The Brown Alumni Monthly published its first issue, eight pages long, in June 1900. Its announced purpose was “to bring the university and its graduates into closer touch and sympathy,” the feeling being that, while the undergraduate publications, the Brown Daily Herald, and the Brunonian (both of which had carried alumni news) served their own purposes well, they could no longer be expected to cover the alumni field. A committee appointed by a meeting of the class secretaries, the members of which were Winslow Upton 1875, Robert P. Brown 1871, and Walter B. Jacobs 1882, had recommended the establishment of an alumni publication. An advisory board of nine alumni, which would select its own successors, appointed Henry R. Palmer 1890 as the first editor, Joseph N. Ashton 1891 as associate editor, and William L. Clark 1901 as business manager. The price of subscription was one dollar a year. The editors promised to present monthly matters which had been treated once a year in the University’s Circular to the Alumni. The first issue was on Antique stock which prohibited the use of half-tone illustrations. Beginning with the second issue in July, 1900, which contained twenty pages, coated paper was used and photographs were included. The second issue also saw the beginning of the section named “Brunonians Far and Near,” which included items of interest about individual alumni, and continued to use this title for many years to come.
Henry Robinson Palmer remained editor-in-chief for thirty-one years, personally editing 309 of the 310 issues in that time (he was abroad in May 1902, the only issue which did not receive his immediate supervision). His employment since his graduation in 1890 was with the Providence Journal Company, where he rose to editor of the Providence Sunday Journal and chief editorial writer. His work on the Alumni Monthly went home with him to Stonington, Connecticut. His son, Louis B. Palmer ’28, who has called the magazine his “father’s first child” remembers the magazine as part of his childhood:
“My earliest recollections of the Alumni Monthly are of Miss Kate Reilly, a maiden lady of Stonington. On the third floor of our house, father had a complete set of type cases, fonts, etc. Every day except Sunday (I believe she worked only until 3 on Saturdays, 5:30 on other days) Kate would come to our house and climb the stairs to the third floor. There she would set, by hand, the type covering the copy which father and his associates had prepared. After the entire reading matter was in type, it would be tied together, carried down to the street, and loaded into father’s automobile for the trip to Providence. I think it was printed there by Snow and Farnum. ... I do remember that father and Mr. Anderson (publisher of the Stonington Mirror) bought one of those “new-fangled” linotype machines shortly after the end of World War I, and the MONTHLY was for many years thereafter set up in Mr. Anderson’s office. But the method of transporting the type to Providence continued for some years after that.”In March 1927, following the lead of other college magazines, the Monthly adopted a larger size page and a self-cover with a cover photograph.
Many of the alumni began to feel that the magazine presented a too personal point of view and that Associated Alumni should become more involved in its affairs. Clinton C. White ’00 and Henry S. Chafee ’09 were the committee from the Associated Alumni who broached this subject to Mr. Palmer, who responded by offering the Associated Alumni the magazine “free and clear” after May 1931. W. Chesley (Chet) Worthington ’23, a Sunday editor of the Providence Journal, was appointed editor of the Alumni Monthly, C. Arthur Braitsch ’23 became its business manager, and Harold B. Tanner ’09 incorporated the magazine with all its shares of stock owned by the Associated Alumni. Alfred Gurney ’07, Executive Secretary of the Associated Alumni, took over the writing of the Class Notes. The Brown Alumni Monthly, Inc. had a Board of Directors, which was selected annually. Henry S. Chafee was Chairman of the Board from 1931 to June 1945. He resigned the chairmanship in 1942 and was succeeded by Louis B. Palmer, but when Palmer went in the Navy, he resumed his former office. Beginning in 1945, the Associated Alumni was able to send the Brown Alumni Monthly free to all Brown men with financing by the University. In 1952, after budget cuts throughout the University, the appropriation was decreased and would finance only eight issues a year. At this time the Associated Alumni asked for voluntary contributions which paid for the ninth issue until 1954, when the University subscription increased again.
There have been only four editors of the Monthly, Henry Robinson Palmer, from 1900 to 1931, W. Chesley Worthington from 1931 to 1968, Robert A. Reichley, 1968 to 1971, and Robert M. “Dusty” Rhodes, who has been editor since March of 1971. John F. “Jay” Barry ’50 was assistant and associate editor from 1955 to 1983.