Cover Story: The Early News Hole

Belatrasco reports how UC got started

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Matt Borgerding

Even in its February 1880 beginnings as Belatrasco, the University of CincinnatiÕs newspaper of record seemed to have its finger on the newborn pulse of UC, albeit seemingly by accident and as a matter of that age-old journalistic trick — filling a news hole.

In his 39-section will dated Sept. 22, 1855, and recounted in Vol. 1 No.1 of Belatrasco, wealthy landowner Charles McMicken outlined clearly his desire to educate white boys and girls in the ¨knowledge of their duties to their CreatorÓ and to endow Cincinnati with land on which to build two colleges and the money to build them with.

¨Having long cherished the desire to found an institution where white boys and girls might be taught, not only a knowledge of their duties to their Creator and their fellow men, but also receive the benefit of a sound, thorough and practical English education, and such as might fit them for the active duties of life,Ó he wrote. ¨I have been sufficiently favored to gratify the wish of my heart. I therefore give, devise and bequeath to the city of Cincinnati and to its successors ... as soon as practicable after my decease, two colleges for the education of white boys and girls, all the following real and personal estate, in Trust for Ever

McMicken died on March 30, 1858, and UC was organized, according to Belatrasco, by an act passed in 1870 by the Ohio General Assembly. A university board was appointed in January 1871.

Along with McMickenÕs estate, UCÕs first colleges were built with donations from the Cincinnati Astronomical Society, Joseph Longworth, John Kilgour, Julius Dexter and a bequest from the Rev. Sam J. Browne. Three departments — academic, art and astrological — formed UCÕs foundation, and representatives from the academic and art departments created Belatrasco.

In addition to an ample excerpt from McMickenÕs will, that first issue was heavy on poems, UCÕs first art studentsÕ wood carvings and sketches of Greek sculpture and a single ad from publisher, bookseller and importer Peter G. Thomson, whose shop was in the Arcade Building at 179 Vine St.

About the size of the original Life magazine, Belatrasco cost 15 cents and was ¨devoted entirely to the interests of the students of the University of Cincinnati and to those of the Alma Mater.Ó

As for BelatrascoÕs exotic name, University Archivist Kevin Grace says thereÕs no documented explanation for it.

¨We donÕt have a clue,Ó Grace says, laughing. ¨I think they chose the name because it was a euphonic sound, a euphonic name. I think it was one of those student-created names.Ó

There is, however, a timeline of name changes. According to Grace, Belatrasco changed in 1894 to The Cincinnati Student and in 1895 to The Burnett Woods Echo. In 1902 it became The University Weekly News and in 1922 The Cincinnati Bearcat. Finally, in 1936, the paper was renamed The News Record.

The News Record hosts a reception 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday in McMicken Hall celebrating the 125th anniversary of journalism at UC and the establishment of UCÕs Bachelor of Arts journalism program.

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