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Chaff. A Monthly Illustrated Paper, published by the Chaff Publishing Company of the University of Pennsylvania


This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
University of Pennsylvania.
Chaff. A Monthly Illustrated Paper, published by the Chaff Publishing Company of the University of Pennsylvania
Date [inclusive]:
Call Number:
1 volume
Chaff was an illustrated monthly humor magazine published by the “Chaff Publishing Company of the University of Pennsylvania” from October 1882 to June 1884. Penn Kislak Center holds Vol. I of  Chaff, published for the academic year 1882-1883.
Cite as:
Chaff. A Monthly Illustrated Paper, published by the Chaff Publishing Company of the University of Pennsylvania, 1882-1883, AP85.P384U.882c, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
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Chaff was an illustrated monthly humor magazine published by the "Chaff Publishing Company of the University of Pennsylvania" from October 1882 to June 1884. The masthead for the magazine quotes Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: "If I lose a scruple of this sport let me be boiled to death with melancholy." The students who began  Chaff saw life at the University of Pennsylvania as an opportunity to make sport and conceived of the magazine as the vehicle for spreading it. Written and illustrated by current Penn students, it published fictional stories, cartoons, poems, dialogues and articles that commented on happenings at "dear old Penn" and captured the life of the average college student of the day.

In the first issue, the editors boldly declare, “[Chaff] has now become a fact, and he hopes to be a very wise, active, prominent, frisky fact.” They also address their detractors: "Some growler is heard in the distance: 'What do we want with a new paper, anyhow? What good'll it do us?' Dear growler, Chaff is like Beauty. He is his own excuse for being." When Chaff first appeared in the fall of 1882, the student-run Philomathean Society (popularly known as “Philo”) had already been publishing a student monthly called  The University Magazine for seven years. The  Magazine began in 1875 as a publication venue for student literature and over the years expanded to include university news and coverage of university sporting events; "The Growler" was the section of the paper reserved for complaints. But only Philo members were permitted to edit the publication.  Chaff, on the other hand, was started by an independent group of students. Rather than creating a rival literary publication or news magazine, they styled  Chaff after existing college humor magazines such as the Harvard Lampoon and the Princeton Tiger, which joked about student life at their particular institutions, conveying university news along the way.

The publication of Chaff touched off something of a rivalry between its editors and the Philomathean Society.  Chaff did not hesitate to poke fun at Philo, and in return the  University Magazine adopted a sometimes condescending tone toward Chaff. On October 20th, 1883, the  Magazine ran the following note: "[Chaff's] wit can be better appreciated by reading the MAGAZINE first, so that the information on college subjects can be obtained, and then the reader will do well to see how our contemporary touches them off. We commend it to our readers." Though  Chaff never intended to supplant or even supplement the  Magazine, the  Magazine is indeed helpful for the modern reader, providing "straight news" about the events and social settings  Chaff reports satirically. The University of Pennsylvania Archives has digitized every issue of the  University Magazine, and the issues, along with an excellent online exhibit, can be found on their website.

Over the course of Chaff’s life, a number of "characters" develop and begin to feature prominently in the magazine, including several editors, the Ancient, a wise counselor for the creators of the magazine, and the character of Chaff himself, depicted as a jester. The opening article of each issue takes the reader to  Chaff’s offices, where these characters discuss happenings at Penn and the state of the magazine. At the end of the second volume, the issue for June 1884,  Chaff dies in the opening article. The Ancient: "Shall I say (what is true) that nearly everything in our paper has been written by the members of the Board, and that we have received positively no help whatever from the college?" "No, don’t say that," Chaff replies, "for it will only give my enemies a chance to insinuate that I died laughing at my own jokes." The article is accompanied by a cartoon of Chaff the jester, lying on the floor, while the Ancient, dressed as a classical warrior, looks on in anguish. Apparently, the editors of  Chaff had difficulty finding students to contribute to their magazine and discontinued its publication, presumably because creating all the content for, editing and selling the magazine was too much work for a small group of busy Penn students. Soon after  Chaff died, the landscape of student publications shifted at Penn: a new student paper,  The Pennsylvanian, was organized in 1885 and soon supplanted the  University Magazine, and in 1899, a new humor magazine,  The Punch Bowl, was first published. Both of these publications proved to be more enduring than their predecessors:  The Pennsylvanian became daily and is still the university's student newspaper, and  The Punch Bowl continues to serve as Penn's humor magazine today.

The editors of the magazine for 1882 to 1883 included three members of the class of 1883--Edward G. Fullerton, John R. Moses, and Henry H. Poore--together with William MacPherson Hornor, Law '84, and Felix E. Schelling, Law '83. The October 20th, 1883 issue of the University Magazine lists  Chaff's editors for the year as Messrs. Bonnell, Schelling, Finletter, Westcott, Falkner, Fithian, Hornor, Earnshaw, Hagert and Shelton.

Scope and Contents

Penn’s Kislak Center holds Vol. I of Chaff, published for the academic year 1882-1883. Another copy of the first volume, along with the second and final volume, is held by the University Archives.

Each issue opens with an article from the editors and contains fictional stories, poems, dialogues, puns, and jokes, mostly related to life at Penn and student life in general. Puns and jokes are often one-liners at the bottom of a page. Many issues of the magazine also contain a section called "Our Chaff," which humorously reports the latest university news. In addition, each issue features cartoons and reports on the latest university sporting news, be it football, rowing, or cricket.

A recurring subject in the library’s issues of Chaff is "co-education," the possibility of beginning to educate women alongside men at the university. In the fall of 1882, students were openly debating the issue as the trustees of the university put co-education at Penn to a vote. The conversation about co-education continued even after the trustees voted against it, and  Chaff was there to offer its opinion. "An Alarmed Correspondent" contributed a series of scenarios imagining "Co-Education in the University in 1900," including a female Social Sciences professor forcing her male students to admit that the "chief end of man" is to make money for their wives to spend (November, 1882). A month later, the cartoon "The Present State of Co-Education" shows that men and women continue to be separated at the university, to the chagrin of women (December, 1882). A March 1883 cartoon depicts a woman in bloomers angrily pointing her umbrella at a scroll of paper with the caption "Several of our prominent business men have been visited by ladies, who have persuaded them to sign a petition to the trustees, asking for a re-consideration of co-education."

Though women were not permitted to study alongside men at Penn, the search for love is often featured in Chaff’s pages. A few examples: "The Bashful Smythe" (October, 1882) is the story of a shy young man's unsuccessful attempts to woo a bride during his summer at the shore. In the same issue appears a poem entitled "A September Soliloquy," written from the perspective of a woman saddened at her lack of prospects after a summer of flirtation. "One Kiss" (April, 1883) laments the fact that a coy young woman refuses to be kissed; the May, 1883 issue has "At Our Private Theatricals," a cartoon recording the conversation between a man and a woman backstage at a theatrical production.

Chaff also comments on the formation of the Inter-Collegiate Press Association in 1882. The editors of the Acta Columbiana, one of Columbia University's student publications, formed the association, as Penn’s  University Magazine reports in its July 5th, 1883 issue, "to raise the standard of college journalism by admitting to membership such papers only as have attained, in the judgment of the Board of Reference, a certain standard of excellence."  Chaff and the humor magazines of other universities, publications which considered their own standards to be high, were angry at not being included. In the February 1883 issue,  Chaff reports meeting with the  Harvard Lampoon and  Princeton Tiger to form the "Spiritual Conference of College Tooters," or S.C.C.T. as an alternative to the I.C.P.A. The April, 1883 issue includes dispatches from a further meeting. Compare the  University Magazine’s pride at its inclusion in the I.C.P.A. in its January 5th, 1883, issue.

Sporting events also feature prominently in the magazine, with an "Athletics" section at the back of each issue. Chaff's contributors report on university races and games as they occur and also comment on the state of university athletics, especially rowing. For example, the March, 1883 issue gives a history of rowing at the university, while the April, 1883 discusses Penn's rowing rivals and their prospects in contests against Penn. Cricket and football are also discussed, and the January, 1883 issue encourages Penn students to take up canoeing for their recreation. On the final page of Volume I, a student imagines what will happen if he loses the bet he's placed in Penn’s favor in a rowing race against Princeton in the poem "If."  Chaff’s coverage of sporting events tends to be more serious than satirical; in the final issue of the publication (not held by the library, but held at the University Archives), the editors of Chaff encourage Penn students not to give up sport, for sport is an essential factor in the overall success of both students and the university at large.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,  2012

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Ellen Williams


The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)
  • University of Pennsylvania.
  • Cartoons (humorous images)
  • Periodicals
  • Poems
  • College publications
  • College wit and humor
  • Education
  • Students--United States

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Kern, Emily. "University Magazine (1875-1885)." Penn University Archives and Records Center.

Collection Inventory

1882 October.

Volume-Issue Page

"By the science of evolution it could easily be shown that Chaff is not celebrating his first birthday, to-day...".

I-1 1

"Every soul that was unfortunate enough to have secured a place upon the 'Belmont,' on the afternoon of the Schuylkill race, should bless heaven for getting off again, alive...".

I-1 1-2

"The managing editor lay curled in classic ease upon a luxurious divan in one of the splendid apartments of the CHAFF Publishing Company...".

I-1 2-3

"The Bashful Smythe".

I-1 3-5

"The Modern Renaissance," cartoon.

I-1 4

"'83 has arrived at the top of the college ladder at last...".

I-1 5

"Lines suggested by the gilding of the tower clock, some distance after Longfellow...," poem.

I-1 5

"Professor of Philosophy: 'Mr. S.--, what does Hamilton say about the association of ideas in his mind between Ben Lomond and the Prussian system of education?...," dialogue.

I-1 5

"A September Soliloquy," poem.

I-1 5

"By Way of Suggestion".

I-1 5-6

"Pythagoras Dumkin's Letters Home from College. I," illustrated.

I-1 6-8

"The New Excalibur," full page illustration.

I-1 7

"A Philosophical Investigation".

I-1 8-9

"Our Advice to the Freshmen".

I-1 9

"To the Last of the Mosquitoes," poem.

I-1 9

"Athletics: Rowing".

I-1 10-11

"Much Too Fast," cartoon.

I-1 11

"Our Chaff".

I-1 12

"Electric Light in the Chapel," poem by S'William Thompson, K.C.B., loquitur.

I-1 12

1882 November.

Volume-Issue Page

"To Say that CHAFF has received many letters, many congratulations, many inquiries, is to put it mildly...".

I-2 13-14

"A Modern Paris," poem.

I-2 14

"Co-Education in the University in 1900," by an Alarmed Correspondent.

I-2 15-18

"Chaff from Princeton," cartoon.

I-2 15

"From Two Standpoints," poem.

I-2 18

"A New Contributor," article, letter, and poem.

I-2 18-20

"Coming Events--," Cartoon.

I-2 19

"Last Summer," poem.

I-2 20

"Pythagoras Dumkins' Letters Home from College. II," illustrated.

I-2 21-22

"A-Pun Lake George," cartoon.

I-2 22

"The Athenian Celebration".

I-2 22-23

"Where Ignorance is Bliss," cartoon.

I-2 24

"Hands," poem.

I-2 24

"Does the title of Stanley's book refer to the people, or does he wish to be Knighted?".

I-2 24

"Athletics: The Fall Walk-Overs".

I-2 24-25

"Athletics: Athletics for the Month".

I-2 25-26

"Athletics: Cricket".

I-2 26

"Our Chaff".

I-2 26

1882 December.

Volume-Issue Page

"The fair vision of a Greek palæstra opens before us, filled with beautiful, strong-limbed youths...".

I-3 27-28

"Our esteemed contemporaries of a metaphysical turn have a great deal to say about men of ideas...".

I-3 28-29

"Query:--Why has the newly appointed President of the Gun Club begun to cultivate a bang?".

I-3 29

"A Breeze from Blockley," cartoon.

I-3 29

"The Affair at Snubtown".

I-3 29-34

"The Pity of It," illustrated poem.

I-3 31

"The Present Aspect of Co-Education," cartoon.

I-3 33

"Cuisine," poem.

I-3 34

"A good story is told of R--, of the junior class, who aspires to Glee Club honors...".

I-3 34

"The Ten Monks of Castle Névery," poem.

I-3 35

"CHAFF wants to know which one of Shakspere's [sic] plays is like an old shoe. Why, 'A shoe like it,' of course".

I-3 35

"Pythagoras Dumkins' Letters Home from College. III," illustrated.

I-3 35-37

"An Unexpected Compliment," cartoon.

I-3 36

"Quintus Horatius Flaccus," poem.

I-3 37

"Phythagoras Writes to "Chaff," poem.

I-3 37

"Triolets," poem.

I-3 38

"Old Stories Retold: The Italian Baron and the Architect, The Arab Sheik and his Steed, The Two Friends".

I-3 38-39

"Du Sublime Au Ridicule," poem.

I-3 39

"Athletics: Foot Ball".

I-3 39-40

"Our Chaff".

I-3 40

1883 January.

Volume-Issue Page

"With a sigh of relief CHAFF put away the cash book which he had been balancing, and stretched his legs before the cheerfully blazing logs...".

I-4 41-42

"XMas Time," poem.

I-4 42

"A Cornish Christmas Eve".

I-4 42-44

"Crushed Again".

I-4 45-46

"Our Cook Observes the Transit," cartoon.

I-4 45

"Philopœna," poem.

I-4 46

"In re SMITH vs. JONES".

I-4 46-48

"Our Santa Claus, full-page illustration.

I-4 47

"Sleigh Bells," poem.

I-4 48

"We really can't tell 'Historian' whether Sir Robert Peel was an Orangeman or not...".

I-4 48

"Pythagoras Dumkins' Letters Home from College. IV".

I-4 48-50

"Sic Transit," poem.

I-4 50

"The I.C.P.A.: What the Papers Say of the Acta's Little Schemes".

I-4 50

"The Critics at Work. By Brown, the Author".

I-4 50-52

"The Great Annual 'What Is It,'" cartoon.

I-4 51

"When Fresh He Smokes," poem.

I-4 52

"Athletics: Canoeing," poem.

I-4 53-54

"Our Chaff".

I-4 54

"De Aliquibus".

I-4 54

1883 February.

Volume-Issue Page

"Not long ago CHAFF said that he would be 'willing to put on mourning and to go in for sackcloth and ashes when the occasion demanded...," eulogy and poem.

I-5 55-56

"A stranger dropped in at the office, the other day, and, without any ceremony at all, sank into our best plush chair...".

I-5 56-57

"Commercial," cartoon.

I-5 57

"The Race: A Prophecy," poem with illustration.

I-5 58

"The Ways That Are Dark".

I-5 58-59

"A Cold Day," by the author of Those Three American X's.

I-5 59-62

"Acts XVII, 23," cartoon.

I-5 61

"Freddy has just arrived from the West and is leaving the Penna. railway station...," dialogue.

I-5 62

"Martin Luther's Song," poem.

I-5 62

"Alas!" article and poems.

I-5 62-64

"Acute Aphorisms (With Modern Applications)," poem.

I-5 64

"The S.C.C.T.".

I-5 64-65

"Pythagoras Dumkins' Letters Home from College. V".

I-5 66

"Al Fresco, M.A...: 'You have seen the last Century, I suppose?'...," dialogue.

I-5 66

"To A Flower-Favor," poem.

I-5 67

"Athletics: The Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association".

I-5 67-68

"'Eureka,' cried Chaff, 'I've got an idea...'".

I-5 68

1883 March.

Volume-Issue Page

"The New Catalogue? Oh, come now, don't be unreasonable. You know the trustees couldn't help it...".

I-6 69

"A haggard uncertainty seems to envelop the movements of the Princeton Tiger...".

I-6 69

"Chess," poem.

I-6 70

"Organizing the New Editorial Board".

I-6 70-72

"The Most Unkindest Cut," cartoon.

I-6 71

"Il S'y Fie," poem.

I-6 72

"In Society".

I-6 72-73

"'It's only the naught-y boys that get Zeros,' as the tutor remarked to the Freshmen who ciph-er honors in vain".

I-6 74

"Tough Luck," poem.

I-6 74


I-6 74-77

"Dust to Dust, cartoon.

I-6 75

"Valentine," poem with illustration.

I-6 78

"Some Model Excuses".

I-6 78-79

"A distinguished historian lately spoke of our language as being clothed with idioms...".

I-6 79

"Athletics: Rowing at the University".

I-6 80-81

"A New Yorker in Philadelphia," cartoon.

I-6 80

"Co-Education Revived," cartoon.

I-6 82

"Our Chaff".

I-6 82

"Metaphysical," dialogue.

I-6 82

"The Serenade," poem.

I-6 82

1883 April.

Volume-Issue Page

"In pursuance of the plan developed at the meeting of the Spiritual Conference of College Tooters...".

I-7 83

"'We must form some new rules,' said the poet, between his sips of nectar...".

I-7 82-83

"The inventor who describes his new patent spring mattress as the 'poetry of rest' will make his fortune...".

I-7 84

"CHAFF's watch stopped the other day for some unknown cause...".

I-7 84

"Tenax Propositi," poem.

I-7 84

"A Noble Example".

I-7 84

"A Club Episode: Featherly, who prides himself on the luxurious growth of his beard...".

I-7 84

"The Piræëitic Manuscript," illustrated.

I-7 85-87

"Simkins, a four-foot Freshman, is setting up for a wit...".

I-7 87

"The Punishment," poem.

I-7 88

"Our S.C.C.T. Dispatches: The End Near".

I-7 88

"Our S.C.C.T. Dispatches: The Code at Columbia".

I-7 88-90

"Johnny: 'I wouldn't go to Yale, would you, pop?...,'" cartoon.

I-7 89

"April Fool".

I-7 90

"One Kiss," poem.

I-7 91

"Publius Virgilius Maro de Turbine Meo".

I-7 91-93

"Sympathy," cartoon.

I-7 92

"The Early Worm," poem.

I-7 93

"Athletics: Rowing Prospects Among Our Rivals".

I-7 93-96

"Such is Fame!" cartoon.

I-7 95

"The Childs' Race".

I-7 96

"Our Chaff".

I-7 96

1883 May.

Volume-Issue Page

"The Board had been called together to hold an inquest over several Spring poems which had met with a violent and suspicious death and the hands of the Poet...".

I-8 97-98

"Circulating Decimals... The man who goes out between the acts... 'Suspended Animation'...".

I-8 98

"A True Consoler," cartoon.

I-8 99

"At the Races," dialogue.

I-8 99-100

"Two Songs of a Cavalier," poem.

I-8 100

"The kind of acting they have at the Chestnut Street Theatre--Rhealistic".

I-8 100

"Featherly's Youngest Brother on the Circus".

I-8 101-102

"The scientific Juniors fairly breathe physics...".

I-8 102

"The Dream of the First Honor Man".

I-8 102-105

"Toddlekins Saw the Circus," cartoon.

I-8 103

"At the Opera".

I-8 105-107

"At Our Private Theatricals".

I-8 106

"An estimable graduate writes that he does not approve of Chaff, on account of the volatile suggestiveness of the name...".

I-8 107

"That First Client," poem.

I-8 107

"The Last Lap," poem.

I-8 107-108

"Athletics: Cricket".

I-8 108-109

"Rowing: General Notes, The Class Races".

I-8 109-110

"A gilded tile...," illustrated poem.

I-8 109

"Our Chaff".

I-8 110

1883 June 1.

Volume-Issue Page

"The last number of the present volume will be issued on June 15th...".

I-9 111

"CHAFF has already begun to emulate the enthusiastic devotion of the young minister who, directly after his ordination, informed an admiring coterie that he was ready to go to any latitude...".

I-9 111-112

"Reverie," poem by One of Those Conceited '83 Men.

I-9 112

"Curative," cartoon.

I-9 113

"The Inglorious Fourth".

I-9 113-114

"An Excellent Idea".

I-9 114

"Spring Fever," poem.

I-9 115

"Impressions Du Théatre".

I-9 115-118

"A Summer Auction," cartoon.

I-9 117

"At the Aldine...," dialogue.

I-9 118

"Cramming," poem.

I-9 119

"How It Looks".

I-9 119-121

"Jimmy Handicap," cartoon.

I-9 120

"Naughty Tommy: A Tale for the Nursery".

I-9 121-122

"Athletics: Passaic Regatta".

I-9 122

"Athletics: Chaff's Medal".

I-9 122

"Athletics: Letter from Princeton".

I-9 123

"Athletics: The Cricket Championship".

I-9 123

"Athletics: The Intercollegiate Meeting".

I-9 124

"Taken In," cartoon.

I-9 124

"June Job Lots".

I-9 124

1883 June 15.

Volume-Issue Page

"When CHAFF made his first appearance upon the college threshing floor...".

I-10 125

"Facial Whimsicalities".

I-10 125-126

"Commencement," poem.

I-10 126

"The Beacon (St.) Light of Boston... Toddlekins got the governor to send him abroad this summer...".

I-10 126

"He Did, Though," cartoon.

I-10 127

"Commencement Fantasies".

I-10 127-129

"Black and Orange, Blue and White, Red and Blue all in a row...," poem.

I-10 128

"The lumber market was very weak, yesterday...".

I-10 129

"Adieu au Diable," poem.

I-10 129

"Old Ben Comes to Life".

I-10 129-132

"Expectancy," cartoon.

I-10 131

"Chaff's Calendar".

I-10 132

"The Director of the Mint has just published his annual budget... CHAFF takes it all back...".

I-10 132

"Rondel from Two Standpoints," poem.

I-10 133

"Sympathetic Dentistry".

I-10 133-134

"Possibly a Waste of Ammunition," cartoon.

I-10 134

"Many a man's latent musical talent... The best read men in the world...".

I-10 134

"Kismet," poem.

I-10 135

"Our Little Account Book: A Triumphant Comedy in Three Acts and an Epilogue".

I-10 135

"A Change of Base".

I-10 136


I-10 136-137

"University Records".

I-10 137-138

"Light As Air".

I-10 138


I-10 138