In Praise of Old Nassau

In Praise of Old Nassau

A couple of columns back I reported about the Princeton Club of New York going belly up. Princeton doesn’t regularly appear in these portals, but in December Old Nassau joined the Press family via marriage when Rebecca Whitman, Princeton Class of ’93, became my daughter-in-law. Pictured at her 25th reunion in front of her eating club Terrace, Rebecca was nationally ranked 40th in the country as a junior tennis player on the satellite professional tour.

J. Press opened its Princeton store in 1936 and searching the archives @ivy-style I rediscovered a Princeton-J. Squeeze footnote. The store didn’t last long after Pearl Harbor, but was still around in April 1942 when the town held a wartime blackout. The Daily Princetonian ran an exposé:

 Streetlights were extinguished at once. Immediately all traffic stopped. Dormitory lights on the campus as well as lights in town residences went out instantly. J. Press was late to the game and caused a riot in town. The store lights in the front window on the store on Palmer Square were a few minutes late in going off and an angry crowd of some 300 students rushed to the spot shouting ‘Smash his windows.’

 My dad, Paul Press, duly protested the charge:

"The failure to turn out the lights promptly was not the fault of management. Lou Prager, who heads up our Princeton branch informed me the incident was the result of an oversight by the night watchman responsible for turning out the lights. He failed to follow blackout instructions for some time until after the blackout began. He was immediately fired."

Manager Lou Prager and his remaining staff shortly thereafter joined Uncle Sam for duty. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. Within the year, the lights would go out at the Princeton store for good. The 1930s focal point of our family business was New Haven.

Princetonian F. Scott Fitzgerald once warned his daughter in her first year at Vassar, “Beware the Yale wolves in their J. Press tweeds.” F. Scott Fitzgerald was a dyed in the wool Princetonian. His fatal heart attack occurred reading the Princeton Alumni Magazine. 

Tune every heart and every voice,
Bid every care withdraw.
Let all with one accord rejoice,
In praise of Old Nassau


Scott F luckily never told daughter Scottie to eschew any contact with his good friend, Yaleman Gerald Murphy. Murphy loaned her money to finish at Vasser, after Scott died, nearly broke.

Vern Trotter

Out on the wind-swept plains of West Texas, there wasn’t much tennis, and the golf was more about the gamble. But during college, I saw a Jack Kramer sponsored exhibition between Stan Smith (Jack’s son John went to nearby Webb School), and Bob Lutz, and that match inspired me to dedicate my Rockefeller Trial-Year at Yale to the acquisition of a tennis game. What an addition Rebecca will make to the family round robin!

Van E Smith

Thank you for your kind words Richard Press! I am so honored to be a part of the Press legacy! I love you and you family, especially your son! I am sitting here writing this on our honeymoon!❤️
And John LEE…your comments made me cry! You are soo witty! Wow! What a loyal Princeton Tiger you and your family are!! 3 Cheers for Old Nassau!!!🐅🐅🐅

Rebecca Whitman

The Princeton Club received zero financial support from Princeton U. This, along with the pandemic and massive cultural shifts we’re still trying to understand, rendered the closing inevitable.


Jonathan Edwards was a Yale man through and through, but in 1758 he accepted Princeton College’s invitation to become its President. Alas, he was in office less than two months before he died from a fever related to a smallpox vaccination. I’m sure there’s a sermon in here somewhere for ears to hear.

Robert W. Emmaus