A Brief History of Photography at The Michigan Daily

BEGINNINGS: 1890-1900

For its first ten years (1890-1900), The Michigan Daily did not include original photography by students. Its pages instead featured formal photographic portraits, including of individual faculty or athletic teams. Professional photographers in the Ann Arbor area supplied these images, with many credited in the paper. Among the local photographers whose work appeared in The Daily were Rentschler Studio, Lyndon Photography, and Randall Photography. The Daily contained advertisements for professional photographic services as well as for cameras for the common consumer, since photography as a hobby was still in its infancy.

Photo: First photo accompanying a news story, 1/15/1896, on the Choral Union's rendition of the oratorio of "Elijah" with Prof. Gardner S. Lamson in the lead role.


September 25, 1900 marked the first appearance of an informal photograph in The Michigan Daily. The Eastman Kodak Brownie was also introduced that year as the first camera for everyday use. "Snapshots" published in the student paper included athletes in training and other outdoor activities. Formal portraiture still played a prominent role in publication. Many of the informal photographs were un-credited.

Photo: First informal photograph published in The Michigan Daily, 9-25-1900, with an article marking the passing of "the old pencil man." Captain Edward L. Dormer was a campus landmark, familiar to a generation of students with his cry of "pencils -- two for five."


[Cropped version of photo collage by The Daily's William Sapp, 1939]

For the first half of the 20th century, student-generated photographs were slowly being published in The Michigan Daily, replacing formal portraiture as photography was rapidly adopted as a hobby by the general public. In 1906, The Michigan Daily joined the Associated Press, and credited the wire service photographs, but student photographs remained un-credited for nearly two decades. In 1932, The Michigan Daily, along with The Michigensian and The Gargoyle, were granted their own building, the Student Publications Building. The paper became nationally recognized among college newspapers for its journalistic integrity and the quality of its reporting. As a consequence, it soon became easier for the students of The Daily to have the equipment and space to begin publishing home-grown photographs.

Photo: One of the earliest photographs that was credited to a Michigan Daily staff member, William Sapp. Published 11-16-1939, it depicts Forest Evashevski, Tom Harmon and other senior football players just before their last home game.


The early 1940s marked the beginning of student photographs being routinely credited in The Michigan Daily. Advertisements appeared in the 1950s that called for photographers to join The Daily staff, which signified the formation of a fully mature and home-grown photography staff.

Photo: Photo of Daily photographic equipment accompanying an article recruiting staff for The Daily. The story, which ran Feb. 8, 1955, touted a "great opportunity for students, male or female, interested in photography. No equipment, knowledge or experience in photography is needed."
Photo by Lyn Wallas.

MATURATION: 1960'S-1970'S

By the 1960s The Michigan Daily had gained full prominence on campus as well as beyond, due to the quality and progressiveness of its news reports, opinion articles, and perseverance of its photographers. The Daily started receiving wire news from Washington D.C. and Asia for a better coverage of Vietnam and other national events. Women photographers for the first time were considered official members of the staff. Instead of advertisements asking for photographers, full articles chronicling the work done by the photography staff appeared.

Photo: "Thomas R. Snapshot" posed for a photo to accompany another staff recruiting article on August 27, 1956. The article promised that "photographers will be paid for every picture in the paper bearing their 'credit slug'" and that "the egotistical editorial staff will always be eager models for candids."


The first color photograph appeared in The Michigan Daily on Sept. 7, 1978. Throughout the decades, humorous advertisements have been published looking for photographers to serve on staff. Although the technology of photography and skills required have changed over the years, with the shift from darkroom printing to digital photography, The Michigan Dailyphotography staff are dedicated to providing widespread coverage of events related to the University, Ann Arbor, and beyond.

Photo: The Daily printed its first color image, by John Knox, on the front page of the "New Student" edition of Sept. 7, 1978.

Research, text and image selection by Jessica Scott.