About the Stanford Chaparral

The Stanford Chaparral has been continuously published since 1899, and since 1906 by the Hammer and Coffin Society. It is the second-oldest college humor magazine in the United States and one of the best throughout its history. The Chappie has been edited on the fronts of two world wars, survived two pandemics, and threatened with suspension and expulsion multiple times. It launched the careers of countless artists, writers, and editors; a handful of scoundrels; and at least one governor.

There have been at least five threatened suspensions or expulsions in the the history of the Chappie. None of them were carried out, however. There were two for editorial criticisms of the university in 1901 and 1906, two for allegedly obscene issues (Purple Ape in 1951 and Layboy in 1961), and the infamous Dead Bowlers prank in 1980.

The first issue

The Stanford Chaparral was founded in 1899 by Encina roommates Bristow Adams and Everet Smith. They proposed a humor magazine as “an irresponsible youngster, to be known as the Eucalyptus, following the prevailing style of tree nomenclature — the style that gives us the Palo Alto, Sequoia and Live Oak for publications, and the names of our dormitories — Roble, Madroño, and Encina. Eucalyptus is rather apt, since it will doubtless be a straggling formless thing of a more or less rank luxuriance, with leaves somewhat pointed.”

Eventually, the magazine came to be called The Stanford Chaparral. The founders declared the Eucalyptus, “medicinal and hard to take“. The name Poison Oak was discarded for similar reasons. The chaparral was a hardy scrub with a talent for survival.

Smith graduated in June, but contributed ad sales and writing for the new magazine. Larrey Bowman conceived the personified “Chappie” in a rough sketch from which Adams made the drawing which adorned the cover of the first volume. The first student subscriber was Carl Hayden, the future Arizona senator.

The first cover featured the jester and a cartoon of a hapless bather and the caption “There was a roomer afloat in Encina last night.” The jester came to be known at The Old Boy, as would future editors of the magazine. It also began the Chappie tradition of beginning every editorial with the words “Now That”, probably to enable the reuse of that illustrated and engraved introductory phrase.


After the first year, the magazine was insolvent, with a debt to its printers “well into three figures”. This would not be the last time — but not for another seventy-five years.

The Golden Age of College Humor: 1900s to 1950s

The first half of the Twentieth Century would turn out to be a golden age for college humor magazines, with dozens published nationwide, a national magazine featuring material from those magazines, and an annual college humor cup awarded by Judge magazine.

In 1906, Chappie editor Morrie Oppenheim and Daily Palo Alto editor Ben S. Allen were threatened with dismissal for criticizing “monitor system” in Encina Hall. Later that year, Old Boy Oppenheim and the Chappie staff founded the Hammer & Coffin Society as an honor society to publish the magazine. The H&C was founded on April 16, 1906 during a night of drinking at Meyer's Pub in Menlo Park. The next morning, the campus awoke to the Great San Francisco Earthquake, and the Encina's ceilings shed some plaster on its residents. Oppenheim was said to declare, “I went to bed plastered, and woke up plastered.”

During the Great War, the April 1918 issue of the Chaparral was edited from the Western Front.


In 1923, editor Northcutt Ely established the Chaparral's Clean Humor Policy, which was passed down as “Every joke must have two meanings, at least one of the clean”. Ely played a key role in the construction of Boulder (later Hoover) Dam as Executive Assistant to Herbert Hoover's Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur.

In 1945, an issue of the Chaparral was edited from the Western Front of the Second World War.


In 1951, Chaparral was suspended for the Purple Ape issue of Crash Comics, edited by Stan Norton. While it was announced that “There will be no June issue”, both the magazine and its staff returned in the fall of 1951. Norton went on to be elected mayor of Palo Alto.


The Radical Years: The 60s to the mid-70s.

The 1960s would be the undoing of college humor magazines nationwide. The Chaparral survived the era, with a bit of luck, a new office on campus, a new orientation, and the efforts of the Hammer & Coffin Society.

The decade started off with another suspension. The Chaparral was suspended in 1961 for a parody of Playboy magazine, edited by future Stanford statistics professor Bradley Efron.


The Storke Student Publications building was dedicated in 1964. In exchange for its space in the building, the Chaparral contributed $50,000 to the construction of the building, which also housed the Sequoia, Quad, and the Stanford Daily. This was just in time for the end of four robust and and profitable decades for the Chaparral. The magazine would continue, but as a more serious general interest magazine and later as a radical newspaper.

In Spring of 1974, the Chappie nearly died as it had been born: with an unpaid printing bill. The magazine was bankrupt for the second time in its history.

The Restoration and the Modern Era: mid-70s to Today

The following fall, the Chappie was revived by Field Marshall Mike Dornheim, appointed editor by the previous team, with the hastily assembled and cheaply produced “Fiscal Responsibility” issue. It was the beginning of a new era for the Chaparral as a humor magazine.

The magazine's staff followed this up with a parody of the Stanford Daily Big Game issue, which was distributed at the game in Berkeley. This one-two punch established that the magazine was very much alive. The Restoration crew were initiated into the Hammer & Coffin Society in April, 1975. The team closed out the year with the first magazine-format issue since 1968.


The modern Chaparral would prove to the be a thorn in the side of the stuffed shirts in the university and the student body alike.

The Hammer & Coffin Society ran satirical slates for the ASSU Senate and Council of Presidents, and placed it's members on both bodies in 1970s and 80s.

In 1980, Hammer & Coffin Society initiates perpetrated one of the great college pranks of all time. They were able to get a picture of themselves, dressed in Chaparral bowling shirts, inserted into the next day's issue of the Stanford Daily. This was accompanied by a story saying that the Stanford bowling team had died in a plane crash. The proposed headline was “Tragedy Strikes. None Spared.”