Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Freshman Caps

Had you been a College freshman 99 years ago, you would at this moment be purchasing your freshman cap, a newly instituted requirement intended to make it easier to identify members of the entering class.

On October 26, 1911, The Dartmouth proclaimed:
Freshman caps will henceforth add a touch of the picturesque and a deeper hue to Dartmouth's campus.  The custom just initiated is worthy of continuing down the long years of the history of the College until it becomes a tradition as fixed and revered as the traditions that cluster about the old pine or the senior fence.
It is curious how few years are required to establish a new custom and to give it all the authority of a habit handed down from antiquity.  Four years hence, when all the classes now present in College have graduated, the freshman cap will have become a permanent feature of Dartmouth undergraduate life, and the ordinary student will associate its origin with the Indians, Eleazar Wheelock, the "Dartmouth Song," and the founding of the College.

In actuality, the freshman cap tradition lasted not quite sixty years.  The style of cap, or beanie, changed somewhat over the years, as did the consequences of not wearing it.  In the 1950s a Dartmouth Night tug-of-war with the sophomore class determined whether freshmen could stop wearing the caps or had to keep wearing them until mid-November.  The class of 1973 was the last class, as far as we know, to wear the beanies.

Ask for Realia 93 to examine our collection of distinctive headgear.

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