Kidnapping Handsome Dan XII

Princeton University’s intense football rivalry with Yale is a longstanding tradition. The tiger has been challenging the bulldog on the gridiron for well over a century. The mascots have done figurative battle with one another about as much as the students have, a fight commemorated in song, line drawings, and magazine covers. In 1979, a group of four Princeton students took this rivalry a bit farther when they kidnapped Handsome Dan XII, Yale’s first female mascot.

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Handsome Dan XII with her Princeton counterparts, November 1979. Photo from 1980 Bric-a-Brac.

Dan, also known as Bingo Osterweis, lived with Yale emeritus history professor Rolin Osterweis. It was common for the Yale cheerleaders to ask to borrow the dog for photographs, which the Princetonians—Mark Hallam ’80, Jamie Herbert ’81, Rod Shepard ’80, and Scott Thompson ’81—knew. Wanting to boost the morale of Princeton’s football team, they came up with a plan to take Dan. They posed as Yale cheerleaders and approached Osterweis to ask if they could take her for an hour to pose for pictures in a football program. Osterweis later described the students as “ingenious.” Fully convinced that he was dealing with Yale cheerleaders, Osterweis handed Dan over to her kidnappers, along with a leash and some dog biscuits.

Rather than returning Dan when the hour was up, the students instead called Osterweis from a payphone, telling the professor the dog was going to be out of town for a few days. Osterweis then thought to himself that it was most likely he was talking to Princeton students and warned them that they were “about to take stolen property over a state line” and he would have to report them to the police.

The kidnappers did not take Dan to Princeton right away, but instead holed up with her in a New York apartment in an effort to avoid both Connecticut and New Jersey police, finally bringing her to Princeton the following Friday. Osterweis did not report them to the local police, but only Yale authorities, explaining, “I was certain Princeton undergraduates would be kind to her. Most undergraduates, I suspect, are likely to be kinder to dogs than to their fellow undergraduates.”

While at Princeton, sometimes wearing an orange and black t-shirt, Dan visited the eating clubs and football practice, where she was greeted with enthusiasm. She spent the night at the home of Howard Menard ’36, emeritus dean of the School of Engineering, then went to Palmer Stadium for Princeton’s football match with Yale. During the first half of the game, she was in the refreshment booth, but at halftime, made an appearance on the field in a golf cart to the cheers of the crowd. Finally, Princeton’s own mascot carried Dan, who wore an orange and black scarf around her neck, to the waiting Yale cheerleaders.

Yale got its revenge on the field, beating Princeton 35-10. Afterward, Dan returned home to New Haven “happy and looking fat as a pig.” Osterweis said he assumed that she must have been fed everywhere she went.

Though the caper made the news across the region, it was not the first time a rival had stolen Handsome Dan. In 1934, Harvard took Handsome Dan II to Cambridge, where with a bit of hamburger they coaxed him to lick the boots of a statue of John Harvard. Mostly, however, Yale’s bulldogs have historically avoided capture.

 

Princeton sources:

Bric-a-Brac (1980)

Daily Princetonian

Princeton Alumni Weekly

 

Other sources:

New York Times

Trenton Times

Yale Daily News

Yale Herald

Becoming Henry Fairfax

By April C. Armstrong *14, Madeline Lea ’16, Allie Lichterman ’16, and Spencer Shen ’16, with special thanks to Megan Chung ’19

April C. Armstrong *14

In a blog post about Princeton’s imaginary community members several months ago, I wrote about Henry Fairfax, a mythical figure who delivered Valentines to freshmen and sophomores in the 1970s and 1980s. After rediscovering him, I had an idea. What if we, as the Princeton University Archives, revived Henry?

Fortunately, the University Archivist (Dan Linke) and Assistant Archivist for Public Services (Sara Logue) were agreeable to my plan. Alongside the rest of the staff in Public Services at the Mudd Manuscript Library (Christa Cleeton, Rosalba Varallo Recchia, and Sara), I designed a Fairfax Valentine for today’s students using a reprint of a Princeton postcard from at least a century before and ordered 250 copies. I then turned to my student employees. We divided the campus into zones where they would take the Valentines, essentially becoming Henry themselves. For four days leading up to Valentine’s weekend, they fanned out across Princeton, slipping in and out of libraries, classrooms, laundry rooms, dining areas, and dormitory common spaces to hide the postcards. The Valentines gave Mudd’s email address in case recipients had curiosity about anything else that might have happened at Princeton and suggested they tweet at us to let us know they’d found them.

Front & back

The front and back of our Fairfax Valentines. The original Valentine postcard we used is from our Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 4.

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Imaginary Princetonians

There have been many famous Princetonians, but there have also been a number of famous—or perhaps infamous—imaginary members of the Princeton community. Here we take a look at the nonexistent people who became legends on campus.


Adelbert L’Hommedieu X (Bert Hormone), Class of 1917

The Class of 1917 invented an imaginary member and provided regular updates on his activities for the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Among his exploits, Adelbert L’Hommedieu X (Bert Hormone) was expelled from Princeton after only a single semester, fought in a seemingly endless number of wars, and seduced countless women. In 1941, Harvey Smith included an extended treatment of “Bert” in the fictional book-length account of the adventures of the Class of 1917, The Gang’s All Here.


 Ephraim di Kahble ‘39

When they arrived on campus, five members of the Class of 1939 decided to pull a prank on their classmates. They invented Ephraim di Kahble ’39, who “lived” at 36 University Place, where the group rented and decorated an empty room to make it look like his. Ultimately, they aimed to get their imaginary friend elected treasurer of their class. Ads began running in the Daily Princetonian under the name of Ephraim di Kahble, each more fanciful than the last.

The pranksters took things just a little too far, though, when they had young di Kahble take out an ad in the New York Times requesting information about an orange and black guinea pig. The New York Journal then ran a phone interview with “Eph,” discussing his hopes to change the Princeton mascot. He promised to wash all orange and black guinea pigs before he bought them to be sure they were authentic. The University Press Club was suspicious and investigated, finding that no such person existed. Di Kahble then “died” from exposure.

di Kahble ad 19 Nov 1935 (Prince)_highlighted

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian, November 19, 1935.

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Dear Mr. Mudd: Whose Cannon Is It?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

My friend goes to Rutgers and keeps saying that the cannon in Cannon Green isn’t really Princeton’s. Whose cannon is it?

Cannon_Song_AC_056_Box_10

Princeton students have revered the “big cannon” on Cannon Green for close to two centuries. This version of the Princeton “Cannon Song,” as well as others, may be found in the Princeton Music Collection (AC056), Box 10.

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Streaking and the Nude Olympics

In the 1960s and 1970s, streaking became a common prank for students to play on college campuses across America, reaching its zenith of popularity around the mid-1970s.  Princeton was no exception. In fact, the school held onto naked running in public much longer than others; the last major such event at Princeton occurred in 1999.

The most famous individual streaker at Princeton was probably the “Red Baron.” No student has been definitively identified as the Baron, but during a three-year period in the late 1960s, many exams and athletic events were visited by a nude Caucasian male running down aisles and through stands wearing nothing but red accessories, such as hats, scarves, or a cape. Princeton’s classes and events were interrupted by other naked visitors sporadically in the 1970s. Outdoor running was also popular, especially among certain athletic teams who would jog nude around campus following practices.

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Streakers interrupt an organic chemistry class at Princeton University, 1975. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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“War Is Imminent”: The Veterans of Future Wars

Though Princeton University has had a reputation as a relatively wealthy institution, both the school itself and its students faced economic struggles alongside the rest of the nation during the Great Depression. One March evening in 1936, two Princeton roommates, Urban Joseph Peters Rushton ’36 and Lewis Jefferson Gorin, Jr., ’36, went to the movies. The newsreel prior to the film included a report on the Adjusted Service Compensation Act (ASCA), which authorized government payouts of $2 billion to World War I’s veterans. Feeling irritated by this huge expenditure at a time of financial hardship—close to $34 billion in today’s dollars—the two sat at Viedt’s Chocolate Shoppe afterward, outlining their thoughts on paper napkins while they waited for their chocolate malts and bacon and tomato sandwiches to arrive.

It later seemed either a cynical or a chilling prophecy: “War is imminent,” their manifesto had begun, though the Spanish Civil War had not yet started and Adolf Hitler would not invade Austria for two years. At t the time, it was just a joke made by a few irritated youth who had come of age in a time more familiar with poverty than prosperity. They demanded their “war bonuses” before they were asked to fight—after all, many would die and not otherwise be able to benefit from it, they argued. A thousand dollars each, with thirty years’ worth of interest added, payable immediately to every man of military age (18 to 36), was the only fair thing.

VFW ad from Princetonian_1936-05-11_v61_n076_0001

Ad from the Daily Princetonian, May 11, 1936.

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