Memories of a College Life

Each class of Wheaton College brings new traditions, experiences, and stories to the long history of the campus. One of the ways the College Archives seeks to preserve these transitory memories is by collecting student scrapbooks. With their rich ephemera of college life – jokes, notes, invitations, photographs, and other mementos – student scrapbooks offer a glimpse into a strange yet familiar past. While clothing has changed, new buildings have appeared, and student groups have come and gone, these scrapbooks document the continued vibrancy and experimentation of a liberal arts college education. Here are the snapshots of jaunts off-campus, the portraits of new friends, the paper remains of events (official and unofficial), and the scraps from the programs and clubs that come to define many students’ college experience.

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Scraps of Humor in the Archives: Stories from 160 Years of Wheaton College Pranks

While many of the records in the College Archives relate to the work of the administration, staff, and faculty at Wheaton College, the collections also hold documents from generations of Wheaton students, including biographical files, personal scrapbooks, student group papers, oral history interviews and student publications. Through these records, the College Archives preserves students’ experiences and traditions – the serious and the lighthearted. One of the most enduring of these student traditions documented by the Archives is that of the college prank.

In a 1931 prank, senior jackets were strung on a clothesline during chapel. (College Archive Photograph #B8772)

Tales of Wheaton students’ antics appear from the very early days of the college. In A Minority of One, Clyde Kilby recounts one prank on the first president of Wheaton College, Jonathan Blanchard: On April Fool’s Day, students placed a goose on the lectern prior to Blanchard’s arrival. Upon entering Blanchard assessed the situation and left the classroom after exclaiming, “Well, students, I see you have chosen a new leader. Since he must be more to your liking, I will take the only course open to me. I will withdraw.”

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