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This Week in Princeton History for January 29-February 4

By April C. Armstrong *14

In this week’s installment in our recurring series, a vacation turns dangerous, Public Safety officers conduct a snake-hunt, and more.

January 31, 1986—An intercession-week vacation to Haiti goes awry for Stephanie Schnabel ’87, Tess Vickers ’87, and John Wyatt ’88. Reports are circulating that the president, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, has fled the country in the wake of a popular uprising that has overthrown the Haitian government. The Princeton students struggle to figure out how to escape safely after their cab driver warns them, “Two days, okay, then everybody dies.”

Map of Haiti
U.S. Department of State Bureau of Public Affairs Map of Haiti, April 1987. Women’s World Banking Records (MC198), Box 104, Folder 12.

February 1, 1815—A “very respectable correspondent” writes a letter to the New York Commercial Advertiser about religious revival at Princeton, which has the entire college swept up in nightly prayer meetings in one another’s rooms. “One or two of them had been as thoughtless and rude as any…” Students from the newly formed Princeton Theological Seminary are visiting the campus to talk with students, while the College’s “pious Students began to visit from room to room, exhorting their companions, and praying with those under distress of mind.”

February 2, 1999—Public Safety officers conduct a snake-hunt in Witherspoon Hall after a resident’s pet python escapes. They find the reptile just before midnight.

February 4, 1875—Rumors are circulating that diphtheria has broken out at Princeton. James M. Reed, Jr., Class of 1878, keeps clippings in his scrapbook. One notes,

A HERALD reporter visited Princeton yesterday to investigate the matter and learned that the rumor had its inception in the mischievous imaginations of some of the students, who wanted to create a sensation in order to have a series of holidays.

However, reports also observe that 20 students are confined to their rooms with an illness common in New York and New Jersey right now (follicular pharyngitis).

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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