This faded and brittle photograph, bearing as its only identification the name of the photographer’s studio (“Rambo, Philadelphia”), turned up behind a wall in Witherspoon Hall during the 1973 renovations.
PAW, Feb. 26, 1974
From the PAW Archives

Summer on campus often is a time for refurbishing and renovating. That was the case in 1973 when the University set to work on Witherspoon Hall, then nearly a century old. In the process of replacing walls in the dormitory, workers turned up a trove of tiny artifacts left behind by students since the 1870s. PAW columnist Frederic Fox ’39 wrote about some of the items that turned up during construction.


By Frederic Fox ’39

(From the Feb. 26, 1974, issue of PAW)

Last summer, as the university was renovating Witherspoon Hall — to conform to New Jersey fire laws — I asked the foreman to save all the memorabilia found between the cracks.

“ ’Spoon,'” as the girls call it these days, was built in 1877, so it is exactly a hundred years older than the present freshman class. With its five floors, twelve luxury suites per floor, it has accommodated a good number of students over the century — including Woodrow Wilson '79 — and exactly 39 members of the Class of 1939.

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And they all dropped quite a lot between the cracks.

Much of the stuff appears to be bills from the controller or University Store. As the store wrote one student, Member No. 3861, if he didn’t pay his bill for $6.82 by the 10th of February 1916, his credit would be suspended. So he put the notice on the mantle of the fireplace where it slipped behind the woodwork.

Why Witherspoon never caught on fire, I don’t know. The students obviously smoked in their rooms. Several collected cigarette cards — like the famous Allen and Ginter’s (Richmond Straight Cut No. 1) “Birds of America” series — and they blamed their roommates when they somehow disappeared up the flue.

Of course, sports are represented. In the dusty loot, I found a schedule for the baseball team of 1922. It was printed with an advertisement from Johnny Hun, the Princeton tutor who prepared many athletes and non-athletes “for the June and September College Entrance Examinations.”

What have WE done?
What have WE done?
We’ve RUSHED the FRESH Class of ’91
Hobble Gobble Razzle Dazzle,
Siss-s-s, Boom, Ah!
’92 ’92 Rah! Rah!! Rah!!!

That was a brittle, fading boast found in a corner room by the first entry stairs.

Finally, there are pictures of pretty girls and words of advice from parents. The student who received the picture “'from his friend Pauletta” must have felt bereft when she fell behind the wall. And yet, despite the intervening years, she has remained as pretty as ever.

Perhaps a jealous grandmother blew it there. Young girls can be distracting to the academic work which is the main purpose of the university. “Are you in earnest?” wrote one old lady to her favorite grandson in 1907. “Then, seize this very minute. What you can do or think you can, begin it.” At the bottom she added plaintively, “Write to me.” So, he put her card on the mantle to remind him. Now, let it remind each one of us.