100 Years of the Gazette,

By 1909, Old Penn had evolved from a newspaper into a magazine. The first issue as The Pennsylvania Gazette—appropriating the title of a newspaper published by Benjamin Franklin—appeared February 1, 1918.

The founding editor was an enterprising graduate of the Law School named George E. Nitzsche L1898, who remained at the helm for most of its 15 years as Old Penn (the e was dropped by the second volume). Nitzsche’s position as editor was not constant—not surprising, since he was also the University’s Publicity Agent (later Recorder), and at one point served as Registrar and Bursar of the Law School. But Nitzsche was continually involved, and during his tenure, the paper evolved into a magazine format, with smaller dimensions and better paper stock, eventually numbering as many as 64 pages per issue.

It shrank from newspaper to magazine size in 1909. By then, in addition to extensive football coverage, photos of and articles about the many new buildings and academic departments, and letters from and notes about alumni, Old Penn also ran scholarly articles by faculty members and other leading thinkers, as well as accounts of archaeological expeditions, intercollegiate debates, and various theatrical productions.

In 1909, the magazine published two poems by Ezra Pound C’05 G’06, saying that “we are jealous of the fact that England should have discovered and honored his genius rather than his own native America, but we are duly proud of him as a son of Pennsylvania.”

Occasionally, campus events of national importance played themselves out in the pages of Old Penn, such as the politically-charged firing of an assistant professor named Scott Nearing C’06 in 1915, which eventually led to the development of the modern tenure system at the University. A 1913 article, “The Evolution of Moving Pictures,” included a series of photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, who had worked on his landmark study, Animal Locomotion, at Penn’s veterinary school in the 1880s.

June 24, 1916 marked the last issue edited by “George E. Nitzsche and members of the University staff.” The first issue of the 1916-1917 year didn’t come out until December 22, 1916. The cover was redesigned, with a list of “Leading Articles” and a sketch of Benjamin Franklin at the bottom. The new editor was one Edward R. Bushnell C1901, who (two weeks later) explained to puzzled alumni that “the University Trustees temporarily suspended the publication of this magazine, and it required more time to get it under way than expected. It is our hope that the new features introduced will make amends for those lost.” The first issue listed five ways that the magazine “aims to serve Penn,” including “To interpret editorially the spirit and attitude of the university and to strengthen the bonds between the University, its students, graduates and friends.”

Following America’s entry into World War I, stories of the many faculty and students serving appeared. In October 1917, Wharton Allen wrote, in “First Impressions of the War”:

“Life does not seem the same over here. I can’t explain it, for we are all changed men. We had been here only three days and had only learned the roads to our posts when the Germans started a bombardment. I hate to recall it. It seemed as if all Hell was let loose.”

(A note in the January 1, 1918, issue reported that the honorary degree awarded—in absentia—to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany in 1905 had been revoked by the trustees.)

The Association of Alumnae, founded in 1912, used the need for trained personnel in wartime to press its case for admitting women “into all departments upon the same basis as men” in an open letter to the trustees: “Can you as a patriotic citizen and a Trustee of the University, refuse to hear the appeal of the young women for this necessary preparation? … We ask you to use your great influence in opening wide every avenue of instruction in the University to women on equal terms with men.”

Old Penn was born again as The Pennsylvania Gazette on February 1, 1918, reviving the title of a weekly newspaper published by Benjamin Franklin from 1729-1748 (the dates still appear on our contents page with the copyright notice). “The reasons for the change of name will be immediately obvious,” the editor wrote. “The publication which represents the University of Pennsylvania should, if possible, carry its name, so that a reference to it will instantly call to mind the University itself. As The Pennsylvania Gazette, this will now be possible.

“Likewise, it has always been our conviction that Pennsylvania should overlook no opportunity to do honor to Franklin.” Under its new name, the editors wrote, “The Pennsylvania Gazette will redouble its efforts to serve the University and its alumni.”

The tradition of publishing interesting lectures and articles continued. In its second issue as the Gazette, a four-page article on “The Russian Revolution” by Dr. William E. Lingelbach of the Department of History included his own first-hand observations of the events of the previous year. The following month saw a lengthy article by Law Professor David Werner Amram titled “A Jewish State in Palestine.”



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