The Davidsonian at 100

The speed with which mason jars and cupcakes disappeared at the Davidsonian Centennial Celebration yesterday suggests that the college’s student-run newspaper holds an important place in the campus culture. Since its inception, the paper has served as both “the flagship student publication” and as an important historical resource on campus, national, and international events.

The front page of the first issue of The Davidsonian - April 1, 1914

The front page of the first issue of The Davidsonian – April 1, 1914

The inaugural Editor-in-Chief, Frank W. Price (class of 1915), touched on the central role the student newspaper can play in the first editorial:

“[The Davidsonian] should be in close touch with every phase of college life and the life of the community about it. Even in a small college, life becomes more and more complex, and as the students are broken up into an increasing number of groups, there is a tendency not to look beyond the questions and the matter in which one man is directly interested. The college newspaper should give live information about every group and department of college activity, keep them acquainted with each other, and thus promote a feeling of mutual interest and encouragement. In addition, these are the things which vitally concern every student, and yet which are not well know or misunderstood.”

It is this “close touch” with the college and community that makes The Davidsonian such a valuable archival resource, in addition to its more immediate value as a news source and teaching tool. The Archives & Special Collections team frequently digs into both the print and digitized issues of The Davidsonian (and starting this year, The Davidsonian staff have been digging through these archives too – for a running feature where an archival article is re-published in each issue), and in celebration of this momentous occasion, we’d like to share a few lesser-viewed archival gems.

Ever wondered how The Davidsonian gets written? Well, in 1961, Editor-in-Chief Wallace B. Millner compiled “The Davidsonian Style Book and Short Course for Freshman Reporters,” in “a long overdue effort to catalog and standardize some style points” for the paper. In addition to setting parameters as to grammar and style, this guide included helpful tips on how to conduct interviews and write news stories, including how to construct a lead:

How to Write a Lead for The Davidsonian in 1961

“Earl Jones, Davidson economics professor, was apprehended by police last night while attempting to force entry into Charlotte’s Wachovia Bank.”

Another look behind the scenes of newspaper production can be provided through reporters’ assignment sheets or cards, such as the ones found in the scrapbooks of Hugh H. Smith (class of 1923) and Thomas T. Jones (class of 1928):

Smith's assignment sheet

Smith’s assignment sheet

A sample of Jones' assignment cards

Two of Jones’ assignment cards

The college archives holds the page layouts for the 75th anniversary edition of The Davidsonian:

Front page layout for the April 1989 75th anniversary of the Davidsonian

Front page layout for the April 1989 75th anniversary

Although many things have changed at Davidson (and elsewhere!) over the past 100 years, as Jan Blodgett pointed out, some issues have remained consistent, as the program from The Davidsonian banquet in 1920 makes clear:

Davidson banquet itinerary 1920, a program and a menu

Timely issues, and and interesting look at 1920s cuisine

As a counterpoint, the 1966 banquet featured a less detailed program and menu:

The 1966 Davidsonian banquet itinerary

The 1966 Davidsonian banquet featured less punch, at least on the menu

The Davidsonian has served as the campus news source for a century, including providing much-needed comic relief – a role currently filled by The Yowl. A glance through our archival holdings reveals issues of The David’s Onion, The Davidphonian, and The Devoidsonian, among others:

This column appeared in The Devoidsonian, vol. 666, no. ∞, published "Post-Trustee" (based on the content of the articles, this was most likely sometime between 1978 and 1983), titled, "A Guide to New Courses at Davidson"

This column appeared in The Devoidsonian, vol. 666, no. ∞, published “Post-Trustee” (though undated, based on the content of the articles, this was most likely during the 1981-82 academic year)

Front page of The Davidphonian, "The Nation's Third Worst College Weekly," published May 5, 1998. The main headline, "Burn, baby, burn: Student sets Chambers afire"

Front page of The Davidphonian, “The Nation’s Third Worst College Weekly,” published May 5, 1998

If this week’s Centennial activities have piqued your interest in the past, present, or future of the college’s newspaper, check out the Davidsonian Reunion on April 12. As Marcus Bailey pointed out in his February 2013 editorial, “Why I write for the Davidsonian and you should too,” The Davidsonian is an excellent gateway to getting involved, both on the campus and with the world – just as it has been for the past 100 years.

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