Davidson Monthly

Image of cover
Cover issue of the Davidson Monthly, released 2 months ahead of schedule.

The Davidson Monthly, first published in March 1870, was a magazine created by Davidson College students, and could be purchased for just two dollars for a ten month subscription. The six editors of the Monthly were seniors “chosen by the two literary societies [the Eumenean and Philanthropic literary societies], three from each.” In the 1880s, it would undergo a name change to The Davidson College Magazine and, again in the 1920’s to The Chameleon.

Subtitled “A Magazine Devoted to Science, Literature and Art,” The Davidson Monthly reported on local events, published the important speeches and resolutions of the Eumenean and Philanthropic literary societies, and ran editorials and other fillers, but the focus of the magazine was poetry, prose, and essays written by Davidson students and alumni. Subjects included stories concerning or extolling the South, essays on religion and scripture, essays on poets, writers, and their works, woman’s nature, and students’ reflections and philosophies.

The Davidson Monthly got off to a discouraging start. As a student-organized organization, the editors had to find the participation, publishers, printers, and most importantly the funding. The only funding provided by Davidson College was the money paid for advertisement space. In the editorial section of the inaugural March issue, the editors apologized for not beginning publication in January as originally intended due to the unexpectedly few number of subscribers (1890,
38). The editors hoped to “furnish some pleasant pastime for the firesides of our patrons, and elicit for our efforts the approval and support of the sturdy participants in the arena of active life” and further hoped that their efforts be applied “to intellectual culture, and the dissemination of mental light”(1890, 36-7).

They found that their hopes were greater than their readership and support. After the first volume, the price for advertisements was decreased to attract advertisers as a supplement to the cost of operations. Throughout its short beginning, the editors pleaded year after year, issue upon issue, that the Alumni and students contribute not only their subscriptions, but also their literature to the Monthly. By the spring of 1872, the Monthly was nearing its end. At the beginning of academic year, the magazine was already $80 in debt from the previous year’s printings, which they were able to pay off. During that last year, subscriptions were not paid and the student body was fearful that the newly accrued $40 debt would increase and fall upon their shoulders in the future. The Monthly was forced to end its operations with the final, March 1872 issue.

Fortunately, The Davidson Monthly was revitalized by the Eumenean and Philanthropic societies in February 1886. The first issue was numbered as Volume One, Number One indicating a fresh start to the same magazine. One could purchase a year’s subscription for one dollar and fifty cents in advance, as to avoid problems
of failed patronage from subscribers (1886, 20). The new Monthly included sections devoted to Alumni, literature, editorials, local events, personals, and advertisements. Occasionally, the editors were forced to seek support from the student body in the editorial pages, but it successfully avoided the pitfalls
of its predecessor.

1985 editorial staff
The Davidson Monthly staff was made up of equal representation of the Philanthropic and Eumenean Literary Societies. The 1985 staff is shown here with their advisor, Professor Smith. [1985]

“We are now on a good financial basis, and a lively cooperation from the ranks of our present students, the magazine will enjoy a year of prosperity such as it has never seen before experienced”(1887, 35). Enjoying stability and their achievements, the 1897 editors changed the title to The Davidson College Magazine, citing that it “has a strong, rich, orotund sound” (1887, 35). In November 1916, the Magazine dropped its long-standing affiliation with the Eumenean and Philanthropic literary societies.

In 1926, there another name change to The Chameleon. The magazine was revamped to escape the trap into which the editors saw other collegiate publications fall: they wanted to avoid the apprehension most students felt as fewer students and a greater number of off-campus “semi-professional writers” monopolized the pages of the magazine. “THE CHAMELEON would be otherwise, would be distinctly Davidson, distinctly student. CHAM wants every man in the Davidson student body who can put pen to paper with ‘fair artistry and skill’ to regard its columns as his. CHAM by nature of his being wants literary merit; but more than that, CHAM wants on his pages the color of student opinion and thought” (1926, 45). The change in name also brought a change in content and type of contributors. The Chameleon, in competition with Quips & Cranks and the Davidsonian, eventually ceased production in 1930.

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Davidson Monthly~Davidson College Magazine~Chameleon – Works Cited

Davidson College. The Chameleon
42, no.1. Davidson: Davidson College, November 1926.

Davidson College. The Davidson College Magazine 14, no. 1. Davidson: Davidson
College, October 1887.

Davidson College. The Davidson Monthly 1, no. 1. Davidson: Davidson College,
February 1886.

Davidson College. The Davidson Monthly 1, no. 1. Davidson: Davidson College,
March 1870.

Davidson College. The Davidson Monthly 5, no. 1. Davidson: Davidson College,
March 1872.

Author: Mark Grotjohn
Date: July 2005

Cite as: Grotjohn, Mark. “Davidson Monthly, Davidson College Magazine, Chameleon” Davidson Encyclopedia July 2005<http://libraries.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/davidson-monthly/>

Related Entries: Eumenean and Philanthropic Literary Societies

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