University Archives

Historic Ohio State: FAQ

This list features popular questions commonly asked by patrons of the University Archives. Feel free to browse the list before submitting a question to our archivists.

Why are we called The Ohio State University?

In 1986, a new University logo was introduced in the hopes of moving away from the "OSU" symbol, which had been used since 1977. The change from simply "OSU" was said to "reflect the national stature of the institution." University officials wanted the institution to be known as "The Ohio State University," again, to avoid confusion over similarly abbreviated colleges (such as Oregon State University and Oklahoma State University).

However, the "The" was actually part of the state legislation when the university was renamed in 1878. The following excerpt is from the Board of Trustee minutes:

"...the educational institution heretofore known as the 'Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College,' shall be known and designated hereafter as 'The Ohio State University.'"

Those who wished to change from the original name considered "Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College" was too narrow in scope and inadequate for a beneficiary institution of the Morrill Land-Grant Acts. President Edward Orton, Sr. was insistent that a new name would separate the institution from other colleges in Ohio.

In 2022, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted The Ohio State University the ability to control the branded use of "The" on official products.

Sheet music of Carmen Ohio
Sheet music of Carmen Ohio, undated.

Who wrote Carmen Ohio and what does the title mean?

Fred Cornell, lyricist of Carmen Ohio, was a four-letter athlete, a member of the OSU Glee Club, and an amateur poet. There are varying accounts as to when and where he actually wrote the lyrics; it was either in 1902 on a train coming back from a football defeat in Ann Arbor, or in 1903 at the request of the Men’s Glee Club. Both stories agree that it was sung publicly for the first time by the Glee Club in 1903. Roughly translated from Latin, carmen is a noun defined as a poetic song, tune, verse, or prose. The namesake of the state of Ohio is derived from the phrase ohi:yó, meaning "good river," "great river," or "large creek" in Seneca, a derived form of Iroquoian language spoken by the Seneca people. In the literal sense, Carmen Ohio means "Good River Song."

The Seneca people occupied the westernmost territory of the Iroquois Nations, including territory surrounding the Great Lakes. Ironically, colonizers adopted the name "Ohio" after pushing the Seneca people to Canada in order to claim the land as their own.

What was the Cannon Act?

The Cannon Act was a bill introduced in 1870 that established the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College before it was known as The Ohio State University. The bill was introduced by Reuben P. Cannon, a member of the Ohio House of Representatives.

The Ohio State University occupies territory belonging to the Seneca people, as well as other native tribes, communities, and confederacies. Read more about the Seneca people, or "Keepers of the Western Door," at their official website.

Read more about Ohio State's land acknowledgement through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

How many faculty/alumni have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize?

In total, three Ohio State faculty and alumni were awarded the Nobel Prize:

  • Paul Flory, 1974, Chemistry (Ph.D., Ohio State University, 1934)
  • William A. Fowler, 1983, Physics (B.S., Ohio State University, 1933)
  • Kenneth G. Wilson, 1982, Physics (faculty, 1988-2002)

In total, eight faculty and alumni were awarded the Pulitzer Prize:

Retrieved from the Office of Academic Affairs.

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Image of a scarlet ribbon and gray ribbon
Scarlet and gray ribbon samples, undated.

Why are Ohio State colors scarlet and gray?

A committee of three students decided on the colors for the university during the 1878 Spring Term. The original colors selected for The Ohio State University were orange and black. However, because Princeton had already chosen those colors, the committee decided to change their decision to scarlet and gray. Alice Townshend, one of the members on the committee, reported that the colors did not signify anything. Instead, the committee wanted to choose something that was a nice combination and had not been used by any other college.

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Exterior black and white image of Orton Hall.
Orton Hall exterior, 1930.

What's unique about Orton Hall?

Orton Hall is constructed of building stone from locally sourced the state of Ohio. The stone is arranged in the order it exists in the bedrock of the state; the older stone forms the lower part of the building, whereas the newer stone forms the upper part. The stone entrance hall is also completely sourced from Ohio bedrock, including the floor tiles made of Ohio clay.

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Exterior view of then-named Enarson Hall
First student union, 1918.

Where was the first student union?

The first Ohio Union is now Hale Hall. The cornerstone laying ceremony for the "old" Ohio Union was held on April 12, 1909. The building opened in the Spring of 1911. It was the first student union to be built at a state university and the fourth of its kind in the United States.

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Photography class taking a picture of the Oval in 1908.
Photography class, 1908.

How did the Oval come about?

The original campus design did not include the Oval. However, in 1893, the master plan for Ohio State’s campus proposed a group of buildings around a central open space. The first reference to this space as "the oval" was in 1910. Since then the Oval, approximately eleven acres, has been the scene of a great variety of student, faculty, and alumni activities since its advent.

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Image of mirror lake in 1899
Mirror Lake (or 'Pond'), 1899.

Is Mirror Lake a real lake?

Originally, a spring supplied much of the water for Mirror Lake, and was used as a source of drinking water for both the campus and people living nearby. A city sewer was constructed in the ravine in 1891 on the south side of the lake, but was so poorly built that the lake and spring disappeared. The sewer was reconstructed in 1892 and water once again flowed through the spring.

The increasing coverage of the ground surface by campus buildings and paved areas permanently dried up the spring in the 1920s. After that time, well water, river water, and city water became the sources used to feed water into the lake. Now, Mirror Lake holds 91,000 cubic feet of water.

What is that marker on campus?

Ohio State University is located on the 40th latitude, which measures the distance north or south of the equator. Directionally, Ohio State is 40 degrees north of the Equator. The stone marker is located between University Hall and the Main Library.

The 40th latitude also passes through Toledo, Spain; Boulder, Colorado; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Image of Maudine, 1926.
Maudine, 1926.

Who was Maudine the Homecoming Queen?

Maudine Ormsby was the Homecoming Queen in 1926, nominated by students in the College of Agriculture. Maudine, a Holstein cow, was chosen based on the disqualification of the other candidates due to voting improprieties. Maudine was even a part of the Homecoming parade, although she was left in the barn during the dance.

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Aerial image of Ohio Stadium during construction in 1922.
Aerial of stadium construction, 1922.

When was Ohio Stadium built?

Initial murmurs of building an athletic stadium at Ohio State began in 1919 after a then-record-breaking crowd attended an Ohio State playoff game to witness Charles “Chic” Harley play.

The official campaign to build Ohio Stadium began in 1920 with the fiftieth anniversary of the University’s founding. Local architect and Ohio State grad Howard Dwight Smith was contracted to design the iconic ‘Shoe. Ohio Stadium was completed in 1922 as the first horseshoe-shaped, double deck stadium in America.

The Stadium was dedicated during the Ohio State University vs. University of Michigan game on October 21, 1922. Over seventy-thousand fans attended this game, a record-breaking number for the university at this time; by the third quarter, ten-thousand hot dogs, seventy gallons of coffee, eight-thousand boxes of Cracker Jack, and seventy-thousand bottles of pop had been sold. Due to its historical importance, Ohio Stadium is on the National Register of Historic Places. The university community celebrated Ohio Stadium’s centennial in 2022.

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Who implemented Script Ohio into the marching band’s routine?

Script Ohio was first performed by the Ohio State University marching band on October 10, 1936 under the direction of Eugene J. Weigel. The first instrument used to dot the "i" was an E-flat cornet. Four games later, the job of “dotting” was given to a tuba player for a more dramatic effect.

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Image of Brutus Buckeye standing in front of Ohio Stadium stands in 1965.
Original Brutus, 1965.

Where did Brutus Buckeye come from?

In October 1965, students Ray Bourhis and Sally (neé Huber) Lanyon built a papier-mâché mascot at the Pi Beta Phi sorority house with the help of the sorority members and $50 from Ohio Staters, Inc., a student service organization.

The mascot made its debut by walking down the entrance ramp at Ohio Stadium on October 30, 1965, at Ohio State’s Homecoming football game against Minnesota. Soon after, Ohio Staters hosted a contest to name the mascot; Kerry Reed submitted the winning selection, Brutus Buckeye.

Because the papier-mâché Brutus was not durable, Ohio Staters ordered a fiberglass version of the mascot in order to make it more sustainable.

At the conclusion of the 1965 football season, management of Brutus was turned over to Block “O,” the student organization dedicated to school spirit. Block “O” managed the mascot until 1974 when Brutus became part of the university’s Department of Athletics spirit squad.

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Exterior image of the victory bell located in Southeast Tower of Ohio Stadium.
Victory Bell, 1960.

What is the bell that is rung after Ohio State home victories?

The Victory Bell was a gift from the classes of 1943, 1944, and 1954. Located 150 feet up in the Southeast Tower of Ohio Stadium, members of Alpha Phi Omega ring the bell after Buckeye victories; this tradition began after Ohio State beat the University of California on October 2, 1954. On a calm day, it is said that the bell can be heard five miles away.

The bell weighs 2,420 pounds and cost $2,535 to install.

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