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The Indian Symbol’s Long History

Senior Cane 1909.jpg

The Athletics Department website describes one interpretation of the origins of the Indian symbol at the College:

Starting in the 1920s sportswriters (primarily representing Boston’s many newspapers of the day) began to regularly use the nickname “Indians” in their coverage of Dartmouth’s football team as it achieved a position of national prominence. The usage was grounded in reference to the College’s founding mission in 1769 - the education of American Indian youth (known today as Native Americans) in the region.

For about 50 years thereafter, the nickname “Indians,” though never officially adopted by the College, was used actively and interchangeably with “the Green,” “Big Green” and “Hanoverians” by the news media and in Dartmouth publications in coverage of the College’s teams. The Indian symbol also appeared on uniforms of athletic teams during this period. [Emphasis added]

We all know the Hovey Murals in Thayer, which date back to 1938, but the adminstration talks less about how American Indian iconography was central to the College back into the 19th century. I was alerted to one manifesation of the importance of Indian images when the above-pictured, 1909 cane came up for auction recently. The sale’s descriptive text noted that Dike’s Canes in the United States had an entry regarding canes at the College (the book is in the Sherman Art History library):

Dartmouth Canes Excerpt.jpg

A selection of old canes:

Dartmouth Cane Selection.jpg

The cane at auction was owned by one B. M. Scully of the Class of 1909, who walked the Hanover Plain just as you and I do. He is no more.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Enjoyed your post this morning. As I own six of the vintage canes, it caused me to take a closer look — one from 1924, one from ‘25, two undetermined as of this writing. One, however, from the same class of 1909 with the name T.A. Fardy etched on the back. Also, one from the class of 1907 with the name of E.H Frost. All are in quite good shape, with the noses and eyelids bearing the brunt of any damage over the years.

Keep up the great work re: our beloved alma mater.

Addendum: And another:

Quaker Oats Man.jpg

Good piece. I’ll spare you any of my waxing nostalgic about family D canes (we’ve got tales and canes from both sides), but surely you remember the silly Eleazar version, which appeared on your watch. As I recall, it was promptly dubbed the Quaker Oats Man.


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