It’s that time of year again! The time for donning caps and gowns if you are a senior, or if not, at least setting aside those textbooks and pencils for a nice …bonfire. A beanie bonfire, to be exact.
From 1916 to 1934, freshmen at Iowa State College were required to wear “freshmen beanies” or “prep caps” on campus. After suffering through a year of harassment that the caps brought upon them, freshman were quite happy to ditch them at the end of the year. Beginning in 1923, students held a mock-graduation, the Moving Up Ceremony, during VEISHEA celebrations, at which time seniors became alumni and everyone else moved up a grade. The freshmen burned their beanies in a roaring bonfire. By 1934, the caps were no longer worn and the moving up ceremony faded due to lack of interest.
We’re lucky to have a surviving beanie in the University Archives at ISU. It belonged to Robert W. Breckenridge. Robert saved his freshman beanie from 1918 instead of burning it, and it now resides in the archives.
More images of the Moving Up Ceremony can be found in the Student Life album on our Flickr page.
(Note: A correction was made to an earlier version of this post. The earlier version had misidentified a felt hat belonging to Iris Macumber (RS 21/7/228) as a freshman beanie. Oops! Freshmen beanies were required for men only. This hat shown above is a true example of the freshman beanie, and the photograph and information has been updated and corrected.)