100 Years of the Gazette,

The Gazette of the 1920s was an enthusiastic cheerleader for Penn sports, especially football, offering extensive reports and analysis of each game at Franklin Field and away. The illustration is of Penn’s other storied athletic facility, the Palestra, in the planning stages.

Though published for the alumni, the Gazette was not, strictly speaking, of the alumni until 1925. Before that, the magazine was published by the trustees of the University. With the 1925-26 volume, though, responsibility for the Gazette was transferred to the General Alumni Society, which already put out a monthly publication of its own, called The Alumni Register.

In the October 2, 1925, issue, the first under the new arrangement, an editorial noted that the Alumni Register would have its name changed to The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle (in imitation of yet another of Franklin’s publishing ventures) and would become a quarterly that “will endeavor to express the literary and scholarly attainments of Pennsylvania’s faculty and alumni.” The Gazette, meanwhile, “will continue to be a news magazine, although improved, we hope, by the added cooperation it will receive from its publication board and as the official spokesman of the Alumni Society.” GAS members would receive both publications with their annual dues of $5. (By then, the subscription price of the Gazette had tripled to $3, though a single copy was 10 cents, only twice the cost in 1902.)

In practice, the change of ownership had little impact. Bushnell continued as editor and the magazine continued to offer the same mix of University and alumni (mostly club) news, reports of faculty research and publications, and lots and lots of sports—especially football.

When Penn beat Yale 16-13 in the first meeting of the two schools since 1893, the victory was announced in banner type on the first page of the October 23, 1925, issue, and the Bushnell-bylined story began: “There have been many brilliant constellations in Pennsylvania’s athletic firmament, but certainly not within the last thirty years has any Pennsylvania eleven ever illumined the intercollegiate gridiron with such a bright light as the collection of stars that compose this year’s football team.”

The 1920s Gazette also included a regular student column—which, under several names and with occasional interruptions, has been a regular feature of the magazine ever since. These informal reports mixed discussion of sports and the round of campus rituals and more general essays. “The student body is at the present writing immersed in the sea of doubt and disaster known commonly as midyears. The greater portion of the campus is engaged in the pastime of stretching the minimum mental preparation over the maximum number of exam book pages,” wrote G. G. Gordon Mahy Jr. C’24 in one representative sample from the February 15, 1924 issue.

The University Museum’s archaeological expeditions continued to be a staple of the magazine’s coverage. In “Oldest Examples of Writing Uncovered in Babylonia,” published January 25, 1924, expedition director C. Leonard Woolley wrote about the resumption of work “in the beginning of November [on] the excavations at Ur of the Chaldees, which had been interrupted by the summer months. The most laborious task that is being undertaken is the clearance of the masses of debris surrounding the ziggurat, or staged tower.” The following month, “Museum Excavations Confirm Biblical Story,” dealt with the latest finds from the Beisan site in Palestine, “known in ancient times as Bethshean and mentioned in the Book of Kings.”

The year 1929—the 100th anniversary of Franklin’s Gazette—opened with the announcement of several changes at Penn’s magazine: “With this issue the GAZETTE appears in a new and distinctive dress, with an altered format and under new direction.” From then on, the magazine would be published “fortnightly” during the academic year and monthly in June, July, August and September.

“Editorially, the Gazette will seek, not merely to make itself a formal medium between the alumni and the University, but a link of living interest to all alumni.” The editorial promised more attention to athletics, and that articles by “well-known sports writers and coaches will appear throughout the year.” It also pointed to the color (blue) cover, explaining, “until the middle of the 19th century the ‘colors’ of the University were blue.”

Another story noted that, “in view of plans for an enlarged paper,” a “separate editor” for the Gazette had been hired: George Brian Hurff Jr. C’24. Before being promoted, he had been “Assistant Editor to The General Alumni Society publications,” which had put him in a good position to guide “the GAZETTE into new fields.”



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