100th Anniversary Issue
The College Pump
The Readers Write
Boom and Bust: 1919-1936
War and Peace: 1937-1953
Baby Boom to Bust: 1953-1971
Century's End: 1971-1998
"The College Pump" has appeared nearly 700 times--a run unequaled, to our knowledge, by any other literary column in an American periodical. Its durability reflects the confluence of its creator's vision and skill, his successors' high standards, and readers' continuing interest.
In the Harvard Alumni Bulletin of March 8, 1940, shortly after he became editor, David T.W. McCord '21 launched a new column, "a corner reserved for random comment, for the stray line of Harvard verse, the pleasant non-sequitur of academic observation, the simple fragment or phrase." Writing as "Primus," he foresaw a "niche" for "the plain story unadorned," for biography, and so on.
Thus was established an occasional column of Harvard miscellany. It has flourished and become a regular part of these pages precisely because Harvard is the ideal setting for all kinds of occasions--from the immediate and personal to the global and momentous--and because readers themselves have had an acute sense of occasion: they have shared their Harvard experiences with Primus, who has, occasionally, shared those stories through "the Pump" with their fellow alumni at large.
For above all else, the physical College pump once was a place where students met and began conversations that lasted the rest of their lives. McCord recognized that the conversation could and should extend far and wide through the medium of print, not just in the alumni publication generally, but explicitly in the "College Pump" column--a place for Harvardians near and far to gather and engage "with passers-by." The Pump's twin meanings--as an actual meeting spot and as a long-lived forum for the Harvard people who use these pages--made it the inescapable choice for the magazine's centennial symbol.
No one will ever match David McCord for casual verse, which flowed during the reign of Primus I. But the standards he set for prose have been admirably upheld by his successors--William Bentinck-Smith '37, Norman A. Hall '22, and John T. Bethell '54 (see "Editor's Letter," March-April 1998)--as the selections reprinted on the following pages, with their dates of original publication, firmly attest.
~ The Editors
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