The University Archives were begun in the fall of 1938 by librarian Myrtle G. Hart in a caged area of the Doheny Memorial Library stacks as an initiative by the Library's reference department. The first University Archivist was Jack Beahan, who was appointed in 1973 and served until his untimely death in 1976. Paul Christopher supervised the move of the Archives to the East Library Building in 1988. Mr. Christopher retired in 1996. Claude Zachary has been University Archivist since 1998.
This is an article from the Southern California Alumni Review, October 1948, describing the early years and development of the University Archives.
Trojan Strong Box
by Claire Margaret Morris '36
Lord Byron's poetry was considered too shocking to be placed on the university's library shelves. Students were expected to attend chapel each day and be in their rooms by 10 o'clock each night.
Dancing was taboo, so the women's literary society "tendered" a "topic party" for members of the men's literary society. Program cards were circulated and signed, and couples paired off for "talking sessions" in which they "discussed" a given topic as they "walked" around the room.
Morals came in for a good deal of concern, and such themes as: "Resolved that Morality Increases with the Advance of Civilization" or "Does the Progress of Science Directly Improve the Morals of the People?" were argued freely and debated formally.
It was circa 1888.
And thus the little university, born only a few years previously out in the mustard fields near Los Angeles, began to record its autobiography. Later chapters were added on the gridiron and on the fields of Olympic games, in laboratory experiments in science and psychology, in the spheres of world affairs, government, and the judiciary.
Theses and books have been written about the fledgling's growth. Dr. Rockwell D. Hunt assembled Troy's biographical data in his History of the University. Other material was collected in book form in 1939 when the General Alumni Association published the Cardinal and Gold. A more intimate history, however, is preserved in a single room on the campus, the archives of the Doheny library.
Lively differences of opinion exist among scholars regarding the terms archives and historical manuscripts. Popular definitions would include "a collection of old things," and the adjectives "dusty," musty," and "faded" undoubtedly would be applied. Any collection of old material does not, however, constitute archival material. An archive is the record of the activity of an organization. It is a shadow of the organization itself. Archival material is chiefly manuscript material. It relates primarily to the business affairs of the individual institution which keeps the record for its own use. The quality which distinguishes an archive from a library is its uniqueness. Where but at Troy would you find such items as these carefully preserved so that generations unconceived might look at or study them:
- A copy of the university charter.
- A draft of the night letter President Bovard sent the Reverend John Dickinson asking him to take a position at the school. (On the back of the message are other preliminary drafts. Obviously somebody was trying to get in the word "please" without having to pay additional money!)
- Pictures and stories of the sophomore hats.
- The constitution of the class of 1921.
- The story of the petrified tree section on the campus.
- The history and meaning of the fountain on the library lawn, before it became a dunking ground for Bruins and pledges.
- A Theta Sigma Phi Matrix Table menu on which some hungry, forgotten Theta Sig had checked off each item of food as it was brought in from the kitchen.
College archives have an established place in the college library today, but it is unfortunate that the collection and preservation of archival material have not always been a matter of concern and interest.
The collection at Troy has noticeable and dismaying gaps. Although comparatively young among American universities, S.C. already has a legend behind it, and while there is in the archives a rich representation for some periods, historical material on other years is lacking.
An attempt is being made to correct the mistake before any more of this valuable material is lost. In the fall of 1938 Miss Myrtle G. Hart began organizing the archival material already on hand. Since then the collection has grown in size and importance, and less than a year ago it was moved to accessible headquarters in the library.
Integration and administration of materials preserved in the room and the building up of current material pertaining to the development of Troy occupy the time of the mistress of the archives. Alumni, however, can help, and Miss Hart has asked for assistance from all former students:
"More than the efforts of the library staff and the assistance of others on the campus is necessary to achieve the goal of the archives division. Interesting items come to light in unexpected places. Alumni, and relatives, and friends of many who were connected with the university in early and more recent days must have a great amount of material, any piece of which may be the very item needed to fill in a gap.
"Gifts of pictures, letters, programs, student publications, any item contributing to the history of the university, will be greatly appreciated and carefully preserved."
Already classified in the archives are many of the school's official records, publications of the institution, faculty records, club records (although many are missing), programs of social and athletic events, and photographs.
Of chief interest to the ordinary visitor would be some of the more gossipy memorabilia. Some of you can, no doubt, recall the original "Alma Mater," written by John Oliver Wilson '08. Miss Hart recently was asked by a former student, now several thousand miles away from Southern California, to supply the words for him.
The origin of a later song, is perhaps, better known. In a letter to Dr. Lucien Cailliett in 1945, Al Wesson wrote that while he was a junior at S.C. back in the early 1920's, "I was given the nice little job of writing a campus musical extravaganza-book, music, and lyrics. For the concluding song I thought we should get the entire cast on the stage for a big finale and wrote 'All Hail.' It was never intended to be the University alma mater, but the students seemed to like it and within a year or two it had officially replaced the old alma mater by John Oliver Wilson, which I believe is now called the University Hymn. Incidentally, the opening number of this extravaganza is still played, I believe-'The Cardinal and Gold.' "
It might be interesting to note the reaction of the average member of this year's rooting section were he told that some of the songs he will sing in the stands had been plucked from the musical production of a local "Rodgers and Hammerstein" some twenty-odd years ago.
A faded photograph in the archives last year helped to clarify information about S.C.'s first football squad. There had been considerable confusion about Dr. Henry Herbert Goddard's association with the first team, since prints of the first team did not show him. Examination of the back of the photograph preserved in the archives showed that the picture had been taken by Mr. Goddard, and that little mystery was dispelled, since the man could hardly have been in two places at once.
Archival periodicals, official and unofficial, form a group of materials which straddle the gap between the rest of the library and the archives. Many second sets of these periodicals are in the library reading rooms, while complete files of campus periodicals are preserved in the archives.
These range from the Sybyl, first year book published in 1889, to the latest El Rodeo. Incidentally, the first El Rodeo was published in 1899, and the second volume did not appear until 1908. After that date, its lifeline was stronger.
The Cardinal (April-June, 1902) was a forerunner of the campus daily and, in its way, the forerunner of the ALUMNI REVIEW, since it ran a column of alumni notes whereby it hoped to keep the student body informed about alumni.
This was followed by The Advocate (October, 1903-July, 1904) a monthly publication designed to keep the school before the public. By September of 1905, students were reading The University Courier, and they read that until June of 1912.
According to the archival records, the next newspaper to make its appearance was the Daily Southern California, (September 16, 1912 to June, 1915), slightly mis-named since it was published only four days a week, due to financial trouble, and consisting largely of advertisements begging for subscribers.
In the year 1915 the Trojan came, for on September of that year, the Southern California Trojan appeared and was published until February 13, 1925, to be followed by the Southern California Daily Trojan (February 17, 1925, to May 17, 1943).
Came the war and went the campus daily, so the "daily" was dropped from the name, and the Southern California Trojan brought the news to the campus from July 6, 1943 to November 10, 1944. On November 13, 1944, the Southern California Daily Trojan reappeared, and it is to be hoped it stays. Otherwise, things are going to be awfully difficult for some future campus historian when he starts to untangle the history of the campus publications as preserved in the archives.
After The Cardinal back in 1902 stopped printing news about alumni, they were pretty well ignored until 1915. Credit for putting the idea of an alumni publication in concrete form is given to the class of 1914, which issued in 1915, and again in 1916, an annual class letter.
The idea was followed by the class of 1915 and was to have been used by the class of 1916. It was then decided a broader alumni magazine should supercede class letters, so in June, 1917, the Univerisity of Southern California Alumni Magazine appeared. In February, 1923, The Southern California Alumni News appeared, to be followed by the Southern California Illustrated News, in September, 1924, and the Southern California Alumni Review in September, 1925.
The first football program, called simply "Souvenir Program" was issued in 1921. The first Pigskin Review, known as such, did not appear until October 14, 1922.
Arranged on a shelf in the archives is a row of little red books, the old familiar freshman bible. Some numbers are missing, however, and it has been hoped that some starry-eyed freshmen were once impressed enough to have retained their passports to university life, but who wouldn't mind giving them up now.
The editor of the bible last year was a determined individualist who threw tradition out the window and brought out a yellow-covered book, slightly larger than those of former years. This yellow intruder has ruined uniformity on the freshman bible shelf and has brought the resigned statement from the archivist that "pockets in sports jackets are larger these days."
Other unrelated information snags the attention of a visitor to the room: minutes from the Women's Club before it was re-named Town and Gown, the 1935 Commencement program when Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink sang, or clippings about the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt received an honorary degree from S.C.
Although more institutions are establishing archival divisions within their libraries, as yet comparatively few have put emphasis on their archival material. The archives at Harvard are extensive and well known. The University of Chicago established its archives department in 1944. The University of Oklahoma has recently appointed a full time archivist to administer its collections, and the Oklahoma archivist was a recent interested visitor to the Trojan vault.
The archives division of Doheny exists not simply to preserve but to serve. It insures preservation of university records and functions as a clearing house for other information.
Students go to the archives for material about the school. The editor of the ALUMNI REVIEW makes frequent use of the material. Questions concerning famous students or others connected with the school are answered by the archival material.
Archivists are always indebted to private collectors. Photographs, letters, and other saved memoranda write a better history of a school than a historian can reconstruct. From private collections come many of the most valuable items in an archival collection.