A History of the MSU Yearbooks

6 10 2017


1945 Wolverine, page 15

In the 1945 Wolverine, Sparty’s girlfriend, Spartina, was introduced. She wrote “letters” to Sparty, updating him about the events on campus while he was off fighting in WWII, page 15.

A common reference question at the Archives is a researcher wanting more information about a family member that attended MSU. The first place we look are the commencement programs, the student directories, and the yearbooks. The yearbooks provide the most information, such as activities they participated in, and most of the time (but not always), a senior photograph. That can lead to other photos in the yearbooks, such as student clubs or athletic team photos. For that reason, the yearbooks are a valuable resource in the Archives and help tell the story of the time. While the MSU yearbooks help tell the story of MSU, the yearbooks themselves have had their own interesting history.


Before the first “official” yearbook, Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C.) had class albums. Unlike yearbooks that include photographs and stories of the academic year, class albums only included photographs of the faculty and students with no text or name indication. Some of the albums at the Archives have names written under the photographs, but except for the more easily recognized faculty members, we can’t know for sure if the penciled-in names are correct. The only album that does have identifying names to photographs is the first photo album that appeared in 1877. It is only 25 pages long, but it has an index of the corresponding names to all 14 seniors and faculty members pictured. A quick cross-check of the names with the student lists in the 1877 M.A.C. course catalogue shows 15 seniors that year. The student whose picture was missing was Frank Kedzie, who would go on to be MSU’s eighth president from 1915-1921.

In 1887, the Harrow, the first yearbook at M.A.C. was published. Different from the class albums, the Harrow was mostly text with few photographs. If any photos were included, it was usually the president of the college, a few select faculty members, and the editors of the Harrow. With the text, detailed information can be found, such as students’ names, lists of faculty members, sport teams rosters, and members of the literary societies. Instead of photographs, there were hand-drawn illustrations. The back of the yearbook had several pages of humor, mostly puns. Some of the humor is timeless while some has lost its meaning with the passage of time.

1925 Wolverine, Page 371

Cartoon from the 1925 Wolverine, page 371.



Off and on from 1877 to 1896, class albums, yearbooks, or nothing at all was produced. Finally, in 1900, a format of the yearbook that we are familiar with today was published. The Wolverine contained pictures of students and faculty members, along with team and group photos, and humorous stories. Unfortunately, the yearbook was not a financially stable venture. Yearbooks under different names appeared in 1904 and 1907, and finally in 1910, the Wolverine once again returned. The yearbook kept this name until 1975. In 1976, the name was changed to Red Cedar Log, to better reflect MSU and to avoid confusion with the University of Michigan.

1930 Wolverine Cover

Cover from the 1930 Wolverine.


The Red Cedar Log continued until 1996 when the yearbook production ceased due to a lack of student interest and financial difficulties. A senior edition booklet with only senior pictures and a few campus photos was distributed that year. No yearbook was published in 1997. Finally, in 1998, the Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) reestablished the Red Cedar Log and was a success. To help offset the cost, in 2000, a $3 tax was included in each student’s tuition that is used to produce the yearbook. Today, all students can pick up a copy of the Red Cedar Log free of charge.




The MSU Archives has the entire collection of the class albums and yearbooks and maintains several copies of each yearbook because of the value they provide. Since the yearbooks are used heavily by researchers and the archivists on a daily basis, they eventually wear out! Pages become loose and the bindings fall apart. Keeping extra copies allows us to provide better quality yearbooks for researchers to use. Unfortunately, there are a few years we have no extra copies. These are the years we are seeking:

Class Albums: 1877, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1890, 1893

Harrow: 1887 and 1889

Heliostat: 1896

Red Cedar Log: 1978 Freshmen Ed., 1979, 1982, 1986-1990, 1993, 1998, 2004, and 2014

If you have any of these issues and would like to donate them to the Archives, we would be most appreciative of your assistance in preserving MSU’s history.

MSU Yearbook Names by Year

Class Albums: 1877, 1885-1888, 1890, 1893

Harrow: 1887-1889

Heliostat: 1896

Wolverine: 1900

Glück Auf: 1904

Jubilee Wolverine: 1907

Wolverine: 1910-1975

Red Cedar Log: 1976-1992

Red Cedar Annual: 1993-1995

Senior Edition: 1996

Red Cedar Log: 1998 – Present

Fun Facts

The yearbook was named the Wolverine for the simple reason that is represented the state animal of Michigan and nothing to do with the rivalry between the University of Michigan.

The Archives was featured in the 2017 Red Cedar Log, pages 228-229!

1978 Yearbook cover

Cover of the 1978 Red Cedar Log. This yearbook had a senior and freshmen editions.


The Archives learned this year that the 1978 Red Cedar Log actually had two versions, the senior and freshmen editions. The senior edition has photos of the seniors while the freshmen edition only has photos of the freshmen. The rest of the content is the same, except for the class photos and this was the only year when two different editions were created.









1877 Class Album.

1877 M.A.C. Course Catalogue, pages 6-7.

1998 Red Cedar Log, pages 296-297.

2005 Red Cedar Log, page 360.

2007 Red Cedar Log, page 362.

Written by Jennie Russell, Assistant Records Archivist






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: