October 24, 2007: Features
Going back to the ’30s
“Princeton has furnished its full quota to the army of the unemployed,” began the 1931 report of the local Community League, a civic group. That’s one view of the town during the Depression years, which come to life — through photographs, documents, and artifacts, including what’s said to be Albert Einstein’s favorite chair — in an exhibition at the Historical Society of Princeton. While life at the University continued pretty much as usual (though a newspaper article on display notes the increased demand for financial aid), the years were harsher for townsfolk. The Community League mounted relief drives to help feed and clothe the needy, and Italian immigrants who had come to build Princeton’s collegiate gothic campus found themselves out of work when construction wound down. The beginning of the decade saw the founding of the Institute for Advanced Study; the end, the creation of Palmer Square, which displaced many poor and minority residents. And after the Depression years led into the war years, changes would come even more furiously, with school desegregation, massive growth at the University, and farmland giving way to development, says Eileen Morales, the exhibition curator. “The 1930s in Princeton,” she says, “were in many ways the end of an era in the town’s history.”
“Princeton in the 1930s” runs through July 13, 2008, at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau St., in Princeton. Admission is free. For more information, call (609) 921-6748 or visit www.princetonhistory.org.
Photos courtesy Historical Society of Princeton .