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This Week in Princeton History for March 7-13

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, locals take note of the Gold Rush, the Emperor of Japan honors an alum, and more.

March 8, 1882—The Chicago Tribune reports that rumors are circulating that James McCosh will be forced out and replaced by John Hall after losing his temper in chapel when several members of the senior class showed up dressed up and prepared to do impersonations for their senior orations. The Tribune quotes an anonymous member of the Class of 1882:

There were thirteen of them, and they concluded to imitate Oscar Wilde in dress, floral decoration, and manner. You can imagine the disgust of the President when he saw a senior in such a rig. Well, the speaking was postponed by order of the Faculty, and Dr. McCosh was more than angry. He was fairly white with rage.

Oscar Wilde, ca. 1882. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Wilde, known for a flamboyant style of dress and eccentric behavior, and was touring the United States giving lectures on aestheticism in 1882. Ministers criticized him for influencing both men and women with what many saw as an inappropriate example of masculinity. He would later be prosecuted and incarcerated for sodomy and gross indecency for his relationships with a fellow poet (Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas) and other males.

March 9, 1849—Locals take note that two Princetonians have set out for California with the Kit Carson Association, presumably in search of gold.

March 11, 1969—51 members of the Association of Black Collegians stage a sit-in at New South for more than 11 hours. Their goals include “registration of disgust” for Robert Goheen’s approach to divestment from South Africa. Administrators note that they have not harmed the building. “They did a better job of cleaning up the place than the janitors. We found absolutely nothing disturbed.”

Timeline of the New South Sit-In, 1969. (Click to enlarge.) Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 59, Folder 13.

March 13, 1905—On the 90th birthday of Dr. James Curtis Hepburn, Class of 1832, the Emperor of Japan presents Hepburn with the decoration of the Third Class of the Order of the Rising Sun. He is the second non-Japanese person ever to be thus honored. Hepburn operated a medical clinic in Yokohama. He published a Japanese-English dictionary and developed the transliteration system known as “Hepburn romanization,” the most widely-used transliteration system for romanizing Japanese.

Third Class Order of the Rising Sun decoration presented to James Curtis  Hepburn in 1905. Photo by Alan Stahl. Original artifact housed in Firestone Library.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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