Something to Crow About

Selections from University Archives
Writer: 
January 31, 2008

 

Something to crow about: band photo from 1919 yearbook

Something to crow about: band photo from 1919 yearbook. Duke University Archives

After a strong push from the Class of 1912, the first edition of the Trinity College yearbook, or "annual" as it was then called, debuted that spring with the title of The Chanticleer. According to an article published in The Chronicle that year, the name was selected from more than 100 student submissions.

There are various theories as to why The Chanticleer, a term for a rooster used commonly in medieval fables, was chosen. During the early twentieth century, the rooster was used as a popular symbol meaning "an announcement to make" or "something to crow about." Used as a verb, "to chanticleer" means to crow. The 1912 volume featured rooster icons on the title page and endpapers and throughout the illustrations of the yearbook.

Some say the name was a nod to the "Nun's Priest Tale" from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. A presentation of The Canterbury Pilgrims, an adaptation of the Tales, had been made at Trinity in 1911.

Chanticleer cover from 1920
Chanticleer cover from 1912

Something to crow about: Chanticleer covers from 1920 and 1912. Duke University Archives

But also during that era, a popular actress, Maude Adams, appeared in Chantecler, a play by Edmond Rostand. An article in the 1937 Chanticleer about the yearbook's history gives credence to the idea that this was the inspiration for the name.

Then there's the theory based on the notion—so far unsubstantiated—that a rooster was the mascot of Trinity College before the Blue Devil was adopted in 1922. Circumstantial evidence has been found to support this theory, including a 1919 photo of the College Band with a drum decorated with the icon of a rooster. In the early days of Trinity College in Durham, roosters and chickens were a common sight on campus.

Perhaps the answer is some combination of the four, or none at all. Whatever the case, Trinity's, and then Duke's, yearbook has been called The Chanticleer, or simply Chanticleer, every year since then except 1918 and 1919.

Because so many students left for military service in 1918, The Chanticleer was not published that year. (The Trinity Archive featured senior portraits and coverage of the year's activities.) The following year, the annual was entitled Victory in celebration of the end of the war and to commemorate the twenty-one Trinity College students who lost their lives in World War I.