102. Leonard Jerome and the Cannon Wars


In 1838, Leonard Jerome ’1839, pictured here, organized a hundred students to bring back to campus a cannon used during the Battle of Princeton in the Revolutionary War.  The cannon had been taken to New Brunswick during the War of 1812, but two decades later, its ownership was contested by Princeton townsmen.  In 1835, a military company of Princeton citizens succeeded in returning the big gun back to the outskirts of town before their wagon broke.  For three years, it remained abandoned on the side of a road until Jerome’s efforts brought the cannon to the front lawn of Nassau Hall.  In 1840, the weapon was planted muzzle down behind Nassau Hall (in the lawn that has come to be known as Cannon Green) to protect it from retaliatory raids of Rutgers College students.  For many years thereafter, claims of cannon ownership by students from the two schools brought about ill will and occasional violence until 1869, when Rutgers students challenged their Princeton counterparts to a controlled athletic competition, resulting in a historic event on November 6, 1869—the first ever intercollegiate football match.  Leonard Jerome was forced to withdraw from Princeton for financial reasons shortly after the cannon stunt; after earning a degree from Union College, he went on to make a fortune on Wall Street, and later, his daughter became the mother of Winston Churchill.