Colorful Crimson History Began with Off-Color Magenta...
Continual Process of Change Marks History of 73-Year-Old Crimson; Once Appeared as Bi-Weekly Literary Mag; Still Cambridge's Only Breakfast Table Daily
Crimson editors now fondly boast that they are the keepers of a record for the longest continuous publication of any college newspaper. But twice in the 73 years since The Magenta first saw the light of day, Crimson editors, oblivious of the tradition they had been maintaining, almost allowed a break in the line.
In debt in 1882 to the tune of several hundred dollars, the Crimson was forced to seek refuge under the wing of Mother Advocate (whom World War II has finally stunned). By a one vote margin of the editors assembled, the Crimson was continued. Instead of dropping its name in favor of the older publication, the fortnightly Crimson joined the fortnightly Advocate in printing on alternate weeks.
First War Threatened Continuity
World War I almost severed the chain again when the undergraduate editors, on October 4, 1918, formally announced their intention to close up shop for the duration. But the momentum of the presses had hardly petered out when a group of graduate editors, on October 24, seized the reins and boosted a weekly Crimson over the two-month hump until-returning editors could take over once more.
Today's Crimson occupies three times as much of the reader's first look as did the eight- by ten-inch front page of the first Magenta on January 24, 1873, but one of the greatest of the paradoxes to be explained is the banner head at the top of the page.
No One Had Named Color
Since the year 1810, various student attempts to get themselves into print had gone by the names of Lyceum, Register, Collegian, Harvardiana, Harvard Magazine, and, in 1866, the Advocate. The second group of editors to achieve a permanent success settled on the name of the College color.
The color standard had not yet been translated into words, so the pioneers were well within their rights in describing it as Magenta. The ensuing controversy was finally settled two years later, however, when the editors cheerfully attached themselves to the name "Crimson."
When it is going at full speed, the modern Crimson sports the informal slogan: "Cambridge's Only Breakfast Table Daily," and puts itself in the general classification of newspaper. The Magenta was not only a bi-weekly, but was a 16-page competitor with the Advocate in "notes and comments," short essays, and sports coverage.
Magenta Featured Editorials
Inside an outer wrapper of advertising similar to the Illustrated London News, the Magenta led off with its editorial comment first, while editorials have been relegated to page two since 1884 when the Daily Crimson emerged from another journalistic union.
Competition had been strong for the struggling paper. One editor admitted in later life that they "couldn't hope to compete with the Advocate in sports coverage." The daily Echo mushroomed in 1879, and the Daily Herald appeared on a four-page 14 by 11 format in 1882.
Became Daily in 1883
1883 marks a significant merger with the Harvard Herald which had already built up a reputation among the local press with its sensational extras. The Herald, however, needed financial as well as editorial reinforcement. Advocate ties were broken, and the Crimson president headed the new board, assisted by the Herald's managing editor and secretary.
By agreement, the paper's name remained the Herald-Crimson for a year, reverting to The Daily Crimson. It was at this stage that present order of the Crimson crystallized, except that University notices were to be found on page three instead of on the last page as now.
Sure proof of a healthy adolescent was the wandering afield of the editors in 1885 when they fathered the Harvard Monthly, devoted mostly to book reviews and articles of timeless interest.
Not until 1891 did the organization really buckle down to taking journalism and the Crimson's relation to it seriously. Previous writing had taken place in Stoughton 22, but the room had served particularly in the "fortnightly" days, as much as a club room as an office.
Fifty-five years ago, in 1891, The Harvard Crimson started appearing at the top of page one. Even the type style of the banner head has remained virtually the same. A brief experiment was launched in 1933 when the Crimson Seal divided the two words after the fashion of the New York Herald Tribune. The present head, especially designed to harmonize with the rest of the page, was introduced in September, 1941.
Print First Sports Extra
Settling finally on a title that would stick symbolized the intention of the editors to make the paper a serious splash in the journalistic pool.
Sports coverage of the Princeton baseball game on May 30, 1892 gave students a taste of future Crimson initiative when the crowds returning from the game were greeted by the paper's first sports extra. The feat was accomplished by relays of local kids on bicycles who caught copy dropped to them from the bleachers and rushed it to the printer.
The next fall saw the first in the now traditional series of pre-election straw votes to test Harvard temper in the national presidential elections. At this particular time, incidentally, undergraduates proved themselves far more out of step with the times then the Faculty by giving Harrison a huge majority over Cleveland.
Contracts for Printing
Beginning in 1893, a printing contract with the Crimson Printing Company was signed. From then on, the company supplied printers, linotype machines and a press to accompany the Crimson in its moves to 1304 Massachusetts Avenue, in 1805, to the Union, in 1901, and finally to the present establishment in which the two organizations work as close neighbors.
Linotype operators for the Crimson have always taken a personal interest in the goings on of the succeeding generations of amateur newspapermen, and somehow find a compensation for all the unbusiness-like, harum-scarum procedures that have inevitably accompanied every board of editors.
Art Hopkins, the paper's present senior printer by virtue of 17 year's experience with it, figures that if a printer is to work on the Crimson he must take a very real interest in the paper and work unceasingly for its betterment, or else his nightly endeavors turn into nothing but unmitigated hard labor, for which a weekly pay check is at the most but poor compensation.
News Tests Crimson Mettle
No serious competition for the Crimson in its own field has appeared since the Harvard Daily News threw down the gauntlet in the fall of 1894. The incumbent journalists affected to look down their noses at the upstarts, but were effectively put on their mettle by a keen rivalry that was not always bare-faced and above board. Unethical wire-tapping and signs of yellow journalism on the part of the News, however, showed up the following fall when the challengers were blighted by the failure of their subscription drive.
In spite of a cut in the subscription rates from $3.50 to $2.50 to meet the competition, the Crimson emerged fatter than ever financially, and by 1906, the business board, having returned the rates for subscribers to $3.00, was bringing in enough advertising to clear sizeable profits.
Budgets Neared $50,000
For the same to-your-door-before-breakfast delivery, the business editors have raised the price of a single copy from an early three cents to the present five, while the yearly rate has paralleled the times in rising to $7.50. Advertising was most lush in the first three decades of the century, with tremendous beer ads in the "Teens (said to have been taken out in trade) and ads for yachts and $3000 automobiles in the Twenties. Crimson budgets were figured in the forty thousands.
Sports write-ups, rising from the past, stigma of having played second fiddle to the Advocate, came to be the almost exclusive subject matter of the Crimsons of the two decades straddling 1900. Searchers for signs
Highlights in Crimson History
January 24, 1873. Magenta founded. Two columns wide.
May 21, 1875. Name changed to Crimson.
October 8, 1883. Joins with Herald, becomes a daily. Four columns wide.
1891. Becomes The Harvard Crimson, November 20, 1915. Started printing at 14' Plympton street.
May 3, 1920. Assumes present size, five columns wide.
March 1, 1934. Buys United Press news service.
May 27, 1943. Suspends publication, leaving Service News to continue news coverage.
April 9, 1946. The Crimson resumes publication. of significance during the time of FDR '04 are apt to be disappointed by finding even the editorials dealing chiefly with the merits of Harvard teams and the Fahreuheif measurement of team 'spirit' in the College.
Extras Issued Often
Pregame sports papers with special cartoons by "Sav" have continued in an even grander way, however, along with frequent post game extras. A couple of steals were perpetrated on Yale in its own territory of New Haven in both 1906 and 1940, "scooping" the Yale News both times. The latter was quite frankly a fake, since the reader, after being attracted by the blazing headline "HARLOWMEN THUMP BLUES," was referred for the score to a non-existent page three.
With the business office ledgers in the black, and with little fear of the necessity for digging into their own pockets any more to support the paper, the editors expansively broadened their editorial outlook from the mere college scene to the world at large.
President Wrote Editorials
Where now the normal full board provides for 50 editors including executives, and news, editorial, business, and photographic editors, the first Crimson boards consisted of a total of twelve editors, six from each Junior and Senior class. The present organization began to emerge as the paper became a daily, but still only the managing editor and his assistants were allowed to "put the paper to bed" and the president was supposed to write all the editorials.
But in 1907, the president appointed a committee, first just to do research for his editorials, but eventually to become the editorial board. Editorial scope only slowly transcended the bounds of the Yard, since the editors took (and continue to take) pride in the fact that reforms and improvements advocated on the Crimson's Page Two have so often been undertaken by the University administration.
War Stimulated Broad Thinking
War brought Page Two writers out of their shells. A generally neutral attitude toward the European conflagration during the first half of 1915 evolved into an ardent "preparedness" stand when the next board took office. Pro-Allied feeling grew in a crescendo up to the eve of United States involvement when the Crimson refused to print any more "Communications" from pacifists.
Meantime, wanderings from place to place in search of a suitable permanent home ceased when the November 20, 1915 issue was able to run its permanent address as 14 Plympton Street. Negotiations for a building fund and plans had been carried on since 1912, and a mortgage enabled the editors to break ground for their own home in the spring of 1915.
Although the mortgage was slated originally to be paid off along with taxes, by rent from the Crimson Printing Company, who rented the building in back and the basement floor, and from the Alumni Bulletin, which occupied one of the front offices, part of it is still outstanding.
But the editors finally had their own "castle" a Sanctum on the second floor that could serve as a retreat from the hustling news room, as a hanquet hall for full board dinners, or as a dance floor with star litterace adjacent. Ample space was allowed in the newsroom for strewing copy paper and typewriters wherever needed, while the managing editor and editorializers were provided with isolated nooks for better concentration on their individual problems.
Building Grows Mcllow
Dusty, ancient bound volumes framed relies of old triumphs and election posters, pictures and placards of the last three quarters of a century all bedeek every wall of the building, each with its fond associations, none with much artistic direction.
In some ways, analogies may be drawn between the present transition from the four-column Service News to the five-column Crimson and the first transition to a five-column Crimson in May 1920. Both changes followed close upon the end of a war, and both were accompanied by a change in type faces.
Eight-page papers had been the rule in the "Teens thanks to the activities of "Busy" Board members who garnered advertisements from all over the country. A larger paper was called for, and the purchase of the Crimson's present flat bed press during the year 1919-20 made possible the present 12 by 18 inch page.
To focus reader attention on headlines scattered over a broader expanse of paper, the managing editor prescribed Cheltenham bold to replace the former New York Timesish condensed type. Cheltenham held sway for 20 years when it was voted to go streamlined with so called Airport. The present Board of Editors have decided to change once more by introducing the more relined Bodoni as part of the Crimson's post-war reconstruction.
Photographs made their way into the Crimson sporadically, first, usually in the form of full-length portrails of football captains and of the various athletic teams, and gradually into action pictures of sporting events and scenic shots of Harvard landmarks. In 1899, the Harvard Illustrated had been originated with rather few illustrations, but when it was revived as a twice-weekly 20 years, later, improved photographic techniques had made it popular enough to be a successful advertising medium--as long as the Booming Twenties boomed. It came in for another brief flourish in 1940, but quickly returned to oblivion.
Teletype Service Bought
National and world news first began to be brought into the Crimson offices via the teletype in March 1934. It used to be claimed that Harvard's own newspaper had the smallest and cheapest professional news service in the country, thanks to United Press. The first contract, lasting for about two years, ran under the pretentious head, "Salients in the Day's News."
Today's Crimson carries UP news as "Over the Wire," which it has been ever since the service was resumed in 1939. The news includes the latest up to 8 o'clock of the previous evening but is always subject to change if the UP should have any important last-minute bulletin.
Whimsical, perverse, doubtful Vag has been the wry, yet sometimes sentimental, humorist of the editorial page since the end of 1926. At first, "The Student Vagabond" embodied an anonymous impersonal editor who would recommend certain lectures for possible browsers to audit. Eventually and inevitably, however, Vag's name stirred editorial imagination, and two years after his creation, he was becoming a composite of the lackadaisical, as well as the wise, Harvard man.
Confy Guide Born in '25
Perhaps the most famous, the most popular, and the most attentively read of the Crimson's various supplements has been the Crimson's Confidential Guide for Freshmen. First compiled in 1925 by Crimson editors who had personal impressions of each course, the Confy Guide sought to draw attention to the importance of elementary courses in whetting Freshman interest for the whole Harvard curriculum. Modern technique has substituted a system of polling the preceding Yardlings for reliance on editors' private judgments alone.
Next fall, a Crimson Telephone Directory will be printed as usual. The board in 1936 claimed to be pioneers in this project, but research has revealed that phone numbers were run in the regular Crimson columns in the early 20's, including that of the Crime itself: Cambridge 2811 and 2812, changed under the dial system to the same numbers in the Kirkland exchange.
"Crime" Is Official Nickname
The nickname "Crime," by the way, apparently originated with a little pun with which the Advocate used to amuse itself. "Crime's Own" was supposed to sound like "Crime-on." Anyway, Crimeds adopted the tag, and have used it as a heading for newshreaks garnished with appropriate ed notes.
Most of the history of the "feud" with the Ibisters, the Birdmen, (occasionally called the Funnymen), more vulgarly referred to as Lampoon editors, has passed on with the times, or else was pure imagination to start with. Year after year, a perusal of springtime Crimsons reveals, the Poon was mortgaged or sold or taken over by their trustees or by the Crimson. For no less than 24 years, the 'Poon has been unable to vary their losing score in the annual baseball game from the inevitable 23 to 2.
But Lampooners have found plenty of trouble (and publicity) for themselves in their long string of semi-intentional faux pas, and when, in 1933, they made off with the Sacred Cod from the State House on Beacon Hill, the Crimson had this to say:
"Indulgent parents built the Lam-