Perhaps one of the few Ohio State traditions students wish to stay buried is the class cap, otherwise known as the beanie. Freshmen (men only) were forced to wear the caps in the name of creating school spirit and class unity. The caps and rules were in use from 1912 until the mid-century. Wearing of the caps was just one of the rules enforced by “all men of the upper classes;” however, members of the junior men’s honorary, Bucket and Dipper, were the only people ever authorized, by the Student Senate and the President of the University, to carry out the traditional punishment: namely, throwing offenders into Mirror Lake. Ironically, if some unauthorized person attempted to chuck a freshman in the lake, Bucket and Dipper members were honor-bound to protect the freshman.

Freshmen men were required to wear the caps from Freshman Week at the beginning of the term, until Cap Bonfire on Tradition Day, in June. Students caught without their beanies, or violating one of the other rules for freshmen, were punished. As one Alumni Monthly article put it: “Irregular meetings of Bucket and Dipper are held when freshmen are chased from the Long Walk and from the steps of University or Derby Hall.” These meetings convened on the edge of Mirror Lake and ended with the freshmen taking a swim. Other rules that could earn a freshman a dunking: skipping Chapel (mandatory until 1926), offending an upper classman (signs were sometimes spotted near the Long Walk that said “Bucket and Dipper go to Hell”), or setting foot on the Long Walk, the main path students took to get from one end of the Oval to the other.

As for Bucket and Dipper, the 14 members at that time were all junior men and had been chosen for their leadership, scholarship and service. Such alumni luminaries as Chic Harley and Milton Caniff were members. During their initiation, members were thrown in Mirror Lake, so perhaps they had the prerequisite experience needed to do the same to the freshmen.

Every June, freshmen had a chance for revenge during a two-day “war” on Bucket and Dipper that usually consisted of a tug-of-war competition across Mirror Lake. Unfortunately for the freshmen, they consistently still ended up in the lake. At night, students would gather for the Cap Bonfire, when some freshmen opted to burn their beanies (many freshmen did keep their beanies as a memento of their servitude). Following the bonfire, many freshmen (again, ladies were excluded) went for a walk in their shirttails to cause a ruckus outside the home of then-OSU President William Oxley Thompson. In 1926 Bucket and Dipper attempted to delay the burning; in the melee that followed, 103 freshman were thrown into the lake and police were called. The following year, Thompson’s successor, George Rightmire, forbade Bucket and Dipper from dunking anyone, whether they deserved it or not. From then on, it appears the Bucket and Dipper initiates were the only ones to go swimming.

As for the caps themselves, fashion in hats changed rather rapidly. Some prime examples from Ohio State include the “peanut-shaped skull cap,” “knitted toboggan” cap or “jockey-style” cap, or one with a “rolled brim topped with a scarlet button.”


-Caitlin Near

Freshman Week group by oval, 1929

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The Ohio State University Archives