Advisory Statement from Davidson College

"This site contains materials originally published in yearbooks, newspapers, and other Davidson College publications. You may encounter upsetting racist, oppressive, and outdated representations in these documents. They are included for historical accuracy and do not represent the views of the current Davidson College community, which honors the dignity of all persons and commits itself to a quest for truth and the building of a more just and humane future." [1]

In Davidson College’s formative years, students shared laughs with each other and the broader public. Throughout the period we studied, from the turn of the 19th century until the start of WWII, various humorous publications popped up on campus. Bolstered by the two literary societies at the college, Phi and Eu, students formed more than half a dozen literary magazines and newsletters. The earliest of these publications was the annual, Quips and Cranks, which published short stories, verse, and cartoons along with class summaries of the year’s events. Students sprinkled their wit into all those forms, cracking jokes at the expense of nearly everyone and anything around them. These jokes tell us of both the zeitgeist of the writers and the place they occupied in their world.

Davidson College in the early 20th century was a place of mirrors and windows, and ditches and pedestals. Students could look inward at themselves, or outward toward each other. They could peer down to those who stood below them in the social order, or above toward the administration, and in all cases they had opportunities to crack jokes. More than anything, these “gems of wit” we share tell of how their creators viewed the world in which they lived. These jokes came from a racialized society, with a strict hierarchy students observed and perpetuated. Students saw the prejudice against people of color and used that bigotry as humor. They saw women as objects to attain, so they wrote satirical columns on how to attract girls. When the freshmen struggled to acclimate to Davidson, upperclassmen drew cartoons of bumbling freshmen. Whole classes built strong, fraternal comradery, and wrote aggrandizing epochs to summarize the year's exploits, while picking on their own insecurities.

When we started on this project, we sought out examples of student humor along with the forms used and the target of jokes. The publications cited in this project are Quips and Cranks, Scripts and Pranks, The Yowl, The Chameleon, and The Davidsonian. Due to limitations, our project could only feature a few instances of student humor in each section. For a more expansive look, contact the Davidson College archives.



1. "Advisory Statement," Davidson College Archives,