Campus art of the 1890s gallery
In the pages of Wrinkle, we get glimpses of student life in the 1890s—at least as it appeared to the cocky male editors of that short-lived Michigan humor magazine.
Wrinkle debuted in 1893 with this cover, showing a Victorian co-ed in blatant admiration of a Michigan football hero at Regents’ Field. Wrinkle’s editors promised to show “College Society Soaked [drunk], Pictured, and Joked”—though its jokes, to 21st-century ears, seldom rise above lame puns and ponderous put-downs. The illustrations, on the other hand, were often piquant and revealing.
A la Reine
Here a Queen of U-M’s Spring Ball (soon to be known as J-Hop) is immortalized in prose. Many Wrinkle artists worked in the style of Charles Dana Gibson, the dominant portraitist of popular weeklies such as Harper’s Weekly and Collier’s.
The prototypical “Gibson Girl” was, as one scholar has put it, “a figure at once straight-laced and materialistic, corseted and flirtatious.” That was how Wrinkle’s artists (all men, clearly) portrayed Michigan women—either from below, in a state of romantic awe, or from above, with patronizing disapproval. “Miss Browne” seems to have excited a little of both in this artist, in which the male character has renamed her Miss Barber, “because she scrapes an acquaintance and then cuts me.”
Certain categories of men, too, came in for Wrinkle’s disdain. Here “Mr. Drag” was either a bore or a poor dancer–or perhaps both. When asked how she enjoyed “that Waltz” with Mr. Drag, the co-ed here replies, “Oh! Just fine! We sat it out.”
Ann Arbor “Spoon”
“Spooning” in the moonlight was Wrinkle’s idea of risque, as portrayed in this jewelry ad that ran inside the book.
The Michigan Alphabet
An alphabet motif displayed a catalog of campus types, from the “Dude” (an overdressed dandy) to the “Knocker” (an inveterate critic) to the “Recluse” holed up with his books. Of course, A stands for Ann Arbor, “that town of great fame.”
Ethnic humor was endemic in that era, so Wrinkle is rife with ugly jokes, stories, and caricatures of Jews, Irishmen, Germans, Mormons, and African-Americans. Another type scorned by Wrinkle snobs was the “Rube” (short for “Rustic Reuben”)—a country type regarded as an interloper in swank college circles. “He’s with us again,” the headline reads, as the local squirrels crack wise.
Intercollegiate sports was a frequent topic, with Cornell the rival that Wrinkle editors loved to hate. The pole vaulter on this cover may be Michigan’s great Charles Dvorak, who went on to win the 1904 Olympic gold medal at St. Louis with a vault of 11 feet, 6 inches.
Wrinkle’s artists seldom depicted campus scenes, but this was an exception—a view down the Diag past the old Law Building (later dubbed Haven Hall), which stood just north of today’s Angell Hall. As the caption reads: He (explaining): “Michigan is extremely Democratic, you know.” She (naively): “I always heard it was strongly Republican.” (The joke: By “democratic,” he means “open to all social classes.” By “Republican,” she means the party.)