One hundred years ago today, the engineering students celebrated their first organized St. Patrick’s Day here at Iowa State College (now University). Why were the engineers celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? Not because ISU engineering students were all Irish, but because St. Patrick is the patron saint of engineers. In addition, as the Iowa Engineer (call number TA1 Io9) of April 1910 explains, the Civil Engineering Society had been concerned about the safety of the money in their coffers, so they decided to spend it on a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The 1910 festivities included a parade which stopped at Central Hall on campus and in the “village” of Ames, a ball game, roller skating, and finally a banquet late in the evening. The engineers continued to celebrate their patron saint’s holiday on March 17 through 1921, when the separate spring festivals of Iowa State College’s Divisions were combined into VEISHEA in 1922.
The information the University Archives has on the St. Patrick’s Day celebration mainly comes from written descriptions in publications such as the Iowa Engineer, the Alumnus, and Iowa State’s yearbook the Bomb. Photocopies of these articles have been pulled together into a subject file under RS 22/7/0/1. We also have photographs of the March 17 celebrations, as well as the traditions of the Division of Engineering’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations which continued into VEISHEA, in our University Photograph Collection. In addition, the Special Collections Department has an online exhibit on VEISHEA, including a brief history, with images, of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh (Happy St. Patrick’s Day – to all)!