Decaturian: From Birth to Present

Tucked away from the hustle-and-bustle of smartphone-age university life, a room filled with Millikin’s history waits for curious visitors.

The books are volumes upon volumes of old Decaturian Newspapers, and they are usually the second or third stop on the adventure through UC 232. One can also find old yearbooks, paintings, and display cases with artifacts that almost always raise a question.

The library archives, currently headed by Amanda Pippit, have been collecting the Decaturian newspapers since the first one came out in 1903.

Lisa Hill, a senior History Major, works from 3-5 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to answer those questions. More often than not, a question leads to a story, and that story leads to more questions.

Take, for instance, a Millikin-blue beanie hat. What could be so interesting about that?

“Most colleges, when you were a freshman, you had to wear these,” Hill said. “If you didn’t, the sophomores came around with lipstick and wrote an ‘M’ on your forehead. Then you had to go to the ‘beanie court’ and pay twenty-five cents.”

Why was this a practice? What made it go away? Hill combed through the Decaturian volumes to answer some of these questions.

“It fell out of fashion in the late-60s,” Hill said, then going on to tell exactly how the beanies disappeared.

One story revealed that a student vote determined the fate of the beanies. Students voted to abolish them, but  they only won by three votes.

If four more Millikin students wanted to keep forcing freshmen to wear beanies, the practice could have continued for years.

For students back then, this was a big deal and an important story for Decaturian writers to cover.

Keeping this in mind, we learn these newspapers are among the best of ways to see what past students, many of which are just as old or older than our grandparents, cared about in their young lives. We not only see their views, but we can better understand what their college experience was like.

In other words, they help us see what the Millibubble was before we got here.

One of the first things one may notice, for example, is that there are cigarette and liquor ads in early newspapers – sometime multiple ads per issue for different brands.

Some of the other ads are just as quirky as Millikin has always been, including old ads for department stores and local businesses. Even the Winery and Lock, Stock & Barrel have had ads in the Decaturian.

Others, however, hint at another part of history that leaves us scratching our chins, such as wedding ring ads targeted towards women, which were prevalent well into the late-50’s and early 60’s. These ads suggest that the culture expected women to get married immediately after college. For the entire country, this was commonplace. However, Millikin itself also shows that people created this institution to help women learn just as much as men.

According to the first issue of the Decaturian, which came out in October of 1903, Millikin’s president of the board of managers, Hon. I. R. Mills, spoke at the first assembly.

“Heretofore the girls have not had an equal chance with the boys,” Mills said in his speech, going on to say, “They quit school after a time and what then? They got married. Some of them did not get married and they were no better off than the ones who did. The wonder is that they have done as well; they had to fall back on their common sense to make the good homes we have. Here we will give the girls a better chance.”

He gives us the first glance into what members of Millikin believed and what beliefs led them to open this university.

The irony between the ads and stories shows how Millikin has progressed over the years. There are even more instances that could be offensive – or progressive for their time. It makes one think about what our descendants will think about us.

Anyone can read the digitized Decaturian from years 1903-1951 online by searching for the “Decaturian Archives” on Of course, the Decaturian continues to tell Millikin’s story from students’ voices, but now they are not just in print. The newspaper will run a segment on 89.5 WJMU the Quad. All stories also go online to