The swaggering dudes in this 1908 photograph are the victorious freshman class of 1912, which consisted of 68 young men (five are missing from the photo, possibly unable to stand upright). These freshies had just quashed the considerably smaller class of 1911 sophs (only 39) in a fierce contest known as Cane Rush.
Well into the 20th century, vigorous rivalry between the freshmen and the sophomores was part of the Denison culture, and every October the superiority of one class over the other was tested and proven during an annual release of energy known as “Scrap Day.” That’s “scrap” as in “tussle.”
Cane Rush, Flag Rush, and Pole Rush were the most common scraps and all three involved one class rushing at the other on the playing field, tackling and even tying up the opposing team members with rope and dragging them off the field. In Cane Rush, the stick or “cane” was object of the battle — to possess it and to move it as deeply as possible into the opponent’s territory. The cane can be seen being held by the fellow at the base of the “1,” probably freshman class president Robert B. Whyte.
“Slugging and kicking” were against the rules, but college administrators were clear that “Wholesome class rivalry over this beautiful Denison tradition [of Scrap Day] is a thing to be commended.” At 2:15, President Emory Hunt “extended his handkerchief and dropped it, and the battle was on.” The brawl lasted all of 15 minutes, after which “the majority of both classes was ready to quit.”
It was tradition that the young ladies of the two classes would arrive on horse-drawn hay wagons decorated in class colors, singing and cheering throughout the scrap. At the end, the winners were served cups of hot coffee by the girls, and after this 1908 event, it was reported that they made room on their wagon for an injured sophomore to be carried back to campus from Beaver field.
Scrap Day also included other contests between the two younger classes, including relays, a tug of war over Raccoon Creek, and usually a football game. By the 1940s, D-Association athletes converted Scrap Day into D-Day, adding an all-campus picnic and an evening dance. The tradition of a freshman-sophomore tug of war continued much later into the century than the scrap games, eventually moving to Ebaugh Pond. 1960s graduates will remember the October tug of war as the battle to liberate themselves from their humble beanies.