A lone cheerleader in 1909

In honor of the season, we decided to look into the history of cheerleading at OSU. The first record we have of a “cheerleader” was in 1902 for Fred A. Cornell. Yep—the first OSU cheerleader was a guy. Anyway, up until 1909 there was only one cheerleader at football games; in 1909 another was added, and in 1910 a third came on board.

Cheerleaders, 1911

Scandal struck in 1914 when Miss Clara Rutherford came to a football game and performed the same cheers and “flip flops” with the official male cheerleaders—in her blouse and bloomers. Her behavior was denounced widely, and labeled “hoydenish” and “improper.” Didn’t someone say that well-behaved women rarely make history? It would not be until the 1930s that women could become official cheerleaders.

By the 1920s, six cheerleaders were performing at football games; one of these cheerleaders was Milton Caniff, the famous cartoonist (you’ll read about him in a later blog). Cheerleaders also began to travel to away games, lead rallies, and cheer at basketball games when the football season was over. At this time the Student Senate selected the cheerleaders.


In the 1930s, before women joined the squad, the “Gentlemen of the Cheer” began adding more athletic stunts, including Evel Knievelesqe jumps over human pyramids—which they performed in jackets, sweaters and ties. The ’30s also marked the establishment of another favorite game-day tradition: Block O.

Around 1938 the first women’s squad was established, though they, of course, did not perform stunts. The Second World War took a toll on almost every aspect of campus, and cheerleading was no exception. With few men around, the girl cheerleaders got their own show. They also got Chris. Chris was a German Shepherd who performed tricks with the cheerleaders at half time.

First female cheerleading squad, 1938

"Chris" takes on an opponent, 1941









In the 1950s the “holler guys and gals” were selected by the two head cheerleaders and the faculty advisor. The uniform for that decade included sweaters for the men and for the women, skirts below the knee, a shirtwaist, sweater, white socks and saddle shoes. It wasn’t until 1968 that the skirts were shortened to their current length. Judging by some of the correspondence the University received at the time, Clara Rutherford was not the only one to get people riled up about proper feminine attire.















Filed by C.N.