The Quill

Most students at Northern today have probably never heard of The Quill. The Quill was a student magazine which was issued monthly from 1914 to 1918. Another section of it entitled the “Midget Quill” was written by high school students from the training school on campus where the Northern students did their student teaching. Although the magazine only existed for a few years, it gives us a fascinating glimpse into student life at Northern at the time. The small size of Northern in these years meant that news which we might consider rather trivial was not only discussed among the student population but was immortalized in the magazine, allowing subsequent generations to find amusement.

For instance, Northern used to have several debating societies that would compete against each other. Many of these societies had rather strange names such as Osiris and Ygdrasil. In Northern’s early years, every student was required to join one of the societies. Each society had a column in the Quill to announce any news from their group. In January 1915, Osiris announced that they had held a mock trial: the People vs. Albert Janzen. Albert was accused of stealing a crushed rock fruit pie from the Domestic Science department. The testimony of the defense “centered largely around the contest between Dr. Hebb’s bulldog and Mr. Stull’s cat on President Kaye’s clothesreel, Janzen’s purchase of a watermelon to feed the German soldiers on the Rind, and his subsequent address before the bricklayers’ union”. It is unclear whether the defense was intending to be absurdist or whether the relevance of these arguments has simply been lost to time as we are not aware of the background information surrounding these individuals. In the end, however, Janzen was convicted of stealing the pie after the prosecution used much more convincing forms of evidence such as fingerprinting and eyewitnesses who identified Janzen’s clothing at the time of the robbery.

Another issue discussed a hike to Presque Isle which the Student Girls’ League took in the spring of 1915. The article noted excitedly that “Cecil Stevenson’s coffee is worthy of special mention as none of the sticks in it were longer than three inches…On the return trip, the beaver dam was visited and Carmen Martin demonstrated the correct way to cross a creek on logs”.

The Quill contained a variety of other happenings at Northern as well. It listed such things as where each of the faculty and students had gone over Christmas break and who they had visited. It frequently made fun of the faculty basketball team and their escapades. And, it often listed what was eaten at various campus events catered by the Domestic Science department. One column in the Quill, entitled “The Gossip Monger” contained brief statements of events which had occurred in the past month. Most of the news involved visitors to campus. However, other notable items included “Mr. Magers’ snake made a sensational escape some time ago, but has now returned” and “Certain members of the faculty have taken steps towards becoming proficient in the new dances”. Another short article discussed an inter-class basketball contest in which intimidation tactics were a significant strategy. We are informed that “The first event of the evening was the march of the Seniors headed by Death, leading a small boy in Junior colors. The Juniors had a few of their members painted green and white, and one of them sharpened the axe with a file that came from Hancock, evidently to correspond with the Hancock yells.” The Seniors won, and “after the game both classes marched through town, giving their yells, and refreshed themselves at the Candy Kitchen”.

These are only a small selection of the interesting stories that can be read in the Quill. Many more can be found by visiting the Archives and perusing the volumes.

Prepared by Annika Peterson


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