Quips and Cranks
“But what is an annual, some may ask? Briefly, it is a photographic and historical summary of college life. It contains histories of the several classes, clubs and Greek letter societies, a short historical sketch of the college, and various other items of solid and permanent interest interspersed with light sketches and with poems, grave and gay. In short, the ideal Annual is a perfect panorama of the passing events in college life, a college history in miniature… it will make one of the most delightful souvenirs of one’s college days.”
[The Davidson Monthly, December 1894]
In December of 1884, the staff of The Davidson Monthly described to its readers the advantages of having a college annual. Not only would such an annual be pleasant to have, but its creation would be quite feasible:
“We have at least two pen and ink sketchers whose work with just a little more polish, would do credit to the pages of Life. Furthermore, we have half a dozen poets who turn a couplet with the ease of pope, and indite graceful lyrics that Herrick needn’t blush to own – if people blush where he is.” [The Davidson Monthly, December 1894]
The staff of The Davidson Monthly was right; an annual was possible, and the Davidson student body rallied to create the first annual that very academic year.
The Davidson annual was entitled “Quips and Cranks” after Milton’s L’Allegro: “Haste thee nymph, and bring with thee / Jest and youthful jollity, / Quips and Cranks, and wanton wiles, / Nods and becks, and wreathed smiles.”
The first issue was published by the Eumenean and Philanthropic Literary Societies.
The history of Quips and Cranks has not been without its pot holes. Twice, first in 1910 and again in 1974, there were major censorship controversies. In the fall of 1910, senior Jack Westall was dismissed after defying a faculty order not to place a particular cartoon (mocking a faculty member) into the annual. The other Quips and Cranks staff printed a copy of the censorship letter on the next page to show their non-involvement: “[T]he nicknames of the members of the faculty will not be allowed in the annual, nor any reference to the members of the Faculty – written or by cartoon – of a coarse or unrefined nature, or ridiculous in character…” [Quips and Cranks 1910]
Jack Westall was allowed to return to complete his exams and graduate with the class of 1911.
In 1974, President Spencer prevented the distribution of annuals due to “two frontal pictures of male ‘streakers’ and two captions; one quoting the lead line of a DAVIDSONIAN editorial, the other using a four letter word for copulation.” [The Davidsonian, 25 October 1974]. The debate largely concerned the powers of the president in student affairs: “since the fall of 1971 the accepted body governing such issues, the Communications board… [had] been mandated to refrain from infringing upon the freedom of the press.” [Proposed Senate Resolution, 1974] The Student Government Association, numerous other campus organizations, and the student body as a whole all protested the action. The yearbook was eventually released after some editing.
Quips and Cranks
The format, style, and contents of Quips and Cranks changed dramatically over the years, however, its primary purpose remained the same: to be a souvenir of a loved college experience. The staff of The Davidson Monthly in 1894 was not only right about the feasibility of an annual, but also about its popularity. The tradition of a Davidson College annual would stretch into the twenty-first century.
“A College Annual.” The Davidson Monthly. December 1894.
Davidson College. Quips and Cranks Davidson: Davidson College, 1895.
Davidson College. Quips and Cranks Davidson: Davidson College, 1910.
Davidson College. Quips and Cranks Davidson: Davidson College, 1974.
“Editor Expresses Indignation.” The Davidsonian. October 25, 1974: 3.
Letter to the student body concerning the 1974 yearbook censorship. October 22, 1974. Quips and Cranks Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Milton, J. “L’Allegro.” Quips and Cranks Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
“Proposed Senate Resolution” October 1974. Quips and Cranks Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
“Spencer Censors Quips and Cranks.” The Davidsonian. October 25, 1974.
Wesall, James. M. “Costly Quip Recalled.” The Davidson Monthly. October 1971.
Author: Tammy Ivins
Date: July 2007
Cite as: Tammy Ivins, “Quips and Cranks” Davidson Encyclopedia July 2007. https://digitalprojects.davidson.edu/omeka/s/encyclopedia/page/quips-and-cranks