Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Princeton University. Bicentennial Celebration Committee.
Bicentennial Celebration Records
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
21 boxes and 1 folder
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-21


The Princeton University Bicentennial Celebration was a year-long series of events that began on September 22, 1946 with a sermon delivered by Geoffrey Francis Fisher, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, in the University Chapel and ended with an address by President Truman in front of Nassau Hall at the June 17, 1947 Concluding Bicentennial Convocation. The Bicentennial Celebration Records contain correspondence, writings, speeches, press-releases, pamphlets, reports, newspaper clippings, tickets, transcripts, watercolor and pencil sketches and various other materials documenting the 1946-1947 Princeton University Bicentennial Celebration.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The Bicentennial Celebration Records contain material documenting the planning and organization of the yearlong festivities by the Bicentennial Committees, as well as material relating to the conferences, convocations, and other events that were held in honor of Princeton's 200th anniversary. The records contain correspondence, writings, speeches, reports, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, press releases, transcripts, tickets, and decorative water color and pencil sketches and various other materials documenting the Bicentennial Celebration. Please see series descriptions in contents list for additional information about individual series.

Collection Creator Biography:

Princeton University. Bicentennial Celebration Committee.

The 1946-1947 Princeton University Bicentennial Celebration was an en masse celebration of Princeton's past, present and future. The campus welcomed a spectrum of guests, ranging from members of the University and its surrounding community, to representatives of several national and international academic, private, and public organizations and institutions.

The yearlong series of events began on September 22, 1946 with a sermon delivered by Geoffrey Francis Fisher, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, in the University Chapel and ended with an address by President Harry S. Truman in front of Nassau Hall at the June 17, 1947 Concluding Bicentennial Convocation. The events were divided into two major parts comprising 16 conferences and 5 convocations. The events were interlinked by personnel and dates. Many participants of the conferences received honorary degrees at the Convocations.

The series of conferences were organized by Dean of the Faculty J. Douglas Brown '28 and Whitney J. Oates '25, with the assistance of the Princeton Faculty Committee, and extended from September 1946 through May 1947. Overseen largely by Princeton professors, the conferences covered a broad range of topics in the humanities, social and applied sciences, and engineering.

The convocations were arranged in the traditional format of past academic anniversaries, with a host of greetings, receptions, and entertainment, but on a much more elaborate scale. The festivities began on September 22, 1946 in the University Chapel with the Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon. At the conclusion of the service, the Archbishop was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree and the first Bicentennial Medal. The medal was designed by John R. Sinnock, medalist to the United States Treasury, and was presented to all official guests and delegates who attended the ceremonies during the year.

The Charter Day Convocation commemorated the signing of the College's First Charter. After Dean of the Chapel Robert R. Wicks' invocation, President Harold Dodds delivered a speech in which he recounted John Witherspoon's influence on him and cited a passage from Witherspoon's Civil Society. Afterwards, Dodds conferred honorary degrees to twenty-two men and one woman, most of whom participated in the first series of the Bicentennial Conferences. The Convocation came to a close with the singing of Isaac Watt's Ninetieth Psalm, which has become a tradition at Princeton.

The Alumni Day and Spring Convocation followed the same pattern as the first two events. The Alumni Day included the second address made by President Dodds on the benefits of a liberal education. Chairman Douglas Horton gave the sermon at the luncheon and Secretary of State George C. Marshall made his first public address to a throng of alumni and special guests. During these two events a total of 54 honorary degrees were awarded.

The Bicentennial Year reached its pinnacle with the Concluding Bicentennial Convocation (June 14-17, 1947). The festivities extended into four eventful days beginning with the dedication of the Herbert Lowell Dillon Gymnasium. In the afternoon, the Princeton baseball team defeated Yale 1-0, and that evening, the Glee Club performed at McCarter Theater in the musical Going Back. Sunday's festivities began in the University Chapel with a Service of Remembrance. In the evening, those in attendance gathered at Dillon Gymnasium to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Monday began with a Service of Dedication at the University Chapel followed by the dedication of the Harvey S. Firestone Library. That afternoon, a formal reception for visiting delegates was held in addition to other celebratory parties and dinners. Celebrations culminated on Tuesday with an invocation ceremony, which included speeches by President Dodds and President Truman. The ceremony also included a procession of academics from various American and foreign institutions and the awarding of 32 honorary degrees.

In addition to these main events, many other activities made the year memorable. From the opening of the Bicentennial, music played a significant role in celebrating the spirit of the events. Princeton's Glee Club and Chapel Choir performed at various times for the convocations and other events, and the Pro Arte Quartet and Boston Symphony Orchestra played on campus.

Theatre Intime provided comical relief in their rendition of the 1869 Princeton-Rutgers football game. The Triangle Club also lent their talent with the annual musical, Clear the Track. Various exhibitions were on display in different locations around the Princeton University campus, neighboring Trenton, and New York City. The Louis Clark Vanuxem Lectures, Spencer Trask Lectures, and Cyrus Fogg Brackett Engineering Lectures were delivered by various honorary degree recipients, as were the six forums organized by the Student Christian Association led by six of the Bicentennial preachers.

The Bicentennial organizers included such distinguished figures as Walter E. Hope '01, Whitney Darrow '03, and Col. Arthur E. Fox '13. As the Bicentennial Celebration planning grew so did the committees, to include over 200 members and more than 350 coordinators for the conferences alone. Those planners also included undergraduate and graduate students and members of the faculty, administration, and alumni. They coordinated their efforts with various national and international academic, private, and public organizations.

Collection History


Exact date of acquisition is unclear, see Custodial History section for more information.

Custodial History

It appears that Colonel Arthur E. Fox '13 maintained the files of the Bicentennial Celebration and gave the records to Firestone Library at some point before his departure in 1956. Once the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library was constructed in 1976, all University Archives collections located at Firestone Library were transferred to the Mudd Manuscript Library.


Appraisal has been conducted in accordance with Mudd Manuscript Library guidelines.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Rosalba D. Varallo with the assistance of Page Dykstra '06 and Pardon Makumbe '07. Finding aid written by Rosalba D. Varallo. Box 21 added by Christie Peterson in May 2012.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. For instances beyond Fair Use, if copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of materials from the Princeton University Archives.

For instances beyond Fair Use where the copyright is not held by the University, while permission from the Library is not required, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Bicentennial Celebration Records; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-21

Find More

Related Materials

Princeton University Bicentennial Conferences (P03.73.17) include speeches given by various speakers during the first and second series of conferences.

The Historical Photograph Collection includes photographs of the Bicentennial Celebration.

The Department of Art and Archaeology Records (AC140) detail the Bicentennial Conference on "Scholarship and Research in the Arts" located in Box 3.

The Edward M. Earle Papers (MC020) contain information on the "Development of International Socialism" Conference.

The Ferdinand Eberstadt Papers selected correspondence and related material on the Bicentennial Celebration are located in Box 61.

The Department of Grounds and Buildings Technical Correspondence Files (AC035) contain correspondence in regards to proposals for a new memorial or Bicentennial library.

The Office of the President's Records (AC117) contains correspondence to and from Arthur E. Fox to President Dodds in regards to the Bicentennial Celebration located in Box 208, Folder 4.

The Physics Department Records (AC133) include speeches given by various physics scholars during the Conferences.

The Henry Norris Russell Papers (C0045) contain information on "The Future of Nuclear Science" Conference.

The Student Christian Association Records (AC135) consist of information on their six forums led by Bicentennial preachers located in Box 26, Folder 9.


The Princeton Bicentennial Year, 1946-1947 A Summary; Charles G. Osgood, Lights In Nassau Hall: A Book of the Bicentennial Princeton 1746-1946; and Alexander Leitch's A Princeton Companion were consulted during the preparation of the biographical note.

Subject Terms:
Rites and Ceremonies--Addresses, essays, lectures.
Visitors, foreign.
Genre Terms:
Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc).
Pencil Works.
Press releases.
Watercolor Painting.
Princeton University
Brown, J. Douglas (James Douglas) (1898-1986)
Conant, James Bryant, 1893-1978
Dodds, Harold W. (Harold Willis), 1889-1980
Fisher of Lambeth, Geoffry Francis Fisher, Baron, 1887-1972
Nicolson, Marjorie Hope, 1894-1981
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972.