SCETI

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A "natural order" may be thought to organize the social workings of a university. Freshmen arrive with an overwhelming sense of self-importance. Their egotism maddens the sophomore class, who, having just completed their first year, demand respect from the freshmen. In the first half of the twentieth century, it was a common practice at many schools for sophomores to post a set of freshmen rules created to maintain a sense of class hierarchy in the school. The rules were usually printed on posters and hung around campus, and included such orders as: "No 'freshie' shall wear his numerals, that is the numbers of his class" (Philadelphia Ledger, February 6, 1902) and "it shall be counted a misdemeanor for any member of the present Freshmen class either to carry a cane or part his hair in the middle" (The Philadelphia Press, February 12, 1901). A freshman who broke these rules had to answer to the Sophomore Vigilance Committee. Sophomores put their imaginations to work and punishments and hazing were doled out liberally. Degrading acts, haircuts, and shaves were standard. The forcible removal of certain garments or accessories, which offended the dignity of the sophomore class, was also common practice, as was the forced appointment of certain amusing garments and accessories, which delighted them.

Animosity between the freshman and sophomore classes also manifested itself in the tradition of class fights. Games like the Bowl Fight, Push Ball Fight, Poster Fight, Pants Fight, Chapel Fight, Corner Fight, and Flour Fight took place throughout the year, and their beginnings were usually spontaneous. These "scraps," peculiar to the sophomore and freshman classes since ancient days, were thought to be a healthy activity for the young college boy. In an article printed in The Pennsylvanian in the early years of the twentieth century, the writer says of the value of the class fights: "Everyone can pitch in, and let out his animal spirits in whatever way he thinks best" (The Pennsylvanian, February 7, 1888). While many of the class fights had spontaneous beginnings, the university eventually introduced a codified set of games for the underclassmen. In the last years of the nineteenth century, Dr. Josiah H. Penniman established the Dean's Trophy. This competition included between five and seven freshman-sophomore match-ups over the course of the year, including football, basketball, swimming, cricket, baseball, track, crew, and the Bowl Fight. At the end of the year, the scores for each class were tallied and the winner was awarded the Dean's Trophy and, consequently, the right to brag.

The class fight and hazing traditions the Class of 1906 participated in were particularly rowdy. As freshmen, the class vandalized the sophomore's freshmen rules posters by painting their class numerals on them. The next year, in response to harassment by the Class of 1906, freshmen hung insulting posters on campus. The sophomores gave a familiar response and painted their class numerals on all of the posters. An example of these defaced posters is in the next section. When the class of 1906 became sophomores, they elected John Brown their class president. He organized the relentless hazing of freshmen, which prompted the first Pants Fight. The fight traditions that year, including the Pants Fight, were some of the most vicious Penn had ever seen.

Penn Poster Fights

Poster fights between the freshman and sophomore classes took place throughout the first decade of the twentieth century at Penn. The sophomores would paste an insulting poster about the freshman class upon a door or wall of the university - usually Houston Hall - and try to defend it from removal by a mob of freshmen. If the freshmen damaged the poster in any way, they were declared the winners of the fight. The sophomores made this seemingly simple task a challenge for the freshmen with techniques such as coating themselves and the poster with grease or shellacking it to the door. The freshmen answered with creative offensive tactics. In 1909, wielding a nearby fire hose against the sophomore class, they won the fight.