New! Nineteenth century student life page

The Archives has added another exhibit to its on-line Omeka site at http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/omeka/archives/studentlife/.

This exhibit examines what it was like to be an IU student in the 19th century. What did the campus look like? What were the size and composition of the student body? What classes were offered, and what did students pay for tuition? Where did students live, and how much did it cost for room and board? What types of athletic and social activities did students participate in? Even a quick review of the documentation illustrates that the academic and social life of the 19th century student was very different than it is for today’s student. Some of the more dramatic differences were the ways that students participated in athletic events. For most of the 19th century organized sports were nonexistent or only in their infancy and for many, athletics meant intramural activities, and most notably a form of organized chaos known as the “Class Scraps.”

These scraps took many forms in the 19th century, but all basically had the same characteristics: 2 classes, typically freshman against sophomores, would engage in a physical and often violent contest or brawl to best the other team in some challenge. These contests often had very few rules, especially in the early days, but as time went on some basic rules and regulations were added. One of the more popular versions of the Class Scraps was popularly known as the “Burning of Horace.” This scrap was likely the first form of the class scrap enacted at IU.

Capture the flag, 1909

Capture the flag, 1909

According to an article in the IDS, the “first freshman-sophomore class scrap started one dark Washington’s Birthday night soon after the founding of the university in 1820. At that time the sophomores were required to study the works of Horace, and so great was their joy at having completed the course that they burned the books on the campus. That was a trivial happening to start ‘scrapping’ over – but the freshman objected to the ceremony and that was where the class ‘scraps’ at Indiana began.

Owen and Wylie Halls, circa 1885

Owen and Wylie Halls, circa 1885

The author of a master’s thesis on IU traditions writes that over time,

the sophomores enlarged upon the rituals. The sophomore class would secretly gather at a pre-designated spot on the campus…They would then prepare to give Horace the last sacrament. Somberly, speeches were made for the departed one. Then a small hole was dug to forever hold the ashes that once were Horace. Final orations were made and the ceremony was concluded…But the freshmen had other plans along similar lines. They would stop at nothing short of murder (and scraps have even come close to this) to prevent the sophomore class from deriving any pleasure whatsoever from the book of Horace.

So, we encourage you to take a look at the on-line exhibit, and enter the world of the IU student in the 19th century.

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