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This Week in Princeton History for July 31-August 6

Francis Cleveland
Francis Cleveland. Grover Cleveland Collection (AC348), Box 1.

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a professor helps Albert Einstein get a message to the Roosevelt administration, an alum plans a celebration in honor of the new Constitution, and more.

August 1, 1898—In a short article about Francis Cleveland having to smooth over hurt feelings when the children of college professors judged her children for playing with less “aristocratic” children, the Ladies Home Journal notes,

“Princeton society, like the society of all University towns, draws a sharp line between its collegiate population and what are called the ‘natives,’ or less learned or wealthy set.”

August 2, 1939—Physics professor Eugene P. Wigner translates a letter from his colleague, Albert Einstein, to pass along to Alexander Sachs, a member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “brain trust.” The letter warns that it would be possible to construct “extremely powerful bombs of a new type” using nuclear chain reactions, and implies that Germany may already know this, given that it has stopped selling uranium from the Czech mines it has seized.

H. P. Robertson, Eugene P. Wigner, H. Weyl, K. Goedel, I. I. Rabi, Albert Einstein, R. Ladenburg, J. R. Oppenheimer, and G. M. Clemence.
 Left to right: H. P. Robertson, Eugene P. Wigner, H. Weyl, K. Goedel, I. I. Rabi, Albert Einstein, R. Ladenburg, J. R. Oppenheimer, and G. M. Clemence. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box MP3, Image No. 153.

August 4, 1837—A writer in the Newburyport Herald notes, “Everyone has heard of Princeton, the abode of the most abused and insulted alma mater that ever attempted to restrain the wild sallies of youth.”

August 6, 1788—Peter Elmendorf, Class of 1782, plans a celebration of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution:

“We shall have something very elegant—a bower of thirteen Arches is erected on the hill for us to dine under—a federal Batteau [sic] with Beaver and furs Indian Traders &c to be carried Drawn through the Streets by all professions—Tradesmen & Mechanicks [sic] to proceed in due order, nearly resembling N. York procession—only this will be more in miniature.”

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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