History Insight: The Harpoon

Created and named in 1916 by the Club’s first secretary, Charles A. Sink, the Harpoon has had a continuous role chronicling Club history. The letterhead, conceived and drawn by past-presidents Shirley Smith and Wilfred Shaw, depicts a whale stabbed to the heart by a spear with it’s meaning revealed in a 1918 Harpoon by the following conversation between a Club member and an envious, though highly respectable, non-Rotarian of Ann Arbor: “Why do you style your weekly newsletter The Harpoon?” the Rotarian was asked. “Because”, he replied, “a harpoon is the only proper and effective implement to use in dealing with truly big fish. No doubt if the fry we designed to catch were of the class to which you obviously belong, suckers instead of whales, a hook would be the appropriate tackle to employ”.

With the 21st century version of the Harpoon now distributed via email, it has evolved from a single type-written page with an occasional supplement reporting attendance records, excerpts from secretary’s minutes, announcements of upcoming speakers and committee meetings, names of newly elected members, and similar kinds of summarizing material. In 1942, the Harpoon format evolved to a four page lithographed edition with new features of poetic effusions, biographical sketches of club members, subtle jabs at time-warn practices, birth dates, brain ticklers of various sorts, and sadly, heartfelt eulogies of departed members.
Always edited by literary talented Club members, the Boy Scouts for a period of time compiled and mailed each weekly edition third-class. Yet it arrived in member’s mailboxes the next day in the manner of first-class mail. Former Postmaster Dick Schneeburger, Club Past-president and member, steadfastly held the position of plausible deniability for any preferential postal treatment.
In short, throughout the years, the Harpoon has proved itself to be an inspiring publication of superior journalistic merit with it’s weekly appearance like a letter from home to a member in a strange land.