This post contains the oldest newsreels present in the Princeton University Archives. As discussed in our previous blog, Princeton University started making films in 1919, using the footage for its first promotional film in 1921. For earlier years, however, it was dependent on newsreel companies like Pathé, which filmed newsworthy stories and items of topical interest for movie theaters. The first film documents the inauguration of John Grier Hibben, fourteenth president of Princeton University (1912-1932). The newsreels that follow show US President Woodrow Wilson, Hibben’s predecessor, when he returned to Princeton to vote in 1913 or 1915 and in 1916.
The footage of Woodrow Wilson that follows Hibben’s inauguration (2:26) seems to have been taken from two different newsreels. Although the title and credits of both newsreels were almost completely removed, a remaining single frame of the first title survived–oddly enough in mirror image and shown corrected at the right. This footage may have been from Wilson’s visit on September 28, 1915, when he traveled to Princeton to vote in the Democratic primaries at the polling station on Chambers Street. (See the New York Times at NYTImes 28_Sep_1915.pdf.) Alternatively, it may depict him in the Democratic primaries of September 23, 1913, when he voted for James Fielder for Governor of New Jersey. (See NYTimes_23_Sep_1913.pdf.)
Long-time Mudd Library researcher and friend W. Barksdale Maynard ’88 writes:
These newsreels are extremely rare for showing Woodrow Wilson in Princeton. Thank you for making them available for all of us.
You say, “The newsreels that follow show US President Woodrow Wilson, Hibben’s predecessor, when he returned to Princeton to vote in 1913 or 1915 and in 1916.” See below where I argue for dates of 1915 and 1918, instead.
You say, “This footage may have been from Wilson’s visit on September 28, 1915 [or] September 23, 1913.” I would argue for September 1918: note what is apparently a World War One service flag at 2:36. Still photos at AC117 box 242 (wrongly dated) show exactly the same secret service delegation; I believe these are from Sept. 1918.
You say, “The very brief footage that follows at 3:15, showing Wilson greeting women, was taken when he voted in the NJ primary on April 25, 1916.” In fact I believe this shows his visit of October 1915 (when he made an historic pro-suffrage vote), during which visit he wore identical clothing to what is shown in the newsreel and, in addition, Doctor Grayson wore identical clothing (based on still photos at AC117 box 242, one of which even shows the newsreel cameraman).
3 responses to “Princeton’s oldest footage: John Grier Hibben’s inauguration and Woodrow Wilson returns to vote”
[…] May 11, 1912—U.S. President William Howard Taft is the guest of John Grier Hibben at Prospect House on campus, having come to celebrate Hibben’s inauguration as president of Princeton University. (Video here.) […]
[…] visit of President William Howard Taft was captured on film, the earliest in the Archives, when he attended John Grier Hibben’s inauguration as Princeton […]
This is the most wonderful find. I’m writing about John Grier Hibben, and this film is a first hand visual account. Once again the Mudd Manuscript Library has outdone itself.
Thank you for the glorious footage and commentary!