J. F. A. (James Francis Augustin) Pyre.

Wisconsin online

. (page 24 of 32)
Online LibraryJ. F. A. (James Francis Augustin) PyreWisconsin → online text (page 24 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


won in the arena of college politics and sometimes by
rather unbeautiful methods. Athletic honors, in the
very nature of the case, were won by performance. So-
cial pretensions counted for little on the athletic field.
Amongst team-mates and amongst the spectators who
cheered them on, in a common cause, the old affiliations
of "barb" and "frat" were largely forgotten. In
this respect, at least, athletics had a wholesome effect
upon the student morale.

Intercollegiate sports came in with a rush after 1890.
Within three or four years football, rowing, and the
field and track contests became the distinctive college
games, overshadowing baseball and tennis, which had
flourished during the decade before. There had been
a baseball team as early as 1870, whose list of players
contains the names of several well-known alumni. The
earliest notice of an intercollegiate contest I have en-
countered, is a reference, in 1873, to two games of base-
ball with Beloit. A substantial passage in President
Bascom's baccalaureate sermon, The Seat of Sin (1876),



310 WISCONSIN

is devoted to a condemnation of "athletic sports, college-
regattas, and ball games," indicating that he foresaw
and deprecated their introduction at Wisconsin. In
1881, the area now known as the Lower Campus was ac-
quired by the regents, to provide " convenient and ap-
propriate grounds for gymnastic and kindred exercises."
The presence of a convenient practice field gave an im-
mediate stimulus to competitive baseball. A systematic
series of "home and home" games was inaugurated in
the spring of '81, between Wisconsin, Evanston (North-
western University), and Racine College, and there was
directly organized the Northwestern College Baseball
Association, comprising these three and, a little later,
Beloit College. At the end of eight seasons in this com-
pany Wisconsin bragged of six " pennants."

Meantime, many of the familiar corollaries of college
sport had been discovered. For a few weeks each
spring there was all needful enthusiasm and excitement.
Victorious teams were met at the train ; parades and ora-
tory flourished; ash-barrels and horseblocks went up in
flames, and cement sidewalks were encouraged. Excur-
sions accompanied the team to Beloit, whence, in case
of victory, they not infrequently departed amid salvos
of jeers, with an occasional salute of eggs. The home
games were gala occasions; all the fashion and gayety
that college and town could muster congregated at the
Dane County Fair Grounds ; every red gown and parasol
was requisitioned, and the cardinal rippled from the
whips and caparisons of the "showiest turn-outs in
town." Banks of college rowdies "rattled the pitcher "
from the base lines and monopolized the college yell.
The attendant vices of betting and drinking, which
President Bascom had dreaded, were by no means un-
known. The former, however, resulted for the most



STUDENT LIFE 311

part in no graver abuse than an unequal distribution of
pie at the boarding clubs. After an unusual victory an
unusual volume of voices from the old Hausmann brew-
ery on State Street might apprise the belated citizen that
somebody was a very good fellow which nobody could
deny.

Of course nobody did deny it. Baseball had its
heroes, no less renowned than oratory and debate.
Waldo and Connolly, classmates of '85, a formidable
battery, were long the theme of impressive reminiscence.
The later eighties gave to fame " Maggie " "Williams
of the keen eye and the shrewd head. " Taffy " Shel-
don, the stone wall catcher and long hitter, " Bob "
McCoy, " Jim " McCully, " Jimmie " Lund, " Babe "
Pape, and many other wearers of affectionate diminu-
tives.

As a test of college prowess, baseball had little compe-
tition at Wisconsin until 1889. Then thoughts became
rife of other forms of contest and of trying conclusions
with more distant institutions. The other sports had
been litttle developed. There was a tennis association
with about thirty members, and return matches with
Beloit had begun in 1887. Local field and track contests
had been held, from time to time, since 1880 ; rowing and
football had been tried sporadically, as local sports.

All of the foregoing, except football, are fair weather
games; football is a rough weather sport. The other
games come naturally in the spring when the academic
year is waning ; the season, in our latitude, is short and
the weather uncertain. Baseball, tennis, and rowing
are all handicapped by these conditions. The most
vigorous, the most oxygenated of games, whether for
player or spectator, football thrives in rude weather and
exhilarates the opening weeks of the college season. Its



312 WISCONSIN

alleged brutality is of a blend which has always been
relished by healthy British and American youths. It
unites in larger measure than any other game all phases
of physical prowess, mental strategy, and moral control.
With all counts against football, it is not altogether of
ill omen that it should have become the typical American
intercollegiate game.

If one might believe all who have given utterance on
the subject, there have been several "first" football teams
at Wisconsin. K. D. Mallory, of the class of '84, claims
to have brought the first oval football on the campus,
probably in the autumn of 1880. The late J. A. Ayl-
ward was captain of a team in 1883. In the fall of 1886
came A. A. Bruce, sometimes called "the father of foot-
ball." Bruce was a familiar figure as he kicked his foot-
ball about among the baseball players on the Lower
Campus. There was a team organized in 1888; but so
far as I can discover, the first contest with an outside
team was a game of American Rugby played November
23, 1889, against an eleven representing the Calumet
Club of Milwaukee and chiefly composed of graduates
of Eastern colleges. Each season thereafter brought an
advance in the technique of training and play, and a
widening competition. In the latter respect, the foun-
dation of modern football was the development of
rivalry with Minnesota and, later, with Chicago. Michi-
gan had challenged as early as 1887, was met occasion-
ally, the first time in 1892, but never became a favorite
enemy.

Minnesota had a head start of two or three years ; its
teams were always heavy and powerful, and it had the
further advantage of coaching by Eastern players, of
whom there were always a few living in the " Twin
Cities." The team of 1890, after victories over several



STUDENT LIFE 313

of the old baseball rivals, secured a game with Minne-
sota near the end of the season. A defeat at Minne-
apolis, 63 to 0, opened Wisconsin's eyes to the possi-
bilities of the game and gave her a score to settle for
many years to come. It was not until the fifth meet-
ing with Minnesota that she obtained a victory. Only
once, under Ed Ahara's captaincy in 1891, was there
a sharp contest. Wisconsin was reinforced in 1892 by
T. U. Lyman of Grinnel who changed his college in the
hope of realizing his chief athletic ambition, which was,
to defeat Minnesota at football. The next year Parke
H. Davis of Princeton served as coach and also played
on the team. Both seasons proved disastrous. Finally,
in 1894, Wisconsin turned the trick.

The '94 game was played on the Lower Campus, in
the presence of six thousand spectators drawn from all
parts of the state. Nothing approaching the event in
magnitude nor in intensity of excitement had ever been
known at Madison in connection with athletics. It was
a desperately contended game, Wisconsin scoring the
sole touchdown by a brilliant rally near the opening of
the second half. The Wisconsin " line-up " on this his-
toric occasion was as follows : quarterback and captain,
T. U. Lyman ; halfbacks, J. C. Karel and F. W. Nelson ;
fullback, J. R. Richards; center, F. Kull; guards, J. E.
Ryan and G. W. Bunge; tackles, J. F. A. Pyre and W.
Alexander; ends, W. H. Sheldon and H. F. Dickinson;
the coach was H. 0. Stickney of Harvard. Several of
these were veterans, but Richards, Karel, Nelson, Pyre,
Alexander and Sheldon played their last season under
Phil King's coaching in 1896.

The last game on the Lower Campus marked the be-
ginning of a triumphal era in Wisconsin athletics. The
elevens of '96, '97 and '01 were all great teams, and in



314 WISCONSIN

the six years from 1896 to 1901 inclusive, there was but
one defeat by Minnesota, the 6 to 5 game of 1900.
Meanwhile Chicago had come into prominence under the
able coaching of Professor Stagg; the otherwise suc-
cessful teams of '98 and '99 lost to Chicago. Outstand-
ing features of these years were the excellent coaching of
Phil King and the tremendous spirit with which stu-
dents and alumni " backed " their players. Their
loyalty had few discouragements, it is true; yet a win-
ning team could hardly receive ampler homage than did
the over-matched eleven that held Chicago to a single
touch-down in 1898.

Harmonious team work, intelligence, and an intrepid
fighting spirit had more to do with Wisconsin's primacy
in football, during these years, than the performance of
exceptional individuals. Old followers of the game re-
member with pleasure the grace, no less than the
phenomenal distance and accuracy, of Pat O'Dea's
kicking, the unwithstandable blocking and line rushing
which made John Richards the dean of Wisconsin ? s full-
backs, the volcanic performances of H. Cochems, the
broken field running of " Ikey " Karel and E. Cochems,
the diving of "Norsky" Larsen, the pluck of " Activ-
ity " Tratt, the brilliant play of Brewer, Abbot, and
Juneau at end, the finished tackle play of Art Curtis;
but memory warms most in recalling that indomitable
team spirit which so often snatched victory from behind
and was never more keen than when the other side was
insolent enough to believe the game in hand.

The most daring undergraduate conceit of those days
was the introduction of eight-oar racing. Rowing is the
most arduous of college sports and the most difficult to
finance. The nearest college rival was at Ithaca and in-
deed, eventually, Wisconsin had to go beyond the Alle-



STUDENT LIFE 315

ghenies for competition. The enterprise owed its in-
ception in the last analysis to the perennial challenge
of Lake Mendota, but in the first instance to the enthusi-
asm and perseverance of C. C. Case '93, who, from the
hour he entered college, missed no opportunity to gain
disciples for the sport of his fancy.

In the spring of 1892 a pair of eight-oar gigs was pur-
chased with money secured by subscription, and a class
regatta was held. During the summer following, an
eight, made up of men selected from the class crews,
defeated a pick-up crew representing the Chicago Navy,
in the latter 's regatta at Oeonomowoc. The next
spring an abandoned paper shell was purchased from
Harvard and a crew composed largely of football ath-
letes was put in practice. The first " 'varsity " eight
was defeated by the Delaware Boat Club of Chicago in
a close two mile race on Lake Mendota. From 1894 to
1898 there was an annual two mile race with the Minne-
sota Boat Club, financed by the summer hotels at Lake
Minnetonka. Under the coaching of Andrew O'Dea,
who brought his Australian " yarra-yarra " stroke to
Wisconsin in 1895, the " varsity " soon showed its
superiority in this competition, and, in the spring of
'98, invaded the East, defeating the Yale freshmen by
ten lengths in a two mile race on Lake Saltonstall. In
June, 1899, the Wisconsin eight made its first appear-
ance on the Hudson, finishing second in a four mile race
against Pennsylvania, Cornell, and Columbia. There-
after, the Eastern trip of the Wisconsin crews (for a
freshman crew was soon included) was an annual event,
until the prohibition of intercollegiate rowing, by
faculty action, in 1914. Notwithstanding the difficul-
ties which attended the maintenance of rowing at Wis-
consin, only the apparently conclusive proof of its in-



316 WISCONSIN

juriousness to the physical constitution of the partici-
pants could have justified the banishment of this other-
wise beautiful sport from the realm of intercollegiate
competition.

In 1895, through the influence of Professor Stagg, a
track and field meet was held at Chicago, which led to
the establishment shortly after of the Western Intercol-
legiate. Wisconsin entered spiritedly into this new
branch of competition, won the first meet, and, in 1897,
romped away with a good share of the firsts, scoring 47
points to the 19 of her closest rival, Michigan. She was
represented at this time by a remarkable group of ath-
letes, including Richards in the hurdles, Kraenzlein in
the low hurdles and jumps, Maybury in the dashes, H.
Cochems in the weights, and Copeland in the distances.
On track and field as on the gridiron, in 1897, Wisconsin
" was first and the rest nowhere." To say nothing of
the water !

A decade earlier Wisconsin undergraduates had been
looking beyond the circle of small colleges with whom
they had striven for laurels in baseball and tennis, and
were demanding competition with the larger institu-
tions of the Northwest. Now there were thoughts of
claiming recognition among the older institutions of the
East. In the Summer of 1897, Richards, Maybury, and
Kraenzlein ran against the pick of the eastern athletes
at Manhattan Field. Two years later the football team,
headed by Pat O'Dea, surprised Yale in a tight game at
New Haven. Between these two events, as we have
seen, the Wisconsin eight had twice appeared to advan-
tage in eastern waters. The fine showing of the '99
" varsity " at Poughkeepsie, its hard luck and good
sportsmanship, won many hearts. Thereafter, for sev-
eral years, the western visitors drew to their colors a



STUDENT LIFE 317

large number of unattached " rooters '' at the big race
on the Hudson. No doubt athletic enthusiasts over-
valuated this form of " advertising." It is worthy of
observation, nevertheless, that the extension of athletic
prestige went hand in hand with widening recognition
of the university in academic circles and a rapid increase
of patronage from without the state.

It is, in our opinion, the heaviest count against inter-
collegiate sports that they have combined with social dis-
tractions and other frivolous pursuits to throw into the
shade those voluntary intellectual activities whose
honors were once the most coveted prizes of an under-
graduate career. The forensic and literary tradition
was vigorous in the nineties, and a goodly number of in-
stitutions yet in vogue at Wisconsin originated in those
creative years. The so-called " Literary Societies "
were still a dominant factor in student life. Athena?
and Hesperia had had an unbroken activity since the
earliest years of Chancellor Lathrop. They had estab-
lished just after the Civil War, the Joint Debates de-
scribed in the preceding chapter, to which Philomathia
was admitted in 1890. The long and unbroken pros-
perity of these societies, as compared with the many
ephemeral organizations which had arisen and lan-
guished in the meantime, Professor Frankenburger at-
tributed to their "loyalty to an ideal that places debate
first, that puts attendance at literary societies and per-
formance of duty there, above all personal pleasure, all
amusement, all social obligation." Hard knocks, " the
giving and taking of blows, contest, intellectual contest "
had been " their very life." This austere ideal, im-
posed with astonishing severity, made the debating clubs
for decades a distinguishable force in undergraduate
life. Upon the formation of the Northern Oratorical



318 WISCONSIN

League in 1890-91, they sponsored Wisconsin's entrance
and participation therein, and they organized a year or
two later the Intercollegiate Debates'.

The college paper from 1886 until 1892 was the
weekly Mgis which, in addition to news jottings and
brief editorials, filled its pages with the prize orations,
commencement essays, and similar effusions of under-
graduates. Its chief predecessor, the University Press,
had been founded in 1870, by George W. Raymer and
James W. Bashford. After its first year, when it was
conducted as a monthly, it ran as a semi-monthly until
1882. Thereafter it ran as a weekly until supplanted
by the Mgis. From 1881 until 1885 there was a rival
weekly, the Badger, of which F. J. Turner was one of
the editors. Upon the establishment of the Cardinal,
the Mgis changed to a bi-weekly and, in 1895, became
a literary monthly. Its lineal descendant was the (old)
Wisconsin Literary Magazine, founded in 1903. As
for the Daily Cardinal, a few imagined, when the first
issue appeared in the spring of 1892, that it was any-
thing more than a whimsical experiment. Yet the Car-
dinal was very much alive the following autumn, and
its twenty-fifth anniversary was commemorated a few
days after our entrance into the Great War. The
Sphinx, the only magazine of student humor whose affla-
tus has survived an initial exertion or so, made its bow
in the autumn of '99, accompanied — perhaps to keep
the university in equilibrium — by the Alumni Magazine.
The first Junior Annual was the Troclws of the class of
1885. Inability to agree with the faculty as to the con-
tent of the next year's book resulted in its suppression
and, still another class failing to carry through a similar
project, it remained for the class of '88 to appropriate
the title liberated by the death of the old weekly and



STUDENT LIFE 319

bring out the first annual Badger. A book of that title
has since recorded student achievements and assailed
reputations annually, growing year by year more am-
bitious and, now and then, reversing all the jokes by
bankrupting the Junior Class.

Not many of the editors and authors who originated
or sustained the student publications made their mark
as mature writers. For general authorship, two old
2Egis contributors, Zona Gale '95 and Grant Showerman
'96, are doubtless most widely known. Of the younger
" Sphinx crowd," Philip Allen died too early for his
certain talent to win him prominence, and Horatio
Winslow, the cleverest of undergraduate authors at
Wisconsin, has not made the impression he deserves to
make on the general public. Bert on Braley's facile
talent for rhyme and rhythm is still unwearied and
seems to find him a perennial welcome in newspaper
columns and the lighter periodicals. As journalists, J.
J. Schindler '89, an 2Egis editor, and W. W. Young,
the first editor of the Cardinal, have been successful,
the one at St. Paul, the other in New York. In the ma-
jority of cases, the intellectual fertility which mani-
fested itself as literary ambition in student days, in
mature life has been directed into other channels, and
if to the production of books, then books of a profes-
sional character.

But it is not as incubators of authorship, primarily,
that the student publications are to be prized, any more
than it is to be hoped that the college athlete will become
a professional sportsman. They are arenas for the ex-
ercise of the mental graces and they display, when suc-
cessful, the manners and sentiments of the mimic world
to which they belong. So judged, the admirable col-
lege author is he who catches best the tone of the life



320 WISCONSIN

about him and most graciously adds to and enlivens it.
Judging so, we should rate high the sprightly sketches
which Floyd McClure contributed to the old Mgis and
the bantering vers de societe, songs, and dramatic skits
that fell so lightly from him. How well he hit off the
smart undergraduate's attitude to the public, in the
chorus beginning :

For we are jolly college students

And we are out to be viewed as a sight,

Both in our personal estimation

And in yours we are certainly bright —

as sung by the Glee Club, the Banjo and Mandolin
Clubs accompanying, in one of those concerts which
seemed so brilliant and are so thoroughly forgotten!
And this reminds us that much of the best writing was
not for the publications at all, but for occasional uses
of this sort.

The willingness of the college student " to be viewed
as a sight ' ' displayed itself in a series of tours inaugu-
rated in the late eighties by the musical organizations
just mentioned. Later the clubs saw signs that the
stereotyped concert was beginning to pall upon the
public, and resorted to various devices for introducing
novelty into their entertainments, appearing one season
(1897) in the guise of " The U. W. Minstrels." A
growing activity in dramatics became pronouncedly vig-
orous and began to take organized form just before
1900. The practice of presenting a "senior play" as a
feature of Commencement Week was started by the
class of 1898. The following autumn a highly success-
ful dramatic contest was staged at the Fuller Opera
House. The winning team, composed of Walton Pyre,
Louis M. Ward, Mary Freeman, and Janet M. Smith,



STUDENT LIFE 321

presented an arrangement of scenes from Othello. The
lively interest stimulated by this event led to the immedi-
ate foundation, by the men, of the "Haresfoot" dramatic
club. The women followed suit with " Red Domino,"
and not long afterward, the " Edwin Booth " society
was organized through the instigation of Professor
Frankenburger, who thought the " Haresfoot " activi-
ties too shallow. The early "Haresfoot" productions
were bustling farces; " Red Domino " and " Edwin
Booth" ran to more substantial modern comedies, with
an occasional excursion into Shakspere.

After a time, there began to be added to the interest
of amateur presentation, the interest of local subject-
matter and authorship. The Budlong Case (1907), by
Lucien Cary and George B. Hill, was a well-built farce
with lyrical interpolations and much good-humored and
amusing satire of local manners and persons. It was
the first, and one of the best, of a series of " original "
pieces, selected through competition and staged by the
Junior Class, in connection with the annual " Prom."
The same spring " Haresfoot " revived, for a joint tour
with the Glee Club, a two-act sketch of local authorship,
entitled, Hie Professor's Daughter (first given on tour
in 1900) . In this piece the feminine factor was supplied
by disguise. Horatio Winslow's Fate and the Freshman
came the following autumn, and, a few months later,
the club's first triumph in musical burlesque, The
Dancing Doll by Winslow and Stothard, was given on
tour, all the feminine roles, including the dancing
choruses, being presented by male actors. During this
fruitful year and the years immediately following,
original production was carried to a pitch and volume
which undergraduates of more recent times have been
unable, or unwilling, to sustain.



322 WISCONSIN

The notice of these last ephemera of our social history-
has carried us forward into the early years of the Van
Hise presidency. I shall not go on to record the count-
less interests and organizations which have continued
to add to the distractions of student existence, but shall
conclude this survey with a brief account of the par-
ticulars in which the activities of the recent era differ
from those of former times. Their increase in mass
is concretely shown in the increasingly formidable bulk
of the year-book of the Junior Class. This is, of course,
largely accounted for by the increase in the size of the
university. But it is not the mass or number of con-
temporary activities which mainly differentiate them
from those of an earlier time; that is a mere matter of
arithmetic. The interesting difference is something far
less easy to describe or explain. Perhaps the most essen-
tial differences arise out of the degree to which student
activities have become the objects of faculty control and
supervision.

From one point of view, the development of extra-
curricular interests, which in the course of four or five
college generations changed the whole character of col-
legiate life, furnishes an exhilarating spectacle of under-
graduate enthusiasm and vitality. Had it been in the
nature of the new activities to keep within temperate
bounds, there would be good reason to regret that they
did not continue to be what they originally were, mat-
ters purely of student concern. They provided many
voluntary outlets for surplus energy and invention
which were preferable to the old ones, and they were
the occasion for much incidental training, under highly
stimulating conditions. But moderation is not com-
panionable with the youthful virtues. It is the usual
history of undergraduate enterprises that they have in-



Online LibraryJ. F. A. (James Francis Augustin) PyreWisconsin → online text (page 24 of 32)