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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 14, 1969)
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 1969
VOL. 92, NO, 63
Centennial reflection reveals
familiar traits and habits
aa i a.
Cut off, I pray, those ringlets fair,
Of long, uncombed pneumatic
Dress up your heads and then
' to cultivate the brains within.
Hesperian Nov. 25, 1894
by Jim Pedersen
Ncbraskan Staff Writer
"Anyone wearing their hair over
their ears tor down on their neck
should be forced to cut it off or go
to jail. The world has had enough
to make it sad without this blooming
array of unkempt intellectuality that
tends to provoke riot and bloodshed."
The student of 19G9 would probably
attribute these words to Mayor Daley,
George Wallace or maybe, even his
own parents. But this outburst came
from the University of Nebraska
publication, the Hesperian, in 1894
in reaction to the manner in which
the football players wore their hair
in the 1890's.
THE SIZE of the University has
changed. So has its physical structure.
But many of the interests, motivations
and attitudes of the students are the
same in both eras.
In 1892 the school could not get
enough men out for football to even
scrimmage. The team considered
dispensing with the coach because
they couldn't afford to pay him. The
biggest blow to the school's pride,
however, was when small Doane Col
lege defeated the team.
A cry went up that the University
needed a good football team to prove
to the world that it was more than
a one horse Normal School. By 1896
it was a power in the Midwest. En
thusiasm ran so high that football,
to the dismay of several faculty
members, eclipsed debating in im
portance. STUDENTS OF the 1890's, like
students of today, often met with their
professors outside the classroom for
informal discussions. But the
circumstances were somewhat dif
ferent. Unlike today's professor who invites
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"Peace Program at Chapel today honoring William Jennings Bryan . .
DAILY NEBRASKAN, Tuesday, March 10, 1908.
his students to his home for a
discussion over a bottle of beer, pro
fessors then invited their students to
come to the historical room for apples
The Gay '90's, which produced the
beer garden and the Chicago World's
Fair, did not really affect the social
life of a young university in a small
prairie town. Nevertheless, socializing
A PARTY, noted in the Hesperian
as 'a great success, was held in a
rented house in Lincoln where "danc
ing and games were indulged in till
a late hour." Refreshments were hot
Students of the day were expected
to retain material in their heads; not
write it down. Students who carried
notebooks were frowned on as
nuisances who illustrated systemized
The administration was seldom the
target of student protest. It probably
escaped unfavorable notice because
it was small and most authority over
students lay in the hands of the
IN 1896, however, students protested
against a five cent charge for the
use of baths in the gymnasium by
presenting a petition to the chan
cellor's office. The petition also
charged that students were being
discriminated against in the use of
Apparently everybody hated the
charge and thought they were the
subject of discrimination. The petition
was signed by 600 male students,
virtually the entire male enrollment.
The center of the University's social
and intellectual life rested in the three
, They were the Palladian, the Delian
and Union societies.
THESE SOCIETIES were actually
fraternities with an intellectual
purpose. They limited their mem
bership to about eighty members each
and provided social functions. Oratory
contests were considered both the
social and intellectual high points of
The Chase and Wheeler Oratory
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Contest, presented by the oldest of
the societies, the Palladians, was at
tended by a large number of students
and it was considered a great honor to
participate in the contest.
The contests were held indoors in
an atmosphere similar to a 20th cen
tury basketball game.
from at least four schools
participated. Groups of students would
gather in rooting sections and sing,
wave banners and give cheers for
their school. Each oration was
separated by some form of music
ranging from a vocal solo to the
The location for these contests and
nearly all other activity at the
University was the Chapel. Located
in the main building University
Hall the Chapel was the hub of
All the literary societies frequently
held meetings there, as did the three
political clubs, the Democrats,
Republicans and Independents. In
addition, the Chapel was used for
daily worship services which all
students were expected to attend.
Faculty were excluded.
BESIDES presenting oratory con
tests, the main purpose of the literary
societies seemed to be preventing the
organization of fraternities and
There were only five Greek letter
organizations on campus in 1892, three
fraternities and two sororities, hardly
constituting the term "Greek
system." Yet by 1899 there were 12
fraternities and five sororities.
The literary societies claimed them
selves as examples of true
brotherhood, providing a place for the
awkward country boy and the timid
city youth. They were open to male
and female, white and black, poor
and rich, cultured and uncultured.
Meetings were not held in secrecy
and social events were open to all.
IN STRIKING contrast, fraternities
of the day were primarily interested
in wealthy students. Meetings were
held in secret which led the
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'Hesperian" to call them "apathetic,
silent, indifferent organizations."
Probably a better reason for the
animosity which existed between the
two groups was the fierce competition
in which they engaged.
The infant fraternities and the
literary societies annually sought to ..
fill their memberships from the in
coming freshman class. In effect, they
rushed against each other. Each were
quickto point to any of their members .
who were in the , political clubs, on ..
the football team or oa the staff of .
the "Hesperian.", ;.. . .
, ' , .
WILLA CATHER, famous Nebraska
author, was a student of this era and
literary editor of the "Hesperian."
She frequently wrote satirical and
sharp criticisms of the sorority
girls. ' s
She characterized them as jealous,
conceited, character a s s a s i n s in- ,
terested in a girl only if her mem-'
bership in the sorority would enhance
the reputation of the house.
The battle of the "frats" and the.
"barbs" raged on through the '90s.. .
In spite of the natural inhibition which
faced the fraternities in the form. of
proud .class spirit, the Greenhouses
prevailed and grew,,
: :. r ,.-. iv i ' '. ;.' 1 t .' ', .T-
Bt THE LATE 1900's 'the literary ' '
societies,, limited by their local struc-'
ture, wre declining. The Greek '
houses, on the other hand, were in
fluenced1 by national organization and -begah
Many of the cpstoms involving class .
rivalry which' marked' the 1890's are '
neither present nor typical, in today's .',
University. One such custom was the
cane rush between the "freshies" and
the sophomores. . -. ;-- . ;'
The members of each class would
line up "opposite of each other and '
then Tush for(a wooden cane placed
in the-center' of an ".open area.
Whichever lass escappd with' the
cane duriqg the .melee would prove .
its supfi)rjty':6irIS took psrf ih -the
Oti OE" su'cfi :tctasioji 'fa I'She ' .
freshman ;-class-:invaded - C h a p
services 6ne day" armed With canes"
and routed the saphombres. outside:.7'
ir-." i . . ! ' I '' . ', '
mmm ' my - - 'ft.
The result of the cane battle was a
long list of injuries including a skull
fracture and several internal hurts.
The classroom was characterized by
frequent problems of discipline over
unruly students. Classes also required
a fairly standard mode of dress.
One issue of the Hesperian noted
that the senior class would be willing
to pay the laundry bills of poor boys
that are forced to wear sweaters to
class instead of civilized shirts-
; : .VACATIONS ; WERE practically
nonexistent for the student of the
1890's. Although students claimed they
were overworked and needed at least
a week of vacation in April to rest
up for the hardest part of the year,
the spring term, for which they were
granted only two days.
If the students were overworked,
so were the professors. When a
modern language department was
created in 1895, the three professors
in the department were forced to
. teach a total of 60 credit hours.
In class, the students sat in backless
recitation chairs which were ap
parently quite old by 1893 when the
Hesperian claimed the chairs were
causing students to assume a posture
in which the right shoulder was higher
.than the left.
:." A year later in a burst of wild
'excitement over a football win at
Kansas University, the s t u d e n ts
decided to celebrate by smashing the
ancient chairs. They rushed onto the
University lawn and continued to
throw the chairs into the air until
all were broken.
-THE SOCIAL TONE of the
, University is probably best reflected
cy an editorial in the "Hesperian"
: which commends the students mt
Northwestern University for upholding
the, four-mile rule a rule which
stated that no liquor establishment
-could be built within four miles of
, the campus. . , .
i1 Paf ties' invoking . students were
$lmpl6i Hot and cold soda was popular
3 it Rhector's Pharmacy.' Ice skating
'arid 'card "'parties were considered
proper social events.
" An example of what was considered
social 'news can be found In one issue'
PHOTO BY DICK HUTNAOUI
of the campus paper which said
simply, "Frank Brown went home to
attend the wedding of his brother and
enjoy a good dinner."
a a a
THE CHANCELLOR, although he
was generally spared the criticism
aimed at today's administrators, did
not escape attack altogether. One
Hesperian blasted Chancellor Can
field, not for suppressing academic
freedom, but for being opposed to
Another editorial advocated what
must have been an early form of stu
dent power on the University campus.
The editorial called for full student
control of a committee, then compos
ed entirely of faculty members, which
determined the subject matter of cer
The early years of the University
were marked by classes of recitation
alone. There were no lectures, no
research, no questions. Laboratories
were unheard of.
BY THE 1890's the University had
evolved into an institution which en
couraged the student to think, to in
vestigate, to find out facts and prin
ciples himself. Life at the University
was thought to be the proper, normal
beginning of life-long intellectual ac
tivity. It was in the '90's that the graduate
college appeared, and the University
was organized into distinct
departments. Specialization early in
the college curriculum of the student
became more and more common.
Many students and some faculty
opposed this movement. "There
nothing like a broad background on
which to build a later specialty. "A
building without a firm foundation will
never be a skyscraper," wrote one
staff member from Ok Hesperian.
MUCH OF THE SPIRIT, th
rivalry, and even the mild protest
which have characterized the
University of Nebraska in the 1960's
is ' evident in the University of the
1890's. Although many of the customs,
fads, and conventions of the students
of that era have disappeared, the stu
dent of the University has not really
changed much. "
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