Ivy Dogs

Peter Putnam ’42 *50 and his guide dog Wick at Commencement, 1950. Historical Photograph Collection

Campus canines abound! Blog readers in the New Jersey area should definitely check out the Princeton 275 exhibit at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Curated by April C. Armstrong, Rosalba Varallo Recchia, and Iliyah Coles, the exhibit’s selections showcase Princeton University’s growth and transformation from its first charter in 1746 to today. It’s fascinating and thoughtful, touching on topics such as racial integration, coeducation, and inclusion. The Mudd Library exhibit is open to the public and free of charge.

What caught our eye at the exhibit was the image you see above. That’s Peter Putnum, Princeton undergraduate class of 1942 and Wick, his amazing guide dog. Putnam lost his sight between his sophomore and junior years, and, despite worries that the University would be able to accommodate him, graduated with high honors in modern languages. Putnum continued on to earn a Ph.D. in history and had a long career as a writer and activist.

You can read more stories behind the Princeton 275 exhibit here, but Wick got me and Katie thinking about other famous dogs on campus. We found some interesting connections, starting with the secret bulldog on the University Chapel!

Legend has it that the bulldog (the mascot of Princeton’s rival Yale) was sneakily added to the drainpipe by the Chapel architect, Ralph Adams Cram. The myth has since been debunked, as Cram did not attend Yale. But who knows? SOMEONE placed the bulldog on the drainpipe in Princeton tiger territory.

Another pair of famous canines are Bo and Sunny Obama. Though technically they never came to campus – former First Lady Michelle Obama was a Princeton student in the 1980s – we like to think they would have enjoyed being with her! Below is a White House holiday card sent to Princeton faculty member Toni Morrison, personally signed by the Presidential family (and the doggies!).

The Toni Morrison Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

We started with Wick, and we wanted to finish the post with another famous campus service dog currently on active duty. Meet Sgt. Alvan Flanders and Coach, two beloved members of Princeton University’s Department of Public Safety team.

Photo by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications

Coach is not a police canine in that she does not sniff for drugs or explosives. She was trained by Puppies Behind Bars, an organization that works with prison inmates to prepare dogs for community caretaking roles. Coach and Sgt. Flanders bring support, joy, comfort, and smiles to countless students.

Photo courtesy of Anne Kuehl

If you would like to see more historical images of dogs on campus from the Princeton University Archives (including Princeton’s capture of the Yale bulldog – perhaps in revenge for the drain pipe?) you will find the gallery here.


Many thanks to April Armstrong for the personal tour of the Princeton 275 exhibit, which runs through October 30th, 2022

Ode to the Toad

Last week, we delved into the fascinating world of alchemy at the current , “Through the Glass Darkly: Alchemy and the Ripley Scrolls 1400-1700” exhibit. In our journeys, however, we did notice one thing. Both in history and alchemy, toads get no love.

In alchemy, the toad represents the “prime matter” an alchemist would use at the start of an experiment. Prime matter was the humble, plain, basic, ugly stuff that would eventually transform into greatness. Unfortunately, the toad was chosen to represent this undesirability. As expressed in this natural history book from 1809:

A Natural History of British Quadrupeds, Foreign Quadrupeds, British Birds, Water Birds, Foreign Birds, Fishes, Reptiles, Serpents, & Insects. Alnwick, England. W. Davison. 1809.

Well, this makes us sad. Toads are great! So the Cotsen team dug into the special collections vaults to find some awesome, jolly, and sweet historical representations of toads to share with you today…

Goldsmith’s History of Fishes, Reptiles and Insects & c. Thos. Tegg & Son. ; London. ; Smith, Elder, & Co. 1838.

Sad garden toad : and other stories / by Marion Bullard. New York : E. P. Dutton & Co., c1924.

Toad / by Carol Cunningham. [Mill Valley, Calif.] : Sunflower Press, 1983.

Die Honriche : ein Märchen / von Christian Bärmann. München : Hugo Schmidt, c1923.

Bronze toad coin. Place: Luceria, Apulia, Italy. Earliest date: -300. Latest date: -280


Special thanks to Cotsen intern, Aubrey Roberts, for researching this post :)

C is for Cotsen

C is for Canoe 4

From African A.B.C. by Norah Senior. Pan-African Books. ; West African Publishing Co., 1959. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library.

It’s time for the annual #ColorOurCollections, hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine! Each year libraries, archives, and cultural institutions around the world share free coloring sheets based on their collections. You might recall the Coloring Feathers post we did in 2021…but this year, we went alphabetical with “C is for Cotsen,” celebrating some of the cool alphabet books we have in our special collections vaults!

Our coloring pages consist of seven images spanning 1805-1959, including this hilarious one from 1840, “C is for Collision.” It was so completely random for an alphabet book, Katie and I had a good laugh over it

C is for Collision 2

R. Cruikshank’s Comic Alphabet by Robert Cruikshank. Darton and Clark (Holborn Hill), c1840. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library.

You can see our complete coloring pages here. In addition to the coloring activity, we thought it would be fun to revisit some of our fun alphabet posts. Here there are, in no particular order, starting with some tabletop topiary letters:

so very verdant

A story time where we rounded up some letters on the ranch!

hey uA popular DIY keychain project we designed for a community event table:

red letter day Our review of some awesome spelling straws:

sip n spellWe discover the cutest alphabet tactile toys, ever:

alphabet playtime

A gorgeous letter art activity for teens and tweens:

We test out some amazing vanishing paper for some free floating fun:

laserjet-testAnnnnnnd there was that time we filled our library with 130 giant inflatable alphabet letters:

balloons in entry 3