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Call Number:

Record Group: 6 C
Record Sub-Group: 8
Records Title: UMC; College of Arts and Science; Department of English; Contests and Prize-Winner Records
Dates: 1905-1953

Historical Note:

In 1867, James Stephens provided funds for a medal to be annually awarded for oratory. Mr. Stephens was a prominent citizen in Columbia and very active in fund raising campaigns in support of the University of Missouri and other educational institutions. In later years, the winner of the Stephens Medal became the Missouri Representative to the Missouri Valley Peace Oratorical Contest (ca. 1930-1936). Other oratorical contests included Extemporary Speaking, a semi-annual event established in 1932 to take the place of the Mahan Debate Contest (ca. 1932-1934), and the University Debate Prize established in 1930 (ca. 1930-1932).

The McAnally Medal was established in 1881, by David R. McAnally, Jr., as an annual award for the best original thesis, poem or essay written by a senior. Though he held no college degree, McAnally was appointed to the faculty of the University of Missouri Department of English in 1877, based on the quality of his work while employed by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat's editorial office. McAnally had a great interest in the study of advanced English composition. He also taught the first journalism course offered by the University.

Over the years, there were several changes to the McAnally Medal contest rules. In 1929, the competition was opened to all MU Students, no restriction was placed on subject, form, or style of essays entered. Each semester Professors selected essays for inclusion in contest. Entries were then submitted to the judges who chose the best for the year. Winners were announced at commencement (ca. 1929-1952).

In 1905, Nelson C. Field of Brunswick, Missouri offered an annual prize of $100 for the best poem, written on any subject, submitted by a College of Arts and Science student. When the Field Prize was established, there were only two other student poetry prizes of equivalent value offered by American Universities (the other two both offered by Harvard). Later rule changes opened the contest to all University of Missouri undergraduates, and specified subject and form of poems to be entered. The Field Prize was discontinued in 1916. Walter S. Dickey of Kansas City, Missouri stepped forward as a new sponsor of the annual $100 poetry prize, retaining the same rules. The Dickey Poetry Contest was also discontinued two years later, in 1918.

For several years no poetry prize was offered at MU. In 1922, Sigma Upsilon fraternity established the Sigma Upsilon Poetry Prize, also known as the Gamma Phi Psi Poetry Prize. No subject or form restrictions were listed and the competition was open to all undergraduates (ca. 1922-1934). Sigma Upsilon also published Verse 1905-1923, written by students of the University of Missouri, which contains prize poems from contests and other poetry written by MU students. Sigma Upsilon also sponsored a Short Story Contest in 1924.

The Mahan Foundation created a series of literary contests in 1930 with a gift from George A. Mahan of Hannibal, Missouri in memory of his wife, Ida D. Mahan. Contests included Poetry, University Essay, Freshman Essay, Debate, High School Essay, and Short Story. The Mahan Debate Prize seems to have been offered only until 1932, when the Extemporary Speaking Contest was established. The Mahan Poetry Contest, open to all resident MU students, re-established a $100 prize for poetry at MU for a single poem or a unified group of poems. There were no restriction on subject or meter of entries, but there were length requirements. Poems by Missouri Students, Ellis Booklets of Student Creative Writing, Booklet # 1, edited by Robert L. Ramsay, includes Mahan Poetry Contest winners for the years 1930-1935. This same publication also includes a brief history (ca. 1930-1952) of the contest.

The Mahan High School Essay Contest was open to all Missouri high school students. Contestants were entered by their teachers and wrote their essay on a topic from a selected list, during the regular Interscholastic Meet held each year at MU (ca. 1930-1949). The Mahan Freshman Essay Contest, later known as the Mahan Freshman Prose Prize, was open to all MU students enrolled in freshman composition and rhetoric. Instructors selected the best paper from regular assignments for each semester from each section they taught. The best paper was selected as provisional winner for each semester, and the best paper of the year received the prize (ca. 1930-1952).

The Mahan University Essay Contest was open to all resident MU students, with no restrictions placed on subject, form, or style; however, length of submissions was restricted (ca. 1930-1951). The Mahan Story Prize was also open to all resident MU students and, again, the only restriction was that placed on the length of submissions. Entries to his contest were first read by preliminary judges who chose ten finalists. Winners were then chosen by three final judges. Only two other short story contests, the Sigma Upsilon Short Story Contest (ca. 1924) and the University Short Story Contest (ca. 1929-1930), had been offered at MU.

The Bradley Dramatic Contest, established in 1936 by William Bradley in memory of his MU student son, William Bradley, Jr. The Contest was open to any resident student at MU, Christian College (Columbia College), or Stephens College. Entries were to be one-act plays suitable for actual performance. Judges selected top entries for performance by the Missouri Workshop Theater. After the plays were performed, judges selected the contest winner. This contest was discontinued in 1938, after the death of the senior Mr. Bradley (ca. 1936-1938). The Dramatic Arts Club One-Act Play Contest, name later changed to Dramatic Prize, was also open to any resident student at MU, Christian College, or Stephens College. Any unpublished play of no more than one hour in performance could be entered with no restrictions on theme, style, format; however, preference was given to plays which were original in nature. Entries were required to be written for presentation on stage and a stage plan or diagram was required. In later years, top entries were performed before final prize was awarded. Numerous contest entries were later published and performed on the public stage (ca. 1923-1951).

All contests required entries to be strictly original works by the contest entrants. Prizes were awarded only for contributions of marked excellence and could be withheld at the discretion of the judges. Most of the contests at MU required entrants to submit their efforts under a pseudonym. A sealed envelope with the title and real name were included with each entry.

Information for each contest year usually includes lists of contestants (although real names may be available for prize winners only), lists of entries, judges' rankings and comments, lists of prize winners and honorable mention entries, news clippings, play posters, and original contest manuscripts of prize winners and honorable mention entries (those not placing were usually returned to entrant, but some remain in collection).

Restrictions Note: The Archives of the University of Missouri-Columbia is required by law and Board of Curator's policy to restrict access to some files and information. Student records are held as confidential under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and by University policy. Faculty promotion and tenure records and Academic Personnel files are restricted for 75 years, or the lifetime of the individual. All grievance, disciplinary, and medical records are treated as confidential files. Consultations with legal counsel, both in-house and external, are protected by the attorney/client privilege and will not be released.

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