Earlier this week, the front page of The Sun displayed a short excerpt from our very first publication in 1880 in honor of our birthday. Through major world events, including both world wars, The Sun has seen it all, shining brightly for the last 139 years and providing the Cornell and Ithaca communities with coverage of the issues that matter most to them. In this week’s Solar Flashback, we wanted to pay a special birthday tribute to The Cornell Daily Sun, an institution that is almost as old as the University itself.
Solar Flashbacks is a special project connecting The Sun’s — and Cornell’s — past to the present to understand how this rich history has shaped the campus today. Flashbacks appear periodically throughout the semester. #ThrowbackThursday
From the beginning, The Sun has remained an independent business, always operating outside the University’s sway. Here, we take a look at some of its milestone birthdays.
Sept. 1880: A Star is Born
On Sept. 16, 1880, roughly 15 years after the University was founded, The Sun published its very first issue, which consisted of eight pages and cost 3 cents. In the second issue, the editorial board made a short announcement on the front page: “The question, who are the editors of the Sun? was often heard on the campus yesterday. This will be answered in our Monday’s issue. The cause of their not being announced in the first number was that it was uncertain whether or not they would all return to the University this Fall ; and to obviate the necessity of announcing any resignations we deferred giving their names. The names will undoubtedly be a sufficient refutation of the statement that The Sun is a strictly private enterprise controlled by one or two men.”
Today, The Sun is anything but a “private enterprise controlled by one or two men.” It consists of 33 editors across news, opinion, sports, photo and design departments, with a staff of over 200. (And in case you’re curious about the names of the 137th editorial board, you need only turn to page 6).
“No one expected [The Sun] to live,” Sun editor E.W. Huffcut 1884 recalled later. “In fact it was commonly predicted that it would not last a month, a week.”
Sept. 1881: The Sun Turns 1!
Nevertheless, The Sun persisted, and one year later, The Sun editors took “pleasure in calling the attention of our readers to the advertisers whose business notices appear in our columns.”
“As a rule, only those who deal in first-class articles, are the ones who have enterprise and public spirit enough to contribute to the support of our papers. If students would only bear this in mind, even more than they have done in the past, we might hope to see all of the business men of Ithaca, appreciate the advantage of using our columns as an advertising medium. We would, therefore, advise all students to look carefully over the advertisements that appear in the various publications, and then patronize only those firms whose notices appear in them.”
Even today, businesses in Ithaca continue to “appreciate the advantage of using our columns as an advertising medium,” and advertising is still how The Sun brings in a lot of its revenue. Be sure to check out page two for advertisements.
Sept. 1883: The Sun is Three Years Strong
On The Sun’s third birthday, editors acknowledged the progress the paper had made over the past few years and reaffirmed their commitment into “giving the news of general interest to students, and to candid editorial discussions of the same.”
“The fact is that the Sun, from the first, has occupied a legitimate fiield in college journalism — a field which, before its advent, had been unoccupied. Since its establishment, it has been preeminently a college news paper, a paper devoted to giving the news of general interest to students, and to candid editorial discussions of the same. Believing this to be the chief object of a college daily, we shall do what ever painstaking labor can do, to accomplish it,” the editors wrote.
Despite the many years that have passed since this was written, not much has changed in terms of the sentiment. Our editors still take pride in doing “whatever painstaking labor [we] can do” in order to keep The Sun “fully abreast the highest student thought.”
Sept. 1898: The Sun Comes of Age
In the fall of 1898, The Sun published a “special issue” for incoming students, stating that “the matter in this issue has been chosen in the hope that it will prove of particular interest to the entering class, as yet somewhat of an unknown quality.”
“It might be well to say here that the Sun is the quasiofficial organ of the University, the proper medium through which to bring matters of interest to the notice of the student body and the publication than which no other more thoroughly reflects the moods and feelings of the undergraduate Cornellian,” The Sun wrote.
Sept. 1980: The Sun Celebrates its Centennial
In 1980, The Sun put together a special centennial issue celebrating its 100th anniversary. Headlines from this issue included “Unchanged, But Not Unchanging,” “The Editor and the End of the Line,” “Sun Alumni Recall Stories, Events,” “The Split of 1893: Factions Produced Two Suns,” “Fun in The Sun,” Sun Changes Physically Since 1880 and “Women Fill Varied Sun Positions.”
“Society attaches a special significance to something that exists a century. Suddenly something that has always been regarded as just another organization becomes an institution,” The Sun wrote. “Synonymous with Cornell in many ways, we have been a part of this campus and Ithaca for virtually every alumnus alive today. But unlike Cornell, we have avoided the restrictions and curbs on expression that usually come with institutionalization.”
Sept. 2019: Happy 139th Birthday!
139 may not typically be considered a milestone birthday, but it is special to our editors since our office is now located at 139th West State Street.
Since 1880, The Sun has been a constant presence in the lives of Cornell students and in honor of The Sun’s birthday, we want to take a moment to appreciate its long history. Here’s to another 139 years of dedicated journalism — We can’t imagine what the world will look like in 2158, but we can hope that The Sun will continue to shine over Cornell and Ithaca.
BreAnne Fleer ’20 contributed research.