MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

Technique No. 1 (1885):
MIT's First "Annual"

Technique 1885

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The MIT yearbook, Technique, made its first appearance in 1885. Called an “annual” instead of a “yearbook,” the 152-page soft-cover volume in octavo format was prepared by the Class of 1887 (the Juniors), with Fred Gulliver ’87 as editor-in-chief. The book contained poems, class histories, cartoons, class rosters, lists of club and fraternity members, names of faculty and courses they taught, scores of athletic events, and many pages of advertisements for goods ranging from Ainslee’s Polar Planimeter and silk derby hats to cigarettes and pocketknives. The fervent hope of the Class of 1887, as expressed in the book’s “editorial,” was that future classes would take up the task, resulting in “a long line of Techniques stretching in perspective toward the future.”

“We trust,” the editors wrote, that the volume is “not too smart, too funny, too cutting; or, on the other hand, too dry, too stupid, or too foolish.” They aimed “to help digestion by a hearty laugh” and stated that “no pains have been spared to make this first Technique replete with everything interesting or amusing to our average student . . . We hope that all fair criticisms will be made known, so that future classes may steer clear of the rocks which have hindered our course.”

The illustrations in the early volumes of Technique were mostly drawings—some quirky and cartoon-like, some quite elegant. 1892 saw the beginning of the class photograph, along with photographs of other groups, including the football team. In 1898, portraits and biographies of professors appeared. The number of photographs increased all through the first decades of the twentieth century, but it wasn’t until 1916 that senior portraits were included. Today’s Technique is bigger, glossier, and more colorful than its antecedents, but it is still an eloquent expression of the life of an MIT student.

Technique No. 1 was dedicated “To Our Co-eds,” and it is apparent from repeated references in the volume that the few women on campus in the 1880s received a great deal of attention from their male classmates. Twelve women are listed with the Class of 1885, but only one woman received a degree—an S.B. in Course IX, General Course. The other eleven were enrolled as “special students” (students taking only selected subjects rather than a full course). In June 2003, 751 women received degrees. The following fall, 1,739 women were enrolled as undergraduates (42 percent of total enrollment) and 1,798 as graduate students (29 percent).

Techniques from 1885 to the present, as well as other publications relating to the history of student life at MIT, are available for use in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118.

Object of the Month: May 2004

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