(Photo credits to Martin College Library Archives)

“We would rather that the blackboards be greased every morning and the bell clapper stolen every night, rather than that the janitor’s livestock be herded in the library room and the professors hung in effigy from the college turrets than that the mildew of old fogyism should settle over our students, and their youthful enthusiasm and energy be quenched in four years of listless college life.”

~ College Days, Spring of 1873

Franklin and Marshall College has a rich and distinguished history of mischief, tomfoolery, and shenanigans. In other words, pranks. Along with the above entry from a College Days’ spring edition in 1873, another College Days edition from 1974 examined the diary descriptions of Henry Kyd Douglas, an F&M student from the 1850s. According to the College Days, Douglas and his clever compatriots would have been, “promptly dragged, in gags, and heavy chains, before the Student Conduct Committee” for their larks. To celebrate this heritage of hijinks, and perhaps inspire current students to improve their roster of practical jokes, here are some past tricks uncovered from Martin Library’s archives.

For example, although these legends are more fanciful fiction than fortified fact, a student from bygone days may have burned down a campus building.

Or fired a pistol from within a College building. 

Mayhaps, a rumor that is more factual than fiction, is a prank surrounding a duel. The duel’s cause is unknown. Perhaps it was over honor, justice, or stemmed from final exam stress. For the latter, one could assume that when duels were still a regular occurrence, therapy dogs did not exist to mitigate academic breakdowns.

For this duel, the challenged student pretended to be fatally wounded and bled from pokeberries. In true F&M fashion, the accidental “murderer” fled to Hagerstown and remained in hiding for several days. 

Paying homage to Lancaster’s agricultural endeavors, one November night in 1857, some students snuck into the Old Main, tossed out all the furniture and hymnals, and kidnapped a calf from a nearby field to hide in the chapel.

(Photo credits to Martin College Library Archives)

Setting a short-lived but truly verdant fashion trend, throughout April of 1873, students would wear green glasses whenever it snowed. 

Finally, a tradition at a highly revered F&M establishment:

Hildy’s Tavern.

Throughout the 1930s, students would swallow, open-mouthed and still flopping, a goldfish on rowdy evenings at Hildy’s Tavern. This fishy fad persisted until, most likely through personal experience, students realized goldfish may go down easy, but hardly remain down pleasantly. The Animal Rescue League and F&M biology department also intervened with well-intentioned disgust and concern. Frank Pope, an F&M senior in 1939, is quoted as saying in response to worried questioning on the reasons he ate three goldfish, “I did it to show up those Harvard bums and sissies. Anyway, I don’t like fish any other way. They haven’t much taste.”

One must wonder what happened to Frank Pope post graduation. 

However, one must also ponder what happened to George Rabb, a junior who ate six goldfish. When he was questioned, Rabb responded, “I did it just to show Frank Pope how simple his stunt was, and to show him that he is a sissy.”

Sophomore Teagan Durkin is the Opinions Editor for The College Reporter. Their email is tdurkin@fandm.edu.