A one-of-a-kind 1900 Photo Album

15 02 2019

Back on October 16, 2017, I wrote a blog post about the history of the Michigan State University yearbooks. In this blog, I reported on all of the yearbooks that the Archives knew that we held in our collections. Between the Archives, the Libraries, and the Museum, the Archives have the largest and most complete collection of MSU yearbooks. While searching for materials related to an upcoming exhibit about the Kedzie Family, I came upon a folder in Frank Kedzie’s collection labeled, “M.A.C. Yearbook, 1899-1900.” Intrigued, I pulled the folder and saw that the item inside was not the 1900 Wolverine yearbook which with I am familiar.

cover

Cover of the 1900 Class Album

While the folder for this item is labeled as a yearbook, it is more of a photo album. It is like previous photo albums: it only has photos with very little text. The album itself is in great condition. The cover has no writing to indicate what it is and it has faded over time from a dark green to brown. The cover itself is a very thick, construction-like paper material and is missing one corner. A gold cord ties the book together. The inside pages are in great condition. The only drawback to this album is that most of the faculty portraits are displayed horizontally when they should have been placed vertically. It just means the reader has to turn the album 90 degrees.

What is confusing about this photo album from 1899-1900 is that we already have a yearbook from 1899-1900, so why do we have two items covering the same time span? The 1900 Wolverine was a new format for the yearbook and is the standard that we used to today. I compared the photo album and the yearbook and realized that almost all of the pictures are the same, but there were some different photos.

Women's Building

The original drawing of the Women’s Building, later known as Morrill Hall.

So why two different formats? There are many possible theories. Since this year saw the transition to the new format of the yearbook, maybe this photo album was produced for the people that preferred the “old” photo album format versus all the added content in the yearbook. Maybe it was cheaper to produce and sell the photo album than the yearbook, so both versions were made available to the public. My favorite theory is related to another blog post I wrote in 2017, The Forgotten Class Stone. The senior class of 1900 and the junior class of 1901 had a competition to publish the first Wolverine yearbook. The juniors beat the seniors, which caused the seniors to steal 75 copies of the yearbooks. I’m wondering if this class photo album is what the seniors produced. It’s a fun theory, but without any supporting documentation, there is no way to prove any of these theories true.

While most of the photos are the same in both the photo album and the yearbook, there are a few images that are either different or do not appear in the yearbook, such as the portrait of Major C. A.  Vernou and a faculty group shot in front of a giant American flag. There are also different images of the various buildings on campus.

This photo album is unique because it is the only copy we are aware of in the Archives. Since it was part of Frank Kedzie’s collection, it was overlooked when the yearbook collection was created. This photo album has been scanned and made available to the public. The Archives is currently digitizing MSU’s yearbooks, starting with the earliest, but it is a very slow process. To view the yearbooks that have been digitized, please visit, http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-18BD/msu-yearbooks/.

Sources

M.A.C. Yearbook, 1900, Box 1166, Folder 54, Frank S. Kedzie papers, UA 2.1.8, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Written by Jennie Russell, Acting Records Manager

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