Where does “the Kremlin on the Crum” come from?

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

One of the most persistent pieces of Swarthmore folklore is the famed description of Swarthmore as “the Kremlin on the Crum.” Recently, the Gazette was asked to hunt down the origins of the phrase.

We didn’t have much luck. The internet trail stops cold with second-hand claims that Vice President Spiro Agnew said the phrase. The story is referenced in “Thoughts on Swarthmore: A New Student’s Guide to the College’s History,” but the book fails to provide more detailed information. Christopher Densmore and Patricia O’Donnell at the Friends Historical Library did not have sources on hand which could reveal the true source of the mysterious quote.

Alisa Giardinelli in the Office of News and Information explained that “a few years ago when working on the college’s online history site ‘An Onward Spirit’ (off of the admissions homepage), I tried to do track down that statement,” and that she ultimately “attributed it to a nice bit of college folklore.”

The Gazette managed to contact Judge Rakoff, author of “Thoughts on Swarthmore,” who was not able to specifically cite the source of the quote. When the Gazette mentioned the quote might be an urban legend he was surprised, and explained that it sounded “exactly like something Spiro Agnew might say” because Nixon’s Vice President was fond of alliteration and said things that Nixon could not say himself.

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