Biography and History

The celebration of the College's 150th anniversary in October 1896 was an event over two years in the making. By all accounts, it was a great success. Participants long remembered the eloquent speeches made by former U.S. President Grover Cleveland and future U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the procession of torch-carrying Princetonians that marched through town to a Nassau Hall covered with orange electric lights. The culminating announcement came from College President Francis Landey Patton when he declared that “what heretofore for one hundred fifty years has been known as the College of New Jersey shall in all future time be known as Princeton University.”

The three-day Sesquicentennial Celebration included hundreds of undergraduates, thousands of alumni, representatives from universities throughout the world, distinguished European scholars, and delegations of students from other colleges and universities. The College and the town were decorated everywhere with red, white, and blue, and orange and black banners; the College erected an arched gateway at one end of Nassau Street, while the town put up a matching gateway at the other end. Princeton won the sesquicentennial football game against Virginia, 48-0. In addition to Grover Cleveland and then Professor Woodrow Wilson, speakers at the celebration included several European scholars, the poet and professor Henry van Dyke, the president of Harvard, Charles Eliot, and the College's own president, Francis Landey Patton.

Source: From the finding aid for AC141

  • Sesquicentennial Celebration Records. circa 1887-1993 (inclusive), 1894-1904 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC141

    The collection consists of materials relating to the three-day Sesquicentennial Celebration in October 1896, at which the College of New Jersey became Princeton University. In addition to ephemera and printed material distributed at the celebration, the collection includes a typescript draft of President Francis Landey Patton's sermon, sesquicentennial memorial books, a published sketchbook, official congratulations from other institutions, and press releases and newspaper clippings reporting the events.