Why was the Yearbook called The Wolverine?

26 02 2010

There were class albums and annuals published before the first volume of The Wolverine made its appearance in 1900, but it was this annual that set precedent for what the Michigan State Yearbook would become.  The University Archives has class albums dating back to 1877, but the early albums merely contain photographs of seniors, faculty, and a few campus photographs.  There were three issues of The Harrow produced, but while these were filled with textual information, there were no photographs.

The Class of 1901, who produced The Wolverine of 1900, made it their goal to produce a literary annual, not merely a handbook of classes, clubs, and athletics.  To make this annual different, the editors added photographs throughout the volume and published detailed articles about societies and organizations.  Also featured in the Wolverine are poems and other contributions from both students and faculty.  The editors dedicated this first Wolverine to Robert Clark Kedzie, who was professor of chemistry and well-liked by both faculty and students.

The literary style of the annual stuck, as did the name Wolverine, and the tradition of the yearbook continued using both formats for many years.  It is important to remember that at the time the first Wolverine was published that there was not the athletic rivalry between Michigan State and the University of Michigan that exists today.  Michigan State, or Michigan Agricultural College, as it was known in those days, did not have an official football team until 1896.  At that time, most of the athletic teams were known as the Aggies.  The Spartans nickname did not come about until 1925.

While Michigan State still produces a yearbook today, the name is no longer the Wolverine.  In 1976 the first issue of the Red Cedar Log appeared.  Editors of that yearbook conceded that the University of Michigan’s football team held a stronger claim to the name.  Red Cedar Log was a title that editors felt was more appropriate and identifiable to Michigan State University.

Names of Michigan State University Yearbooks:

Harrow:  1887, 1888, 1889

Heliostat: 1896

Wolverine: 1900

Gluck Auf: 1904

Jubilee Wolverine: 1907 (This was the year of the college’s Semi-Centennial celebration)

Wolverine:  1910-1975

Red Cedar Log:  1976-present


Tour Recap: January 2010

21 01 2010

A small crowd gathered at the University Archives on Tuesday, January 19 for a lunchtime tour.  During the 35 minute session, the visitors were shown the reading room, staff area, processing area, stacks, and movable storage.  Some of the collection highlights on display included blueprints from College Hall, the first building completed on campus; a ledger from the John Harvey Kellogg collection; campus scrapbooks;  early campus maps; and the letter written to William Beal from naturalist Charles Darwin.

During the tour, the visitors learned the about commonly asked questions at the University Archives.  The two  types of photographs that are most often requested are athletics and University buildings.   They also met the unofficial mascot of the University Archives, Belle Sarcastic, a cow owned by Michigan Agricultural College.  In 1897 she became the world’s record holder for producing 23,190 pounds of milk and 722 pounds of fat in a single year.  She held this record for 11 years.  Another mascot of the University Archives is Sarcastic Lad, the son of Belle Sarcastic.  He was the grand champion at the 1903 St. Louis Exposition.  Though they are not often asked about, the staff at the University Archives take every opportunity to fill in people about our two mascots.

The most commonly asked question at the University Archives is asked by people who know about the rivalry between MSU and the University of Michigan.  They question they always ask is, “Why was our (MSU’s) yearbook called the Wolverine?”

Any guesses?  Send in your thoughts and comments about how the Michigan State University yearbook came to be called the Wolverine.  We will post the answer later this spring.

Visitors view campus maps

Records Archivist Whitney Miller shows some of the large campus maps in the University Archives.