Posters from the class rivalry between the freshmen and sophomores are now on our Flickr Page. The class rivalry was a contest between the freshmen and sophomore classes intended to show which class was superior. These contests started out as brawls. In November 1898, the freshmen, coming out of a class meeting, were met by the sophomores who dunked them in the Class of 1883 Fountain. The freshmen closed ranks, forming a “flying V” with the largest man at point and plowed through the sophomore ranks. Parents complained, but MAC President Snyder, who witnessed the action, told the parents not to worry that it was not really all that serious. However, a newspaper report said that three students were trampled and one was knocked unconscious. As class sizes grew these battles became quite violent and participants were subject to some serious injuries.
In 1902 students were directed to not hold the annual rush. The classes did not want to be denied the ability to participate in a campus tradition, so they went off campus to settle the matter in a “brutal and fierce” battle. The upperclassmen intervened and convinced each side to select a few men to settle the battle with a wrestling match. However, as a result of the breach of discipline, 17 students were suspended. The students went on strike for several days until the administration agreed to have the State Board of Agriculture review the suspensions.
At that point Chester Brewer, director of Physical Culture stepped in. Brewer revised the contest to be more carefully regulated. Victory was earned through points accumulated by winning various contests. Among the contests held were tug of war in the Red Cedar River, football game, flag rush and wrestling.
Where the old informality persisted was in the posting of insulting invitations to class rush. When sophomores put up their insulting posters egging on the freshmen, either freshmen or juniors might intervene. Sophomores would also chase freshmen who tried to put up their own posters.
The tensions between the classes would often carry over into the next year. When the Junior class held their annual J-Hop (Junior Hop) anonymous sophomores would attempt to disrupt the festivities. In 1904 a pig was introduced to the dance floor, and in 1909 the street car rails were greased on the hill leading up to campus. They also shorted out the electrical wires in 1906 and only backup gasoline lamps prevented the event from being cancelled. Someone constructed an apparatus and placed it under the Armory that could produce enough hydrogen sulfide gas to kill everyone in the building if it were activated. The device was found before the dance and suspensions did occur because of that event.
In the fall 1908, the sophomores (Class of 1911) invited the freshmen to the first annual Barbecue to heal the wounds of conflict. On the lawn in front of Wells Hall the sophomore president offered an over-sized carving knife to the freshman president and all shared in ox sandwiches and apple cider. This was the beginning of the Barbecue tradition. (This class did not have their J-Hop disrupted by the sophomore class, so perhaps the Barbecue was a good idea.)
We hope you enjoy these class rivalry posters. They are among the staff favorites in the archives. If you have suggestions of other materials you would like to see us put online, please let us know.