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I, Wolverine - Spartantiques Collectors Corner

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A look back at the curious history of Michigan State Yearbooks

During “Michigan Week”, the last thing a Spartan wants to read about is Wolverine history. However, Michigan State has a history with the name that is worth remembering. For 75 years, the Michigan State yearbook was titled The Wolverine.

1911 Wolverine Yearbook
Spartantiques Collection

“Why was the Michigan State Yearbook called the Wolverine?” - is a fair question commonly asked by fans learning this revelation for the first time.

Here is a brief visual history of yearbooks at Michigan State and why you should be proud to display them in your Spartan Library.

Circa 1926 M.S.C. Bookends with Wolverine Figures
Spartantiques Collection

Considered the first M.A.C. yearbook, the 1887 Harrow is mostly text and drawings with minimal photographs. This was followed by the 1888 and 1889 Harrow. Seven years later the 1896 Heliostat was published.

Early M.A.C. Yearbooks
Spartantiques Collection

In 1900, the Junior class of 1901 published a new yearbook with an emphasis on literary and photographic content. The editors probably chose The Wolverine, for the same reason as the University of Michigan - it was the nickname given to the people from the state of Michigan.

1900 Wolverine Yearbook
Spartantiques Collection

There are conflicting reports as to who officially used the name first. Some from East Lansing have said that the yearbook took the name prior to the Michigan Daily first referring to the football team as Wolverines. Others from Ann Arbor say the nickname can be traced back to the 1860’s on campus. Never mind that there is no evidence that the Wolverine animal was ever native to this territory.

1900 Wolverine
Spartantiques Collection

Remember that competitive athletics were in their infancy at Michigan Agricultural College. Organized football had only been played for four years when the 1900 Wolverine was published. The yearbook became a triennial publication with the 1904 Gluck-Auf, 1907 Jubilee Wolverine, before settling in on a yearly Wolverine publication in 1910.

1907 Jubilee Wolverine
Spartantiques Collection

Wolverine yearbook sales strategies included identifying sales caps, paper tags, and sales pins.

Wolverine Sales Cap
Spartantiques Collection
1925 Advertising Tag
Spartantiques Collection
Circa 1939 Sales Pin
Spartantiques Collection

In 1976, the editors admitted that our Ann Arbor neighbors held a stronger claim to the Wolverine name. So began the Red Cedar Log, a title more fitting the Michigan State community, still used today.

1979 Red Cedar Log Yearbook
Spartantiques Collection

Yearbooks are an undervalued collectible. They are easy to find at used book sales and stores. A little costlier on eBay when you include shipping costs. They are a time capsule of information and a treasure trove of photographs and illustrations. Most have detailed football season game capsules with great photographs. Produced in high volume and saved for a lifetime, vintage Wolverine yearbooks are a great addition to your Spartan library.

As a starter, I recommend the 1955 Centennial Wolverine Yearbook - 688 pages filled with photos, color plates and stories spanning the first hundred years of Michigan State University. It can typically be found for under $30.

1955 Centennial Wolverine
Spartantiques Collection

Autograph Opportunity

Taro Hirose (December 1) and Kirk Gibson (December 7) will be signing autographs at Detroit City Sports, in the Lakeside Mall, Sterling Heights.

1980 Sports Illustrated