The Animated Magazine Comes to Life
By Mary Seymour ’80
Photos courtesy of Rollins College Archives and Special Collections
The Animated Magazine was a shrewd publicity move, but also a genuine effort to bring culture to the swampy hinterlands of Central Florida. President Holt had countless literary and political connections and was eager to put them in service to the College.
On a chilly February day in 1927, several hundred spectators gathered in the Recreation Hall on the shores of Lake Virginia. The open-air building was cold, but curiosity trumped comfort for the audience, who had come to witness the first “edition” of the Rollins College Animated Magazine.
A well-calculated misnomer, the Animated Magazine was not, in fact, a printed publication. It was an event held during Founders’ Week in which invited “contributors” read from their work to an audience of “subscribers.” The authorial lineup for the inaugural edition included novelists Irving Bacheller ’40H and Rex Beach ’27H (Rollins Class of 1897), poets Cale Young Rice ’28H and Jessie Rittenhouse ’28H, humorist Opie Read, and journalist Albert Shaw ’27H.
The contributors sat on a platform with Rollins President Hamilton Holt and Professor Edwin Osgood Grover ’49H, who had come up with the idea a few months before, drawing on their collective experience in the publishing world. As the legend goes, Holt enthusiastically described his concept to Grover, who exclaimed, “Oh, you mean an animated magazine!” “That’s it, that’s what we’ll call it—Rollins’ Animated Magazine!” President Holt said, slapping the table. Holt appointed himself editor and designated Grover publisher; the latter quietly and diligently carried out the lion’s share of the work in the ensuing decades.
As each contributor took his place at the microphone, Holt sat with a comically oversized blue pencil in his hands. He had promised the audience that if any speaker ran over the allotted time of 10 to 15 minutes, he’d stand up and make an imaginary cross in the air, signifying that the offending contributor was crossed off the program. His puckish threat never materialized, but the promise of it gave an edge of suspense to an already lively afternoon.
The Animated Magazine’s first edition was a critical and popular success. Aside from the unseasonable weather, the only glitch was the event’s listing in the Founders’ Week program. Mistakenly titled Literary Vespers, the program sounded vaguely liturgical and rather dry. The mistake was not repeated. In years to come, the Animated Magazine, by dint of its catchy name and fabulous lineup of contributors, became a jewel in the crown of Rollins.