Have you heard the story of the Old Main fires? Instead of the large campus we have now, the university (then the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm) was housed entirely in a single building, “Old Main.” Old Main stood where Beardshear is now. Old Main proved to be much less sturdy than Beardshear – it lasted only 34 years. First it was damaged by a tornado (1882), followed by a fire (1900) that destroyed the north wing and caused extensive damage to the rest of the building. Two years later a fire ravaged the remainder of the structure and Old Main was completely destroyed (1902).
But, students turned this tragedy into an opportunity for a new tradition. The image above depicts Class President of 1933, Arloe Paul, presenting Class President of 1958, Jerry Ladman, with a metal ram’s head. The head is purported to be architectural salvage from one of the fires in Old Main. The story is that it was rescued by Dean Edgar Stanton and O. H. Cessna (both class of 1872). The passage of the head every 25 years has become a campus tradition that continues to this day. It is next due to be passed from the class of 2008 to the class of 2033.
To learn about other campus traditions, check out the following:
- Campus Traditions (RS 00/16)
- Memorials and Traditions Committee (RS 08/06/061)
- VEISHEA (Record group RS 22/12)