Some ninety years ago, the students of Boston College began publishing the newspaper The Heights. Out of its meager beginnings in November of 1919, the student newspaper has become a massive source of information about not only the campus and New England, but the world as it relates to Boston College. The project of preparing The Heights for digitization has been an interesting and sometimes bumpy experience as we Graduate Research Assistants have followed the twisting and turning of the political orientation of its writers. Of particular interest to me were the volumes from the thirties through the fifties for their advertisements.
Many people are by now familiar with the AMC television series “Mad Men”which made some of us who were born in the last twenty-five years or so aware of the Lucky Strike marketing slogan “It’s toasted.” Being of a generation who follows said T.V. show but has no first hand experience with its content (read: daily life in the 1960s), my colleagues and I were simultaneously surprised, appalled and excited to see this very slogan on many of the pages of The Heights volumes from the 1950’s.
Lucky Strike continued to entertain us with its use of droodles, invented by Roger Price in the 1950s. Tease your brain with some of these droodles taken from a 1954 issue of The Heights, “Butterfly Skipping Rope” and “Firepole for False Alarms.” In all this droodle-fun, however, we couldn’t help but notice what seemed like an inordinate amount of ads for cigarettes and the act of smoking.
Droodles were in fact submitted to Lucky Strike by students across the United States as part of a competition for prize money. Not only did this advertising appear on every other page of the student newspaper in some issues, many of these ads explicitly sought the participation of college students in their campaigns.
In addition to these droodles, see the 1953 Lucky Strike ad from vol. 35 no. 1 of The Heights, offering students $25 for composing a jingle to be used by the company in its advertising. Perhaps even more interesting is the ad for Chesterfield cigarettes, from vol. 34 of The Heights (1952), assuring readers that smoking Chesterfield cigarettes will cause no harm to their respiratory organs. While many of us might know somebody who remembers this friendly attitude toward smoking, it is nothing short of absurd to behold for people coming from a culture so focused on health habits. Seeing this and other paradigm shifts come to life via The Heights brings to our collective forefront how significant student projects here in the Burns Library can be.
Three Graduate Research Assistants have been sifting through these newspapers in order to prepare them for disbinding, conservation and collation, so that they may ultimately be digitized. As we reviewed the pages for tears, missing articles, duplicate pages and the like, we reminded ourselves that although this work could be tedious at times, we were taking part in a process that would eventually make The Heights, in its near entirety, available to a far more extensive community of readers. A member of the BC community who wonders, “What was the perspective of BC students on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?” or “How and when did the student newspaper come to be an independent entity?” will be able to search/browse scanned images of The Heights in order to answer those questions.
For further information on this process, feel free to take a look at the latest “Conservator’s Notebook,” post. For photos of the dis-binding preparation, visit the Burns Flickr “Behind the Scenes” set. Finally, to help us out by donating a replacement for a missing or damaged issue of The Heights, please consult this list for what’s needed.
- Katie Lyle, Graduate Research Assistant, Burns Library & Ph.d. Student in the Department of Romance Languages, Boston College