- Collection Overview
- Collection Description & Creator Information
- Access & Use
- Collection History
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- Princeton University. Bicentennial Celebration Committee.
- Bicentennial Celebration Records
- Princeton University Archives
- Permanent URL:
- 21 boxes and 1 folder
- Storage Note:
- Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): 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
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.
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.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
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
- Access Restrictions:
The collection is open for research use.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. If copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers will not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with non-commercial use of materials from the Mudd Library. For materials where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us 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 LibrarySeeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library65 Olden StreetPrinceton, NJ 08540, USA(609) 258-6345
- Publication Note:
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.
- Genre Terms:
Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc).
- 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.