October 22, 1746 — Princeton University received its charter today. Called the College of New Jersey (which was its name for the next 150 years), it was British North America’s fourth college devoted to the education of young men. It became co-educational in 1969.
Two Princeton alumni have served as US presidents — James Madison (Class of 1771), and Woodrow Wilson, (Class of 1879).
Located in Elizabeth for one year and then in Newark for nine, the College of New Jersey moved to Princeton in 1756. For nearly half a century, the entire college was housed in Nassau Hall in Princeton — classrooms, dormitories, library, chapel, dining room and kitchen. Nassau Hall, named to honor King William III, Prince of Orange (of the House of Nassau), was one of the largest buildings in the American colonies.
During the American Revolution, it survived occupation by soldiers from both sides and today bears a cannonball scar from the Battle of Princeton (Jan. 3, 1777). In 1783 the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall, thus making it the capitol of the United States for a short time.
As part of the sesquicentennial celebrations in 1896, the College of New Jersey changed its name to Princeton University and adopted as an informal motto “Princeton in the nation’s service,” the title of the keynote speech by Woodrow Wilson, then a faculty member. Six years later Wilson became Princeton’s 13th president. During his term of office (1902-10) plans for building the Graduate College were finalized, and what had been the College of New Jersey began to grow into a full-scale university.
Words of Wisdom
While at Princeton in 1771, James Madison is said to have slept only three hours of the 24, for months on end. Later he said: Whenever a youth is ascertained to possess talents meriting an education which his parents cannot afford, he should be carried forward at the public expense.