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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

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

 

 

 

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Earning a Seat at the Big Ten Table

6 10 2016

by Nick Kurtansky

This Saturday, the Michigan State football team looks to veer off the losing track with a visit from Brigham Young University. In many ways this game feels odd, and I believe it has to do with some source of unfamiliarity. Most likely it is because the two teams have never met before, especially since we are coming off of games with Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Indiana, in which we have played a combined total of 194 times. But then again, after a string of years competing as one of the national elites, maybe we are less accustomed to our 0-2 record in the Big Ten than we are a Mormon school located in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. It is unusual that, after coming off of games versus two conference opponents, State faces a team that has no such affiliation. People today can’t imagine Michigan State not being part of the Big Ten. Yet it took a combination of administrative moxie by John Hannah, the cessation of an entire athletics program, consent among regional sportswriters, and a Clarence Munn coached football team to get them in. The only fans who might recall the independent status would have been born before World War II. So as we set to face conference Independent BYU, I figured I’d write about Michigan State’s ambitious campaign that triumphed in 1948’s vote into the Big Ten, where we have since grown entirely familiar.

John Hannah believed very strongly in athletics. He said, “I have always thought that a sound athletic program was good for a university… they unify probably more than any other feature of the institution… they merge the enthusiasm of students, alumni, faculty, friends and supporters of the university, and all to the university’s good.” In 1939, the University of Chicago dropped its football program, putting the Big Ten Conference, known as the Western Conference, at nine teams. From Hannah’s start as president of the college in 1941, his ambitions were to build Michigan State College into a worldly prominent university. He saw the open seat in the Western Conference as his opportunity.

Scheduling was very difficult for Michigan State as an Independent. In order to receive national or even regional attention, you have to play tough teams and be competitive. This has not changed. However, Michigan State was unable to attract tough teams or regional rivals to East Lansing. Reputable competition usually had to be played on the road, leaving home contests to weak, small schools and school out West, in which regional attention cared little. Only five of State’s 48 meetings against the University of Michigan were in East Lansing before election into the Big Ten. Inclusion into the premier Western Conference offered consistent opportunity to play tough competition evenly between home and road games.

As an independent, MSC did not have the same experience that Notre Dame had and continues to have. As a state college, they did not have access to similar resources or operate under such privileges as Notre Dame by virtue of being a rich, private, Catholic school. Nevertheless, Michigan State owes Notre Dame a great deal of thanks. John Hannah had built a valuable relationship with Father John Cavanaugh of Notre Dame, and in 1943 the two are said to have agreed upon an annual series beginning in 1948 (which lasted over six decades until Notre Dame’s recent decision to end the annual agreement). However Notre Dame has always been considered a powerhouse football program. This series was very attractive to the Western Conference as they considered candidates to fill the University of Chicago’s old seat in the Big Ten.

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1948 action shot from the first annual meeting between the Spartans and Fighting Irish in South Bend.

 

Understandably, the interest in sports was at a low during World War II. But shortly after the War had ended, Hannah wrote a letter to the Big Ten requesting admission into the conference. At the same time, the student population under Hannah at Michigan State grew exponentially with Hannah’s efforts and help from the G.I. Bill. Then in 1946, the University of Chicago dropped the rest of its athletic program and the conference began considering candidates including Michigan State College, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Nebraska. The University of Michigan and their president, Alexander Grant Ruthven, represented strong opposition to Michigan State’s case. In the First half of the century the Wolverines had been nationally dominant. Adding an intrastate rival to the conference would undoubtedly dilute their resources and ability to sign the best athletes. Indiana and Illinois were concerned that an annual Michigan vs. Michigan State conference game would take the air out of their nationally recognized contest with the maize and blue. Iowa lobbied for Nebraska because of geographical proximity would have resulted in another neighboring rival. But for the most part, the Big Ten schools supported Michigan State in this so called election in order to weaken Michigan and level the playing field.

Especially beneficial was John Hannah’s relationship with Lewis Morrill, the president at the University of Minnesota. It was from this city that the sports editor of the Minneapolis Star urged his fellow Big Ten regional sportswriters to support Michigan State in their newspapers. Logically, media support weighed heavy in the conferences decision. Even legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote in support of Michigan State to a national reading audience, and in particular, expressed admiration for John Hannah. In justifying their case, he wrote, “And why not? Michigan State has more than 15,000 students. It also has one of the best football layouts in the game, a new stadium that can handle 55,000 spectators, the most modern one yet build. Beaten only by Michigan and Notre Dame, Michigan has known one of its best seasons this fall. It has a better team than several members of the Big Nine.” In support of Hannah’s ideas in favor of college administrative control over college athletic programs in order to preserve the purity of amateur athletics, Rice would later write in the Pittsburgh Press, “I would like to see Dr. Hannah put in charge of handling all of college football.”

One of the obstacles involved athletic scholarships. Michigan State awarded their Jenison Awards, a scholarship for tuition, books, room, and board, to 90 athletes each year. At the time, this aid was one the level of schools from the Southeastern Conference. The Big Ten did not approve of the Jenison Awards and looked down upon all athletic scholarships. State complied, and decided to drop this tradition in order to please the Western Conference.

a001069

Clarence “Biggie” Munn and his assistant coaches, including Duffy Daugherty.

 

Biggie Munn was hired in as the MSC football coach perfectly in between the folding of the University of Chicago’s athletic program and the beginning of the series with Notre Dame. He went 7-2 and 6-2-2 in his first two years, 1947-48. As a great coach, Biggie looked the part, and he went on bring the football team to national glory in the early 1950s. When the Michigan State News published the headline “State Makes Big 10” on December 12, 1948, a crowd of students gathered outside the home of John Hannah. It was announced as a unanimous, although that score is a likely formality to underscore any strife. In front of the joyous crowd, Hannah graciously downplayed his role in the decision, boiling the situation down to a credit to Biggie Munn and the football team’s performance.

state-makes-big-ten

State News of December 12, 1948 breaking the news with the headline “State Makes Big Ten.”

Because of scheduling, Michigan State did not play its first official conference football game until 1953. That year they were coming off of AP and Coaches’ Poll national titles in 1952 as independents, but in their first conference season, the Spartans won their first Big Ten title. As far as getting into the Big Ten, of course it was much more complicated than president Hannah claimed on the night of December 12, 1948. It required the recipe of student populating growth after WWII, administrative networking, one school’s crumbling athletics program to contrast State’s up-and-coming football program, and a little bit of help from our friends, the talking heads in the media, for Michigan State to since reap the fruits as a member of the proud Big Ten tradition.





Greek Life at MSU

17 03 2014

Student groups and organizations have always been a part of the MSU’s history. Literary societies, activism groups and even squirrel watching clubs have shaped student life at the University since its beginning. MSU has also been home to one of the most iconic collegiate groups that has spurred on movies, books and television series, Greek Life.

Greek Life started at M.A.C in 1872 with the establishment of Delta Tau Delta. They were followed by Phi Delta Theta in 1873. However in 1896 the faculty banned national Greek organizations from forming at the College. Phi Delta Theta chose to be recognized as a local organization by changing their name to the Phi Delta Society. Due to the ban, many non-Greek societies began to form. The Union Literary Society, the Hesperian Literary Society and the Excelsior Society were among them.  In 1891 the first all-women’s group, the Feronian Society, was established. They were founded just five years before the creation of the Women’s Program in 1896. Academic and literary societies sought not only to have a forum for intelligent conversations, but also to plan and attend extravagant events and balls.

Members of the Phi Delta Society in the 1920 Wolverine Yearbook

Literary Societies also sought off campus housing, at the exclusivity of their members. However President Snyder was great proponent of the collegiate dormitory system and found this idea to be elitist and unnecessary. In 1905 the College did not have enough living spaces to accommodate all of its students. The faculty relented and allowed the Hesperian Society and the Colombian Society to buy its own meeting houses off campus.

 

The Trimoira Literary Society established at M.S.C in 1913

The 1920s gave way to an increase in students attending M.A.C and the lack of housing led faculty to allow off campus housing for more society members. In 1921 the ban on national Greek organizations was lifted and the first organizations to be established were the Alpha Gamma Delta and Alpha Phi Sororities. Alpha Phi was created by members of the Feronian Society.  Following them were the Forensic Society, who became Lambda Chi Alpha and the agriculturally based fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho.

Members of Alpha Phi in 1925

Throughout the 1920s more and more literary societies became affiliated with national Greek organizations. The Aurorean Literary Society became Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity in 1923. Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity was forged from the Dorian Literary Society in 1924. In 1925 the Orphic Literary Society became Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. From then on Greek life grew and became an integral part of MSU student life.

Competition has always been an important aspect of Greek Life. Chapters held Tug of War across the Red Cedar River, Chess Tournaments in local houses, as well as academic achievement contests throughout the school year. In 1930 Sigma Kappa Sorority won an exciting victory for overall best GPA on campus. They narrowly defeated the previous year’s winner, Alpha Chi Omega.

During the 1940s, World War II led to an overall decline in male enrollment at M.S.C. Fraternity houses were used to lodge coeds, due to a lack of women’s housing. Houses were also used by the Army and local R.O.T.C chapters. After the War, the G.I Bill allowed more and more students to attend college and Greek Life at M.S.C once again became a popular student activity.

In 1948 the first African American fraternity at the college was established by the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha. They were committed to philanthropic service to all mankind and to the advancement of interracial groups at the college. The first African American sorority at M.S.C. was Alpha Kappa Alpha. They were established in 1954 and engaged in such as activities as reading to the blind and giving campus tours. Today MSU proudly hosts all nine historically African American Greek organizations on its campus.

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in the 1950s

In the 1950s Greek life continued to expand. In 1959 the count was up to 20 nationally recognized sororities and 34 fraternities. All of these organizations participated in campus wide events such as Spartacade, Greek Sing, Water Carnival, Greek Week and Homecoming festivities. One fall, the Kappa Sigma fraternity bought a World War II era plane from a local bar owner for $40. They set it up outside of their house so that it appeared to have crashed into the side of their house. They placed a dummy inside and splattered the whole thing in ketchup for dramatic effect. A sign beside it read “He rushed Kappa Sigma but didn’t quite make it!”

1957 photo of Winter Carnival Float created by Alpha Omicron Pi and Theta Chi

1951 outdoor homecoming display of William and Mary’s execution on the lawn of Phi Delta Theta.

Greek Life saw its decline in the 1970s. Campus dorm life became less restrictive and the traditions of fraternity and sorority members seemed to be out of date. Many chapters closed due to lack of membership; including Alpha Omicron Pi in 1972 (the chapter was re-established in 1989).

In more recent years Greek life at MSU has seen a steady increase with recruitment and rush numbers moving well into the thousands. In November of 2013, 141 years after the first fraternity established at MSU, the Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council became recognized by the University.

Photo courtesy of MSU GreekLife: Representatives from Panhellenic Council and Interfraterity Council pose with President Simon and others at the recognizing of Greek Life by the University.

Sources

Michigan State University Archives, “African American Presence at MSU; Historic Firsts.” Accessed March 12, 2014. http://archives.msu.edu/collections/african_presence_firsts.php.

Michigan State University Greek Life, “MSU Greek Life: History and Future.” Last modified January 01, 2014. Accessed March 14, 2014. http://www.msugreeklife.org/history-and-future.

The 1959 Wolverine Yearbook, Michigan State University.

Thomas, David A. Michigan State College: John Hannah and the Creation of a World University. 1926-1969. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2008.

Widder, Keith R. Michigan Agricultural College: The Evolution of a Land-Grant Philosophy, 1855-1925. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2005.

Written By Caroline Voisine