“The Yale man, from the primeval days of the College up to the present time… has waxed so much more important, so much more interesting in these last few years… Yea, verily, he is a creature of fads and fancies, yet not, as a rule, feminine… He is not, however, the absolutely independent creature he was in the good old days of life-at-Yale.”
“The spirit of democracy, once the very life and atmosphere of the University, is somewhat vitiated. A radical change has been crystallizing and shaping itself into a partial demolition of the old democratic feeling. Indeed, each year marks the sturdy growth of a certain conservatism among the men that may, in time, infuse into the swift-flowing current of past belief in the ‘rights and chances’ of all students the sluggish blood that permits but few men to stand upon their own merits, and regards no longer wealth and social prestige as mere relatives in the career of the average man at Yale.
This gradual decay of democracy at Yale is somewhat due, perhaps, to the large gifts that have been made the College during the last few years. Out of these gifts have sprung magnificent new dormitories. Vanderbilt Hall, located on the Campus, with its front facing Chapel street, its back windows overlooking the Campus, with the view extending to the rear of the Elm street dormitories, is the most magnificent building Yale has ever had.
Osborn and Welch Halls pale into insignificance when thrown into comparison with it; and even Durfee, here-to-fore the most popular of all the dormitories, its very atmosphere being fraught with sweet and tender associations, has, perforce, resigned itself to the inevitable, and stands to-day second in the race. Impossible as it may seem to the casual observer of human nature for a choice of dormitories to influence the career of a man at college, it would take but a short time to convince the dissenter of the importance of it, if only he would look into the matter seriously.
As an illustration, let us set forth the poor ventilation, the squeaking, rickety old stairs, and the dingy, unattractive walls of South Middle. Take in comparison the high, well-ventilated rooms in Vanderbilt Hall, with their luxurious baths, their steam heat and their electric lights. As a natural sequence it follows that the rooms there rent for more than at South Middle, and that the sons of rich men are the ones who are apt to secure them.
To be sure there is a class distinction preserved, and drawing for first choice has cut many a rich man out of a room in Vanderbilt, and yet, as a good illustration, the vast difference in the life of the men who live at South Middle and that of the occupants of Vanderbilt Hall has suggested itself as a ‘survival of the fittest.’ Thus banded together by location of rooms and the closer lie, perhaps, of transmitted mutual likes and dislikes, it becomes impossible for the old-time famous class spirit to exist as absorbingly as of yore.
To keep up to the code of laws laid down by the conventionalities instituted at Yale requires a certain amount of money, usually not small, and seldom wholly indispensable; so that, while the poor man is not debarred the chance of success, the odds are double those that were against him in the early days of the University. The growth of the College during the last few years is largely due to the energetic efforts of President Dwight, under whose regime most of the magnificent gifts have been made. He is acknowledged one of the most successful of the several brilliant men who have occupied the Presidential chair, and the University has much for which it should be grateful to him.”
“Consider how far the vanity of mankind has laid itself out in dress.” —Sir R. Steele.
“The decline of democracy at Yale has practically changed the entire life of the students. In the old days, but little attention was given to the details of dress. Now it is one of the features of the University, and, while not judging a man entirely by his clothes, the ‘birds of brilliant plumage’ naturally soar higher and see more of life at its best than they of the more somber feathers.
Yale men are never dudes — let it be said to their credit; they have a certain style of their own, however. that marks them the men of fashion and characterizes them as well-dressed men among the people of the outer world. The tendency to loud dressing, never very strong, has somewhat developed within the last few years, and the men dress more conspicuously each season.
In the early spring. New Haven might easily be taken for the ‘advance sheets’ of summer life at Narragansett Pier, for with the first warm day broadbrimmed straw hats, white duck trousers, summer shirts, and loose coats are in order. In twos and threes, in quartettes and double quartettes, these jauntily dressed sons of Eli saunter first up and then down Chapel street — the great promenade of New Haven. They stare at the pretty girls, they smoke their briar-wood pipes, they do everything and anything they please, for Yale men run the town!”
“Drink, pretty creature, drink!” —Wordsworth.
“It is an undisputed fact that the up-to-date Yale man becomes a man in almost every instance before he has attained his twenty-first year. The bloom of youth still upon his cheek, the down of an incipient moustache only just beginning to show, the half developed figure — are all only outward indications of the boy. Few, if any, pass through Freshman year without having had the bloom rubbed off or at least diminished, and the student who does not know the world at the end of Sophomore year is a cad indeed.
The life from the very beginning has a tendency to initiate, to develop, to straighten out the awkward lines, to turn the callow youth into a man-about-town, with all the easy indifference of manner, the sangfroid that belonged a decade ago to the man of thirty or forty years’ experience. In Freshman year the chances for knocking about are somewhat limited, but in Sophomore year every opportunity is afforded the student to see life and to live it.
It is a remarkable fact, and one then worthy of note, that as a rule the Yale man of to-day has the strongest kind of character; for, while the sporting contingent is a large one, there is something within most of the students that guides them over all the shoals, landing them safely upon the shore of futurity, with perhaps a few slight blemishes, seldom, however, with ineffaceable ones.”
“The men, while not permitted to shirk their studies and while rigidly ‘kept up to the mark’ by the faculty, manage nevertheless, to weave in a lot of holiday fun. Athletics have long furnished a diversion. They are, in fact, a world-wide source of interest, constituting to-day a part of the University almost as indispensable as the buildings themselves. To be prominently identified with athletics, therefore, furnishes a man a ‘pull’ both with the College and the world at large.
The sporting contingent is the one that has the most fun, as it is also the one that numbers many of the most popular men. A glimpse into Moriarty’s restaurant after a big game out at the field, when the students are in truth celebrating, gives one as correct an idea as any of the fun they have on occasions. ‘Mory’s,’ as it has been dubbed from the very beginning, was started in 1858.
For years Moriarty himself ran it, and after his death Mrs. Moriarty took possession. At present it is in charge of Edward Oakley, whom the students call ‘Eddie.’ Oakley is very popular with them. His restaurant is the best patronized of any in New Haven, with the exception perhaps of Traeger’s. It is exclusively for College men. There are two rooms downstairs that are used by them.
A corner of the favorite one is given in the sketch. On one side, on the wall, hangs the top of a table that for years occupied the center of the room. ‘Mory’ allowed the men to carve their initials upon its polished surface. When it was so covered with initials and dates as to permit of no more, he hung it as an ornament, substituting another in its place, which is going through the same process of indentation.”
“The loving cup, an institution at Yale, is especially a fad down at ‘Mory’s.’ When in jovial mood after a big victory, the men in cliques of a dozen or so collect around the tables, the loving cup is brought out, and all quaff from its depths some delicious concoction that only ‘Mory’ and his successors know how to brew.
In ’85 a club calling itself the ‘velvet club’ was organized. Each year marks the enlistment of six new members, four being taken from the Academic department and two from Sheff. The cup used by the members of this very exclusive club is a large, handsomely designed pewter one. The names of the men who are taken in each year are inscribed upon its surface. The club’s appellation was given it because of the smoothness of the drink composed of champagne and porter.”
“A Harvard man once invited to spend an evening with the ‘velvet club,’ returned to Cambridge most enthusiastic. He declared to his friends that the loving cup used at Yale seemed bottomless, so many times did they all drink from it. The Yale men, on the other hand, rated that Harvard student the biggest kind of a ‘tank,’ yet, without expostulation paid an immense bill for Eddie’s surreptitious filling of the cup that has since given them such a reputation throughout college-dom.
‘Mory’s’ is the great place for Welsh rarebits and golden bucks. Ale, too, is one of the specialties. It is served in old English pitchers called Toby’s. The entire house, for that matter, is done up after an English house, the bar being an exact reproduction of those found in old English inns. ‘Mory’s’ is seldom done over.”
“The students are greatly opposed to any change. An example of their fondness for the familiar environments of the place was given several years ago, when a new and more modern wall-paper was put upon the two rooms used by them. As ‘Eddie’ expressed it, the ‘kick’ was so tremendous he was obliged to go out and hunt up some other as near like the old as possible, which only in half pacified his patrons, who said it was a ‘living shame to thus discard the old love for the new.’
‘Fly Loo’ and ‘Cutting the London Directory’ were in days-gone-by among the old standbys in the way of amusements at ‘Mory’s’.
‘Fly Loo’ is a game that seldom holds the attention until the contents of a certain number of Toby’s have been disposed of. It then becomes astonishingly interesting. Every man takes a lump of sugar. By mutual agreement they decide how much money shall be put under each lump. Sometimes it is five cents, sometimes ten, and so on up to any amount agreed upon. Then, many of them nodding, all of them a little the worse for wear, they sit patiently watching their sugar. The first one to have a fly light upon his lump calls ‘Fly Loo!’ which gives him the bank or a right to all the money put up by his nodding friends.
‘Cutting the London Directory’ is another old game. This one is to decide who shall pay for the first round of drinks. A back number of the London Directory is brought out. Selecting a letter of the alphabet, each man in rotation opens the book at random. The one who turns to the letter the greatest distance from the one selected is obliged to do the treating.”
“Hickory, Dickory, Dock!” —Nursery Rhymes.
“There is hardly a man in college who doesn’t know the cuckoo call of the old clock in the little back room at Traeger’s. Traeger’s is vastly popular — a popularity that is steadily on the increase. Like Mory’s, it is named for its proprietor. In this Viennese room with its stained glass windows, its dark wood wainscoted finish, its modishness in the matter of cornice shelves, with their decoration of steins and pewter mugs, the small square tables and high-backed carved chairs, the great fireplace and the general air of luxury and comfort that pervade it. Everything combines to make it one of the favorite ‘dropping in places’ for the students. It is surely a close second in popularity to Mory’s, many, in fact, claiming that today it stands foremost on the list.”
“It goes without saying that Freshmen are received neither at Mory’s nor at Traeger’s, but for that matter there are no cafes in town, patronized by upperclassmen, that cater to them. In June, after they have taken their examinations, and are enrolled as Sophomores, they are permitted their first glimpse of these places. ‘Eddie’ tells many an amusing story of their ‘freshness’ upon these occasions. Most of them swagger in, and with an assumed dignity of manner order, in a very loud voice, ‘Beer, sir!’ The die is cast, they have irretrievably stamped themselves with the Freshman hallmark; for the waiter, in a voice cold, yet not unmixed with suppressed amusement, makes answer, ‘We do not serve beer here, you know.’ ‘Oh!’ exclaims ‘freshie;’ then lowering the voice, he says, confidentially, ‘Let me have a plate of ice-cream, please.’ But the Freshmen have their own particular ‘joints’ all through the year, where weak lemonades, fresh-laid eggs, and big glasses of sweet, pure milk are served, and where they can put their feet on the deal-tables, and swagger a bit, in a way they consider a clever imitation of the ‘sports’ of the upper classes…”
“While the average man finds the entire year well sprinkled with fun and amusement, June is probably the month that chronicles the greatest number of ‘larks.’ The bottled up spirits of all the classes are then uncorked, and all sorts and kinds of diversions are resorted to. The ‘pajama parade’ is now a three-year-old feature of the month of June.
The seniors in their pajamas assemble on the Campus, with the intention only of smoking quietly beneath the light of a jolly-faced approving moon. But, up-to-date, the temptation to break away from all conventionalities has been too great for them, and in June of ’94 the pajama fiends cut up all sorts of pranks, promenading in reckless confusion down Chapel street, climbing electric poles, dancing can-cans, and waltzing to the tunes of ‘Boom de aye’ and ‘Mamie, come kiss your honey boy.’
The local press rather criticized the students for this bit of a ‘lark,’ yet in defense of them one or two papers came out with articles advocating the pajama as a summer costume, to be adopted by the habitues of Bar Harbor and Narragansett Pier…”
“A man’s chief passion is easily distinguished in the decoration of his room. Let him love the stage, and the walls show dozens of photographs of pretty actresses and well-known actors. If athletics are his hobby, all sorts of field trophies are among his collection of bric-a-brac; a half-inflated football is depended from the chandelier; a score or more of tennis-balls, with a date, and perhaps some sentimental inscription upon their surface, are hanging from either chandelier or from the cabinet shelves over the fireplace; a baseball bat lies over the top of a handsome gilt frame that encloses the face of a dimpled Psyche or a picture of St. Cecilia.
A collector of ‘steins’ has them showing from every available crevice and corner. A fad peculiar ta a great many men is that of the pipe. The class numerals, in white on Yale blue paper, are a universal decoration — every man in college having a passion for them. Flags, too, are conspicuous in most of the rooms.”
“Sign-stealing is another popular craze. A good collection includes all sorts and kinds, ranging from the tiniest placard to a gaudy, much painted barber’s pole. A scene, perhaps as picturesque as any during the year, occurs usually on the Saturday following the Thursday, when college comes together. Then it is the football candidates meet at the Yale field for practice and trial for place on the Varsity and Freshmen elevens.
The day, warm and summer-like, finds the students still in their summer clothes. While the athletic men disport themselves on the gridiron, long lines of upper and under class men are formed about the field, on the bleachers and again crowding into the grand stand. Everybody is in good spirits. Old scores are forgotten; the triumphs and jealousies of the previous term drift for the time being into oblivion, and a general welcome of hearty handshaking, with a ‘How are you, old chap?’ cements a friendship among the men that places them all on an equal footing for that one afternoon at least.
Have we not, then, correctly said that the Yale man-up-to-date is a creature of fads and fancies? Yet, with all his faults we love him as do we approve of him, for in all America there is no college that has the men we find at Yale.”
-Excerpt and images courtesy of the HathiTrust Digital Library, University of California, “The Yale man up-to-date; with character sketches,” by Jean Pardee, Price New Haven, 1894