Princeton Tiger, The,

Princeton Tiger, The, first appeared in March 1882 but ceased publication that December after only nine issues. The evidence is not clear whether this was for lack of funds or, as has been suggested, because the editors had incurred faculty displeasure for having pressed too far their discovery (in Somerset Maugham's phrase) that ``impropriety is the soul of wit.''

In 1890 the Tiger was born again. This time it survived, despite the fact that its early efforts were made difficult by an unsympathetic faculty and by advertisers ``far from warm-hearted.'' McCready Sykes 1894 recalled involving President Patton in a discussion of Greek syntax in order to avoid the difficult task of having to demonstrate why the Tiger should not be required to discontinue publication. Booth Tarkington 1893 remembered two editors spending a Saturday in New York in search of ads, and returning with an expense account for two round-trip tickets, eight hours hansom cab service, and an ``enviable lunch at the Hoffman House,'' and, to offset these items, ``a single, almost-promised ad that would bring -- it was hoped -- five dollars.''

Tarkington, a frequent contributor of jokes and pen-line drawings, also recalled that it was easy to get students to accept membership on the Tiger board, but harder to get them to write, draw, or edit. This proved a continuing problem. In their day F. Scott Fitzgerald '17 and John Biggs, Jr. '18, produced whole issues of the Tiger, unassisted, by working through the night together.

In the 1920s the Tiger prospered greatly. Circulation reached 10,000; average issues numbered sixty pages, many of them heavy with ads. A sinking fund was started to finance a building like the Harvard Lampoon's (a hope never realized), and the 1924 board ~contributed $1,000 to the new chapel, thus showing that the oft-offending Tiger was, after all, on the side of the angels.

In 1932 the Tiger, tracing its date of birth back to 1882, celebrated its golden jubilee by issuing in book form ``A Compendium of Half a Century of Princeton Wit and Humor, if any, in Prose, Picture, and Poesy.''

Two board members of the thirties used the talents they demonstrated in college to make their marks in later life. Whitney Darrow, Jr. '31's Tiger cartoons showed the beginnings of the distinctive style he later developed as a regular cartoonist for The New Yorker. Lewis Thomas '33, who wrote for the Tiger while majoring in biology, later became well known as a leader in medical education and cancer research and as the author of a widely praised volume of essays, The Lives of a Cell.

In May 1942 the Tiger announced that it was suspending operations for the duration of the war, although many thought the suspension had been hastened by Nassau Hall's disapproval of the improprieties of their wit. In 1947 the editors secured reluctant permission to resume publication. In these years Henry R. Martin '48 drew cartoons for the Tiger while majoring in art history; later he joined Whitney Darrow as a frequent contributor to The New Yorker.

In 1952 the Tiger, again experiencing difficulties, sought to appeal to a wider campus audience by becoming ``concerned with all things relevant to Princeton,'' while continuing to run cartoons and a few other bits of its old fare. The managing editor, John A. McPhee '53's pungent columns in the Tiger gave a hint of the style that later distinguished his widely known writing for The New Yorker.

Though the Tiger was still strong enough in 1957 to produce a ``Roar of Laughter'' (the title of its 75th anniversary number), there were hard times ahead, and when the fortunes of college humor magazines declined in the late sixties and early seventies, the plight of the Tiger was highlighted in a feature story in the New York Times, and in an editorial headlined ``Tiger, tiger burning low'' lamenting the implications of this trend ``in a world badly in need of laughter and satire.'' If the Tiger's more frequent appearances in the mid-seventies are any indication, there is still a chance that it will be burning bright again one day.


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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