ABC’s of UMD: Letter P

P is for PROM!

We’ll bet that you thought that Prom was a high school tradition that got left far behind when you entered the university! Not always!

In the university’s earlier years, when classes were a lot smaller, there were many formal dances each year, and both the junior and senior class would organize a prom, usually held off-campus in the ballroom of a hotel in downtown Washington, DC, or at a country club in the area. The first mention of a junior prom in the yearbook occurs in the 1913 volume, the editors noting in the following year’s senior class history that the prom was a big success despite the heavy rains that prevented Governor Goldsborough and his wife and other prominent members of the receiving line from attending.

Crowd at 1923 Junior Prom.
Crowd at 1923 Junior Prom.

By the time the prom tradition disappears from campus, c. 1967, the freshman and sophomore classes are also hosting these special evenings for their members and selecting queens for these annual events. The Queen of the Junior Prom became Miss Maryland, and she was often selected by a major celebrity at the time, e.g. Jack Paar or Cyril Ritchard, or the heads of New York modeling agencies, like Harry Conover

Bev May, Junior Prom Queen, 1958.
Bev May, Junior Prom Queen, 1958.

Students received favors for attending the dances, such as a leather belt with a UMD buckle for the men and a bracelet or a ladies’ compact complete with powder and a small comb for the ladies, examples of which we have in the University Archives.

Compact given as a prom favor in 1922.
Compact given as a prom favor in 1922.

There would also be an elaborate dinner in connection with the dance. For example, in 1922, the menu included chicken patties, creamed oysters, ice cream and lots of cake.

It is likely that the changing student attitudes and the effects of civil rights and anti-war protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s brought an end to this tradition of campus-wide proms.

This is the 16th post in our series on Terrapin Tales called ABC’s of UMD! Posts will come out twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays, throughout the semester. If you want to learn more about campus history, check back weekly to see what we’ve picked to highlight, and you can also visit our encyclopedia University of Maryland A to Z: MAC to Millennium for more UMD facts.

Do you have other ABC’s about campus? Let us know in the comments below!

Check back on Monday, October 26, for Letter Q!

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