Light on the hill: A history of Tufts College, 1852-1952

Miller, Russell


Tufts undergraduates, faculty, and alumni have been served over the years with various publications that bear a strong family resemblance to those found on any college campus. The functions performed and the problems faced by such emanations have been no more remarkable within the Tufts community than in other academic institutions. The first publication, known unofficially as the College "annual" and officially as the Tuftonian, appeared between 1864 and 1872. It contained much of interest in the way of descriptions of student organizations, sketches of faculty, and articles that would appeal to undergraduates.[41]  The aspirations of the early editors to turn the publication into a "literary magazine" were an abysmal failure. The editor in 1865 came to the rueful conclusion that "the students of Tufts College are not eminently a Literary Class," for an urgent solicitation of creative works (including a College Ode) returned not a single contribution. Judging


from pleas for the next hundred years or so, this problem had not yet been solved to everyone's satisfaction in the 1960's. The two fraternities that sponsored the first Tuftonian (Zeta Psi and Theta Delta Chi) experienced a difference of opinion in 1872, presumably over the contents of the publication, and from that date until 1875 there were two rival magazines -the Tuftonian (continued by Zeta Psi) and the Budget (published by Theta Delta Chi). The latter, of which only two annual issues were published (1874 and 1875), was freighted with poetry and essays of a philosophical bent and can probably be called Tufts' first bona fide undergraduate literary effort. An ambitious attempt to broaden the base of student publications by organizing the Tufts College Publishing Association in 1874 produced the Tufts Collegian, which appeared monthly for four years and served as both undergraduate newspaper and vehicle for alumni contributions. In 1878, after the two fraternities had become reconciled and had agreed to share the journalistic field with others, the Publishing Association abandoned the name Collegian and resumed the name Tuftonian. Subscription rates were $1.00 for the academic year, the low price being made possible in part by the sale of advertising space beginning in the 1870's.[42]  A high proportion of the early graduates who tried out their journalistic wings on Tufts publications as students had entered newspaper work by the 1880's and were either serving on the staffs or were editors of such papers as the Springfield Republican, Providence Press, New York World, Chicago Daily News, and the three leading Boston papers (the Transcript, the Globe, and the Post).

Between 1878 and the appearance of the Tufts Weekly in 1895, the Tuftonian continued to serve as the campus multi-purpose journal. After 1895 the latter was considered a "literary magazine," and after the First World War it became a quarterly (more or less). The Weekly and the Tuftonian were for many years under the same management, operating through the Publishing Association. Although the latter's constitution provided that the editor-in-chief of each was to be selected from the student board of editors


by the faculty, the students exercised complete control over each publication and its editorial policies. The faculty's role in choosing the editors-in-chief was intended only to prevent competing societies from going to war over candidates. The combined staff of eleven editors of various degrees of specialization and authority was apportioned for many years among the fraternities and other student organizations according to the number of subscriptions furnished by each group. Keeping the Association solvent and free of campus politics posed recurrent problems. Financial difficulties usually made it necessary to call upon the faculty and even the Trustees at times for succor and support.

One of the resources most frequently drawn upon to help the Publishing Association out of its chronic difficulties was the Bookstore Fund. The College Bookstore, operating for years out of quarters in Curtis Hall, turned in almost annually a tidy profit which was earmarked for miscellaneous projects. There was sufficient surplus in 1905-6 to purchase a dozen electric clocks, which were installed in various buildings, to provide a drinking fountain in Ballou Hall, and to help finance a trip of the debating team to New York City. It was the Bookstore Fund from which was drawn most of the $300 needed to clear up the obligations of the Publishing Association in 1909.

The Weekly (with the sports reportage always on the front page) managed a continuous existence until after the last issue of Volume 16 on June 21, 1911. The next regular issue appeared on November 12, 1913. Between these dates the only approximation of a student newspaper was the Tufts News, sponsored by the Class of 1913 as "a temporary substitute." Even that modest contribution of four slender issues of less than conventional newspaper size lasted for only two months (April and May) in 1912. The Weekly was revived in 1913 only by dint of a two-year subsidy by the Trustees. The Tuftonian suspended publication for a much longer period. Thirty-six volumes had appeared by June 1911; then the magazine disappeared for fifteen years. When it was reborn in the spring of 1926, it bore a new format and was renumbered as a new series. The reappearance of this publication was prompted, in turn, by the demise of the Tufts College Graduate after its February issue in 1926. The latter reappeared in October 1927 as the Tufts College


Alumni Bulletin, which, after surviving the perils of the Second World War, became the Tufts Alumni Review in 1947.[43] 

Of all the College publications, the Weekly was the one most immediately and sorely missed when it had to suspend operations. The precipitant for its temporary disappearance had been the failure of students to pay their subscriptions. The faculty Committee on Student Organizations had had to warn the Publishing Association in the spring of 1911 that failure to settle accounts (including a bill of $600 to the Somerville Journal Company which then printed the newspaper) would result in "discontinuance of undergraduate publications." In the fall of 1912 Acting President Hooper presented the problem to the Trustee Executive Committee, which conducted an extensive inquiry into the matter, including consultation with the faculty Committee on Student Organizations. The latter called attention to the fact that this was the third bankruptcy of a student publication because of poor management, and that on the other two occasions the alumni and faculty had assumed responsibility for getting the publications back on their feet. There were several explanations for the chronic difficulties, particularly as they applied to the Weekly. Subscriptions were voluntary, there was no bona fide list of subscribers (hence the publication was not eligible for second-class mailing privileges), and the price of $2.00 was considered too high. The deficit of $500 could be cleared off only by arranging for mass subscriptions and giving the faculty committee the management of the Weekly, at least for an experimental period. The inclusion of the cost of the newspaper in the student charges was also a possibility. If the Publishing Association, which had the responsibility for student publications, were given credit of $2.00 for each student in the College, and if the College made no payments for advertising, the newspaper might be revived. The Executive Committee recognized the importance of the Weekly but was unwilling to underwrite it completely. The whole matter was referred back to the acting president, with the suggestion that an attempt be made through the Committee on Student Organizations to find "a responsible and permanent means of conducting the business affairs of the


undergraduate publications on the basis of volunteer subscriptions." Instead, a student petition to the Trustees to have the annual cost of the Weekly added to term bills was approved. Inclusion of the cost of student publications in the student activities fee paid as a part of College charges for those enrolled, and individual subscriptions for those who had left the Hill, became the ultimate solution.

Another of the places in which to enshrine memories of college days is the yearbook. From the founding of Tufts until 1867 it was the custom of each class to frame the pictures of its members and hang them in the College chapel. The Class of 1867 dropped the custom and donated a class album to be kept in the library. These bulky (and weighty) books, bound in leather and fastened by a heavy brass clasp, contained individual pictures of the faculty and autographed photographs of one's classmates, with perhaps six to a dozen views of the campus. The albums remained popular until the mid-1890's, when they were superseded by other means of remembrance.[44]  In 1878 the traditional fraternity rivals, Zeta Psi and Theta Delta Chi, reconciled their differences long enough to publish the first book resembling the modern college annual. Christened the Brown and Blue in recognition of the College colors which had been recently adopted by the students after great debate and difference of opinion, the seventy-two-page pamphlet furnished the first pictorial description of and commentary on the institution. The tradition having been started, illustrated booklets, usually sponsored by the junior class, appeared more or less regularly until 1904 and matured into bound volumes. The junior class in 1894, wishing to display a measure of originality, published a collection of Tufts songs that year in place of the conventional yearbook. After a gap of twelve years, the Class of 1916 published a leatherbound annual that was continued in 1917 as The Jumbo. After a three-year lapse, the class book published by the seniors appeared as Taps in 1920. The Tufts Elephas, published by the junior class, served as the yearbook for 1921. The seniors published their own Jumbo Book in 1922, and after another interval the 1925 Jumbo Book was sponsored by the senior class. The seniors two years later called their annual merely the I927 Class Book. It was the Class of 1928 that revived the designation of Jumbo Book used


consistently thereafter. No yearbook appeared in 1944 or 1945, but the Class of 1946 celebrated the end of the Second World War with a small paperbound "Victory Edition" and resumed a series not again interrupted by financial difficulties or wars.


[41] The first volume, comprising seven issues (1864-70) was of tabloid size; thereafter it was published in pamphlet form.

[42] It was not always feasible to accept offers to advertise; one western firm was willing to use the columns of the Tuftonian providing payment could be made in garden seeds.

[43] During a portion of the war period (September 1943-July 1946) the regular alumni magazine was replaced by a multilithed newsletter, Tufts Topics, that was mailed to alumni all over the world.

[44] There is a reasonably complete set of these class albums in the Tufts Archives.

  • Light on the Hill, the history of Tufts College, was published to coincide with the centennial of the institution in 1952. A second volume was published in 1986. This edition was created from the 1966 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume I.
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