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This Week in Princeton History for December 11-17

By April C. Armstrong *14

In this week’s installment in our recurring series, a visitor remarks on the number of fires that have happened in Princeton’s history, a football game is delayed when players pop the ball, and more.

December 11, 1830—A fan of Rutgers College asserts Rutgers is superior to Princeton in the Philadelphia Album:

Must young men become monks, be separated from all the domestic charities of life, and made to herd exclusively with each other like young tigers and wild cats, whom it would be destruction to let forth into the haunts of men? I am of a very different opinion, and honestly think that the very best thing which the friends of Princeton College could do for that unfortunate institution, would be the burning to the ground of their huge old castle, which so long as it stands, will offer an irresistible temptation to persevere in the immuring system.

December 13, 1932—Norman Thomas, Class of 1905, is the principal speaker at a meeting to organize the Princeton branch of the National Socialists. He warns of the ongoing threat of capitalism and anti-immigration sentiment and insists the current economic depression will be likely to last unless drastic action is taken. “The society of tomorrow,” Thomas says, “will have no place for the man ‘born with a golden spoon in his mouth.’”

December 14, 1921—In an article reprinted in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, a staff writer for London’s Punch muses on Princeton’s unusual atmosphere. After marveling over how many buildings have burned down—and how many times some of them have burned down and been rebuilt—A. P. Herbert writes,

I take off my hat to the architects and, of course, to those gallant generations of incendiaries who (I presume) compelled the authorities to select good architects. … And may I respectfully remark that there are still one or two buildings which have unaccountably never been burned at all?

December 15, 1873—In the first football match between Yale and Princeton, at Hamilton Field in New Haven, the ball gets caught between the teams, and it pops when both sides kick it at the same time. As Samuel Cowart, Class of 1876, will describe it, “It was a spherical/heavy rubber ball, blown up with a key. They had to take a team of horses and go back to New Haven, in order to get another football.”

A large group of men with a ball
The College of New Jersey (Princeton) 1873 football team. Note the round ball in front of the man in the top hat. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box LP36, Image No. 2522.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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