University of Arizona

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Why Was This Photo Banned from Publication?

Why Was This Photo Banned from Publication?

This photo of students from the class of 1898-1899 in front of Old Main was taken for a newspaper but its publication was delayed for 52 years due to the concerns of the university president.

According to university lore, President Millard Mayhew Parker denied its publication, or even the sale of the picture to members of the student body, because he was offended at the inappropriate behavior of two couples.  His problem was that in the center of the photo, it depicts a boy and a girl in a romantic moment holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes.  Directly behind them is another boy and girl who are holding hands but looking away from each other. While many women and men are affectionate with their own sex in the photo, the public displays of affection of the intersex couples were considered to be too shocking.

This photo might have been lost to history, but luckily it was saved by student D. Stephen Brown who sent it to the UA registrar years later to be kept for posterity. When he sent it in, it was published by the university’s Daily Wildcat as well as the local Daily Citizen with the permission of the director of the university’s press bureau.

Check out the University of Arizona Photograph Digital Collection on the Special Collections website for more photos documenting the history of the University of Arizona. Topics within this collection include the history  UA buildings, colleges, sports teams, campus events, and the life and activities of past students. 

-Maurita Baldock