The Entire Historical Archive of The Exonian is Now Available Online

In the spring of 1878, two roommates in Abbot Hall got the idea of starting a student-run newspaper. They soon invited a third Exonian to join them. None of them seemed dissuaded by their complete lack of experience in newspaper work or even in managing a business. Their first obstacle was overcoming the solid opposition of the powerful PEA faculty, which had rejected all past initiatives to give student journalism a foothold: they doubted a student newspaper could succeed financially, believed that it would interfere with the students’ studies, and (probably not least of all) didn’t want to invite scurrilous attacks and bumptious opinionizing.

However, a somewhat more liberal, experimenting attitude with regard to extra-curricular activity seemed to be taking hold at Exeter at this time: the first baseball and football teams were both organized that same year. The three Exonians’ persistence won the faculty over, and The Exonian was born. It now has the distinction of being the oldest continuously running secondary school newspaper in the country.

The Exonian is an invaluable historical resource for the history of our school, and indeed for the history of secondary education. Until now, access to back issues has been limited to fragile bound volumes in the Academy  Archives, but we are now happy to announce that the entire run of the newspaper, back to volume 1, issue 1 of April 6, 1878, is available online at!

Visitors to the site will be able to search and browse the entire historical archive of the newspaper, and clip and save articles as images or text. We invite you to explore the length and breadth of Academy history from the student’s perspective and satisfy your curiosity about questions like these:

  • In what year would you read, “Telephones have made their appearance among the students. There’s nothing like keeping abreast of the times”?
  • How long were tobacco advertisements featured in The Exonian, and when did they go away?
  • What did Exonian editors say about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Harkness gift, coeducation, and visitation policies?
  • How awesome a hockey player was Exeter’s new Admissions intern Yuna Evans ’13 really?

All but the last ten years of issues were created from scanning microfilm copies from the Academy Archives (more recent issues were derived from PDFs). The text rendered from the scanning process (optical character recognition, or OCR) is about 99% accurate. This means that inevitably some of the searchable text was inaccurately captured. Users of the archive are therefore invited to register and help improve its quality even more. (Try it out – you may find the “work” of text correction to be strangely satisfying and habit-forming!)

Peter Nelson
Head, Archives & Special Collections