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This Week in Princeton History for June 25-July 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior converts to Christianity, the centennial is celebrated, and more.

June 28, 1873—Rioge Koe, a Japanese student in the Class of 1874, gives his sword to Princeton president James McCosh. He writes a note to accompany the sword asserting that he has “surrendered a barbarous custom of ‘the East’ before the higher, nobler and more enlightened manner of the Western civilization” on the occasion of his conversion to Christianity.

We believe that this is Rioge Koe, Class of 1874, center, ca. 1873. This image is cropped from the Class of 1874’s junior year photo, found in the Historical Photograph Collection, Class Photographs Series (AC181), Box MP03. The Princetonian described Koe as “a popular and able man.” During McCosh’s presidency, ethnic diversity increased on campus. Koe’s time at Princeton overlapped with Hikoichi Orita of the Class of 1876, who also converted to Christianity while a student here, as well as Yokichi Yamada and Girota Yamaoka, who both pursued a partial course load in the 1871-1872 academic year.

June 29, 1882—The members of Princeton’s Scientific Expedition arrive in Denver. The Princetonian will note: “Denver is in its early stages yet, but judging from present indications, it will someday be a noble city.”

June 30, 1847—In celebration of Princeton’s centennial commencement, local women host a reception. Samuel Reeves of the Class of 1837 will describe it in the New York Observer as follows:

The accomplished ladies of the Faculty gave a Levee in the evening, in the Museum of the College, the magnificent room being adorned for the occasion with the portraits of the early presidents and many of the ancient and present ornaments of Nassau Hall. The ladies received the throng of invited guests with elegance and grace, while the entertainment of the evening was of unusual richness, displaying the taste and refinement of those under whose direction this splendid affair was arranged and conducted. The company remained until an early hour, and separated after an evening of most delightful enjoyment. It was half-past one when I reached my room…
—New York Observer, July 3, 1847

Menu for reception given in honor of the centennial Commencement of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), June 30, 1847. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 307, Folder 11.

July 1, 2010—W. S. Merwin ’48 is named poet laureate of the United States.  (For a sample of Merwin’s poetry from 1946, see the online archives of the Nassau Lit.)

Note: “This Week in Princeton History” will be on hiatus on Mondays in July and August 2018 in order to make room for a special summer series, “Demystifying Mudd,” where we will take the time to explain a bit about what goes on behind the scenes in our branch of the Princeton University Library. We also hope to continue to share in-depth stories about the history of Princeton and other collection highlights on periodic Wednesdays this summer. Look for a return of the This Week series on September 3.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.


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