were used give a good idea of the contents of Princeton’s films of the 1920s (lists of the class films of the 1930s are lacking). A few films were listed as property of the Graduate Council itself: some unidentified (presumably early) football games, the short lived Arthur Penrose (1923), a comedy produced by film enthusiast Stas Azoy ’14, who seems to have been in charge of the films at the time, and the University’s very first promotion film Princeton (1921). This five-reel film (85 minutes), which was revised three times and renamed Just Princeton and Princeton: a ‘National University,‘ was rented to high schools and other interested groups until 1926, when it was considered outdated (most of the footage was apparently seven years old). The silent movie, which was initially meant to be accompanied by Princeton songs and music, has not survived, but the list of captions in the film provides a detailed account of the scenes (see Princeton film.pdf).

The class films of the 1920s

After the Class of 1922′s appointment of a Motion Picture Committee  to ensure a memento of its senior year, all classes followed suit. On November 3, 1922 the Prince announced the merger of the four class committees into one central body with representatives from all four classes. It would film campus events of interest to all, so that each class would have a complete four-year record, ending with its commencement. The first films taken under the new management were shown in the Garden Theater on December 7, 1922. They included the Class of 1926′s “Flour Picture” (a hazing ritual in which sophomores dumped flour and water on freshmen prior to their first class picture) and the football victory over Yale and championship celebration in November.

inventoryPYgame1926.jpgThe annual flour picture would only be filmed a few more years, as the tradition was discontinued after 1925. But the major football games continued to be filmed in the fall. The football films, which were most popular among alumni groups, took up half of the collection of the Graduate Council. They were the property of the class in whose senior year they were taken. The football films for 1926, for instance, were the property of the Class of 1927 (left). The majority of the remaining class films were shot during spring and Commencement. The spring films usually featured committees and groups, campus scenes and sports. Sometimes the footage included small skits. In addition to these films, the Graduate Council’s lists include a few films of rowing, baseball, and other sports, as well as some early reunion films.

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Coeduation in Princeton: it started at the Graduate School

In September 1969, more than two years after President Goheen asked former Woodrow Wilson director Gardner Patterson to investigate the introduction of coeducation, Princeton welcomed its first undergraduate women to campus. Within the Ivy League Princeton was relatively late: while Yale made the move at the same time, only Dartmouth (1972) and Columbia (1983) went coeducational later. It was not the first time, however, that women entered Princeton University for a degree. In 1961 Sabra Follett Meservey, an assistant professor of history at Douglass College in New Brunswick, became the first woman to be enrolled at the Graduate School as a full time degree candidate in Oriental Studies. Meservey provides a humorous account of her meeting with Goheen to arrange the ‘test case’ during the celebration of coeducation at the Graduate School on June 3, 1989 (14:45).

Featured here is a ninety-minute forum during which five speakers discuss their experiences as women at the Graduate School and after. After a historical introduction about women in higher education by the organizer of the event, Lisa Drakeman *88 (1:35), Sabra Follett Meservey *66 is the first speaker (10:26). She is followed by T’sai-ying Cheng *64, the first female recipient of a degree in Princeton (28:04), Phyllis Thompson *76 (50:15), Maureen Quirk *82 (1:08:38), and Sindee Simon *92 (1:19:34).
This VHS video is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no.1306).