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This Week in Princeton History for January 15-21

By April C. Armstrong *14

In this week’s installment in our recurring series, a student writes about exams provoking anxiety, another attends the state’s gubernatorial inauguration, and more.

January 15, 1750—New Jersey Governor Jonathan Belcher writes to a friend to complain about the difficulty in raising money for a college.

When I consider the poverty of this little Province where are very few people of fortunes and a great Numbers of Quakers Among us, who you know are Enemies to what they call human Learning and to orthodoxy in Religion and this Sect has so much Influence in the Legislature that I almost despair of any help here towards the Building and Support of our College[.] We must therefore hope for and beg the benevolence and generosity of Such well disposed Christians as may be inclined to Assist in this difficult undertaking and may God Speed the plough.

January 18, 1786—John Rhea Smith (Class of 1786) writes in his diary about a feeling of foreboding before his exams:

Rise after 4 hours sleep, feel examination very near–fall to strenuously–after James & myself write all the Propositions on papers and draw them to see if we are perfectly prepared & also accustom ourselves a little to it. We miss but a single one–near 10 o’clock & take my clothes out to dress–but suddenly shocked with the bell–begin to tremble… At the time we all march in like so many criminals.

January 19, 1869—Henry Thompson Cook, Class of 1869, attends the inauguration of New Jersey’s new governor, Theodore F. Randolph.

Henry Thompson Cook’s ticket to the inauguration of Theodore F. Randolph, 1869. Scrapbook Collection (AC026), Box 23.

January 21, 1927—The Daily Princetonian sends 20 prominent New Yorkers a telegram asking, “What would you do if you had 24 hours to live?” Responses include, “It’s a very hard question to answer and I don’t want to do it” and “before the final hour, I would summon up the courage to eat a portion of fried eggplant—something I have been postponing all my life.”

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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