The Rush Light and the Eclipse (1880s - 1890s): Pioneer Newspapers
The Rush Light and the Eclipse were Wilson’s first sources of news during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Rush Light was available to readers in 1882, five years before the first issue the Eclipse appeared in February 1887.
The Rush Light was a monthly paper edited and published by
the CHI-TAU-PI Society. Subscriptions could be purchased for 25 cents or
a single issue could be bought for 5 cents. At the time, its editors
were L.L. Flick and M.H. Swift. Under their supervision, the paper was
full of short serial stories, poetry, and advertisements.
The Rush Light was known for its proper grammar since it was
mostly a literary magazine. In the February 1887 edition (volume VI,
No. 3), a small feature called “Facts” was printed by the editors:
Another fact please keep in view,
‘Twil help you out of many a plight;
We give it to you gladly unto you,
Call promptly on the ‘Rush Light.’
The Eclipse followed a similar format. It was monthly paper
edited and published by PHI-CHI-PSI Society. Lillian L. Dickey and
Bessee Lee Naile edited a newspaper that featured articles of poetry,
plays, songs, advertisements, and a random selection of lost, found, and
wanted items. The editors and their staff supported a theme as they put
together each issue of this literary journal that acted as a newspaper.
“The pen is mightier than the sword,” argued one issue. “Quills and
pens are not mentioned. These latter are the only weapons used in the Eclipse office.”
Both of these newspapers impacted the Wilson community in a positive
way as they now provide information on Wilson’s past as part of the
Hankey Center archival holdings. They are good examples of how students
provided themselves with good entertainment. Today’s journalistic
standards of “who, what, when, where, and why” may not have been present
within the work of these newspapers, but each issue deserves
recognition for the accomplishments its writers and editors made in
Pharetra (1880s - 1920s): Sleigh Rides, News, and Literature
The Pharetra was one of the earliest newspapers to ever be published on the Wilson College campus. The Pharetra first appeared in the 1880s, and was the successor of Wilson College’s first publication, the Eclipse. The early Pharetra
featured short stories, poems, news, events, and advertisements. In the
1800s before cars, one method of transportation in the winter was by
horse-drawn sleigh. One particularly interesting and entertaining
account was of a sleigh ride to nearby Fayetteville in January 1893.
The past week has been a notable one at Wilson on account of the
number of sleighing parties to Fayetteville. Although the Richards girls
started the plan of former years, they were not the only ones to adopt
it. The party from the “Cottage” on Tuesday was followed the next
evening by one from Main Hall composed of fifteen gay Wilsonites…
Although the air felt very much like rain, and there was
considerable doubt as to weather Mr. Beyers’ sleigh could be procured
for that evening, yet the brave spirits of these Wilson girls were not
to be daunted. But when seven o’clock came and no sleigh made its
appearance, the questions flew thick and fast over the telephone, and
resulted in bringing upon the scene, at half past seven, three
comfortable sleighs, in which the merry crowd were soon stowed away.
When they started and found before long that it was raining, they
never thought of turning back, but overcame this difficulty by
procuring a few umbrellas in town, and nine o’clock saw the entire party
landed in safety at their destination—namely the large and commodious
hotel of Newcome.
It made no difference to the ever-ready host that our party
dropped in upon him unannounced and the “ballroom” was soon the scene of
The well-known orchestra of the town, consisting of one violin
and two guitars was soon procured and added much to the gayiety of the
An “elegant supper” was served later in the evening and at half
past eleven we were forced to turn our faces toward Chambersburg. A
swift ride brought us to Wilson about half past twelve. —Alas for some
recitations next morning! But we had fun.
In the 1890s, The Pharetra turned into more of a literary
publication and was published that way for the next thirty years until
it was replaced with the present day Billboard.
The Gumdrop (1920): Sweet-Talking the Alums
The Gumdrop was a short-lived publication that appeared in
the fall of 1920 and was dedicated to the celebration of the 50th
Anniversary Golden Jubilee of Wilson College. Specifically, students
published it in an effort to raise money for the college Endowment Fund
with a goal of $500,000. Just three issues of the The Gumdrop were published.
The paper reported how students had raised money for the endowment,
challenged each class to raise funds and contained inspirational poetry
that referred to the importance of the endowment. The October 14 issue
contained the Golden Jubilee Program listing the events including a
visit from then governor of Pennsylvania, the Honorable Thomas E.
a sample issue of The Gumdrop
The final issue of The Gumdrop, appeared December 31, 1920, and included a list of the ways to earn money for the endowment:
“How to Earn Money for the Endowment”
- Charge your family for your companionship.
- Disguise your Ford (we are sure you have one) and sell it for a Peerless.
- Sell all your old clothes to your roommate at 50% profit.
- Prove by mathematics that one dollar can do the work of two. Have the
formula patented and put it on the market.
- Store up the hot air you waste on your friends and melt snow with it. Charge
well for your services.
- Put a “nickel-in-the-slot” box on your door. Make your callers pay for your
- Don’t go to breakfast and collect the money from headquarters.
- Sacrifice all writtens and save money from your Harvard paper.
- Sell the mice you catch to a furrier. He can make moleskin coats.
- Help other people eat the food they get from home. They will pay liberally
for this kindness.
- Sing to your roommate. After a little effort on your part she will pay you to
The Gumdrop typically featured poetry, song lyrics and
pieces encouraging fundraising for the endowment. The paper was a tool
to persuade all students to do their part in the effort while still
having fun. The banner line of The Gumdrop was “Watch Us Grow.”
— Robin Herring
Wilson Gossip (1922 - 1923): "Wanted: Men for the Prom"
Wilson Gossip was a short-lived, lighthearted publication
that focused on life at Wilson College, the lives of the students, and
updates on graduated alumni. The first issue appeared in August 1922 and
contained witty bits of news about new faculty members, changes made to
the campus, and a humorous calendar of the upcoming school year. The
publication sold of $.25 per copy. Mentioned frequently throughout the
paper was the importance of endowment, which was the act of contributing
money to a fund that supported the betterment of Wilson College. In
fact, proceeds from the Wilson Gossip went directly to the endowment fund. Most amusing was the classified section that included advertisements such as:
WANTED - Men for the prom. Juniors and Seniors.
LOST - Library books. These must be returned immediately. Miss Erskine.
The format of the second edition of the Wilson Gossip, which
was published in August 1923, was much like the first edition, but
seemed to have a more confident tone. The columns were written in the
same witty manner and emphasized the lives of present and past “Wilson
girls.” The new format included page headings for the gossip section
which were entitled “Mrs. Nosit Aull” and “Mrs. Told U. Sough.” Funny
sub-headings below the title were “Did U Hear This -, “ ”Don’t tell
anyone, but -, “ and “Oh! I must run, my beans are burning, but -.”
One thing is quite evident when reading the gossip section: the writers of the Wilson Gossip
were quite proud of the achievement of the Wilson girls, whether it was
the announcement of a new occupation, a faraway place visited, a
marriage, or the birth of a new baby.
The price increase to $.30 per copy in 1923 must have been too
significant because the second edition was the last edition of the Wilson Gossip.
The Finger (1969): Dispatches from the Wilson Underground
The late sixties were a time of controversy, protest and activism in
America. College campuses embodied this spirit and Wilson College was no
exception. In 1969 students launched the underground newspaper The Finger
in order to communicate to the administration their concerns and allow
their peers a voice. In one article entitled “Things We’d Like to See,”
items included contraceptives on sale in the bookstore, a re-enactment
of the burning of Chambersburg, and a Viet Cong graduation speaker.
A sample cover page of The Finger.
Another excerpt from the same issue included a poem entitled “We Took
the Road Less Traveled by, and Decided We Had Made a Mistake” that was
critical of the college. Lines such as “A surplus of dowdy male
professors,” “Our wise have left in multitudes,” and “The state of
Wilson has gotten rotten” gave a view of how some students really felt about their college.
But while the paper served as an outlet for ranting and poking fun at
faculty and staff at Wilson, it also provided some important social
commentary. Essays such as “Is College Going to Pot” discussed real
problems such as society’s attitudes toward drug use. Another essay
titled “Pledge of Allegiance” discussed the prejudices of the American
government which, according to the piece, allowed “justice for all
except atheists. . . homosexuals. . . protesters. . . pacifists. . .
people who like revolutions other than the American one” and many other
groups including “finally, everybody who isn’t what we think they should
Always thought-provoking, The Finger provided an unfiltered glimpse into Wilson student politics during the late 1960s.
The Wilson Billboard (1921 - present): A Name Once in Question
Before acquiring the name The Wilson Billboard, Wilson’s
present day student newspaper sported a rather quizzical title, that of a
question mark. In its first two issues in January 15 and January 22,
1921, the newspaper advertised itself with a large ? in place
of a more traditional nameplate. By issue no. 3, which appeared on
January 29 of that year, the paper began announcing itself as The Wilson Billboard, a name that has stuck until the present.
Although the Billboard has continued to report on areas
important to students at Wilson College, a lot has changed over the
years. Alumni notes were popular in the earlier editions, but diminished
over the course of the twentieth century. In earlier years, The Wilson Billboard was printed on a weekly basis, while today the paper comes out bi-weekly.
Other aspects, however, have not changed as drastically. The list of
“Coming Events” in early editions has been transformed into the
“Announcements” section of today.
Elaine Kay Hess
Conococheague (1895 - 1934): Wisdom for Athletic Ladies
The Conococheague, the Wilson College for Women’s yearbook,
began in 1895 with the purpose of describing the “world of Wilson” as it
was—the duties, pleasures and growing successes of students. “The aim
of the college is to train minds, souls and bodies of our students,”
according to the 1896 edition of the Conococheague. The college
does not claim to teach “all knowledge,” but endeavors to “open the
door into the great library of the world’s wisdom.”
Published annually by the junior class, the Conococheague
offered its students a place to reflect upon their feelings, college
events, challenging classes and how they grew from the college
experience. Early editions did not include class pictures, only lists of
The Class of 1896’s class yell offers an early depiction of school spirit: “Hippity, zippity, he, hi, hix! Wilson, Wilson ’96!”
The banjo club, the bicycle club and the basketball club are examples
of extracurricular activities in which Wilson women of the late 19th
century participated, according to yearbooks from that time.
photo of the basketball club, "The Invincibles"
In 1921, each student’s “statistics” were listed in the yearbook.
These statistics included the woman’s name, chief characteristic (“her
coiffure, lateness, giggling,” etc.), main interest (“growing hair,
reading the New York Sun”), philosophy (i.e., “take things
easily”), favorite expression (“I’d like to choke you”, “the sooner the
quicker”), and future plans (“cabaret dancer, keeper of telescopes,
dramatic reader, section boss”).
In 1934, glossy photos of each student appeared. This edition of the Conocoheague was dedicated as a “tribute to our parents.”