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Vol. LXIV, No. 9
 
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
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Humor, History, Einstein, Michelle Obama Among Features of “Princetonians in Print”

Ellen Gilbert

“Princetonians in Print: 175 Years of Student Publications at Princeton,” a new exhibition at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, chronicles “the proud history” and “rich landscape of publications” at the University, from the earliest known documents produced by students, to a broad range of present-day online publications

Drawing on the holdings of the University Archives, the exhibit, which runs through Friday, July 30, includes original newspapers as well as artwork, photographs, letters, and artifacts.

“Everyone thought The Tattler, first published in 1839, was the oldest Princeton student publication” said Regine Heberlein, one of the exhibit’s four curators. “Then a copy of The Chameleon, from 1835, came to our attention.” Although there is no official documentation, Ms. Heberlein said that Charles Scribner (class of 1840) was believed to be one of the founders of The Chameleon, and that the publication grew “out of a secret literary club.”

Noting the “skill and creativity that went into these publications,” Ms. Heberlein pointed to another 19th-century effort, The Eagle. The hand-drawn weekly, complete with advertising and serialized stories, enjoyed a two-year run.

Humor and history are both well-represented in “Princetonians in Print.” With its early announcement of Albert Einstein’s death on April 18, 1955, the Daily Princetonian scooped national news sources. Visitors can also hear an excerpt from the campus radio station’s broadcast of Lee Macht’s (class of 1957) eulogy for Einstein, along with two other noteworthy recordings: the tallying of the vote supporting a campus-wide strike to protest the Vietnam War in 1970, and Jimmy Stewart’s (class of 1932) rendition of “Day After Day,” from the 1932 Triangle Club production of “Spanish Blades.” We are told that Mr. Stewart “serenaded a Spanish señorita “with the song, and that the play, subtitled “‘a musical olla prodrida (or ‘rotten pot,’ after the Spanish stew), pieced together plot elements borrowed from Carmen, The Barber of Seville, and Don Quixote.”

In addition to an entire case devoted to the student output of F. Scott Fitzgerald (class of 1917), celebrity alums represented in the exhibit include Booth Tarkington (class of 1893), Eugene O’Neill (suspended before graduation), Malcolm Forbes (class of 1941), and Pulitizer Prize winner John McPhee (class of 1953). Cartoons by the prolific New Yorker cartoonist Whitney Darrow (class of 1931) are also on view, under his pseudonym, “Oscar.”

In addition to inter-class rivalry, good-humored competition is evident in a tiger mobile (“still a beast at 100”) that has evidently swallowed a Yale bull dog, now located deep inside its belly.

More contemporary representations include the yearbook photo of Michelle LaVaughn Robinson (class of 1985), who is now First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama. Streaming online publications continue the theme of both seriousness of purpose (a feminist journal called Equal Writes), with humor (the journal Distractions for “aiding students in the art of procrastination”).

“Princetonians in Print: 175 Years of Student Publications” is on view from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. weekdays. The Mudd Library is located at 65 Olden Street, between William Street and Prospect Avenue, opposite the Engineering Quadrangle on the University campus, just off Washington Road. For further information call (609) 258-6345, or visit www.princeton.edu/~mudd.

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