of Princeton History

as told by The Daily Princetonian archives

At The Daily Princetonian, we’re used to focusing on the present — reporting on stories that unfold as we write.

With this project, we at the ‘Prince’, the second-oldest college newspaper in the country, took a step back. Leveraging data from the The Daily Princetonian Larry DuPraz Archives, kindly shared with us by Mudd Library, we immersed ourselves in decades worth of print publications in the hope of better understanding the journey the ‘Prince’ and the University have been on over the past 140 years.

To help you explore our findings, for each decade, we’ve summarized a few emblematic terms, sized relatively to their popularity. Clicking on a particular emblematic term will allow you to see a chart of the frequency with which it appeared in the ‘Prince’ over time. Additionally, we’ve included search functionality if you’d like to see a frequency chart for words of your own choosing.

Like The Pudding’s New York Times headlines project that served as our inspiration, in order to find terms particularly emblematic of a particular decade, we compared word usage frequencies between a decade and the preceding and following decades — selecting terms that were used disproportionately more often in the decade at hand as compared to neighboring decades. You can read more on this process in our methodology section.

This summary is only a bird’s eye view of the information the archives hold, and we hope our work here inspires further analysis with its wealth of data.

Cover Art and Web Design by Anika Maskara

Copy editing by Tiffany Cao



Offering an 1880s alternative to present-day Google searches, the Princeton Directory section of the newspaper featured a list of services offered by local shops and business owners, including tailors, bookbinders, grocers, apothecaries, and more.

During that decade, The Daily Princetonian covered sports news in immense detail, regularly incorporating box scores into articles on University athletics. Athlete names — such as Dan Bickham, pitcher and outfielder on the school’s baseball team — rather than political or news-based terms, showed up with the greatest frequency.

In 1877, Lasell Leaves, the magazine of Lasell University (a private university in Massachusetts), criticized The Crimson’s character for “the plentiful supply of lager beer and tobacco advertisements contained in its columns.” A few years after reporting on this criticism, hundreds of tobacco advertisements flooded the advertisement columns and Princeton Directory sections of the ‘Prince’ in the 1880s, particularly in 1885 and 1886.

Reflecting the language of the time and the fact that Princeton was not yet a coeducational institution, gendered language like “gentleman” was also common when reporting on campus news.

September 19th, 1888

February 9th, 1883

March 27th, 1889



Like the 1880s, the most disproportionately used terms of the 1890s related mainly to sports news and advertisements for everything from furniture to drug stores.

Sports coverage at the time remained more detailed than today, with full team rosters printed alongside game play-by-plays for a variety of sports including football, crew, and cycling. The frequency of the word “bicycle” in fact, referring to cycling competitions, peaked in the 1890s.

The teams covered were associated with the University and played familiar foes like Harvard and Yale. However, the paper's coverage was not always Princeton-specific, as it was also common to report on games between other northeastern institutions.

“Studying” was also used disportionately in this decade, most often included in the Alumni Notes section of the paper to describe the academic accomplishments of alumni who pursued further education in fields like medicine or law. Without LinkedIn, students had to be subscribed to the ‘Prince’ to keep up with alumni careers and network. The Alumni Notes section was so popular that the ‘Prince’ fielded several complaints from readers asking the editors to devote more space to them.

April 9th, 1890

January 24th, 1893

October 27th, 1890



During the 1900s, ‘Prince’ headlines began suggesting a stronger presence of the performing arts on Princeton’s campus, with the word “performance” spiking in frequency compared to neighboring decades. Furthering this trend, various performing art groups such as Triangle Club posted rehearsal and show announcements in the University Notices section of the newspaper — the equivalent of today’s listservs, group chat messages, and calendar invites.

In 1895, Princeton built The Casino, the Triangle Club’s first theater. The building also served as a hub for the blossoming performing arts scene and was used for theatrical productions, dance recitals, and more.

First produced in 1864, the Bric-a-Brac was Princeton’s student life yearbook that has since been discontinued, rendering it unfamiliar to most present-day Tigers. Advertising for the Bric-a-Brac committee, the ‘Prince’ played an integral role in sharing information regarding the yearbook’s sale and distribution.

The term “o’clock” was also disproportionately used in this decade, visible throughout the University Notices section when announcing events and meeting times, as opposed to the standard numeral system used today.

December 4th, 1901

December 2nd, 1902

February 24th, 1903



In 1910, after the ‘Prince’ became an official member of the Associated Press, the paper began publishing wire messages from the A.P. with daily world news summaries. These stories were attributed to the Associated Press in the byline, contributing to a steep spike in the usage of the term “associated.”

Other emblematic terms were related to World War I. Even before the United States officially entered “The Great War,” fears of an impending American entry prompted the establishment of military training classes on campus and the organization of a Princeton Provisional Battalion for training military officers — foreshadowing the launch of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program in 1919. The program celebrated its centennial just three years ago.

In April 1917, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt penned a letter to The Daily Princetonian, answering undergraduate questions about the Naval Coast Defense Reserve, including the commitment that enlistment entailed and whether a background in “summer yachting” would be helpful.

In other aquatic news, intercollege varsity rowing returned to Princeton in 1911 for the first time since a lack of a proper practice space had forced the program to retire in the 1880s. This return was made possible after the construction of Lake Carnegie in 1906, a gift from steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.

March 4th, 1915

November 16th, 1914

April 23, 1917



During the Roaring Twenties, performing arts and social events were bustling on campus. The prom committee was busy at work planning a night to remember. In hopes of continuing to have proms on campus in the future, the committee also worked to satisfy institutional guidelines, such as proper conduct on the dance floor and no loitering on campus or Nassau Street after the dance.

Orchestras were also regularly invited to perform on campus, and the Princeton University Orchestra encouraged undergraduates to join them. Many events and meetings were held in University Commons or in Murray Dodge, with the latter yielding high traffic when students passed the building to attend then-mandatory religious services at the Chapel.

Undergraduate speech and debate organizations also became more centralized and established on campus, with the formation of Princeton Speakers Council, an Inter-Hall Council composed of Whig, Clio, the Speakers Association, and the Debating Committee.

Meanwhile, in sports news, reporters frequently used the term “yearlings” to refer to underclassmen athletes typically in their first year. This trend in the use of “yearlings” mirrors the overall spike in popularity across Google Books Ngram Viewer’s English corpus of books in 1920.

March 14th, 1929

May 8th, 1926

March 16, 1929



During the 1930s, the term “gold” saw a spike in usage, often in reference to stories about moving off the gold standard — one of the key national debates in the early years of the Great Depression.

In local coverage, Herbert O. “Fritz” Crisler signed on as head football coach in 1932. He went on to coach successfully for six years, compiling a 35–9–5 record and leading the team through two undefeated seasons until he left for the University of Michigan. Crisler would go on to become a giant in football history, known for his development of the “two-platoon” system at Michigan — the practice of having different player units for offense and defense.

Although Princeton’s intramural sports program was already thriving at least two decades prior, coverage of the leagues rose sharply in the 1930s, with game schedules and outcomes printed regularly. The program was so popular that James Tyson, then-writer at The Harvard Crimson, praised it when comparing it to Harvard’s much smaller intramural leagues.

McCarter Theatre, designed and financed by the Triangle Club, officially opened in 1930. The theater’s establishment was made possible by a $250,000 gift from alumnus Thomas N. McCarter Class of 1888. After the theater’s opening, the ‘Prince’ regularly reported on its many performances.

The word “geology” was also used disproportionately in the 1930s, oftentimes in reference to “an unprecedented array” of Princeton-led field work trips to locations including the Caribbean, Yellowstone, and Canada.

February 26th, 1932

December 1st, 1938

February 20th, 1930



Just as World War I prompted a shift from local coverage two decades prior, World War II dominated headlines in the 1940s. As the global war took hold, usage of terms such as “wartime,” “marine,” and “postwar” rose throughout the decade. During the war, the ‘Prince’ faced a staffing shortage, prompting the communications office to publish The Princeton Bulletin three times a week in place of a student-run newspaper.

In response to the global crisis, Princeton founded the Department of Aeronautical Engineering. In 1942, the University recruited Alexander Nikolsky, an engineer who helped build the first practical helicopter, to be one of the first faculty members of the newly founded department. Nikolsky’s contributions helped to establish the department as a leading center for study of the rotary-wing aircraft. Amid growth of aeronautical efforts, mentions of the word “aeronautical” increased ninefold from the previous decade.

Established in 1930, Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1941 and marked the momentous occasion with the return of many former SPIA members and distinguished guests. In 1948, after the addition of a graduate professional program, Princeton renamed SPIA to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs after Woodrow Wilson Class of 1879, the 28th president of the United States and a former president of the University. Seventy two years later, amid a national racial reckoning spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement, the school would return to its prior name.

WPRU, Princeton’s student-run radio station, delivered music to students across campus. Out of the 94 percent of students who had access to radio on campus, 67 percent listened to WPRU — and 37 percent of that subgroup listened to the radio at least one hour each day. Coming a long way from the campus radio station’s initial expectation that “signals may possibly penetrate as far as the Graduate College,” WPRU’s successor, WPRB, later moved to the FM dial (103.3).

January 13th, 1942

May 24th, 1940

September 19th, 1945



Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower achieved a landslide victory with nearly 55 percent of the popular vote in the 1952 presidential election, still paling in comparison to the 73 percent majority he won in The Daily Princetonian’s presidential poll.

In the context of the 1950s’ Red Scare, use of the word “communist” in the ‘Prince’ peaked during that decade, leading some articles to even speculate on the existence of a secret communist cell on campus.

Our analysis of this decade also found disproportionate usage of terms like “prayer,” “worship,” and “Episcopal,” oftentimes included in the Religious Notices section of the paper. Although the University’s chapel requirement would not come to an end until 1964, the ‘Prince’ featured much discussion on the topic throughout the ’50s, including one poll in 1951 that found that 75 percent of the undergraduates polled viewed mandatory religious service attendance as “unfavorable.”

The decade also saw major shifts on Prospect Avenue. In 1949, Alfred de Jonge ’49 pointed out in a letter to the editor that while 81.3 percent of all eligible bickerees had been accepted to an eating club after one round of bicker, only 32.1 percent of Jewish eligible bickerees had been accepted. The following bicker season, more than three-quarters of the sophomore class pledged to not join an eating club unless everyone who bickered could get a bid.

Following this protest, the ​​Interclub Committee was able to maintain a “100 percent” matching rate until 1958, when 23 sophomores, more than half of whom were Jewish, did not receive a bid. The resulting scandal, which became the subject of national outcry, was known as the “Dirty Bicker” of 1958.

A major vernacular change also took hold during the Eisenhower years. Although the word “frosh” was first mentioned in the ‘Prince’ much earlier in the 20th century, its usage skyrocketed in the 1950s, alongside the similarly shortened “soph.”

Read more: Uncovering the origins of Jewish community on campus

February 10, 1958

February 25th, 1954

October 22nd, 1952


Editor’s Note: A note on language: We included the word “negro” in our analyses because it provides an important historical lens through which to view events like the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. We recognize and respect that the term is offensive absent just historical context. (This note has been adapted from the Pudding analysis that serves as the inspiration for this project.)


The 1960s saw a pivotal change to Princeton’s undergraduate population: coeducation. University Trustees voted in favor of coeducation in January 1969, following intense external and internal pressure. Less than a year after Yale’s decision to become coeducational in November 1968, Princeton became coeducational in the fall of 1969.

In September 1969, Princeton’s first class of female students — 101 female first-years and 70 female transfer students — joined the student body, resulting in a roughly 20:1 male to female student ratio. The introduction of women led to several logistical issues across campus, including determining where to house the women and offering eating clubs a temporary plan for feeding “co-eds”: charging a $20 registration fee to be applied to meals and requesting extra if she eats more but refunding the difference if she eats less.

During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement shaped national conversations, a reality that was reflected in an increase of reporting on racial issues in the ‘Prince,’ which printed articles discussing Black enrollment in the Ivy League and the experience of Black students on campus. By 1967, there had been fewer than 100 Black undergraduates at Princeton in the University’s history.

Gaining a bigger presence on campus, Undergraduate Student Government (USG)’s predecessor, the Undergraduate Council, initiated a series of weekly meetings, and the ​​Interclub Committee played a leading role in bicker reform. In response to and indeed in opposition to the Vietnam War, Princeton’s Students for a Democratic Society gained prominence during the 1960s, hosting marches, sit-ins, walk-outs, and other protests.

April 21st, 1967

October 13th, 1967

February 10, 1969



In the midst of the Great Inflation and a national energy crisis, Princeton faced budget problems in the 1970s — prompting the University to raise tuition by nearly 50 percent between 1969 and 1973, a rise notable enough to make national news.

The ROTC program at Princeton also faced significant changes. In 1970, in the wake of protests against the war in Vietnam, including a fire-bombing of the Princeton Armory ROTC offices, faculty voted to end the program. This suspension only lasted a year, ending when the student body passed a referendum recommending the return of ROTC as a “non-credit” activity, the very first use of the USG referendum procedure.

In 1969, East Asian Studies and Near Eastern Studies, previously one department, were split and moved into Jones Hall. Prior to this move, Jones Hall was known as Fine Hall. The building’s previous tenant, the math department, was moved to a newly constructed building on Washington Road. This new Fine Hall stood at 13 stories and was described by the ‘Prince’ as Princeton’s “first bonafide skyscraper.”

The word “Jadwin” also saw disproportionate usage throughout the 1970s, oftentimes in reference to Jadwin Gymnasium which opened in 1969.

February 7th, 1975

May 4th, 1970

June 20th, 1970



Following the 1980s’ growth of computer usage in schools, computers starred in many newspaper articles. In the summer of 1980, the University announced that it would be offering its first introductory computer science course geared towards humanities majors: EECS 103. Princeton strove to make computer usage accessible to students by providing computer facilities on campus, though some computers were reported to be stolen from such clusters.

The 1980s’ increase in court cases addressing sexual harassment — and the landmark decision of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986) where the Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment violates the Civil Rights Act — sparked conversations nationwide. The spike in reporting on harassment, including coverage on major incidents of harassment at peer instituitions, prompted the University to revise sexual harassment policies and host sexual harassment trainings.

On campus, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) became increasingly visible, hosting frequent forums to allow members of the campus community to voice their opinions. At the start of the 1980s, the University established the residential college system, which originated from Woodrow Wilson’s 1906 “Quad Plan” and would later become an integral part of Princeton’s campus life and undergraduate experience.

In 1979, Sally Frank ’80 fought for gender equality when she sued the three remaining all-male eating clubs: Cottage Club, Ivy Club, and Tiger Inn (TI). Although pushback persisted from Ivy and TI, Cottage became coed in 1986, and Frank donated $2,000 of her $20,000 settlement with the club to Princeton’s Women*s Center. In 1989, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to hear Frank’s case, and shortly after, both Ivy and TI voted to accept women in February of 1990.

Read more: How the Eating Clubs Went Co-Ed

February 9th, 1989

April 6th, 1987

December 10th, 1987



During the Clinton years, as many American politicians were growing increasingly interested in environmentalism, use of the word “environmental” skyrocketed at the ‘Prince.’ Student-led environmental groups began new publications, released studies, and campaigned for sustainable reforms on campus. The University also founded the Princeton Environmental Institute in 1994, now known as the High Meadows Environmental Institute.

Other frequently used terms in the decade referred to the worldwide AIDS epidemic: By 1994, the disease was the leading cause of death in Americans between the age of 25 and 44. Throughout the 1990s, Princeton hosted ​​events for annual world AIDS awareness week, and editorials in the ‘Prince’ stressed the urgency of fighting the pandemic, calling it “perhaps the defining plague of our time.”

In sports-related coverage, volleyball became a varsity sport at Princeton in 1997, and the softball team became the first Ivy team to post 12 league victories.

The word “machine” was also used disproportionately throughout the 1990s, referring to, among other things, The Daily Princetonian’s fax machine number. At the time, some students even had their own personal facsimile machines, “the ultimate in student high-tech gadgetry.”

The ‘Prince’ also disproportionately mentioned the word “television” during the ’90s. By 1995, about 50 percent of dorm rooms were wired for cable, although underclassmen in residential colleges were not allowed to subscribe, forcing first-years and sophomores to rely on communal televisions to stay up-to-date on shows like “Seinfeld” and “90210,” released one night a week.

March 29th, 1991

December 2nd, 1997

April 8th, 1993



In 2001, Princeton became the nation’s first university to implement a “no loan” financial aid program: a pioneering decision that helped students graduate debt-free and inspired institutions across the country to do the same. The following year, the University announced that for the first time in Princeton’s history, 50 percent of the first-years received financial aid. For the next two decades, Princeton’s financial aid packages would go on to benefit over 10,000 students.

In the years leading up to and at the turn of the 21st century, the ‘Prince’ reported more on drinking culture on campus, including the eating clubs’ role in fostering a safer environment for college drinking compared to unsupervised, underage drinking. The Amethyst Initiative petition, introduced by then Middlebury College President John McCardell, advocated lowering the drinking age to 18. While some presidents of peer institutions supported the petition, then-President Shirley Tilghman did not see high potential in its success or certainty in its outcomes.

Colloquial terms such as “guys” and “girls” were disproportionately used during this century, especially in more playful sections of the newspaper, such as Kiss & Tell and Street’s Top Ten. Top Ten was a popular section among readers in the 2000s that aligned with the weekly issue’s theme, synthesizing reader submissions and exploring a variety of fun, random topics such as the top 10 theme songs for buildings on campus and the top 10 chick flicks guys actually like.

March 13th, 2003

April 10th, 2009

March 27th, 2008



The rise of social media in the 2010s transformed life at Princeton and beyond. For the first time, entire classes of alumni could stay in touch on Facebook, sparking more than a few controversies. Online confessions pages allowed any student to anonymously share their experiences at Princeton.

The University itself began using Facebook and Twitter to help reach current and potential students. In February 2010, Princeton University had about 11,000 Facebook fans, “991 times less popular than Michael Jackson.” The ‘Prince’ also started to cultivate a social media following, urging our readers to “procrastinate productively” by liking our Facebook page.

The Black Justice League, a student group dedicated to fighting anti-Black racism, was founded in the fall of 2014 as racial justice uprisings swept the nation. A year later, the group orchestrated a march on Nassau Hall, calling on the University to create affinity spaces for Black students, mandate cultural competency training for faculty, and remove Woodrow Wilson Class of 1879’s name from Princeton’s policy school and first residential college, among other demands.

The ‘Prince’ also disproportionately used “assault” and “violence” throughout the decade, reporting on misconduct and giving a space for survivors to share their stories publically. In order to promote sexual health on campus, The Sexpert, a moniker for a team of peer health educators, also wrote prolifically in the 2010s — answering questions on everything from circumcision to female ejaculation.

During the 2010s, the Princeton student body considered several different referendums on topics including USG reform, bicker, and the use of Sabra hummus in dining halls, as some students pushed for divestment from the Israeli brand. An annual, University-wide Mental Health Week also began during the decade, sponsored by the newly formed USG Mental Health Initiative.

Read more: A look back at the Black Justice League’s campus activism

September 13th, 2013

November 19th, 2015

November 30th, 2015



This tool is case insensitive and best used for searching single words, not phrases with spaces. A more advanced search tool can be found on the Princeton University Library website.

For more information on the data sources used to generate these charts, you can read our methodology section below.


Data Sources

The data used in our analysis for all years proceeding 2015 was sourced directly from Mudd Library, which shared with the ‘Prince’ a database containing optical character recognition (OCR) data from the Larry DuPraz archive. We did not independently verify this database against the raw image data in the archive or Princeton University Library’s archive explorer. For years succeeding 2015, the ‘Prince’ used data from internal web archives.

Data Cleaning

We first removed all tokens of the form ’xx to prevent class year attributions from dominating frequency analysis. We removed all capitalization and punctuation in order to ensure that errors in OCR, which can frequently miscaptialize letters or insert unnecessary punctuation, would not prevent terms from being recognized. This means that all emblematic terms are not case sensitive, e.g. tokens like “princeton,” “Princeton,” “pRinceton” are all recognized as the same term.

Term Extraction

The ‘Prince’ used a whitespace tokenizer to count word frequencies for each decade. Then, for each analyzed decade, we compared the frequency of all terms in that decade against a corpus containing data for that decade and the preceding and following decades. For the 2010s and 1880s, we used the single neighboring decade. Like The Pudding, we only included words that were used at least once in 10,000 words in each decade to ensure the relevancy of analyzed terms. Using each decade’s list of disproportionately used words, we then searched the archives to find historically and culturally relevant uses of those words to share in the summaries.


Anika Maskara is a Head Web Design and Development Editor and a Staff Data Reporter focused on digital storytelling and interactive visualization. She is a senior and can be reached at amaskara@princeton.edu or on Instagram @anikamaskara.

Elaine Huang is an Assistant Data Editor for The Daily Princetonian. She is a sophomore concentrating in Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) and can be reached at eh0313@princeton.edu.