On October 27, 1922, the first issue of the CatholicU student-run newspaper, The Tower, was published. A four-page issue, it introduced itself to the campus with a focus on local events and academic fare. Named after the turret-like tower of Gibbons Hall – the paper’s first editorial offices – it has continuously operated for the past century, documenting campus life, debates, and changes. In a new exhibit, Special Collections is highlighting some of the ways The Tower has documented the history and culture of Catholic University. This exhibit can be seen in person in Mullen Library during the fall semester 2022 and viewed online here.
With 100 years and 129 editors-in-chief (1), The Tower has gone through as many changes as the campus has experienced. It has altered its masthead dozens of times, changed its formatting and size, and even shifted to an online version in the past few years. But its dedication to documenting the thoughts and lives of Cardinals has remained unaltered.
Far be it from this humble archivist to pontificate on the merits of student journalism, but I feel qualified to discuss the important role that campus newspapers like The Tower play in preserving and telling the history of the University and its inhabitants.
The Tower remains one of the key resources for studying the history and culture of the Catholic University campus, particularly the undergraduate experience on campus. With most of the student population changing approximately every four years, it is often difficult to document the lives of the ever-changing residents on campus. Student organizations rise and fall, issues of concern are debated and settled, and students matriculate and soon graduate. While our staff works to archive as much as possible, we cannot capture the full range of the ever-evolving student experience.
Having a weekly newspaper, written and edited by undergraduate students, is thus a rich source of information related to the culture of the campus. It provides ample documentation and reporting on social events, campus gossip, ongoing debates (both on- and off-campus), moments of change, and numerous stories that may otherwise be lost to history.
For example, several of our posts on this very blog have often relied heavily on The Tower’s past reporting. This includes stories on how the infamous 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast was received on campus, spooky traditions involving ghost cars and coffin parades, the student response to the U.S. entry into World War II, an occupation of Mullen Library, the 2001 Cardinals-Globetrotters matchup, a dress coming to Drama, and even an otherwise-lost tale about a young senator visiting campus to give a talk. Not to mention a blog dedicated to the history of The Tower itself!
Our reference staff frequently uses the bound Tower collection and digitized collection to address inquiries about campus history, and we have even found amazing photos for social media or to share photos and stories with alumni.
While there are innumerable examples to share about The Tower, we encourage you to explore the online exhibit to see more such examples. You may also browse the digital Tower collection online here: https://cuislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/cuislandora%3A67501
And don’t forget to support the ongoing editorial staff and their work by visiting The Tower’s current site: http://cuatower.com/
(1) An earlier version of this blog referred to the “editors-in-chief” as “editors-at-large”. Special thanks to John Koppisch, ’78 (editor-in-chief of The Tower, 1977) for pointing out this error.