Dark romantic silhouettes kissing under the Campanile in 1954.
The Campanile Kiss, 1954

What is the most ROMANTIC Iowa State tradition?

Furthermore, what’s an AWESOME last minute Valentine’s Date idea at Iowa State?

For that, you have to go to Iowa State’s most romantic place. . .

One of the most famous traditions of Iowa State, “Campaniling” is kissing under the Campanile at the stroke of midnight. Many know (& some have experienced!) the legendary Campanile Kiss.  At its height, up to 2,000 Iowa Staters would go “Campaniling” before Homecoming, bringing a host of breath mints, Chapstick, and lipstick to celebrate.

Funny enough, such an iconic Iowa State tradition started out. . .rebelliously—

“The tradition of ‘Campaniling’ began back when there used to be a curfew in the residence halls, said former Alumni Association assistant director David Critchlow to Iowa State Daily in 2000, “The women had to sneak out of the residence halls to meet their significant other under the Campanile to kiss and get back before they got caught.”

Scandalous! However, now without a curfew to escape, this could be your next Valentine’s Day tradition.

After all, what could be more romantic than the ISU campus icon, with the faint yellow lights of Curtiss and Beardshear in the distance, and a once-in-a-lifetime historic kiss under the Campanile’s fifty silver bells?

Bright 1954 morning embrace under the Campanile with a classic car.
Campanile Romance, 1954



1995 – 1999: Trumpeter Swans

Lancelot and Elaine have been an Iowa State tradition since 1935, when a pair of white swans was introduced during VEISHEA. The history of each generation of these majestic creatures is well chronicled throughout the University Archives (open to students and members of the community, if anyone is interested in further research). One story I find especially interesting is the brief period from 1995 to 1999, when a change to the species of swan kept in Lake LaVerne backfired spectacularly.

ISU trumpeter swans have ‘no sense of fear’ article.

In 1995, as part of an effort to rebuild Iowa’s trumpeter swan population, the new edition of Lancelot & Elaine came in the form of trumpeter swans. However, the trumpeter swans caused a lot more trouble than the mute swans that had previously occupied the lake. The trumpeter swans proved to have no fear of students, nor oncoming traffic. The swans regularly ventured away from Lake LaVerne and wandered all around campus, creating more than a few hazards.

In 1999, the decision was made to remove the Trumpeter swans from campus due to the fact they had not been able to acclimate to the environment. The decision to remove the trumpeter swans from Iowa State is explained in more detail in the internal memo from August 27th, 1999, which is shown below.

Sounds like relocating the trumpeter swans and bringing back the mute swans really was the best course of action. All of the information in this post can be found in collection RS 4/8/4 Box 24.

#TBT – Traditions from Times Past

Iowa State University has a ton of traditions. New traditions get developed and old ones fade away. Today’s post is about White Breakfasts, a now defunct tradition. Please note, the caption for the image below states that the White Breakfast was first observed in Lyon Hall in 1915. Our Reference Specialist, Becky notes below that this ceremony was first observed in 1918. The 1918 observance is documented in Julian C. Schilletter‘s The First 100 Years of Residential Housing at Iowa State University Dr. Schilletter held many positions at Iowa State and was the Director of Residence Halls from 1946-1967.

From the Reference Files of Becky Jordan, Reference Specialist


Almost a dozen young women wearing white dresses, holding candles, standing on stairs of their dorm, singing. The caption below this image reads: "On the last Sunday before examination in December the White Breakfast ceremony is observed in women's residence halls. Each advisor lights the candles of her advisees, and beginning on the top floor, the residents of the hall come caroling and carrying candles to breakfast. Devotions are observed afterwards. Traditionally the women wear white dresses or white blouses. First observed in Lyon Hall in 1915, the custom is now universal in the women's residence group."
From “News of Iowa” December 1955 issue (LH1. N39 Archives).

White Breakfasts were observed in the women’s residence halls from 1918 through the early 1960s.  Originated by a Lyon Hall housemother, they were held the last Sunday before the holiday break in December.  The residents dressed in white and carried lighted candles.  A caroling procession started on the top floor of each dormitory and proceeded to the dining rooms, where a special breakfast menu was served.

CyPix: a Fire, a Ram, and a Tradition

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).

Arloe Paul ('33) passes on the ram's head to Jerry Ladman ('58). (RS 21/7/1, Arloe Paul)
Arloe Paul (’33) passes on the ram’s head to Jerry Ladman (’58). (RS 21/7/1)

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)

Of course, you’re always welcome to stop by and see us or get in touch!

CyPix: VEISHEA Cherry Pies!

It’s finally here: VEISHEA! And soon those treats most synonymous with the celebration will be available – cherry pies. In fact, the cherry pies are a tradition that came about even before VEISHEA in the early 1920s.Started by the Division of Home Economics, the cherry pie sale is now run by the Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (formerly Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management). Originally, they were sold in February to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. Today, they are a staple of our annual college celebration. More information on these delectable desserts can be found here.

Making pies for VEISHEA, 1954
Making pies for VEISHEA, 1954

The acronym, VEISHEA, stands for Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics, and Agriculture, all of which were the divisions that were in existence in 1922 when VEISHEA began. Iowa State College (University) didn’t become a university until 1959, so until that time it consisted of “divisions” rather than “colleges.” Today, VEISHEA continues to be a celebration of each of the colleges and the university as a whole.

For more information on VEISHEA and cherry pies, see this online exhibit, our digital collection, or come and look through through any one of our VEISHEA collections! Be sure to check out more photos of VEISHEA (including more involving cherry pies) here. Also, we’ve had several blog posts on the subject over the last couple of years, so read on!

Have a fun (and safe) VEISHEA, everyone!

A Holiday Tradition

Christmas tree lighting n.d.
Christmas tree lighting ceremony on central campus, undated.

With the holiday season upon us and winter break officially starting next week for the students, it seems fitting to highlight a photo of a long-standing holiday tradition here at Iowa State. The tree-lighting ceremony originated in 1914, but was discontinued only to be started up again in 1946. As part of ISU’s annual WinterFest celebration, people gather around the evergreen tree across from Beardshear Hall on central campus to listen to the carillon, hear a speech from the president, sing Christmas carols, and to watch the tree light up. This year’s celebration was December 6th and was held inside Beardshear due to the frigid temperatures.

For more information on this and other ISU traditions, see the Iowa State University Traditions, Songs, and Cheers Collection, RS 00/16/1.

However, wherever, and whatever you celebrate, have a wonderful holiday and happy new year!

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