The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 37.0°F | A Few Clouds

By Bushra Makiya

By Bushra Makiya

On November 16, 1881, the first issue of The Tech was published. At the time, it was only the second newspaper ever started at the Institute, and since then, has been the only one for a majority of its existence. The Tech is also MIT’s oldest organized student activity. In the first issue, the editors wrote that the purpose of the Tech was to “promote the interests of the students of the Institute, and maintain a friendly spirit among them, breaking down the ancient barriers of class and department,” and also stated that “It will open an avenue for the expression of public opinion, and will aim, in every possible way, to help all in their development of their young manhood and young womanhood. It is hoped, too, that it will keep the interests of the Institute before its graduates, cherishing among them the memory of their Alma Mater.”

The first effort at creating a campus-wide newspaper came in 1873, 12 years after the founding of MIT, when The Spectrum was published. However, the paper did not last long and the last issue appeared in May, 1874. From then on no attempt to begin a student paper on campus succeeded in producing a first issue until The Tech in 1881. This first issue was organized mostly by H. Ward Leonard, class of 1883. While he did little writing, he was responsible for advertising, and therefore for making the paper financially possible. The first managing board consisted of 15 men, including Arthur D. Little, class of 1885, founder of the well-known consulting firm. Institute Presidents James R. Killian ’26 and Paul E. Gray ’54 were also Tech staffers. The paper originally consisted of only two columns and used paper half the size of the tabloid size paper The Tech uses today.

On November 16, 1981 a centennial issue was published chronicling the history of MIT since the founding of The Tech. It noted the cyclical pattern history at MIT -- “The repetitive nature of MIT events is not obvious to its student population, which turns over every four years. The short length of stay and the difficulty of the work give students little chance to gain perspective on their experiences at the Institute.” Some major issues followed from 1881-90 were sports, quality of food, and the beginning of the fraternity system, all issues which continue to be very important to MIT today. Other important events discussed included topics such as changes in the administration, construction of new buildings, student rallies, and major international events.

The editorial note of The Tech’s first issue concluded:

We cannot look far into the future. We cannot tell what buds of genius may be unfolded in these columns. But even if genius does not bloom, even if the beauties of rhetoric and poetry are not developed here; even if this paper becomes, like what it represents, only a field for plain, honest work, we shall nevertheless be sure that the efforts we make are stepping stones to fuller attainment helping us all to the higher and nobler uses of our lives.