A Rare Glimpse at Norwich in the 1850s

May 17, 2016

university owlWe’re very excited that two university newspapers that ran for short periods of time in the 1850s, the University Owl and University Regulator, are now online for our community to enjoy.

The approximately 40-year period between Alden Partridge’s departure from the university in 1843 and the regular publication of a student newspaper, the Reveille, in the 1880s is something of an informational black hole. Perhaps because of the 1866 fire, few university records survive, and we largely do not have the benefit of publications like the Record, Reveille, and Guidon to offer insights into campus life.university regulator

The University Owl appears to have been something between a satire and a gossip newspaper. “Published occasionally and semi-occasionally” according to its masthead, only two issues survive in the University Archives, published in November 1854 and December 1856. In addition to parody poems and essays, each issue includes a “university roll” in which most of the cadets are listed by name with an inside joke and sometimes a biting commentary. For example, Cadet Steadman is referred to as “You self-conceited, egotistical, hypocritical, valorous, savagorous [sic]specimen of a swell.”

The University Regulator appears to have been a competing, similar publication dating from around the same time period, with a similarly scant four issues surviving. Both papers make reference to a proliferation of competing publications around the same time, which might explain their short, sporadic runs. The Regulator was probably associated with a secret society called the Regulators about which little is known.

These newspapers do not contain the reports of daily activities for which we so often hunger. They nonetheless offer us a perspective like no other on cadet life in the 1850s: the camaraderie, the humor, and the clear affection that was held both for one’s brothers at arms, and for the institution itself.

–Mary Margaret

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