When did the College of New Jersey change its name to Princeton University?
The College of New Jersey, founded in 1746, changed its name to Princeton
University during the culmination of the institution's Sesquicentennial Celebration
in 1896. Historically, the University was often referred to as "Nassau,"
"Nassau Hall," "Princeton College," or "Old North."
The College began to expand and diversify its curriculum during the latter
half of the 19th-century. President James McCosh (1868-1888) was the driving
force behind this expansion and was the leading advocate of the name change.
Under McCosh the College established schools of science, philosophy,
and art and began to offer graduate degrees. The College also expanded
physically with Chancellor Green Library, Dickinson Hall, the Marquand
Chapel, the School of Science Building, and several other buildings erected
during the McCosh era. Similarly, the student body grew to over 600,
and the number of faculty increased nearly four-fold, from ten to 37.
While the trustees and alumni alike supported McCosh's expansion of the
College, his belief that Princeton should proclaim itself a University
or risk falling behind many of its rival institutions was not received
with equal favor. There were many who believed that Princeton should retain
its traditions and remain focused on undergraduate education with a lower
The debate over the name change arose again in November 1892 when the
special committee of the faculty appointed to plan the Sesquicentennial
Celebration proposed renaming the College of New Jersey to Princeton University
as the climax of the celebration. As before, the proposal was received
with mixed emotions. The committee presented its case to the trustees
and, ultimately, they were convinced. On October 22, 1896, before an excited,
capacity crowd in Alexander Hall, President Francis L. Patton proclaimed,
"It is with my pleasure, for expression of which I have no equivalent
in words, to say that the wishes of the alumni in this respect have at
last finally been realized; to say that the faculty, trustees, and alumni
stand together, and, as with the voice of one man, give their hearty approval.
. . . It is my great pleasure to say that from this moment what heretofore
for one hundred and fifty years has been known as the College of New Jersey
shall in all future time be known as Princeton University."
Sesquicentennial Celebration Records, c. 1887-1933
Tad Bennicoff (2003)
Tuesday, 24-Apr-2012 14:04:02 EDT