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Scandals in Washington, prohibition, and the Ku Klux Klan filled the news pages that warm September day in 1922 when 837 freshmen invaded Cambridge. But while America was caught up in the whirl of the roaring twenties, the University was calmly carrying on the traditions of its past. President Lowell's Harvard was a world of its own, as the men of '26 soon found out.
These were the days when Copey's magnificent voice was holding students spellbound at evening reading sessions. Kittredge with his knobby cane and long white beard was prancing up and down classrooms making men memorize roams of Shakespeare. And unwanted Radcliffe was just beginning to infiltrate to the Yard. In 1922 no one worried about Harvard football. Everyone knew it was the best in the Ivy League.
If the new freshman was worried about being swallowed up by the brick bastions of the Yard, Dean Briggs soon reassured him.
"No individual who does anything worth doing, and does it with all his might, need be lost in the crowd at Harvard; and, taken for all in all, Harvard is the best place I know for the individual youth. Accomplish something, then, remembering that what you get will be measured in terms of what you give."
The first issue of the CRIMSON told the freshman that this registration was the largest in the history of the University. There was also a story on William J. Bingham '16, who had recently resigned as track coach. The name might not have seemed too important to the men of '26 at the time, but they were to hear more of Mr. Bingham in the years to come.
'26 was a sports-minded class, as the University soon found out. A record-breaking high of 133 men turned out for freshman football. But numbers didn't help them to win many games, for the freshmen had a dismal season. Over 800 went to the pre-Yale game rally, but they weren't much help to the team, which suffered a 21-11 loss. The one bright spot in the sports picture was the fine record of Coach Jeff Fisher's varsity, which wound up a near-perfect season by beating Yale 10-3. Harvard's only loss, to Princeton, was the scene of some nasty rioting which strained the relations between the two schools. The Class of '26 was getting its first taste of football spirit.
The Right Thing to Do
In these first few months the CRIMSON's weekly fashion column was solving the freshman's sartorial problems. "If you are interested in any question of dress or etiquette," the column stated, "write the 'Well Dressed Man,' care of the Harvard CRIMSON and you letter will receive prompt and careful attention."
Some freshmen did their best to get all their classes scheduled for 11 a.m. or later and not above the first floor of Sever. Others jammed lecture courses like Bliss Perry's Comp. Lit. 12 and were turned away because of shortage of books and space.
1922 was a year of turmoil in world politics, and Harvard was having its share of speakers on contemporary problems.
"The great need of America today" said Eugene Foss, former governor of Massachusetts, "Is to have college-bred men with a true sense of public service actively interested in politics." The next day, October 11, Senator Wadsworth of New York told the University that President Harding's regime was doing great things for the country. And a few weeks later, Jean Longuet, grandson of Karl Marx, attached the French government and the Versailles Treaty.
Very Big Controversy!
During the winter the Class of '26 saw its first big Harvard controversy. The University's policy of keeping Negroes out of the compulsory freshman dorms was under attack. President Lowell finally silenced his critics by saying" ... in the freshman halls, where residence is compulsory, we have felt from the beginning the necessity of not including colored men. To the other dormitories and dining halls they are freely admitted, but in the freshman halls, I am sure you will understand why, from the beginning we have not thought it possible to compel men of different races to reside together ... (which) far from doing him (the Negro student) good would increase a prejudice that ... is most unfortunate and probably growing."
Exam period was drawing closer and the freshman had no time to waste. This was his first big test, and some men of '26 decided that one of the Square's many tutoring schools might be just the thing to help him brush up on his courses. Prepared or not, the freshman was looking forward to these two weeks with a mixture of fear and anticipation. The ordeal came and went, and those who had pulled through breathed a sigh of relief. Their first term at Harvard was over.
No longer a novice, the Class of '26 started off its second term by finding out that the Student Council had set up a special advisory committee for freshmen. The freshman doubted whether this program would be any better than his advisor, whom he hadn't seen in four months.
Politics and Politicians
But he soon forgot about advisors and even the CRIMSON's campaign to cut down compulsory classes, as election time was nearing. '26's first venture into politics saw Marion A. Cheek elected President, with Robert G. Allen as Vice-president, Channing. M. Wells, Jr. as Secretary-treasurer, and John N. Watters to the Student Council.
In late March the freshman wrestling team completed its undefeated season, and the class officers set about picking men to head four freshmen committees. Nathaniel S. Hows was appointed Jubilee Chairman; John J. Maher headed the Smoker Committee; Edward R. Nash, Jr. was in charge of Entertainment; and Asa K. Billings, Jr. was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Red Book. Then, after a week of competition, thirty-seven men made the Finance Committee with Channing M. Wells as Chairman.
Evidently President Lowell's controversy of last term had stirred up some action among the Overseers. On April 9 Negroes in the freshman dorms, but "in the application of this rule, men of the white and colored races shall not be compelled to live and eat together." The Overseers report reaffirmed that the College would not bar any students for racial or religious reasons.
'26 also knew that the Dramatic Club's successful production of Andreev's "Life of Man" would play to New York audiences during vacation. And ambitious thesplans were trying out for the '27 Workshop's production of "Welcome to our City" written by a graduate student named Thomas Wolfe.
It was about this time that the University decided to make some changes in its requirements. And the men of '26 discovered they would be the last freshman class required to take five courses during their first year. The new plan called for a four-course freshman schedule, with three C's and a D necessary for promotion.
But the freshmen were more interested in other things than what the next class would be doing. On May 1 they held their first Smoker. They listened to speeches, saw a movie entitled "Dog's Life," and were entertained by the "Freshman Irresistables." The Jubilee with its midnight supper took place a few weeks later.
The year was now drawing to a close and the Overseers had just come out with a report condemning professionalism in sports and urging "Athletics for All" at Harvard. Freshman baseball was getting an excellent start. (It would up the season with a 12-2 record.) Spring was now in full possession of the freshman's faculties.
He saw his first outdoor Glee Club concert and stood on Widener steps, singing Harvardians after it was over.
Some Had It, Some Didn't
On May 9 he had his picture taken with his Class, while the seniors who, according to tradition, had no money to pay for their own photos, stood nearby to beg from the freshman. That morning the CRIMSON had praised the Class of '26 for its spirit and athletic triumphs. "Consequently, after such a satisfactory year, the freshman cannot, in the fulness of their hearts, fail to contribute largess in satisfying sums. They are 'casting their bread upon the waters' ... for in May, 1926, their bread will return again. Such an extremely intelligent and capable freshman class will not neglect this opportunity to provide for old age and an impoverished future." The Seniors get their largess.
By now the Class of '26 was used to exams, and when the last two weeks came around it weathered them without much trouble. His first year in Cambridge was at an end, and it had been a pretty good one, the new sophomore thought as he packed his bags and left for home.
The men of '26 spent their summer either working or travelling, but when September came they were glad to get back to Cambridge. The interval of the last three months had done something to them. They weren't quite sure what it was, but from the moment they walked through the Johnston Gate they seemed to have a new feeling of confidence. The first thing they noticed was the number of changes that had been made during the summer.
New Man in Newell
Edward Stevens was the new crew coach, and for the first time lectures would be added to English A "to give freshman a broader outlook and stimulate their thought and ability to write on vital topics." There was also talk of extending tutorial to all departments.
The sophomore felt that now he was a part of the college. He could try out for the Glee Club, the Lampoon, or the CRIMSON, and many found berths on varsity teams. But the second year at Harvard also brought with it new responsibilities. The Class of '26 remembered their own first item difficulties and formed a Freshman Information Service which spent the first few weeks of the year giving help and advice to the Class of '27.
During the early part of the term the main topic of conversation around the Memorial Hall dining room was the situation down at Yale. President Angell had greeted the incoming freshmen with the dictum that either they observed prohibition or face dismissal. "The University will not permit dissipation. No man can come to any great success at Yale who is known to be a dissipated man." The Class of '26 also found that its sophomore compatriots had been forced to sign a pledge swearing they would never take part in a riot. It's good to be at an emancipated institution, the Harvard man thought, as he tried his best to sympathize with the Yalies.
In October, Lampy shocked the College by inaugurating a clean humor policy--"To say that the Lampoon is about to reform is not quite the story," President F.H. Nichols said, "for I think that the Lampoon has always been the cleanest of college comics; there have been, however, occasional lapses when it has strayed after false gods. In the future we shall endeavor to eliminate these periodical lapses." The Lampoon wasn't the only College publication to make innovations. The Advocate began livening up its issues "to rid itself of the stigma of being merely 'academic' or 'precious.'"
Up until the Yale game the 1923 football season was more than successful. After a 16-0 defeat at the hands of Dartmouth (bemoaned in those days as the "worst game since 1907"), the team had been playing inspired and winning ball. It was in the peak of condition to meet the Blue on Soldiers Field. But hard-plunging Yale backs gave the visitors a 13-0 win in a driving rain. Hopelessly cheering until the last play, the man of '26 lighted up a Melachrino, took another nip at his pocket flask, snuggled a little deeper into his raccoon coat, and brought his date into Boston to see the smash hit of the day, Mr. John Galsworthy's "Loyalties."
Monkeys and the Klan
For some time the biggest college news had been the publication of President-emeritus Eliot's new book "Harvard Memories," a new Radcliffe administration, and a monkey who had escaped from Anthrop House. Life was getting pretty dull for the Harvard man, until one day he picked up his morning CRIMSON and read "Ku Klux Klan at Harvard--Awaits moment to strike. 'We may be inactive, but our influence is felt' are the Leader's ominous words." The undergraduate began looking over his shoulder to see if he were being followed. President Lowell rose in wrath to expose the miscreants and stamp out any trace of the Klan at Harvard.
The forces of evil made a fast exit, and the college settled down to unveil a memorial plaque to Theodore Roosevelt. A field of concentration poll was taken, and English Literature came out on top as Harvard's most popular subject.
"Can you propose without being accepted. How to propose realistically and how to keep their acceptances and refusals in accord with your whims--immediate and future--Is the crux of the perfect line." Or so said "Vanity Fair," a magazine which was avid reading material for the Class of '26. Other literati were getting free seats to "Oedipus Rex" at the Opera House by being part of a Theban mob which ran up and down the theatre during one scene. "I think that Harvard students make a very creditable mob..." the show's director said.
Polls, Polls, Polls
Later in the fall, the University anticipated the Social Relations department by requiring students to fill out a questionnaire which asked "Have you ever felt mental telepathy?" There were no figures released on who were the lucky few who had. Polls, polls, and more polls, the undergraduate griped as he filled out another on prohibition. Harvard's sympathies evidently didn't lie with the government, and the wets won a decisive victory.
Now well indoctrinated into the ways of Harvard politics, the Class of '26 held elections early in December. Nathaniel S. Howe was Class President; Frederick S. Moseley Vice-president; Everett W. Martin Secretary-Treasurer, and William C. Ladd Student Council Member.
After vacation the college came back to find that some enterprising Harvard Square proprietors were campaigning for elimination of the Subway Kiosk. But when the business men discovered that having to walk from Central Square would drive away customers, the razing program went up in smoke.
Exams were here again, and Scotch comic Harry Lauder came to cheer up the University. But an ominous warning from the faculty that any "intellectual bootlegging" of lecture notes would be prosecuted, lent a sobering note to the proceedings, as the men of '26 sat down to spend the next two weeks writing in blue books. Widow Nolan's tutoring school did a flourishing business, and a New York firm succeeded in smuggling printed lecture notes into the College past the watchful eyes of the deans. But the ordeal soon passed, and the Class of '26 could breath easily for the next four months.
A summary of the doings, fads, and problems of the Class of 1926 during its four years at Harvard will be continued in the next two issues of the special Class of '26 papers.
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