Happy Diamondback Terrapin Day! In 2010, Maryland Governor O’Malley designated May 13th as a day to recognize the important role that diamondback terrapins have in our environment and as an iconic state symbol.
We celebrate today by bringing you the story of a challenge our beloved university mascot faced 74 years ago. We all know that students at the University of Maryland take great pride in our mascot, but did you know that our administration does as well? In 1939, then-President Harry Clifton Byrd exchanged letters with Reginald Van Trump Truitt, professor of zoology, about who had the larger terrapin: a man named Hubert Applegarth down on the Eastern Shore, or the University of Maryland. President Byrd obviously believed that the University was home to the largest terrapin in the state, but kept the photos that Applegarth had sent and Truitt’s correspondence in his files. It is unclear who was right, but the photographic evidence does suggest (to our clearly unbiased eyes) that our beloved Testudo comes out on top.
The University Archives is honored to serve as the caretaker of the original Testudo of whom President Byrd was so proud and to mark this special day on the state’s calendar.
Please visit our exhibit, “Testudo Through Time,” on the first and second floors of McKeldin Library for more images of our beloved mascot.