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The Dartmouth
June 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The Dartmouth looks back on 200 years of news

Before his legendary defense of Dartmouth in the Dartmouth College Supreme Court case, Daniel Webster -- secretary of state, congressman and a defining intellectual of his time -- left another legacy for Dartmouth students to uphold, the nation's first college newspaper.

"America's Oldest College Newspaper," then known as the Dartmouth Gazette, was first published independently of the College on Aug. 27, 1799.

It took much of its content from Dartmouth students' submissions and was run for an entire year by Webster himself, according to former Dartmouth Editor-in-Chief Brock Brower '53.

Webster contributed poetry to the Gazette under the pseudonym "Icarus."

The Gazette focused primarily on national news and included a large number of literary submissions.

The demise of the Dartmouth Gazette coincided with the rise of The Dartmouth's closest predecessor, the Dartmouth Herald. The Herald ushered in a new form of news coverage in Hanover, placing an emphasis on local and College news in its first issue in June 1820.

An Institution Established

Finally, in 1838, a group of students decided to form a newspaper run solely by Dartmouth undergraduates. With the first issue written in November 1939 and distributed several months later, The Dartmouth officially came into existence.

The first issue included poetry, fiction, term papers and editorials in accordance with its stated goal of "exclusively literary" writing. The prior year's senior class chose the editors of the paper.

The Dartmouth matured in its first year, adding obituaries and a College News section.

In April 1843, the editors of The Dartmouth broke the paper's original policy which limited content to literary submissions, and instead, printed an engraved picture of College President Nathan Lord inside.

Despite the paper's journalistic progress and growing following, the 1844 editors announced the end of their experimental newspaper. Not until 1867 would College students again read news of Hanover and beyond in the pages of The Dartmouth.

The Dartmouth's re-birth

In an effort to garner funding for production, the new version of The Dartmouth in 1867 printed articles mainly targeting alumni interests.

The paper included articles on the College's history and the post-graduate life of several Dartmouth alums.

Starting in September 1875, Editor Samuel Merrill -- a graduate from the Class of 1876 -- began publishing the paper weekly on Thursday mornings. For $2 a year, College students, parents, alumni and local residents could purchase the only weekly college newspaper in New England.

Losing the ambitious drive displayed by Merrill, The Dartmouth reduced production to once a fortnight in September 1879. But once editors began competing for positions in 1895 instead of giving the senior class the vote, production picked up.

The paper once again became a weekly in 1904. Two major decisions would come in the next two decades: the change from a magazine-sized layout to broadsheet newsprint in 1910 and the 1920 decision to produce the paper daily.

Problems with production continued to beleaguer newspaper productions. Due to a lack of students on campus during World War II, The Dartmouth ceased production on June 19, 1943.

In its stead, College news service director Charles Widmayer '30 published the weekly Dartmouth Log out of Parkhurst Hall. With the help of College students and enlisted men training at Dartmouth, the Log acted as a conduit from the administration to those on campus.

Less than two years later, with many students back from the war, The Dartmouth reopened production in March 1945.

The Dartmouth made its most recent significant change in 1973 when the newspaper changed from broadsheet to its current tabloid-sized pages.

The paper also moved locations early in the 20th century. Since its inception, The Dartmouth's offices had always been located off campus. But when a fire razed the Dartmouth Press Building in the early morning of May 4, 1914, the College provided temporary space in 5 College Hall.

The newspaper has remained on campus since, and moved into its current location on the second floor of Robinson Hall in 1996.

Unique national coverage

The Dartmouth's coverage of Harry Truman's Presidential triumph was unique among newspapers nationwide. While the Chicago Tribune incorrectly declared Thomas Dewey's victory in its early edition and other newspapers ran typical photos of supposedly victorious candidates, The Dartmouth ran photos of losers Dewey and Earl Warren upside down.

The paper had received the photos from the Associated Press, which had assumed a Republican victory. With the printing presses demanding templates and breaking news announcing Truman's unexpected lead in the race, night editor Peter Bird Martin '51 decided to print the photos upside down with a large headline explaining the topsy-turvy state of the election.

On a similar note, political intrigue came directly to Hanover on Jan. 27, 1965 when civil-rights activist Malcolm X arrived on campus for a speech. Afterwards, in an hour-long interview with a reporter from The Dartmouth, Malcolm X warned, "'The year 1965 will be the longest, hottest, bloodiest summer yet witnessed unless something is done about the injustice my people continue to face.'"

Landmark College announcements

A Nov. 22, 1971 headline trumpeting DARTMOUTH TO ADMIT WOMEN was perhaps the most significant event in the College's history this century.

The tremendous news was not without precedent. The Dartmouth had printed numerous articles about coeducation over the previous decade. A poll of students taken in 1965 revealed an even split on opinions about coeducating Dartmouth.

Other stories gauging faculty support concluded that professors generally favored admitting women to the College.

Only five years after the first women matriculated at Dartmouth in 1972, Anne Bagamery '78 became the first female editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth.

The landmark announcement this past winter of the Trustees' Five Principals, with a headling announcing TRUSTEES TO END GREEK SYSTEM 'AS WE KNOW IT,' alerted students to perhaps the most significant decision affecting the College since the beginning of coeducation.

As more news breaks in Hanover and elsewhere, The Dartmouth will strive to provide objective coverage. As this weekend's celebration looks to past successes, later anniversaries will celebrate the accomplishments of the current and future staffs and directorates of The Dartmouth.