Then and now: “The Seal”

Then and now: “The Seal”
Though their covers are similar, the 2011 (above) and 1911 (below right) "Seal" yearbooks are quite different inside.

The editors of the 1911 Seal, the first edition of the College’s student-produced yearbook, stated in their publication’s foreword: “[This book’s] originators hope for its perpetuation through the loyalty of their successors.”

One century later The Seal perseveres, thanks to the dedication of hundreds, if not thousands, of student staff (and their advisers) who constitute the loyal successors to that first editorial board.

Beyond some overall physical similarities, the earliest editions of The Seal bear little resemblance to more recent volumes. The first Seal featured poems, illustrations, musical compositions, and inside jokes whose meanings are lost on today’s students—but there were few photos, and the pictures that were included were mostly posed group shots.

Despite its copy-heavy beginnings, The Seal began to morph into more of a pictorial retrospective of the academic year by the mid-1930s, and it was during that decade that candid student life photos, sports action shots, and color pictures first appeared.

World War II-era Seals reflect a sense of national pride, complete with dedications to classmates serving in the armed forces. In fact, though the tradition has fallen by the wayside recently, most Seals featured a dedication—more often than not to a professor or administrator. One notable exception is the 1997 edition. That volume, the first printed after the College’s most recent name change, was dedicated to the old moniker “Trenton State College.”

The 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s saw an ever-increasing number of pictures of campus events, College traditions, and student life make their way into The Seal. Lisa (Arm) Maynard ’76, editor-in-chief of the 1976 Seal, said that year’s staff thought it was important to show what college life was really like, which meant including lots of pictures of people “just living their lives, doing work, cramming for a test, [and] having fun.”

This trend continued into the 1980s, a time when color photos became increasingly prevalent in the book. By the 1990s, while less of an emphasis seems to have been placed on campus event coverage, many Seals featured beautiful, full-page color photos of campus and students. In the last decade, Seal editors seem to have borrowed a little from each previous edition: Whereas the books featured a renewed emphasis on campus events, more recent books (excluding this year’s) included some black and white photography due to budget constraints.

From a production standpoint, the days of shooting and developing film, and then spending all night in The Seal office cutting and pasting photos into a layout, are gone. Digital cameras capture the action now, and this year’s staff worked in a “virtual office,” uploading images to the printer’s Web site and submitting whole sections of the book with the click of a button.

Of course the challenge of encapsulating a year’s worth of memories into a single volume has remained constant through the years. This year’s staff gave itself the added responsibility of honoring The Seal’s 100-year history. The solution Editor-in-Chief Jillian Polak ’11 and her staff devised was to include a “Through the Years” timeline highlighting significant moments in the College’s history, culling information from previous editions of The Seal. Researching the College’s history “was immensely time-consuming,” Polak said, “but that just made it all the more worthwhile in the end.”

It also brought things full circle to what the first Seal editors envisioned for the publication they started a century ago. In their 1911 foreword, the editors wrote, “May [the yearbook] prove, indeed, a seal by the memories which it preserves, binding not only the members of this class, but of each succeeding one into fonder relationships.”

Here’s hoping there are many more volumes of The Seal still to come.

Ed’s note: Jeffrey Roman ’11, a Seal editor, contributed to this article.

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