Growing Ivy, Princeton


For a large portion of my life I knew of Princeton thanks to Sondra Huxtable.  She was smart and rich and by extension so was Princeton.  But then I realized that apparently this school also admitted Elvin, so how good could it be?  I have waited all these years to find out.

I thought I would be a team player on this stop, so I signed up for the campus tour.  About half way through the tour which included answers to questions such as do dorm rooms have air conditioning, and can freshmen choose which dining hall they would like to eat in, I realized I may not be the target audience this tour was aimed at.  I was OK with that till I also realized we were not actually going inside any of the buildings.  Unacceptable.

Nassau Hall, the campus's first building.

As the tour left Nassau Hall, I did not.

I went inside the iconic, ivy covered building in hopes I could see something cool.  Thanks to a stanchion and its retractable tape I did not see something, but I did see someone.

Randy did not ask me who I was he simply asked me what I would like to know or see.  I tried to look wise and replied “I would like to see HISTORY”.  He smiled through his grey beard and told me to go see Dan over in the archives.  “Tell him I sent you and he will have them get anything you want to see.”


Me and a couple Tigers

As I strolled over to meet destiny/Dan I mulled over in my mind what I would like to see.  Princeton was founded in 1746 and boasts one of the finest and largest collections of Americana in the country.  These archives held the results and artifacts of scholars, leaders, and those who wielded power and influence.  I sat at a table surrounded by shelves filled with yearbooks.  The numbers embossed on the backs got smaller and smaller as I looked around, waiting for Dan, and getting excited over what I would ask to see.

Dan asked what project I was working on or for whom I was researching.  When I told him I was simply wasting time and thought this would be the best way to do it, he looked excited and genuinely happy.  I think he was a little confused and surprised when he heard my request.

“I would like to see the programs from football games; the oldest ones you have.”

Photo from the 1928 yearbook. Notice number 47 receiving a wonderful punch to the face

I think Dan was likely unaware that the first intercollegiate game called “football” ever played in America was in 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton.  Thanks to this early start Princeton can boast more national football championships than anyone else, 24, though only four of those happened after 1900.

Dan looked some things up on the computer, scribbled some notes, showed me into another room, another desk, shook my hand, and scurried off.  A bit later a young man wheeled in a treasure chest.  The first one was 1893.  I ignored anything after 1930.

I didn't get to see them, I got to handle them.

To say I was happy is to say Jim Brown was O.K.

It was not just football.  It was sport, it was style, it was deeply American.

I am going to get a little image heavy here.  I cannot help it.

The early programs were heavy in explanations of rules and method of play.
Football simply does not have great mustaches like this nowadays.
I want that book.
Princeton Vs. Penn, 1893
The orange and black laces were a nice touch.
What sitting on a fence has to do with football, I don't know, but it was a theme throughout.
Those Yalies were a dapper bunch.
Princeton Vs. Yale, 1901
Princeton Vs. Harvard, 1911
Princeton Vs. Yale, 1916
Princeton Vs. Yale, 1920
Princeton Vs. Yale 1921
Princeton Vs. Navy, 1924

They had cameras back then.  The oldest program I handled was full of photos.  Despite the availablity of lenses, they chose illustrations.  Why?  Because the illustrations were gorgeous!

Even the ads looked good.

Franklin Simon & Co.
Raccoon Coat
The illustrator here is J.C. Leyendecker. He is who Norman Rockwell once aspired to be, and possibly my favorite.

8 thoughts on “Growing Ivy, Princeton

  1. These are some of the most amazing reads I’ve ever seen on your blog. I am honestly sucked in by your stories and the images. I think it’s partially because you are experiencing something new and it’s as if I’m able to experience it as well. I also think I just gave the description of a blog. I also think it’s because you are missed……genuinely… a high 5 good to see you kind of way. Reading these has inspired me.

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