By Erin George
“We have three reasons for writing. First, life is so amusing. Second, life is so exciting. Third, life is not good enough.”
—Joseph Warren Beach, Professor of English (1907-1948) and Chair of the English Department (1939-1948), Undergrad, 1947
Students at the University have been writing — and publishing — opinions and short stories and literary criticism and jokes and poems and news stories since 1877.
That’s when the first student newspaper Ariel began publication.
Its successor, the Minnesota Daily, has been in continuous publication since May 1, 1900. Some student publications such as the Daily thrived for several decades. Others published only a few issues, or just one, before falling to what Journalism Professor Fred Kildow described in a November 7, 1963 Daily article as the two main reasons student publications fail: financial trouble and lack of sufficient interest among students.
From a one-issue humor magazine in the 1960s to the 88-year run of the engineering students’ technical journal, student publications can be found in the University of Minnesota Archives.
Ivory Tower began in September 1952 as a weekly feature edition on a page of the Minnesota Daily. It grew to be a literary and artistic supplement to the Daily, featuring student-written short stories, poetry, and opinion pieces as well as artwork and photography. The first run of Ivory Tower ended in 1969. The Department of English restarted Ivory Tower in 2006, introducing an art and literary magazine edited, designed, and published by undergraduates enrolled in a two-semester course focused on magazine production. In 2017, the publication became known as The Tower.
The University’s Association of Engineering Students launched Technolog (also called Techno-Log and Minnesota Technolog) in November 1920. In his editorial for the inaugural issue, University President Lotus D. Coffman notes that it “is encouraging to know that the students…in association with members of the faculty, are willing to devote themselves to the publication of a dignified, strictly scientific journal.” The focus, theme, and content of individual issues were determined by a student editorial board with input from faculty advisors. At different times during its run, the technical engineering articles in Technolog gave way to issues devoted to humor and science fiction. Technolog continued publication until 2008. The entire run of Technolog is available online.
The Minnesota Loon
The University Board of Publications approved funding in May 1965 for Minnesota Loon, a student magazine devoted to “humor of all sorts.” The funding would cover the publication of one issue that would then be reviewed and evaluated by the Board to determine if financial support would continue. The first issue of Minnesota Loon focused on Vietnam, and the Loon editor explains in a May 11, 1965 Daily article that the issue will “poke fun at the whole mess” with cartoons and articles. After the first issue was published that spring, the Board of Publications ruled that the project should be abandoned because Minnesota Loon “lacked literary quality.”
The Gopher Countryman
In April 1924, students of the University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Home Economics launched Gopher Countryman, a monthly magazine to succeed the long-running Minnesota Farm Review, a newsletter for the St. Paul campus. Gopher Countryman featured news of the College and its alumni and happenings on the St. Paul Campus along with columns and in-depth articles on broader topics of interest and technological innovations. The inaugural issue notes that the title Countryman was selected in part “because it implied, in as full a sense as possible, all three branches of the college – agriculture, forestry, and home economics.” The editors also note that suggestions for a new name are welcome. Gopher Countryman retained the name throughout its publication run, which ended in 1931.
The Gopher Yearbook
In 1888, University students published the first volume of the Gopher yearbook. The November 13, 1897 issue of the student newspaper Ariel explains that the editors of the 1888 volume intended for it to be “a medium through which as much fun as possible should be had with the Faculty without causing the expulsion of the editors.” The tradition of a yearbook continued, but later student editorial boards viewed the Gopher as a vehicle to capture their perception of the campus community and publish a record of the student body. Ongoing struggles with printing, sales, and finances lead to the last Gopher being published in 1967. The possibility of a new publication was discussed, but another campus-wide yearbook was never re-launched. All volumes of the Gopher are available online.
Student publications over the years
—Erin George is the University Archives Research Services Archivist. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.