The Many Forms of Grub Street

By Cora McDaniel


In early March, I met with Felicity Knox, the assistant university archivist at TU’s Special Collections and University Archives (lovingly referred to as SCUA) to talk with her about the history of Grub Street

For those who aren’t aware, archives (including ours at TU) play a vital role in the academic community. They meticulously collect materials of historical value in order to preserve and protect that which would otherwise be lost to the everyday chaos of life. These materials can range from yearbooks to student newspapers… to old editions of Grub Street. If you go to the SCUA website, you can see, laid out before you, digitized copies of every Towson literary magazine published from 1952-2022. These would eventually culminate in the Grub Street we know and love today. 

As part of my conversation with Ms. Knox, she offered me the opportunity to hold in my hands some early editions of our student literary magazine, each of which had different names. I saw copies of The Publication, Towers, and The Talisman—each of which contained vastly different artwork and literature. Much like Grub Street has today, there was always a poetry and prose section, however the art wouldn’t appear in the magazine until the 1952-53 edition of The Publication

Strangely enough, the most interesting sections to read through were the editor’s notes and the front and back matter of the magazine; this was where the voices the magazine’s staff came through most, and the drama (when there was any) was published in well-hidden niceties and dreadfully formal language. The magazine’s first name change, for instance, occurred because of a conflict between Towson’s student newspaper (The Towerlight, an organization which still exists today) and The Publication

In 1956, The Towerlight (known then as The Tower Light) published an article which stated that the literary magazine should change their name to something, “more stimulating, and yet in keeping with the nature of the magazine.” After some deliberation, the name Towers was eventually decided on—and changed, once again, soon thereafter. Students on campus kept confusing The Towerlight and Towers (another wonderful moment of historical drama), thus compelling the magazine to change their name yet again. It would take more than 30 years for the magazine’s staff to finally settle on the name Grub Street. I found the process of reading through the magazine content beyond interesting. Eventually, I was able to see a story come through in my head. That’s the beauty of archives—you’re able to see a picture of the past that might otherwise not exist if an archivist hadn’t bothered to save it.

As with any materials held within an archive, its content can say a lot about the time period from which it was collected. Art made in the ‘70s would, naturally, reflect much about the cultural and historical happenings of that decade. The same can be said about Grub Street, in all of its wonderful and weird forms. So, if you’re interested in learning more about our phenomenal archives on-campus and Grub Street, read through a few of the older editions of our magazine. It’s fascinating. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email