Eliot Circular

Shock! Horror! Quest Turns 100!

Queditor Lauren Cooper ’16 pores over the centennial issue. Photo by Leah Nash

Defying all expectations (and more than a few administrators) the Quest celebrated an incredible 100 years of publication in May with a special centennial issue.

The independent student more-or-less weekly newspaper published its first edition on January 16, 1913, when the college was less than two years old. That very first edition demonstrated a certain independence of character that would become the publication’s hallmark. Amid the sober headlines (SELF-GOVERNMENT TO CHARACTERIZE COLLEGE and ATHLETIC EVENTS TO KEEP REED MEN OCCUPIED) one can see portents of things to come. For example, an article TONG WAR FURNISHES EXCITEMENT described a grudge match between House F (now Doyle) and House H (Winch) involving a firehose: 

The dogs of war were turned loose in December and the fray immediately thickened to a heavy curd. Night became a time of hideous outcry and uproarious disturbance, and many deeds of violence difficult to recount found commission beneath its cover . . . A sally followed a short term of quiet, the inhabitants of House H venturing forth with a great deal of assurance. Manfully standing by to repel boarders, the fire brigade in House F brought forth their three-inch “sally discourager” and quenched an accumulation of ardor with a well-directed stream.

The Quest’s 12-page centennial issue featured highlights from each decade of its checkered past. The page devoted to the 1940s, for example, included a report of the first Reed Union (debating the topic of labor legislation), an account of the housing crisis precipitated by soldiers enrolled in the U.S. Army’s premeteorological program, and an ad for Chesterfield cigarettes featuring an oleaginous pitchman by the name of Ronald Reagan.

Overall, the centennial issue demonstrates that the paper’s piquant tang is not a historical accident, but rather an enduring, even defining characteristic. To support this thesis, we offer the following examples:

    • An article from the 1920s (SOPHOMORES LOSE SLEEP AS CIDER REMAINS UNFOUND) described an escalating series of pranks committed by sophomores against freshlings and vice versa. In one instance, a freshman was awakened late at night, blindfolded, and transported to Johnson Creek “minus certain appurtenances of customary male attire.” Fortunately, the victim met a kindly bystander, who furnished him with clothes and a ride back to campus with such dispatch that he almost made it home before his abductors.
    • A 1950s report of a stinging football loss to a certain college on the other side of the Willamette was headlined LEWIS-CLARK SQUEEZES BY REED 44–0.
    • An editorial on obscenity from the 1960s invited readers who disagreed with the paper’s policy to perform an anatomically impossible act. 
    • A report from the 2010s described a Reed Senate campaign by a student channeling the spirit of Incitatus, the horse that Emperor Caligula installed in the Roman Senate. And so on.

The centennial issue, which was compiled by editors Alex Krafcik ’15, Rebecca Turley ’16, Michael Song ’15, and Rachel Fox ’15, also featured letters from Quest editors of the past who later pursued careers in journalism and public policy.

We salute the Quest on its centennial and look forward to many more decades of muckraking.