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.
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).