"Reminiscences of Two
Years Editorship of The Cosmos" by John R. Battin (‘18)
R. Battin was editor of the Cosmos for a two-year period,
1916-18. This essay is an abridged version of a recollection
written in 1925 on the occasion of the paper’s 35th
was a loud rattling at the office door. The frail walls of The
Cosmos sanctum shook. A calendar fell from the wall.
Ye editor, annoyed, looked up from his work.
"Well what do you want?" he called.
"C'mom open the door, I wanta leave my books," came the explanation
was the same old story, but the editor opened the door. Three
textbooks and a misshapen notebook were thrown on the nearest table,
and with a hurried "much obliged, I got to catch the next car", the
student dashed out of the door.
though it may seem now, this was one of the pet peeves of Cosmos
editors of not so very long ago. The Cosmos office, if it could
be dignified by such a title was an ex-cloak room, just inside on the
east of the southwest door of Old Main. There barely was room for
a desk, a table, two chairs and a wastebasket, but it came to be a
transfer point and a storage room for books, notebooks, football suits,
umbrellas, rubbers, sweaters and what not. All because it was so
handy for the stream of students that daily went through the lower hall
of the building.
lock was placed on the door. But it either was forced, or the
student would rattle the door until it was opened to stop the
noise. Signs were put up, but of no avail. And after all it
was hard to say no to one's friends in the Williston Hall
hashers' union and to the friends of one’s friends and the friends of
Cosmos office became more than that. It was a meeting place for
fraternity brothers, a forum for discussion of these many matters over
which students love to argue, it was a refuge whenone had a few minutes
before class and it would have been a rendezvous for the gang to decide
on where they would go, with whom they would eat and what they would do
on the next Friday night, if it were not for the fact that what went on
inside the Cosmos office was easily heard outside. . . .
a student who appeared to be enthusiastic to become a member of the
Cosmos staff lost that enthusiasm when he found that the work had to be
done on time or was worthless, that it had to be accurate or that it
sometimes proved troublesome to the editors and to the college, and
that the work had to be marked by a spirit of devotion to the case.
writer was fortunate to have as members of the Cosmos staff during his
editorship, students for the most part, who were faithful, reliable and
accurate. The staff of 1916-17 consisted of Tom Tracey, now in
the real estate and insurance business at Manchester, associate editor
and sports writer; Ralph Clements, now radio editor and reporter on the
Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, who covered chapel speeches, assemblies
and assignments; Ruth Johnson of Newton, who was local editor; Harry
Nelson, now principal of the Tama High school, who covered religious
news; Audrey Bannister, who took care of the faculty and alumni items,
and John Baskerville, who covered musical events. The year was
started with Harlie Norris, as business manager, but with the issue of
Oct. 17, 1916, Maurice T. Battin, now of Evanston, Ill., became
business manager, continuing in that capacity through the next year.
is with a great deal of interest and some amusement that I perused the
files of The Cosmos of 1916 to 1918. Such problems as student
initiative, lack of campus social life, the honor system, military
training, war, uniforms for the student companies, chapel desecration,
class war, consolidation of literary societies, the point system to
limit student participation in college activities, the theory that the
college is for the student and not the student for the college - these
and many other subjects stand out as those on which editorials were
written those two years. Maybe they were read, maybe not.
Some aroused interest and provoked discussion and some may have helped
to crystalize student opinion and hasten action. We like to hope
that they did.
were many things of importance to the College and to the students and
faculty and which were of high news value happening during those two
years. William Jennings Bryan spoke in the Chapel, Oct. 29, 1916
to an audience that packed that building. Wars and rumors of war
were casting their shadows across American colleges. The critical
situation between the United States and Germany was made the subject of
a cartoon by Proctor Fiske, Cosmos Cartoonist, when he showed Uncle Sam
confronted by a German soldier who had just climbed out of the mud of
"Ruthlessness", his hands dripping. The cartoonist had Uncle Sam
say, "Hold on, you smeared it on, but you can't rub it in."
1917 saw the consolidation of Eta Theta Epsilon, national journalistic
fraternity, of which Coe had Beta chapter, with Pi Delta Epsilon an
older and stronger organization with fourteen chapters. Coe's
chapter then consisted of only three members, Ralph Keller, Tom Tracey
Iowa College Press association also was organized the spring of
1917. It was in a small room in the Y.M.C.A. in Marshalltown, the
evening of Feb. 26, that the plans for a convention of college and
university newspaper workers in Iowa were started. Five editors
and one business manager met at Marshalltown that night, the place
having been chosen for its central location which would enable all to
return in time for classes the next day.
a result of that meeting and much correspondence that followed, a
convention was held at Colfax, March 23 and 24. Fifteen colleges
and universities in the state were represented and there were two men
there from Yankton College, Yankton, S.D., as visitors. [Battin was
elected as president of the new organization.] . . . The second annual
convention was held at Cedar Rapids, March 8 and 9, 1918, at which time
seventy-three students and faculty members, representing nine colleges
and universities attended. . . . . Faculty censorship was one of the
most interesting subjects under discussion and a straw vote taken at
the end of debate showed thirty-six opposed to censorship, while
seventeen favored it. . . .
which were played up in the Cosmos of 1917-1918, on which of which
there were many stories throughout the year, were the merger of Leander
Clark with Coe, the Coe men in military service, the election of
President John A Marquis as general secretary of the home mission board
of the Presbyterian Church, following his year as moderator; the gift
of a flag pole for the campus from Col. W. G. Dows of Cedar Rapids, the
adoption of military training, the arguments over uniforms for students
in the drill companies and the heating system.
the latter I found this editorial comment in an issue in December 1917:
"Won't it be a grand and glorious feeling when the heating plant is
finished and the college buildings will be warm forever and a
day?" Those who were in college that winter will recall the steam
engines hitched to the steam mains at Voorhees quadrangle and the
Science hall, how warm and cozy the Williston hall kitchen seemed and
how you shivered in class rooms.
vesper question was one of the many argued on the editorial page that
year and the editor was taken to task by a friend of the college for
the bold assertion that because a previous generation of students saw
fit to establish vespers, those then in school need not necessarily
have to carry it on. This theory was somewhat warped, but the
editor did not then realize to what a great extent the institutions of
today are bound up with the past.
all the worldly experience that goes with seniors looking on at
freshman antics, the yearlings were curtly reminded in an editorial in
the fall of 1917 that they were out of high school and smart aleck
stunts should be dropped as unworthy of their exalted place as freshmen.
Cosmos staff in 1917-1918 was a bigger, though not necessarily a better
one, then the year before. Ruth Johnson who had been a faithful
worker the previous year was made associate editor, Tom Tracey having
entered the service. Harry Nelson and Charles Weber were given
the title of news editors, but their numerous other activities
prevented them from doing as much as the position indicated.
Oliver Burrows was sports editor, Elsie Pokrantz could always be
counted on for the locals and also wrote a department of Red Cross
notes; Irma White reported chapel meetings and assemblies; Ronald
Kratz, religious activities; Vivian DeFoe, society, and Paul Wood, Paul
Driver, Ruth Forward and Hazel Walker, reporters. Paul Wood was
made assistant editor for the last few issues of the year and became
editor the next year.
often is the case there was one behind the scenes, one whose name did
not appear on the staff and one whose important position and whose
valuable aid probably was little known among the student body.
That one was Miss Ethel R. Outland, professor of English and
Journalism, who was faculty censor. The writer then opposed and
still does, the principle of censorship, but recognized then and pays
tribute now to the timely counsel, the encouragement and the
farsightedness of Miss Outland as advisor, rather than censor, as that
word is commonly regarded.
had the interests of the Cosmos at heart. Several times she
pointed the way when the Cosmos might have stubbed its editorial
toe. She was a willing helper, keeping in constant touch with
college events and was a ready source of news tips and
suggestions. The so-called censorship phase of her duties in
connection with the Cosmos, which we suspect was thrust upon her years
before, was but one part. With her interest in the journalism
department and in The Cosmos, she made the position that of a valuable
look back on the associations in connection with The Cosmos and the
work which I was privileged to do as the most pleasant of my college
course. No matter what other campus activities there were, The
Cosmos came first.
In the Ethel R.
Outland papers, stored in four boxes in the Coe Archives, is a
remarkable book: a three-ring binder full of letters from alums who had
served as editor or business manager of the Cosmos. The first set
of these letters and telegrams were sent to Miss Outland in 1925 to
celebrate the college newspaper's 35th anniversary.
Subsequent letters were collected in 1930, 1935, and 1940 for later
anniversaries, ultimately resulting in a notebook full of over 200
pages of letters from almost every editor and business manager who
helped produce the Cosmos still its inaugural issue in the fall of
1890. What follows are excerpts from letters written in 1925 as
Coe alumni reflected back on their special relationship with this
Calvin G. Stookey, first editor-in-chief,1890-91
was . . . not an easy undertaking at that time to put into operation
the necessary forces to publish and maintain a college paper.
Time, money, and experience were necessary; and we of that day had the
minimum amount of these requisites. About this time two men from
Monmouth College entered the senior class at Coe. A paper was
being published by the students of Monmouth College at that time, and
the Littell boys were strong for it. I believe they had some
experience on the Monmouth paper and that their influence had something
to do with precipitating the undertaking at this time. . . .
of the serious problems confronting the promoters of the undertaking
was of course financing the project. But when I recall to your
memory that ex-congressman James W. Good was our first business manager
you will know that that end of the undertaking was well cared for. . . .
of the momentous problems to settle was the deciding upon a name worthy
of the paper which was to represent the student body and their
activities in not only Coe College and Cedar Rapids, but in Iowa, the
U.S. and the whole wide world. And there you have it! The
world-Cosmos! However, it was not as easy as that sounds.
There was discussion and oratory and satire. My impression is
that W. H. Jordan as a representative of the classics, proposed the
name Cosmos. I also believe that Jordan was aided and abetted by
Miss Alice King, in selecting this name. This very name brought
to mind Greek, Latin-the ancients. This brought a division, for
our scientists, led by W. T. Jackson, desire a name more modern,
something to express the present day needs and opinions. What is
cosmos, they asked, but reference to a dead language? What more
appropriate replied the upholders of the classics, than Cosmos-the
world-the universe as an embodiment of order and harmony. And so
that name was adopted, and seems to have sufficed to the present time.
Elizabeth Cock, second editor-in-chief, 1891-92;
school teacher in Cedar Rapids
. . What an amateur [the Cosmos was] in those days! How far
removed from your present sophistication! Even your habiliment
seems to belong to the era of GODEY'S LADIES' BOOK. Didn't you
affect a good deal of yellow in those days and incline to a sort of
sturdy stoutness in your make-up? Now you are smooth and cool and
correct and wise.
there is something to be said for you in the old days. How you
could exist at all is a wonder. Fewer than forty students on that
sand-burr strewn campus! Or were you born after Prexy Marshall
sowed it down to oats? And yet those students wanted you, quite
insisted on having you. I remember the difficulty of keeping you
up to weight and how few there were to help feed and sustain you.
The man who had charge of your finances, the Honorable James W. Good,
used to come and rap me out of class,-my recollection is that it was
most often Prof. Stookey's geology class where my record was already
noon too good,-demand "copy". The printer who was responsible for
your somewhat irregular appearances in college circles gave you his
attention only when out of other work and that seemed always at
inopportune moments. But you somehow survived rough treatment.
is to your credit that way back when the feminist movement was at least
unnamed, if not unstarted, your destinies were directed equally by men
Howard E. Moffett, business manager and
editor-in-chief, 1892-94; publisher of the Eldora Herald
students were very proud of the first issue of the Cosmos [Moffett was
local editor during the paper’s first year] and it had a loyal support
among the students of that day. It was quite a remarkable
publication, with a high brow literary production each month as well as
reports of the athletic activities and the college literary societies.
was some attempt made on the part of the faculty to censor the
publication but Mr. Good always managed it so that the censoring came
too late or the official censor could not be found at the right
time. But after a while no attempt was made to criticize the work
of the editor-in-chief and I do not recall anything that was objected
to seriously during the four years of my connection with the Cosmos. .
great problem of the business manager was to get sufficient advertising
to pay the expense of printing the Cosmos. While the subscription
price was but $1.00 per year subscribers were hard to get and
especially so among the alumni. The printing cost between $30 and
$40 for each issue and it was up to the business manager to either get
enough advertising to make it pay or to pay it out of his own
pocket. Jim Good was quite successful and I know that I did not
lose any money while I had it. But it took a lot of coaxing each
month and the down town merchants were what would be called in these
days somewhat hard boiled. We could always depend on Sam
Armstrong and Oscar Soloman, the two clothing merchants. The old Golden
Eagle clothing store was also helpful at times. But there were a
number of institutions in the city to whom we felt that we had a right
to turn for assistance who turned us down cold. The Sinclair
Packing Co. of course always had an ad and often a whole page.
Mr. Good was business manager he received from an agency an
advertisement of some cigaret. He needed the ad and ran it.
But a banker in the city help up his hands in holy horror when he saw
what was in the Cosmos helping to defile the students and sent for Good
to come and see him. Mr. Good explained the situation and offered
to discontinue the cigaret ad if he would give him an ad from his bank
to equal the cigaret ad. This he refused to do and the cigaret ad
continued through the year.
James M. Knox, editor-in-chief, 1899-1900;
physician in Cedar Rapids
am tremendously impressed with the high class journalism which
characterized the Cosmos last year. Compared with that year my
editorship now seems to have been the most simple country paper, and
last year's Cosmos a city journal. . . . The age of kip-stick,
cosmetics, Shieks and Sheebas, and abbreviated skirts, no doubt has
speeded up life a little and is reflected in College Journalism.
In our day there was no Department of Journalism with a competent
Professor at the head of it. We had no experience and little
direction. We did have a Censor who functioned not at all as I
remember in a constructive way, but only as a soft pedal. The
management of the Cosmos at the present time seems to have a very free
hand and the independence of thought and freedom of expression seem to
go with the modern College Journal. I am inclined to wonder
sometimes what the Faculty and Trustees of our time would think of the
Cosmos of today. I can not specify in this matter as it is only a
very general feeling. And I think I have changed in my attitude
on certain subjects so that what once would have injured my tender
sensibilities, no longer does so. Perhaps the old Faculty members
would have changed also with this new generation.
D. Wagner, editor-in-chief, 1906-7
editorship was "wished on me" because they could find no other fool who
would rush in where angels fear to tread. There had been keen but
more or less friendly strife between the literary societies over the
editor-ship of the Cosmos, but the paper had fallen on such evil days
that the honor of the editor’s chair was double zero. The Cosmos
board, composed of representatives of the four college literary
societies of that ancient time and of which I was a member, persuaded
me to try my hand and assured me every moral support. I never had
reason to doubt their moral support but that did not always cover
financial and literary aid.
Elliott was business manager. No one needed to tell us we had to
do something to improve the paper, so as to get sufficient
subscriptions together with advertising to make a financial go of
it. "Deac" asked me what I wanted for my services. I told
him I did not care for any remuneration just so we put out a decent
paper. At the end of the year he gave me $20. "Deac," of
course, had the financial worries but he worried along pretty well for
the Junior Annual of that year seems to have listed him with other
college fugitives from justice in stating he was wanted for filling the
Cosmos with advertising.
Smith realized the importance of a good college paper and gave us every
support. Once in Chapel he made a strong appeal to the student
body to take the Cosmos. He admitted the paper had not been very
good but I quote I believe his almost exact words: "Buy the right to
criticise it." I believe his plea had some effect.
literary troubles were many. Not only was copy often late,
important happenings neglected, matter having to be rewritten, though
Prof. Bryant as censor was very considerate, but I had at times to be
society, sports and literary editor as well as write editorials. . . .
D. Kirkpatrick, Editor-in-Chief, 1909-10; farmer.
1909-10, the Cosmos, like almost everything about Coe, was at home in
the Main Building. In the west end of the basement, Charley Jones
turned out "printing of the better grade". The "Bigger, Better
Cosmos" which Clyde Minard financed was seventeen pages, six by nine
inches in size and seventeen numbers during the year. The
circulation was guaranteed to be less than 100,000. We claimed to
print personal news items about every body on the campus on the average
of once a month.
Jackson, Editor-in-Chief, 1912-13
. . Coe Cosmos, "magazine or newspaper?" Well do I
remember the day, or night, (for as a matter of fact the battle of
newspaper vs magazine was won at 2 A.M. in the morning) when a little
group of us met in the old famous Book Store to decide the "To be or
not to be".
hero part in this play must be assigned to Buddie Burrows, the
bombastic, brazen, battle-scarred boy who dared mention that the
beloved magazine style was passe, out-of-date, former century
stuff. To which the villains all parried, "but think Buddy of the
expense of putting out a weekly newspaper",-the magazine was but a
monthly production then.
which the hero replied, "You pikers, I'm not talking about a weekly
newspaper, I'm talking about a daily. A publication that comes
out once a week isn't a newspaper, it's a history."
then," said they, "are you prepared to finance a daily?" "Yez
verily," quoth the young entrepreneur, "for finances are nothing in my
life so long as Dad's clothing business keeps its doors open."
members of the cast brightened. Except the culprit over in the
corner lately elected Editor-in-chief. Yours truly loved
progress. He admired courageous enterprise. But, and he
spoke forth, "where in the name of Williston Hall et al can you find
enough news to fill a daily?" "And supposing that scandal did
sweep o’er our campus daily, who, do you think, has the time to do it
justice. I came here to go to College not to edit a second New
so the argument waxed hot. The plot thickened. Enter
finally the sage-a sage being a man who lets people rave, then utters
the obvious; to wit, a compromise. Enter the sage, Jay Urice, he
of former Cosmos days. "I should like to suggest," says he, "that
a paper of newspaper style and get-up, issued once a week would give us
all what is practicable and progressive."
it was. And Buddy got the ads, Jack got the news, Jones (bless
his soul) turned up the presses, and out came the new Cosmos. It
looked like a daily. I tread like one. But it came out
daily once a week. And the fastest of all occurred when the
famous Cornell game came out play by play to be delivered to the cash
customers as they left the game.
from Letters Submitted for the Golden Jubilee of the Coe College
Cosmos, October 15, 1940.
A. Munger, Business Manager, 1901-2; Minister in Waterloo.
Coe College Cosmos was controlled by a board of twenty. During
that period of Coe’s history fraternities was [sic] prohibited and in
their place we had four literary societies. The Alpha Nu for men,
the Sinclair for women, the Olio for men and the Carleton for
women. These societies were paired as brother and sister
societies. The Cosmos Board was made up of five representatives
from each of these societies and every year there was a contest for
control of the paper. We played politics with all the skill we
possessed. In the election of an editor and manager for the
college year of 1901-1902 the Alpha Nu-Sinclair combination was
successful in electing Ward Van der Pool as editor. He was a
senior, an out-standing star as an athlete, a 100 yard man in track and
Captain of the baseball team. I was nominated for manager of the
Cosmos on the plea that my being a resident of Cedar Rapids with a wide
acquaintance among the merchants of the city I would be able to make
the paper a paying proposition. (Some years it had run into red
ink.) I have never been successful in politics and despite our
best efforts I failed of election. We then nominated Lowell
Daniels the incumbent and put over his election. He was unwilling
to continue as manager but after our group held a conference he
announced his acceptance with the additional statement that I would
serve as his personal representative. As a result I took over the
management of the Cosmos. The paper paid both the editor and the
manager good salaries and when the year closed we were still using
Heebner Smith, Editor-in-Chief, ; editor and newspaper
I was ever given the post [of editor-in-chief], or whether I took it by
default, I do not now remember. We printed articles and poems,
rather than news–and my chief interest probably was in news, as for the
four years I was in Coe I wrote all the college news published by the Republican-then
the leading paper in the opinion of many. But it now has gone the
way of hundreds of morning papers.
impressions of work in those days is the afternoon when some bully of a
team to the south laid for Chet Armstrong, our foot ball captain, and
broke his leg. Those were the days of real sport. I tore to
the Republican office to write the story before supper, and had typed
about half a page of copy when Fred Lazell, city editor, came into the
city room and glanced at my lead. He had heard of the accident,
and when he saw that I had opened the story with that he said: "You'll
make a newspaper man all right." That was high praise indeed.
. . . [George Knott, the business manager] and I were most happy when
we were able to get enough money from subscribers and advertisers to
pay the printing. I recall that when the spoils of the season
were divided in June before commencement, or just afterwards, the total
compensation of the business and editorial staff was a new hat which
Knott's mother got from one advertiser. Trade was more popular
with merchants than cash.
W. Mahlke, Business Manager, 1908
I was nominated by the student body as Business Manager of the Cosmos,
the paper was a monthly, which I changed to a Bi-weekly getting out a
copy twice a month. The previous year there had been financial
difficulties but this was remedied, so that there were sufficient funds
left to present the editor Miss Essie Hoag with a gold watch for her
efficient editorial work, suitably engraved.
those horse and buggy days, "working your way through college" took
ingenuity-and while I usually got a "D" in English-I was a good
trader-and how I did trade! Everytime I needed suits, shoes,
shirt, ties, white vests for banquets, etc., etc., I added an extra
page of advertising and stalked the downtown business men. In
fact, I took out so much in trade for advertising that Charley Jones,
our printer, often waited for his money. . . .
things stands out in my mind about getting the student body to
subscribe. Before the graduating class left in June 1907, I got
their dollars for the Cosmos, on the plea that no alumnus should
entirely sever all connections after leaving Coe. Then in
September, I got a table in the old chapel and automatically delegated
myself as a committee of one on matriculation. As the Freshman
came through the door, I was the first one to greet them, and as a
solemn senior took their dollars for the Cosmos as part of the regular
routine. How many freshmen rooming together had two or more
copies in their rooms I never found out, but I know during that fall,
my life was threatened several times—
Leonard Bowman, Editor-in-Chief,
friend of mine with a deficient sense of humor, at a dinner was to
introduce as the chief speaker, an editor. He planned to get a
laugh by saying, "Did you hear about the terrible accident? An
editor dropped six stories–into a wastebasket!" But he actually
said, "An editor dropped six floors into a wastebasket," and was
puzzled because he got no response. Any remarks of a forgotten
editor, thirty-two years past, would be equally flat. So I simply
send congradulations and best wishes for the second half of the century!
Clyde Minard, Business Manager, 1909-11.
Did I make
any money out of the Cosmos? I wonder. Pay for the
advertising space was taken in merchandise, for the most part.
When I left Coe I recollect that I packed about 40 shirts, a couple
dozen pairs of socks, about a gross of handkerchiefs, and ties enough
to supply the whole tribe of Iggorotees ["i go rot"] with wearing
apparel. I could [have] easily started a haberdashery
store. But I was in debt to Charley Jones to the tune of about
$100.00 and I couldn't get him to take merchandise on the a