I felt like I was in an episode of “Mad Men” when I opened the UB student newspaper from the late 1950s. A half page ad for Marlboro jumped out and told me Marlboro was the most popular cigarette on college campuses nationwide, along with a U.S. map that had each state visually represented by an open pack of cigarettes.
Fortunately, I hadn’t exactly travelled back in time to that decade. I was safely scanning Langsdale Library’s archive of UB’s student newspapers, in the lovely smoke-free Special Collections reading room on the 4th floor of the Learning Commons, in the lovely, smoke-free, Langsdale Library.
But it felt a little like time travel. I was watching history unfold, reading students’ first-hand responses to events that seemed like staples of reality. The events of the past were so much a part of the fabric of my memory and existence that it took a few minutes for it to sink in when I read the headlines that Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated, that this news was hitting people for the first time. It wasn’t a history book I was reading, it was history.
And a lot of it was infuriating—assassinations, sexist cartoons and cigarette ads to name a few of the more disturbing aspects of history I came across.
The further back in time I went with UB’s student newspapers, the larger the cigarette ads became. They slowly creeped up from half page ads to full page ads as they went back to the earliest issues in the 1930s.
On the other hand, it was spectacular to feel the fervor in the front page articles about the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. It was a relief to watch women take on more roles and work towards more diverse degrees, instead of being pigeon-holed into a few select majors. It was fun to see people streaking through the 1970s. It was heartening to read about the formation of a bike club in 1972.
It was fascinating to read about the anticipation for the then-new Langsdale Library, scheduled to be built in 1966, while the same building was being renovated right across the street in the present day. Plans for the state-or-the-art design repeatedly appeared in the student newspaper in the 1960s. In contrast to the current library designs with more glass letting in natural light, windows were being designed small, to cut down on the glare for people reading books. The plans were being published in the paper. I saw renderings of the new old library. Then, finally, in 1966, Langsdale Library was built and a photo of the “modern” building appeared on the front page in the student newspaper.
It was exciting to see the Langsdale Library make the front page repeatedly, every time the library received a new collection of books. There it would be in big blocky letters, headline after headline—“Langsdale Library receives X number of books,” in contrast to the present day, when libraries are giving away more and more books as we become more and more digital.
Although Langsdale Library has recently given away many books, there is no need to get mad. The library recently received several carts of new books for its collection. This may not make the front page of the paper but here it is in the middle. The new books themselves can be found on the New Book Kiosk as you enter the library. Come check them out!
UB’s student newspapers will eventually be online back through the 1930s. Check out the UB Post back to 1981 in Langsdale Library’s Special Collections for a little bit of time travel—and let me know what T.V. show you feel like you’re in!