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Singing has a long tradition at Princeton University. Original songs written by Princeton students and alumni go back at least two centuries. In 1869, three undergraduates, George K. Ward (Class of 1869), A. Bailey Kelly (Class of 1870), and John C. Pennington (Class of 1871) compiled the first Carmina Princetonia, a collection of 77 songs "peculiar to Princeton." The tradition of publishing Carmina Princetonia continues to this day, in addition to campus and class songbooks.

In this online exhibition we provide the music in sound and print of famous Princeton songs: the Alma Mater 'Old Nassau', 'The Orange and the Black', 'The Princeton Cannon Song' and 'Going Back to Nassau Hall'.

Step singing, Nassau Hall 1947

Old Nassau

Old Nassau is the Alma Mater of Princeton University, sung at every University celebration and reunion. Harlan Page Peck, Class of 1862, sent the lyrics to the Nassau Literary Magazine in 1859, winning the magazine's prize for the best college song. The song was originally set to the tune of Auld Lang Syne until a German tutor, Karl A. Langlotz, wrote the music later in 1859. (His violin is found in the University Archives' Memorabilia Collection.)

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Hear the song (updated lyrics)


The Orange and the Black

The first recorded use of Princeton's colors occurred in 1867, when the Class of 1869 Base Ball Club wore badges of orange ribbon with black printing provided by George K. Ward (Class of 1869). In 1874 the colors were worn during an intercollegiate rowing regatta in Saratoga and thereafter also by athletic teams. In 1888 the song The Orange and the Black followed, written by Clarence B. Mitchell, (Class of 1889) to a tune arranged by Ernest Carter (Class of 1888). It soon won a place in Princeton lore. At the left the sheet music of another Orange and Black written by A. Willis Hunt and published in 1897 as a march and two-step without lyrics.

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Hear the song

The Princeton Cannon Song

The Princeton Cannon Song was created in 1906 by J.F. Hewitt and A.H. Osborn, both of the Class of 1907, and dedicated to their class. The front page of the first edition of the Princeton Cannon Song (shown at the right) reads:

The "cannon" is a revolutionary relic planted muzzle down on the campus. Football victories over traditional rivals are celebrated around it by the light of a huge bonfire, for which the Freshman Class supplies the fuel.

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Going Back to Nassau Hall

After Old Nassau, Going Back to Nassau Hall is one of the most popular Princeton songs. Kenneth Sherman Clark, Class of 1905, wrote it in 1910 as a reunion song. Clark authored songs and music for the Triangle Club, and composed athletic cheers and tributes such as The Scoreboard Song, and Princeton Hockey Song. He also wrote several well-known Princeton songs including The Princeton Jungle March and Princeton Forward March to Victory. In 1944 he was awarded a varsity letter for his musical contributions to the Department of Athletics. Clark was the first non-athlete to receive this distinction.

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Hear the song

Text Source: Carmina Princetonia, the Songbook of Princeton University (Centennial Edition)
All music from Going Back: Songs of Old Nassau featuring the Princeton University Band, Tigertones, and Tigerlilies, copyright 1994.
Special thanks to the staff of the Mendel Music Library for providing these songs in RealPlayer format.

Mendel Music Library
Mudd Library Music Collections:

Princeton Music Collection

Old Nassau Music Collection


© 2001 Princeton University Library