Life Among The Lower Classes: Rats and Rivalries

The early years of Maryland Agricultural College were marked by spirited competition amongst all of the classes, but none perhaps as intense as the battles between the freshman (known as ‘rats’ back then) and sophomores.

Tug of War over Paint Branch Creek, c. 1920

The classes competed in all manner of sport and competition, from forms we would recognize today (baseball, football) to events that have faded into obscurity.  One such event was the cane rush–an event where each class fought (with much violence) to drag a thick cane deep into the other’s territory.  Another was the tug of war, the loser being dragged into Paint Branch Creek, and then forced to pull the other class home on a wagon.

The victors in these contests counted among their honors the ability to fly their class flag over campus until the next battle took place.  For the freshman ‘rats,’ victory was one more step towards overcoming their lowly status and nickname.  Others could only aspire to ‘rat’ status, as this page from the 1916 yearbook, depicting the prep classes, suggests. Here the rats write the history of the ‘lowest’ form of academic life at the time, the ‘sub-freshmen.’ Compared to all that, freshman today don’t have it so bad!

“Sub-Freshmen,” 1916 Reveille yearbook, page 79. All of our yearbooks are digitized and available here.

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One thought on “Life Among The Lower Classes: Rats and Rivalries

  1. Pingback: 90 years ago in the Diamondback: Annual ‘Snow Fight’ Won by Freshmen | Terrapin Tales

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