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a ‘National University,‘ was rented to high schools and other interested groups until 1926, when it was considered outdated (most of the footage was apparently seven years old).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).

 

 

President Johnson addresses Vietnam in Princeton, 1966

President Lyndon B. Johnson visited Princeton University on May 11, 1966 to dedicate the new Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs building and receive an honorary degree. The new building had been made possible by a $35 million gift that was anonymous at the time, but later revealed to be from Charles S. Robertson ’26 and his wife Marie. (See the previous blog entry on the 1961 Princeton newsreel.)  Securing the visit of the President, originally scheduled in October 1965 but canceled at the last minute, had been very difficult. When the President did come, close to 400 Vietnam War protesters were kept a block away from the ceremonies. In his speech, however, Johnson addressed his critics nonetheless.

At the time of Johnson’s visit, student protests against the Vietnam War had only just begun. The local chapter of the Students for Democratic Society (SDS) was founded in the fall of 1965. In November seventy undergraduate and graduate students joined the “March on Washington to End the War in Vietnam,” defying Princeton’s conservative stereotype under a 10-feet long banner with the words “EVEN PRINCETON.” Opinions in Princeton at the time of Johnson’s visit, however, were mixed. Many supported Johnson’s policies in Indochina, including Princeton University president Robert F. Goheen. In September 1965 he joined the “Committee for an Effective and Durable Peace in Asia,” which consisted of 48 leading private citizens, whose purpose was to “support President Johnson’s proposals to bring about a viable peace in Vietnam and, once peace is brought about, to enlist economic aid for the entire area and to assure to the people of South Vietnam their right to choose a government of their own.”
By 1967 anti-war protests had increased throughout the country as well as in Princeton, which was particularly active in the draft resistance movement. Goheen, too, changed his mind and was one of the thirty-seven university presidents who signed a petition to end the American military involvement in Indochina. In April 1969, over 3,000 students, faculty, and staff assembled in Jadwin Gymnasium to vote on five resolutions related to the war. But it was after President Richard Nixon’s announcement in April 1970 that the United States had invaded Cambodia that the protests against the war peaked. The resulting “Princeton Strike” of 1970 will be the subject of a future blog post.

Robertsonletter.jpgThe text of Johnson’s speech is not available in the University Archives. A summary and discussion of his speech, however, can be found in The Daily Princetonian. What the records in the University Archives do reveal is how difficult it was to arrange Johnson’s visit. Less than than two weeks before the dedication it was still not certain if he could attend. A press release issued on May 8, three days before the ceremony, announced Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John Gardner as the principal speaker, but according to the Prince, rumors circulated that the President would attend.

The dedication brought a great deal of satisfaction to the then anonymous donors. “I guess that next to my wedding and the arrival of the children it was the biggest day of my life,” wrote Charles Robertson, who had suggested former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Goheen as an alternative  on April 6. Although the donors of the $35 Million gift to the Woodrow Wilson School were anonymous, he and his wife appear to have been caught on camera as guests at the ceremony (1:04).
This newsreel is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1339). Correspondence about the difficulties of scheduling President Johnson’s visit can be found in the the Office of the President’s Records (Box 386, folder 8 (which includes Robertson’s letter above) and folder 9) and the Office of Communication Records (Box 106, folder 2)

Keeping the donor base informed: Princeton newsreels, 1960-1961

During the $53 Million Campaign (1959-1962) a 13 x 10 foot scale model of the Princeton campus  toured 19 major cities and displayed at meetings of the regional leaders of the fund drive. To keep Princeton alumni further informed about progress and developments on campus, the Alumni Council sponsored two “Princeton Newsreels” in 1960 and 1961. The two 30-minute films are interesting to watch, not only because they feature new facilities, achievements in sports and science, and notable events (from Hurricane Donna in 1960 to the donation of $35 million for the Woodrow Wilson School in 1961), but because they also document the University’s first attempts to reach out to its donor base through the medium of film.  Contrasting the two films, one cannot help but note that the second film is much smoother in its presentation than the first.

The first newsreel opens with an introduction by the 41 year-old president Robert F. Goheen ’40, and a freshmen lecture about the honor system by Walker Stevenson ’35, president of the National Alumni Association (1:30). The scale model of the campus, mentioned above, is featured at 6:41, when administrative vice-president Edgar M. Gemmell ’34 explains the expansions planned for the next three years. The footage following captures the Hibben and Magie faculty apartments under construction (6:41) as well as the five new dormitories of the New Quad (Class of 1937, Class of 1938, Class of 1939, Dodge-Osborn, and Gauss Halls), the first buildings to be finished since the start of the $53 Million Campaign (7:27).

aircar.jpg“Examples of Research” opens with a bird experiment on the roof of Guyot Hall (7:55), followed by the Princeton-Pennsylvania Proton Accelerator, a particle research facility on the Forrestal Campus since 1957 (8:59). In addition, the newsreel includes a demonstration of the thermoheliodon and the heliodon, developed by the Architectural Laboratory to determine the effects of sunlight, wind and radiation (10:19), and research at the Department of Aeronautical Engineering into problems that occur with low speed flight (11:29; footage includes “air car” shown above). In addition, the newsreel features faculty who won an award in 1960: the later Nobel Prize winner Eugene Wigner, Professor of Physics, who received the “Atoms for Peace Award” (15:02) and History Professor Robert Palmer, who won the Bancroft prize for his book Age of the Democratic Revolution (15:25).
The second half of the film features particular places and events, including alumni in the “Princeton Today” program who visited the new C-site at the “Matterhorn Project” (renamed the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 1961), a project for magnetic fusion research funded by the Atomic Energy Commission that had only been declassified in 1958 (15:47, with more about the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in the second newsreel). This is followed by the appointment of three new trustees (17:15), the foreign language laboratory (18:57), achievements in sports (track, squash, and lacrosse at 20:06; football (with coach Dick Colman) at 25:04), and Reunions (20:54, with the Class of ’35). In addition, the film includes footage of Triangle chorines during a performance of Breakfast in Bedlam, which toured various military bases and hospitals in Europe during the summer (18:05). The newsreel also documents Hurricane Donna, the only hurricane on record to have struck every East Coast state between Florida and Maine, which hit the campus on September 12, 1960 (23:38).
The second newsreel that was produced during the $53 Million Campaign is more crisply presented, with a clear division into five chapters. The first chapter, “New Facilities,” shows new campus edifices: the Engineering Quadrangle (1:42), the John Foster Dulles Library of Diplomatic History (2:11), the Hibben and Magie apartments at Carnegie Lake (2:22), the new playing fields (2:37), and the dormitory quad with Wilcox Hall (2:48). It is followed by images of students moving into their dormitories (3:44), Class of 1965 freshmen, the new Dean of the College J. Merrill Knapp with Dean Ernest Gordon (4:36), and keycepts “in operation” (4:57).
“Sports” (6:26), the subject of the second chapter, features basketball (6:28), swimming (7:04), track (8:11), and football (8:24), with brief footage of important games and closeups of athletes. In the next chapter, “The Search for Knowledge” (11:32), the number of research project previously featured is reduced to two. The first concerns the new Model C Stellarator at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), the new name of “Project Matterhorn” discussed in the earlier newsreel. The large stellarator, for which facilities had been built in 1960, replaced previous models that had been used in the 1950s. As a second example of Princeton’s achievements in science the research of biology professor Arthur K. Parpart is discussed (14:21).
The fourth chapter, “Going Back” (15:43) includes footage of the Class of 1936’s 25th and the Class of 1911’s 50th reunion, with Joseph Cashman and Dr. William H. Hudnut from the Class of 1886 as members of the Old Guard. (Footage of President Robert Goheen ’40, Grant Sanger ’31, Harold Helm ’21, and Walker Stevenson ’35 is at 16:43). The “major Princeton event of 1961” is saved for last: “Princeton in International Affairs” (19:29) features the $35 million anonymous gift from a foundation (initially called the “X” Foundation, later known as the Robertson Foundation) to establish a professional school for public service at the Woodrow Wilson School. The newsreel ends with a statement by Gardner Patterson, who was the director of the Woodrow Wilson School and of the new program (20:35).
These 16mm films are part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 0083 and 0079)

 

Celebrating Princeton’s 250th anniversary

On October 25, 1996 Princeton University celebrated the 250th anniversary of the granting of its original charter as the College of New Jersey. Featured here is a recording of the Charter Day convocation on the steps of Nassau Hall. Speakers include Princeton President Harold Shapiro (3:46, 27:38), Neil Rudenstine ’56, former Princeton provost and then President of Harvard University (10:03), and Richard Levin, President of Yale University (15:36). The keynote address was given by author and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities (40:06). The text of her address, titled "The Place of the Idea; The Idea of the Place" is provided here.

This VHS video is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (items no. 1509).

This blog entry is dedicated to our friend and colleague, Regine Heberlein, who loves words and ideas, and who has brought her passion for both to the Mudd Library for the past 20 months.  We wish her well in her new position in Firestone Library.

Past, present and future US presidents at Princeton’s bicentennial, 1947

Princeton University celebrated its 200th anniversary with a year-long series of events, starting on September 22, 1946 and ending with a convocation on June 14-17, 1947. The newsreel posted here was shot during the conclusion of the bicentennial celebrations on June 17th, when thirty-six notables received honorary degrees, including US President Harry Truman, who gave the convocation address.

The newsreel opens with footage of Harry Truman, posing with former president Herbert Hoover (already a recipient of an honorary degree) and the widows of US presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, who were special guests. The first recipients featured are General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who would succeed Harry Truman as US President in 1953, and Admiral Chester Nimitz (0:37). Both were honored for their leadership during the war, Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander, and Nimitz as commander of the Pacific Fleet. Other recipients shown are Dr. Vannevar Bush, wartime director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (organizer of the Manhattan Project) and Bernard Baruch, presidential adviser during both world wars. They are followed by Warren Austin, US representative of the United Nations, and Viscount Harold Alexander, governor general of Canada (0:43-0:51). Albert Einstein, based at the Institute of Advanced Studies, but an honored guest on campus, also participates in the procession (0:31). The film ends with President Harry Truman’s rallying address, in which he urges the adoption of universal military training (1:28).

The newsreel is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (part of item no. 1344).

Lights, Camera, Action!

The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has launched a new blog dedicated to its audiovisual holdings. Through it, we will announce items that we have posted on Princeton University’s two YouTube Channels.  We encourage viewers to post comments that will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of these materials. In conjunction with the Library’s Preservation Office and the New Media Center, the University Archives has worked to digitize over 40 items and these, along with some films from our Public Policy Papers and additional materials, will be posted on a regular basis.

Our first entry is one of the oldest movies in our audiovisual collection, shot by the Class of 1921 during its graduation weekend (“The Princeton Newsreel Part I”) and its reunions in 1923 and 1926 (“The Princeton Newsreel Part II”). The staged scenes with class members and faculty, which are annotated, demonstrate that silent movies were a new medium. Part I includes scenes of the P-rade and Princeton-Yale baseball match, and named professors, trustees, and class members, followed by exercises with pipe smashing on Cannon Green (24:32). Shots of faculty include President John Grier Hibben (8:15), professors Radcliffe Heermance and Frederick Hutson (9:46), and Colonel William Libbey (13.58). Part II includes varsity rowing with a Princeton victory over Cornell and Yale on Carnegie Lake (26:00), and reunion scenes for 1923 and 1926. During the 1923 reunion the class brought a real tiger (30:03).

This silent 16mm film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1948).