The history of the university is in the pages of El Rodeo.
The oldest continuous publication at USC and the second-oldest extant student organization, El Rodeo is the university’s yearbook. With its descriptive subtitle “The Roundup,” the book was established in 1899 to capture in a single document the rich and colorful year-by-year evolution of the institution. The original goal remains the same today—to record and commemorate the broad spectrum of campus life. The major focus is to capture highlights of events that occur, along with a broad overview of the university’s academic programs, sports competitions, traditional celebrations, and a slice of student life. Included is an enormous treasure trove of information not preserved elsewhere. As each year unfolds, this aggregation of stories outlines the next chapter of the university’s history.
In the first edition of El Rodeo, the editors wrote, “El Rodeo is a living reality.” For over 120 years, it has served as the eyes and ears of Troy. The Spanish name is reflective of the early ranchero culture of Los Angeles and its agrarian roots, which was the culture at the time of the program’s inception.
The first issue, clothbound in cardinal with gold lettering, set a standard of production matched and excelled by every succeeding volume. For a brief period, (1900-1907) no yearbook was published, but El Rodeo returned in 1908 and has been published annually since that time, with the exception of 1919 when the Spanish flu epidemic precluded production.
A quick look at representative volumes of El Rodeo reveals how life at the university has changed during the past hundred years, and yet, how little its character has changed. Though the styles, names, faces, and campus scenery are different, many of the activities and organizations documented by El Rodeo have remained the same. Sunny afternoons at the Coliseum, rallies and gatherings at Tommy Trojan, campus clubs and organizations, academic, Greek, and other student organizations, and life within the classroom have been shared by generations of Trojans.
El Rodeo has attempted to reflect the times it has chronicled. By the 1920s, it had expanded, in both number and size of pages, and featured elaborate covers. The 1926 edition, which looks more like an heirloom Bible than a college yearbook with its dark embossed cover, contains a photo of the 1925 football team, including a player named Marion Morrison, known later in life as John Wayne.
The 1932 edition reached a production standard of exceptional beauty. It featured for the first time a 24-page section entitled, “The Year in Pictures,” filled with action football game photos, the Freshman-Sophomore brawl in the Alumni Park fountain and photos of Doheny Library, still under construction. The 1932 Olympics, held in Los Angeles, served as that edition’s unifying theme.
Perhaps the most difficult period of production was during World War II. The editions from those years reveal many students dressed in uniform in class photos and large sections devoted to military activities. Clarice Thurman, who served as editor for the 1945 and 1946 editions, wrote that the 1945 volume almost did not achieve realization and that the 1946 edition was the one he would remember the most, as it was the year that the peace-time El Rodeo returned.
By the 1960s, the university had grown in enrollment and had added a number of buildings. Private homes that had once been sprinkled throughout the campus were torn down to make room for new facilities. The theme of the 1964 edition was focused on a defining moment in the history of the university: President Norman Topping’s Master Plan for improvement and expansion.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, a contemporary format was adopted to include national and international events and increased four-color photography. In 1984, the Olympic Games were again held in Los Angeles, and the Olympics became the theme of that year’s edition.
The 1999 edition, entitled “Eyes of Troy,” looked back over the past century of El Rodeo’s publishing history. Since 2007, the book has been printed entirely in color and is nationally recognized for excellence.
There are very few tangible evidences of a student’s college years, generally limited to an academic transcript and a diploma signifying the culmination of their formal higher education experience. A more personal hallmark that commemorates their years in school is the college yearbook—a synopsis that encapsulates the broad spectrum of their experience through storytelling and photography. Not only does the yearbook record classmates who were enrolled, it also includes a clear image of campus life and the surrounding culture.
El Rodeo serves as a time capsule and memory book, descriptive and reflective of the campus experience at a specific moment in a student’s life.
Researching USC history? USC maintains extensive archives, including El Rodeo. Click here for more information.
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The first edition of El Rodeo—the ’99 representing 1899