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Class books, the predecessors of the yearbook, first appeared at Kansas State Agricultural College in 1891. The class books were given various names such as The Sledge, Sunrise, The Bell Clapper and The Banner.
In 1904, during serious discussions of the necessity of class books, the Bell Clapper committee fought to keep the tradition alive. It wasn”t until 1909 that “Royal Purple” appeared on the cover of the college annual. In 1915 the first Royal Purple Popularity Contest was conducted. This contest grew into traditions that would last until 1970 – the Royal Purple beauties, Royal Purple Ball and Royal Purple queen. Judges ranged from Cary Grant to Samuel Goldwyn.
One of the first attempts at using a “theme” was the 1925 Royal Purple when the staff used an Egyptian motif throughout. Throughout it’s history, the Royal Purple has been a trend-setter.
1966 was the first year that the Royal Purple was not covered by the student activity fee. Students paid $3 for the Royal Purple and $1 for the directory.
In 1967 the book was expanded to 672 pages with 94 color pages. Sales that year set records: 7,530 books were sold and class picture sales totaled 6,983.
The largest book in Royal Purple history (704 pages) was published in 1970.
In 1984, the Royal Purple celebrated its 75th anniversary.
The value of yearbooks was best summed up by George T. Hart, 1936 Royal Purple editor: “The yearbook is like a bottle of rare wine, the older it becomes, the more value it has, until it becomes cherished beyond monetary valuation.”