Princeton SATC

Princeton Student Naval Training Corps, 1918. From The Princeton Bric-a-Brac Vol. XLIV, June 1, 1919

Princeton Student Naval Training Corps, 1918. From The Princeton Bric-a-Brac Vol. XLIV, June 1, 1919

Princeton University proved to be an interesting example of a successful protective sequestration. As in other universities, nearly the entire student body was enrolled in either the Student Army or Student Naval Training Corps. Unlike other universities, however, Princeton managed to escape the epidemic with relatively few cases and no student deaths.

At a Glance:

  • Type of Site: University, with Student ArmyTraining Corps and Student Naval Training Corps.
  • Population: 1,142 men at the University; 92%enrollment in SATC and SNTC.
  • Pop. Density: 3,176 ppl./sq. mi in town.
  • Geographical Considerations: Princeton University is adjacent to the borough of Princeton.
  • Influenza Cases: Approx. 400 in town; 68 cases in training corps as of Dec. 1918; 192 cases campus-wide for the 1918–1919 school year.
  • Influenza Deaths: 32 deaths in town; 1 on campus (a professor); 0 in student body.
  • First Reported Case: Sept. 5, 1918.
  • NPI Implemented: Students forbidden from entering off-campus buildings; disinfecting plant treated all entering campus; rigid inspection every morning by medical officer; ventilation of barracks; isolation of suspected cases.

Case Study

The Town of Princeton and the Influenza Epidemic

In 1918, Princeton, New Jersey, had a population of approximately 5,700, not including 1,142 university students. On October 1, 1918, in response to the influenza pandemic, the Princeton Board of Health ordered closed all places of public gathering, including schools, churches, movie theaters, and pool halls. The action was taken as a precaution; although influenza-related pneumonia had claimed two lives in Princeton, the area was not yet widely affected by the pandemic. Interestingly, the USPHS formed a military sanitation board for the town, consisting of the local health officer and several military and merchant marine officers. This board was given “unlimited authority to enforce all federal and state sanitary codes, and to regulation [sic] of conditions through the town.” The board promised to deal severely with any violations of public health measures.

By October 18, influenza had reached epidemic status in the town of Princeton. The local newspaper reported that more than 300 cases of influenza and 50 cases of pneumonia had been reported, with 15 of these cases resulting in death. The town influenza hospital, opened only a week earlier, was now full.

On Sunday, November 3, the town lifted its closure order. It was one of the last towns or cities in New Jersey to do so. Although the number of new cases was declining, and fewer than 16 people had died in the town from influenza-related pneumonia, the epidemic was still raging in nearby cities, especially New York City. Local authorities therefore urged residents to continue to exercise caution. Those suffering from suspected cases of influenza were urged to keep out of contact with others, and families were advised to maintain a separate room for members who were sick.

Princeton University and the Various Student Military Training Corps

Like many universities at the time, in fall of 1918 Princeton University was temporarily transformed into a mobilization and training camp for U.S. military troops to be sent to fight on the European front. Indeed, in 1918 the vast majority (1,047 or 92 percent) of Princeton University’s student body of 1,142 students, entered into the various branches of the military training corps, including the Army, Navy, Aeronautical, and Paymaster’s School. Of this number, 706 were inducted into the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) and 341 into the Student Navy Training Corps (SNTC). Only 95 of the school’s student body—those graduate students, those not of age 18 upon enrollment, or those physically disqualified—were not in one of the military training corps. It is reasonable to assume that the majority of these 1,142 men were single and without children.

The first influenza case in the university appeared on September 5 in the Navy Paymaster’s School. With that case, the University immediately began to isolate all those presenting with symptoms of upper respiratory infection. Perhaps because of these isolation measures mixed with a healthy dose of good fortune, only five cases appeared in September. On October 1, 200 men from the Naval Training Camp at Pelham Bay Park in New York arrived at the Paymaster’s School by rail. The Pelham camp experienced very high influenza and mortality rates during the pandemic, and it is therefore not surprising that the Princeton training corps’ first cases appeared among the men from Pelham Bay Park. Several measures were taken to prevent the spread of pandemic influenza. Upon their arrival at Princeton, each man was medically examined for influenza symptoms and all were treated with a nasopharyngeal spray consisting of chlorazene solution and menthol. Suspected cases were sent to sick quarters for isolation and observation.

In addition, students of the Paymaster’s School were separated from other Princeton students by geography and practice. First, the Paymaster Corps was housed at Princeton University’s graduate school. Second, each of the two battalions had its own instructor and four assistants, occupied its own lecture and reading rooms, and slept in its own dormitory building. Much of daily life for the Paymaster Corps, therefore, was kept separate from other Princeton University student trainees. This separation was not absolute, however, as Paymaster cadets had a daily evening recreation period from 5:00 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. Evidence also suggests that some students may have been given weekend leave, although given the protective sequestration measures taken during this period, it is unclear if such leave allowed for off-campus travel.

Starting in October, with the onset of the epidemic in the town of Princeton, all student trainees transferred to Princeton University from other locations were disinfected at a specially constructed disinfecting plant. Rigid inspections were carried out each morning by an attending physician or by another designated officer to detect and isolate all cases or suspected cases. University President James Hibben designated the Princeton Athletic Club field house as an isolation hospital, which only admitted what were deemed to be “serious cases.” Two medical assistants from the Paymaster’s School were detailed to help at the field house, along with an orderly and an extra day and extra night nurse. For several weeks after the Board of Health ordered Princeton’s public places closed, university students were prohibited from crossing Nassau Street (cordon sanitaire) or entering any off-campus buildings. Passes for travel out of town were strictly withheld, and only allowed “where exceptional circumstances of great weight render such furloughs very necessary.” Barracks were kept well ventilated and bedding was aired out regularly. In the Paymaster’s School, cots in the dormitories were separated by at least five feet of space. Intense training requirements were relaxed so as not to overexert the cadets, and wherever possible training was done either outdoors or in a way to reduce crowding.

As influenza and pneumonia cases mounted in the town of Princeton, student trainees came under more restrictions. The various student military training units posted a line of sentries, mostly freshmen, around each dormitory every evening, forbidding student cadets to enter or leave without a proper pass. Members of the training corps were forbidden to patronize ice cream parlors or to loiter on Nassau Street, the main thoroughfare through Princeton. Handkerchiefs were worn around the arms of these sentries to distinguish them from other students, and to indicate that they had the authority to stop student trainees. Although students were kept on campus, however, there is no indication that faculty were restricted in their movements. Neither were parents, several of whom, on at least one occasion, visited their children, much to the chagrin of the officers.

Due in part to the measures implemented, there were only 68 cases of influenza and no deaths among the S.A.T.C. cadets during the second wave of the epidemic, although one faculty member died of pneumonia. No morbidity data exists for the SNTC men. These numbers compare quite favorably to the experience of other universities with military training corps. For example, the 2,570-member SATC at the University of Michigan (the largest SATC organized in the United States at this time) experienced 1,207 cases of influenza and at least 59 deaths. Dartmouth experienced 325 cases and at least five deaths. Harvard experienced 136 influenza cases and two deaths out of its 1,450-member SATC.

Research Materials


Archival Material:

The Princeton Packet
Date Title PDF
9/6/1918 Princeton To Adopt New Army Plan pp01
9/27/1918 University Now Under Government Control pp02
10/4/1918 Health Board Stops Public Gatherings pp03
10/4/1918 Two Spanish Influenza Victims Here pp03
10/4/1918 The Local Influenza Situation pp04
10/4/1918 No School! pp05
10/4/1918 Spanish Influenza pp06
10/4/1918 Board Closes Schools pp07
10/11/1918 Princeton Now Has a Town Hospital pp08
10/11/1918 Special Notice pp09
10/11/1918 Liberty Programme Cancelled By Health Board pp09
10/11/1918 Red Cross Column pp10
10/18/1918 Health Board’s More Stringent Restrictions pp11
10/18/1918 Guards on the Campus pp12
10/18/1918 Uncle Sam’s Advice on Flu pp13
10/25/1918 Hospital Proving a Great Help During the Epidemic pp14
10/25/1918 Board of Health Notice pp15
11/1/1918 Quarantine To Be Lifted This Sunday pp16
11/8/1918 Town May Have a Permanent Hospital pp17
11/29/1918 S.A.T.C. to Demobilize on December First pp18
12/6/1918 Advice to ‘Flu’ Convalescents pp19
12/6/1918 U.S. Health Service Issues Warning pp19
12/20/1918 Health Board Holds Meeting pp20
12/27/1918 Influenza pp21

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Records of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Record Group 52, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC
Box/Folder From/To Date Description or Title PDF
Box 584/F:130212 D-4 Princeton Material School for the Pay Corps to W. Braisted 10/18/1918 Approx. 500 men at the school; sanitary conditions of Princeton (town) are very good; rooms are being well ventilated; describes influenza situation in Princeton and in the training corps bumed_sntc01

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Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, War College Division and War Plans Division Subordinate Offices – Education and Recreation Branch Committee on Education and Special Training Records of the Student Army Training Corps Units, 1918-19, RG 165, NARA, College Park, MD
Box/Folder From/To Date Description or Title PDF
Box 473/F:211.26 Contract Surgeon Committee on Education to Commanding Officer [telegram] 9/25/1918 Asks that men be properly housed in warm quarters to safeguard their health. rg165satc01
W. MacLarin to Acting Surgeon Genl. 10/22/1918 Information regarding medical facilities on/near campus; there is a small college infirmary but no hospital nearby; will adapt a club house for hospital use if necessary. rg165satc02
W. MacLarin to Acting Surgeon Genl. 10/24/1918 Report on the sanitary conditions of the SATC; provides information on number of men, housing conditions, water supply, food and mess facilities, and care of sick. rg165satc03
Box 474/F:720.4 Health quarantine C. O’Connor to Senior Army Officer, Princeton SATC 10/8/1918 Copies a telegram regarding care of men during influenza epidemic; instruction to be carried out in open air and in lightened form to avoid overexertion. rg165satc04
C. O’Connor to Senior Army Officer, Princeton SATC 10/9/1918 Copies a telegram stating that all individual furloughs and leaves are to be suspended to avoid spread of influenza in civilian communities. rg165satc05
Box 474/F:720.5 Fumigation W. Mitchell to Princeton SATC 10/12/1918 Recommends that certain rooms be cleaned with carbolic solution and bedding and room be aired. rg165satc06
Box 474/F:Telegram from Comm of Ed&Spec.Trg Simpson to Princeton SATC 10/10/1918 Telegram ordering that specific numbers of men be sent to certain camps, regardless of quarantine at Princeton or at destination; only men who are not ill are to be sent. rg165satc07
Simpson to Princeton SATC 10/10/1918 Copy of same telegram as above. rg165satc08
Box 474/F:Monthly Rosters & Reports J. Carnochan to Medical Dept., US Army 10/1918 “Sanitary Report” for Princeton SATC. rg165satc09
Box 475/F: (unidentified) J. Pearson to Committee on Education and Special Training 10/16/1918 “Bi-Weekly Report to War Department”; includes information on health, food, and housing at Princeton SATC. rg165satc10
J. Pearson to Committee on Education and Special Training 10/31/1918 “Bi-Weekly Report to War Department”; includes information on health, food, and housing at Princeton SATC. rg165satc11
J. Pearson to Committee on Education and Special Training 11/15/1918 “Bi-Weekly Report to War Department”; includes information on health, food, and housing at Princeton SATC. rg165satc12
J. Pearson to Committee on Education and Special Training 11/30/1918 “Semi-Monthly Report”; includes information on health, food, and housing at Princeton SATC. rg165satc13
Box 474/F:352.1 Circular Information R. Rees to SATCs 12/2/1918 Encloses an order and instructs that it be published and read to the commands at the last formation prior to discharge of the bulk of men; statement to be read commends the men for their service. rg165satc14

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Historical Subject Files, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Box/Folder From/To Date Description or Title PDF
Historical Subject Files, Box 279/F: McCosh Infirmary General, 1916-1990 “Why Princeton Needs a New Infirmary”; discusses the lack of adequate medical facilities at Princeton during the influenza epidemic. mudd01
Box 280/F: McCosh Infirmary Reports, 1919 Report 1919 “Ladies Auxiliary to the Isabella McCosh Infirmary, Annual Report, 1918-1919”; includes information on influenza at Princeton training corps. mudd02
12/31/1919 Official Register of Princeton University, Vol. XI, No. 2, December 1919, “Annual Report of the President, 1919”; includes section on the infirmary. mudd03
Box 410/F: Military History, WWI Naval Training Unit C. Goodrich, Commandant Princeton SATC to Commandant, 3rd Naval District 1/23/1919 Provides general information on and history of the Princeton SNTC; states that the college was hard-hit during the influenza epidemic, and discusses the measures taken to deal with the crisis. mudd04
C. Goodrich Rear Admiral Caspar F. Goodrich, “The Princeton Naval Unit,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 45, No. 197 (July 1919); provides history of the Princeton SNTC. mudd05
10/16/1918 “The Daily Life of the Student Sailor,” The Princeton Alumni Weekly, 10/16/1918. mudd06
“Princeton in the Great War,” The Princeton Alumni Weekly, vol. 19, no. 3; discusses deaths, wounded, and citations for military service among Princeton students. mudd07
A. Ross to Secy of Navy 12/18/1918 “Inspection of Princeton Naval Unit and Paymaster Officer Material School”; provides numbers of men in unit; includes discussion of influenza epidemic. mudd08
Box 412/F: Military History, WWI American Red Cross, Atlantic Division, to All Chapters 10/6/1918 Discusses Red Cross’s conduct, operations, and command and control during the epidemic. mudd09
N. Baker, Secy of War, to Presidents of All Institutions of Collegiate Grade 5/8/1918 Informs them that the War Department will be instituting a new training program from college students. mudd10
Box 413/F: Military History, WWI Student Army Training Corps V. Collins 12/1918 “Report on Student Army Training Corps”; discusses how the SATC program worked; mentions influenza epidemic and use of measures to prevent spread of disease; includes report form to be used to send information to Army as to how SATCs affected college work. mudd11
R. Perry to ? 8/20/1918 Plan for organization of the Student Army Training Corps has been approved; provides some details on how the program is to work. mudd12
R. Kelly to State Directors and College Presidents 8/29/1918 Plans for SATC are moving ahead. mudd13
R. Perry to Presidents of SATC Institutions 12/11/1918 Asks each institution to make a statement so that a history of all units can be compiled; provides some general history of the SATC across the nation. mudd14
? to R. Handy 9/20/1918 Discusses the SATC and SNTC plans at Princeton, reimbursement for expenses, etc. mudd15
F. Smith/C. Briscoe to SATCs 11/14/1918 Informs that changes to the bi-weekly report forms have been made. mudd16
Box 71/F4: Letter from Pres. Hibben to CO, Bureau of Navigation Hibben to CO, Bureau of Navigation 3/8/1919 Expresses his appreciation for the services of Admiral Goodrich, especially during the influenza epidemic. mudd17
The Princeton Bric-a-Brac, June 1, 1919; provides information on the SATC and SNTC. mudd18
Catalogue of Princeton University, One Hundred and Seventy-Second Year, 1918-1919 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1918); provides numbers students and numbers of cadets in military training units. mudd19
Selden Collection Health Services Box 1, F: 1911-1920 6/14/1919 Infirmary report; discusses influenza epidemic and the infirmary’s role in it. mudd20
Office of President Hibben, AC #117, Box 71/F: 3 R. MacLaurin to J. Hibben [telegram] 10/18/1918 Appreciates the difficulties that early withdrawal of men presents. mudd21
J. Hibben to R. MacLaurin 10/19/1918 Acknowledges telegram of 10/18/1918; can take at least 200 more men in the Princeton SATC. mudd22
J. Hibben to R. MacLaurin 10/20/1918 Upset that 167 men have been withdrawn when it was Hibben’s understanding that no students would be taken until January 1; if the policy continues, all academic work will be futile. mudd23
R. Reese to J. Hibben 10/22/1918 Military necessity dictates that SATC men be withdrawn on occasion; plans for replacements will be announced presently. mudd24
J. Hibben to R. Reese 10/23/1918 Despite difficulties with withdrawals, Princeton is prepared to meet any demands upon its forces. mudd25
R. MacLaurin to J. Hibben 10/24/1918 Understands financial implications of early withdrawal of student trainees, and every effort will be made to replace those men as soon as possible. mudd26
AC #117, Box 71/F: 4 J. Hibben to R. Reese 12/2/1918 While the military wishes to maintain a training corps at the university, students are now desirous of returning to normal course of study; it would be difficult therefore to re-establish an Officers Reserve Training Corps at the start of the new term in January. mudd27

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