National Geographic Shots Of Student Life

toronto 57b

Ivy Style Facebook member Sammy Al-Rawi has dug up some great photos from National Geographic Magazine chronicling student life from the ’40s through the ’60s.

If you were a kid in the pre-Internet age, you may have had friends show you copies of National Geographic because there were occasionally pictures of naked women from the far corners of the earth.

Kind of funny here you are years later using the magazine to look at pictures of clothed men. — CC

Above, University of Toronto, 1957; below, Harvard, June 1955:

harvard june 55

Yale and Vassar, November 1956:

yale nov 56

Yale, 1957:

yale 57 2

Yale, 1957:

yale 57 (1)

Deerfield Academy, June 1969:

deerfield june 69

UVA, 1956:

UVA 56

Oxford, 1955:

oxford 55

Cambridge, 1946: 

cambridge 46

Cambridge, 1946:

cambridge 46 2

36 Comments on "National Geographic Shots Of Student Life"

  1. Great finds, Sammy!

  2. This video was taken at the state university in my hometown of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania: I understand that BU was never a Yale or Deerfield, but nonetheless, contrast that with photos above from back in the day. Real progress, Huh?

  3. I dare say these young people were preparing to become ladies and gentlemen. My age does not allow me to speak to campus life in the 1950s, but as I sit in my campus office today I fear for our students. Universities have lost their way and so have the majority of students. These pictures are about much more than clothes.

  4. “If you were a kid in the pre-Internet age, you may have had friends show you copies of National Geographic because there were occasionally pictures of naked women from the far corners of the earth.

    Kind of funny here you are years later using the magazine to look at pictures of clothed men. — CC”

    Christian, your ability to bring original juxtapostions to this blog is remarkable. IMO Ivy-Style is a daily dose of civilized sanity in an increasingly uncivilized world.

  5. Great photos. The clothes harmonize so well with the formality of the campus buildings. The students of today often wear shorts and t-shirts in those same buildings, which is discordant.

  6. JLH:
    Very well put.

  7. Ezra Cornell | June 1, 2016 at 12:07 am |

    Fantastic pictures!
    @JLH No doubt these young scholars “were preparing to become ladies and gentlemen” because they had the resources to help them get there. (Lest we get dewy-eyed for the good old days, recall that at a place like Cornell enrollment topped 5,000 only after WWII, and among those just a few hundred were women. Many were, moreover, enrolled because their father was a Cornell graduate, not because they had the necessary academic talent or interest. That means the people in these photos are the few who can afford college and come from the “right” background.)
    From my college office I see an entirely different and far more diverse crowd than in these photos, and not just racially diverse, but economically diverse, too. I like that, even if their clothing standards are not what I prefer. I don’t consider men and women seeking an education and better employment chances “lost” no matter how poorly they dress. Clothing is like life in this: it is not a zero-sum game.

  8. Francophone | June 1, 2016 at 1:49 am |

    Ezra Cornell,

    Please take a look at the nauseating behavior of the “men and women seeking an education” in the video kindly provided by “BC” (above):

  9. Ezra Cornell | June 1, 2016 at 3:23 am |

    Thanks for the link. I’m not sure what it has to do with anything. Young people — and not so young — like to drink and have a party. Do you think they don’t deserve to be in college because of that? Are we going to change admissions standards (and the future life prospects of young people) based on how they behave when they are 19? I’d rather not behave the way they do, but I fail to see that as a reason to bar them from college. It’s a big world, Francophone.

  10. RED SWEATER! Yes ma’am.


  11. @Ezra,
    Yes, the student body at my university is much more diverse in the ways you describe than these images. I too like this diversity, but note that diversity should not be an end unto itself. I value this diversity because it offers students a glimpse at different perspectives thereby expanding their world view and challenging them to think critically. Isn’t that the purpose of a university education? As professors, many of us should be reminded our job is to teach students how to think not tell what to think.

    For decades we’ve had leaders of both parties state that all Americans should earn a college degree. This notion seems inspirational and perhaps harmless on the surface, but in reality this is simply not true. All people may be equal in the eyes of God, but certainly some are more intelligent and driven than others. Are tradespeople that do not hold college degrees, but serve others failures? As we live in a credentialocracy, we fool ourselves referring to it as a meritocracy, students now attend college to earn credentials. Most students are not enrolled to expand their minds or develop critical analytical thinking skills. Most, at least here on my campus, are simply seeking what equates to a certificate that will help them find employment. These students often think it is their right to attend college and that they are paying customers. I’d prefer students that consider it a priveldge, and a priveledge that comes with responsibility. Responsibility to lead, to serve others, to put their talents to the greatest use, for the greatest good, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. I of course realize that my experiences and observations are based on a sample size of one campus, and my research university (that you all know) of ca. 40,000 students may not be representative of college life across the union, but I fear it is.

  12. Bags' Groove | June 1, 2016 at 10:29 am |

    @ Ezra
    Shoes maketh the man, especially in the 1950s when everyone, prince or pauper, wore leather shoes, as a rule suitably polished. Oh for a return to those halcyon days.

  13. A Bridge Too Far | June 1, 2016 at 11:21 am |

    I agree with Ezra that the people seen in these photos were largely from privileged backgrounds. Funny how quaint it seems when viewed today.

    I, too, like the diversity–ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and economic. Were college today only for the privileged, we would be living in a society much more akin to those that favor elites. Please, don’t take me back to the U.S.S.R.

    When some things change dramatically–as, for example, when college became more accessible during my generation (1960s), women started attending in droves (1970s), and minorities gain a greater voice (today)–larger change is sure to follow. I believe that is what we are seeing now across campuses.

    It’s foolish to think students today should adhere to the same values and the same behaviors as earlier generations. None ever do. Forcing our beliefs onto our kids, telling them they must dress a certain way and act a certain way is sure to create unwanted consequences. It’s like peeing into the wind. You’re gonna get wet.

    Change is the only constant. Teach them how to think, yes. That is the gift of university training. Keep the values out of it, as best we can. Let students be students and lets see what changes they create and where they will take us. I’ll bet it will be to a place far more interesting and exciting than being stuck in the times depicted in these photos.

  14. I enrolled at Princeton in 1953 at age 25. My family was not WASPy wealth by any stretch of the imagination. The only reason I was admitted is because my Dad was in the school’s Administration at the time. A large number of freshman were GI’s who had various socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. They were older (usually late 20’s) like I was. I missed going overseas in the war by one year as I turned 18 in 1945. The Ivy League I recall was an extremely diverse, worldy and mature group of young men who were tolerant of everyone and were willing to work harder than anyone I’d known before or since. I met no entitled playboys at leisurely cocktail parties. I believe there was a stronger sense of meritocracy in the mid-1950’s Ivy league than exists now.

  15. Jerry, please consider writing up some of your memories for the site!

  16. The Loafer Lawyer | June 1, 2016 at 1:48 pm |

    There seems to be an ongoing contest at many campuses today to prove who is the most outrageous. Outrageously inappropriate clothing, outrageously closed minded refusal to listen to any thought that does not reinforce one’s own, and outrageous behavior to shut down any dissent to one’s own views. Critical thought cannot be taught in this environment, because critical thought requires, in part, a questioning of one’s own view.

    Instead, you must stick to the doctrine, must avoid all offense (unless, of course, you are offending those who do not hold to the doctrine, then it is ok to drown them out, deface their property, and even engage in assaultive behavior), and provide a safe space in the event that a contrary view or controversial subject might slither through the moral screens of the ivory tower.

    Tradition is to be mocked, past leaders are to be torn down for their foibles (because no one should be hoisted higher than the precious flowers of the current student generation), and status symbols are to be shunned (unless it is the newest rare electronic device or lavender infused small batch organic whiskey). Then again, “old fogeys” have always said that the next generation is filled with louts just waiting to tear down the venerable castle of society.

  17. A Bridge Too Far | June 1, 2016 at 3:51 pm |

    Loafer –

    Sounds exactly like the 60s

  18. Changes in dress and behavior has nothing to do with economic status. The US is a society where 99% of the wealth is owned by 1% of the population. Most of the boys and girls of the colleges were privileged in the past. It’s true that college is more accessible to the masses, but upon graduation, the privileged will get the cream of the job market, and get to stay in the one percent. The rest get what they can get.

    The dress and behavior exhibited by today’s students is considered “normal,” and all economic classes will copy it.

    @Mr. Loafer Lawyer

    I’d venture to say that the Ivy Style we all love is considered outrageously inappropriate clothing in most situations, and solemn, dignified behavior is also inappropriate in today’s world.

    A humble opinion.

  19. @Wriggles “The US is a society where 99% of the wealth is owned by 1% of the population.”

    That may be true today, but it certainly was not true in the ’50s and ’60s. The US was much more egalitarian then, with top marginal tax rates >90%.

  20. Well said Loafer. I shall be enjoying a Blanton’s with three cubes of ice in about an hour, served by my loving wife with my daughter reading quietly at her desk and my dog at my feet while I re-read The Sun Also Rises (first edition) for probably the fifth time. No lavender infused drinks or electronic gadgets for me.



  21. @Wriggles You know what they say about opinions… we all have one. I must, however, not be reading yours correctly. Are you implying that dignified (having or showing a composed or serious manner that is worthy of respect) is inappropriate today? If so, is the behavior exhibited by BU students in the You Tube video (link above) what you expect as appropriate college student behavior in today’s world? Please explain… if you would be so kind to do so.

  22. A Bridge Too Far | June 1, 2016 at 5:58 pm |

    BC –

    You seem to think that the behavior in the video is way out of character for college students. BITD, we did the same things. Old Milwaukee beer was our favorite, because it was the cheapest we could get, and we bought a lot of it. Happy hour at the local pubs gave us 5 mugs of beer for a dollar. A frat sponsored the Friday Afternoon Drinking Club every Friday (except finals week). For two bucks, you had all the beer you could drink and all the hot dogs you could eat. Lots and lots of keggers, plenty of pot, too. Aside from longer hair and LL Bean Norwegian sweaters, you would have seen the same kinds of antics seen in the video at my college and every one of my friends’ colleges that I visited. Cheers!

  23. “Responsibility to lead, to serve others, to put their talents to the greatest use, for the greatest good….”

    Honestly, did more students do that then than do so now? I have no empirical evidence, nor even personal historical perspective, upon which to opine but observation leaves me skeptical.

  24. @SFSteve
    That comment was based on the work of E. Digby Baltzell. According to Prof. Baltzell, when students are admitted to an elite university because of their daddy, they are more likely to have a heart for service. They were given something unearned and want to give to others. In some regards this may be similar to Christian traditions. When students gain admission based on what they perceive is merit, they believe they are deserving and others are not. These students are less likely to give to others. Rather, according to Prof. Baltzell, they are more likely to exclude others they perceive less accomplished or deserving. He used JFK as one example of the former.

    Caveat emptor, I’m just a simple ecologist, not a sociologist and I wasn’t around before the fall of the American aristocracy to observe the trends in higher ed.

  25. Ezra Cornell | June 2, 2016 at 1:05 am |

    Interesting comments all around.
    @JLH I agree that — ideally — college is about expanding horizons. But take a look at those old photos again, and peruse any syllabus from the time they were taken: rich white men learning about the deeds and thoughts of other rich white men. That’s not necessarily bad. But it’s certainly not “different perspectives thereby expanding their world view and challenging them to think critically.” When their texts and their lectures never cover a single African American writer, thinker, activist, artist, theologian (the list extends endlessly) the challenges they were receiving were real but also limited.

    You continue that currently “most students are not enrolled to expand their minds or develop critical analytical thinking skills.” Thus has it ever been. “In the [Harvard] class of 1728 … twenty-two students were variously punished for ‘nocturnal expeditions’ ‘entertainments’, beginning with stealing and roasting geese, and ending with drunken routs. Gambling was the primary vice of the classes from 1731-1740; over eighty-five students were convicted and punished for that crime alone….Finally, several students of the class of 1766 and 1767 were sent home to be cured of ‘the Itch,’ the result of ‘associating with, countenancing [and] encouraging one or more lewd women kept by the students.” A Harvard committee report from 1723 confesses that “although there is a considerable number of virtuous and studious youth in the College, yet there has been the practice of several immoralities; particularly lying, stealing, swearing, idleness, picking of locks, and too frequent use of strong drink.” The ringleaders were the “Boston blades,” the supposed aristocracy using their education for the benefit of society. Etc. etc. (all quotes from Kathryn Moore, “Freedom and Constraint in Eighteenth Century Harvard,” The Jou. of Higher Education 6 (Nov-Dec. 1976). This is an extremely random sample that can be multiplied endlessly and with ease. There have always been students eager to learn, and there have always been a large number (a majority?) who attend for the same reasons students attend now: social status, social obligation and job prospects. There was no golden age.

    To point this out is not to “tear down” people of the past (@Loafer Lawyer’s concern). It is to look on them without sentiment, as nothing more and nothing less than mortals with qualities we might admire, but who also ideas that are unsustainable.

  26. @Mr. BC

    My comments reflected what I most see in the media and everyday life. I don’t approve of the activities and behavior of todays’ college students, (or society in general). I recall back in the 1960’s, Cronkite’s news featured Eric Severeid’s analysis. He quoted back then, “Abnormal is normal, normal is abnormal.” Eric and everyone else could not even fathom how society has fallen.

    I do expect people to follow the leader when it comes to behavior. When society glorifies behavior exhibited on the video in question, more will engage in such behavior.

    I don’t consider such behavior normal and desirable, but today, it’s considered appropriate. I venture to say if a student showed up in a navy blazer outfit and asked for a G&T (provided he was legal age), he’d be beat up or heckled at the least.

    Point being, the Sewanee environment is the abnormal today. The ladies and gentlemen of Sewanee are not angels, I’m sure, but exhibit some degree of acceptable human conduct.

  27. “The US is a society where 99% of the wealth is owned by 1% of the population”

    I heard it was “less than 1%.”

    And we can rest assured they’re not wearing vested sack suits, repp ties, OCBDs, and Alden plain toe bluchers to the office.

  28. A Bridge Too Far | June 2, 2016 at 7:44 am |

    Wriggles –

    Regarding Sewanee: “Point being, the Sewanee environment is the abnormal today. The ladies and gentlemen of Sewanee are not angels, I’m sure, but exhibit some degree of acceptable human conduct.”

    You might be interested in this article about Sewanee:

    “Ranked as the 17th largest party school in the nation-as well as 8th on the list of biggest Greek life programs-by the Princeton Review, the University of the South has a reputation. Walking into a party on campus, one floats and bumps in the swagger of the (often drunken) crowd while students down vodka and beer in red solo cups scattered across the house. Porches and decks are taken up by those smoking, crying, and making out-often whilst drinking. Parties run every weekend, and the general student consensus is that weekends start on Thursdays. It would seem an ideal town, what with all the frequently imbibed students, for drug traffickers.

    In response to a recent survey of drug usage and availability on campus, on average, most students (63% of 93) admitted to using drugs at the university. Of that group, 98.4% say they’ve used marijuana, by far the most commonly used drug on campus. One student, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “There’s lots of people here up here who smoke every day … sometimes up to 3 times a day.” He went to talk about the tactics student use to avoid setting off fire alarms, such as blowing air through a Gatorade bottle filled with paper, so as to filter the smoke out. One student even mentioned rumors of professors who indulge in the occasional toke.”

    On a positive note, the article does say that harder drugs found in surrounding areas are not prevalent on the campus.

    In addition to the Princeton Review, Playboy has also ranked Sewanee as a top party school, which, in part, includes the criterion of a bikini contest. I wonder if the bikinis are plaid?

    And, here is an hour-by-hour description of the initial hours of the 2016 Sewanee “Sparty” (Spring Party) from the Sewanee Purple:


    10 p.m.: Tiki Barbour just made a margarita with gatorade on Chopped and we’re obsessed.


    1 a.m.: Drunkenly running around the Ayres Hall construction site and inspecting the hall because the gates were left unlocked for once.

    2 a.m.: Convincing my friend that yes, I will make it to my 9 a.m.

    8 a.m.: If you haven’t gone to your job still drunk at least once, you’re lying.

    9 a.m.: I did not actually make it to class.

    10 a.m.: When your teacher thinks you’re drunk and you’re totally sober.

    3 p.m.: Dirty like my sins, / O Stirling’s Chai: come quickly, / lest my soul escape.

    4 p.m.: Complete exposure to Scottish Johnsons as free-balling Highlanders fight Wellingtons.

    5 p.m.: All of my friends started drinking before me and I desperately need to play a game of catch up.

    6 p.m.: Having a drunken heart-to-heart with one of my friends about all the drama in our lives.

    8 p.m.: Today I learned the dangers of “riding the bus”

    10 p.m.: An argument erupts about the Oxford Comma.

    11 p.m.: I climbed the roof of a fraternity in search of a dildo and was somehow disappointed. I hope I’m up to date on my shots …

    Looks like some of BC’s video might have been shot at UoS.

    This is what always kills conservative values: the cracks are covered up from a holier than thou moral high-ground, but they all run really, really deep.

  29. @Ezra,
    I understand and agree with your points.

    At my university, students were not allowed to live on the first floor of dormitories at some point in the 1800s because they kept sneaking out at night to get drunk in town. The same men I’d guess that went on to lead this state.

    I’d hypothesize that many elements of campus life that were bad in centuries prior have improved while other celebrated aspects of campus life have deteriorated.

    I’ll add that I don’t think the current university model is sustainable. Universities are run like big businesses (publish or perish is an outdated concept, now overhead dollars generated is what matters) and students have become paying customers, and customers are always right. Regardless of partying and dress, the philosophies of administrators and students have changed and largely not for the better. I’d like to think the faculty motivation is still somewhat pure, but I may be fooling myself.

  30. Ezra Cornell | June 2, 2016 at 9:14 am |

    Amen. Sad to say, but amen.

  31. Great (and highly posed) shots of idealized notions of campus life, of course. It’s interesting they appear in a publication so highly regarded for its photography of denizens “in the wild,” as it were. I’d have loved to see what the great National Geographic photogs could have done with scenes from more natural–and realistic–campus milieus.

  32. The Loafer Lawyer | June 2, 2016 at 1:33 pm |

    @Bridge – It carries some resemblance to the 1960s (I’m assuming the late 1960s and very early 1970s is your reference point). I would submit that the added element of “needing a safe space” carries it over the top. The grand irony of engaging in behaviors that offend others to make your point, yet demanding a safe space to be free from being offended yourself (including counseling for those so offended), is beyond the pale.

    @sacksuit – I do not feel there to be a requirement that everyone live in quiet leisure and suffer the “injustices” of the world. If your life is that “Rockwellian”, enjoy the serenity and leisure you have achieved/been afforded. My point was the level of hatred in much of the contrarian behavior (without any real discernible point) seems ridiculous when they have merely exchanged “traditional” (read “waspy”, if you must) for “artisan crafted” as their status symbol.

    In the end, how can you truly forge change without some contemplation that the adverse of your position may have merit, and making an educated decision. Even if you have made such educated decision, is there any sincere belief that the means to achieving your end is rudeness, violence, and hate? Long term change requires consensus not simply the loudest voice or the exclusion of all contrary thought.

  33. The Loafer Lawyer | June 2, 2016 at 1:38 pm |

    @Wriggles – One would hope that sartorial splendor is not inappropriate regardless of location (yes, a bit tongue in cheek). Mannered behavior, less than being inappropriate, instead seems less and less effective. Given my profession, I am frequently called upon to lightly stretch the bounds through hyperbole.

  34. A Bridge Too Far | June 2, 2016 at 2:55 pm |

    Loafer –
    I did mean the late 60s early 70s. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

    I don’t disagree about the grand irony of offensive behaviors while simultaneously demanding the safe space. Probably the icing on that cake was just this spring when Emory (I think) students encountered “Trump 2016” chalked on the sidewalk and declared they had been traumatized. They then marched to the president’s office demanding that he make them feel safe. (Just wait until Trump wins, right? Maybe we’ll all be truamatized).

    In the late 60’s the so-called hippies and radicals demanded a stop to the Vietnam War, get rid of the power establishment, and change government. Yet the same protesters who burned flags and acted as if they despised life in America and what it stood for, lived in a highly protected and free society thanks in large part to the military and establishment government. There is probably always an irony.

    Although I think the students have clearly gone overboard and some of their more extreme demands foolish and naive, I do think it positive that they have thrown light on some of the things that have been kept in the shadows. A good example comes from Princeton where students demanded that the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs change its name because Wilson was opposed to admitting black students and was a segregationist.

    Princeton, to its credit, declined to scrub the name noting that the school must honestly live with its history, but did take steps to make the university more diverse and inclusive, including, inter alia, naming buildings not already named to reflect diversity and recruiting more minorities for graduate training. These things are positive and wouldn’t have happened on their own.

  35. @Mr. Bridge Too Far

    Thanks for the information. Inappropriate behavior is “normal” behavior. It’s not going away.


  36. The Loafer Lawyer | June 8, 2016 at 3:27 pm |

    @Bridge Too Far – I quibble only slightly with Princeton’s action. The best course would, of course, be to provide the whole picture of the man, noting that as times change, society changes. Great people can also do terrible things. To view them in a modern light and discount their greatness creates a false impression that they should be ignored. Wilson was a man of his time and place that managed to do some astonishingly good things while being, in the hindsight of modern social and political norms, a racist that would be thoroughly unacceptable today. To expect, however, that he not reflect at least some of the ills of his time is placing a burden upon him that could only be overcome by someone like Mother Teresa. I fear, given the opportunity, that revisionist history will eventually take a cut even at Mother Teresa. The decision to “never name a building after someone objectionable” will invariably fail as the progressive of today (or 1912 in this case) is the horrid immoral being of the future.

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