On exhibit August 29, 2008 - December 19, 2008
Initiating freshmen into "college life" was, for upperclassmen, a long-standing ritual at many of this nation's institutions of higher education, including Penn. Some of these traditions eventually came to be considered forms of hazing and were banned. While they lasted, however, they gave rise to a fascinating documentary genre, the Freshman Broadside.
These flyers and posters, typically authored by sophomores, proclaimed the rules by which incoming freshmen must abide. The earliest known examples date from shortly after the Civil War, and with the outbreak of the Second World War the genre all but disappeared. Broadsides might be as small as 7 inches or as large as 40 inches. Many were illustrated (often with cartoonish violence); some were written in verse; and all of them remain enthralling. Often composed satirically, in the style of late 18th-century broadsides (Oyez! Oyez!; STOP! LOOK! LISTEN!), broadsides typically listed rules that might include the wearing of freshman "beanies," forbidding the presence of cuffs on trousers, or smoking in public (but also requiring freshmen always to carry matches with which to light up an upperclassman's pipe), prohibiting walking on the grass, and similar restrictions. The tradition of posting such rules proliferated at the turn of the last century, when colleges began to clamp down on more violent forms of hazing. The rules then became a "benign" form of hazing, although punishments for breaking them might still be carried out by a dunking in a local river or a swift paddling by a gang of sophomores.
Peter Zinman started collecting freshman broadsides while a freshman at Dartmouth College nearly two decades ago. Since then, he has amassed what is without doubt the world's largest collection of the genre, more than three hundred examples of the posters and postcard reproductions. This exhibit presents dozens of the most interesting and unusual in his collection as well as a number of Penn-related items from the University Archives. Several date from the second half of the nineteenth century
Exhibition reception: Wednesday, September 10th, 5:30pm
Talks by Peter Zinman, collector, and Mary McConaghy, University of Pennsylvania Archives & Record Center.