Beverly Schaefer
How do this year’s freshmen stack up with their numerical predecessors?

Beverly Schaefer

Princeton’s Class of 2017, the most diverse in University history, may not look much like the previous classes of ’17, 1817 and 1917. But they do share one common bond: all three entered college at a time when a Princetonian was living in the White House (James Madison 1771, Woodrow Wilson 1879, and Michelle Obama ’85, respectively). Read more about the freshmen in the Oct. 9 issue and see how they compare with their forebears below.

Nassau Herald, 1917


Class of 1817: 58

Class of 1917: 430

Class of 2017: 1,291

Not all of the 1813 newcomers were freshmen — at the time, it was not uncommon to enter as a sophomore or junior. The University Archives lists 24 graduates from the class. The Class of 1917 included one of Princeton’s most famous dropouts, author F. Scott Fitzgerald, left.


Class of 1817: $200 (estimated)

Class of 1917: $480 (tuition, room, and board)

Class of 2017: $56,759 (tuition, room, board, and expenses)

What a difference 200 years makes: In 1813, $2.75 covered a week’s worth of board at the college. In 2013, it will get you a large coffee at campus cafés. The 19th-century students had some expenses that have been eliminated. For example, they were expected to procure about 15 pounds of candles per semester.

The Daily Princetonian Archives


Class of 1817: Upping the ante on an undergraduate prank, students explode a pound of gunpowder near the entrance to Nassau Hall.

Class of 1917: Last class to endure “horsing,” a freshman hazing practice banned in 1914.

Class of 2017: First class to receive the “Pre-read,” a communal summer reading assignment.

Finishing Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Honor Code (264 pages) sounds like a piece of cake when compared to common “horsing” tasks administered by sophomores, such as pushing a penny on the ground with your nose. It’s also far safer than the infamous gunpowder incident, which led to criminal charges for at least one student.


Class of 1817: Students share campus with the new Princeton Seminary (established in 1812).

Class of 1917: Princeton formally dedicates the Graduate College.

Class of 2017: Christopher Eisgruber ’83 is installed as Princeton’s 20th president.

Former President William Taft spoke at the Graduate College dedication, memorializing President Grover Cleveland, who lived in Princeton for the last decade of his life. For this fall’s freshmen, the Eisgruber installation was a memorable — and rockin’ — event, complete with a concert by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.