All Terps are familiar with the bronze statues of our mascot Testudo that dot the campus, as well as the brown, furry Testudo who entertains the crowds at athletic and other campus events. Then, of course, there’s also the gaily decorated turtles that remain from the university’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2006 sprinkled here and there, including the UMD Archives’ very own “Champions All” here in Hornbake:
Many members of the campus community even know that the real Testudo, the live diamondback terrapin that was used as the model for the original bronze statue, the one that stands in front of McKeldin Library, has been taxidermied and mounted on a board and resides in the University Archives.
But perhaps the most amazing representation of Testudo was the mobile version known as Testudo II.
This crazy creature, constructed in 1965, was the brainchild of the Student Government Association. The Executive Committee was looking for ways to increase school spirit on campus and allocated $3400 from SGA’s annual budget to fund the project. Some members of the campus community initially objected to the cost, deeming the project a waste of money, but student leaders pushed ahead, and Testudo II made his debut at a pep rally and bonfire on December 3, 1965, the night before the annual football game with rival Penn State and the home opener for the men’s basketball team vs. Wake Forest.
He made his first appearance on national television the following day at the football game, when he rode around the track inside Byrd Stadium at halftime.
Testudo II was 15 feet long and approximately 6 feet high, and his shell measured 10 feet across. The firm Art Designer’s, Inc., in Arlington, VA, constructed the terrapin, which was water-proof, using a Triumph TR-3 roadster as the base. They chose this vehicle since it was lower to the ground than a Volkswagon Beetle or a Fiat, the original possibilities, and had a better frame and acceleration.
Following his December 1965 debut, Testudo II continued to appear at local events like Homecoming and even traveled on the road with the Terps, appearing, for example, in the Oyster Bowl parade in Norfolk, VA, in 1968 and the Peach Bowl parade in Atlanta, GA, in 1973.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to determine the fate of this fabulous creation, but we assume he disappeared sometime in the 1970s. If any of our readers know what happened to Testudo II, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave us a comment here on Terrapin Tales.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic to re-create this amazing Testudo? Come on, students in the Clark School of Engineering, we challenge you to make this happen! We bet you could even get some support from Maryland Athletics…
There are many great stories in college and university lore about kidnapping the mascot of a rival school, e.g. the Army mule and the Navy goat or USC’s theft of UCLA’s Victory Bell, among many other tales. Believe or not, our beloved Testudo was not immune from this phenomenon too!
The first Testudo statue was revealed on the afternoon of June 2, 1933, when a 400-pound replica of a Diamondback Terrapin was presented to University President Raymond A. Pearson by Ralph Williams, President of the Student Government Association (SGA). The original memorial, created at the Gorham Manufacturing Company in Providence, Rhode Island, was placed on a brick and stone pedestal, funded by donations from the SGA, outside of Ritchie Coliseum. Major Howard C. Cutler, the architect who designed the Coliseum, finalized plans for the base initially drawn by D.C.-area artist Joseph Himmelheber.
The Testudo-nappings began not long after the dedication. According to a short article from the September 23, 1958, issue of the Diamondback, Testudo was stolen from his perch outside Ritchie Coliseum twelve times in fifteen years, between its unveiling in 1933 and 1948. This blog post explores the more memorable kidnappings of Testudo from his perch outside Ritchie Coliseum, before the statue was filled with cement and relocated outside the football stadium in 1951.
The statue was first stolen on May 28, 1934, on a Monday night, the last day of the semester. At 8 AM the next morning, SGA President Warren S. Tydings and Ralph Williams, former SGA President who presented the memorial to University President Pearson, ordered a search. The thieves left “J.H.U.” painted in green on the statue’s base, hinting that the thieves were from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. University Vice President Harry Clifton “Curley” Byrd called Johns Hopkins’ auditor Henry Iddins, informing him of the theft. Through information obtained from a state policeman, the search party learned that the thieves, “who looked like college boys,” may have stopped at a gas station in Berwyn, where one thief acquired iodine and a bandage for an injured finger. Later in the afternoon, administrators were tipped off by a phone call from a University of Maryland student, informing them the statue was located at a Johns Hopkins fraternity house in the 3100 block of North Calvert Street. Ralph Williams called Baltimore Police requesting a search of the fraternity, to no avail. By the time the UMD search party prepared a trip to Baltimore, the statue had been found in front of a dormitory at Hopkins, surrounded by roughly sixty Hopkins students. The crowd was questioned by Iddins, who then demanded that the students return the statue. “Fun is fun, but this is carrying it too far,” Iddins said, adding that the statue “must have cost several thousand dollars–and is a beautiful piece of work.” University of Maryland authorities echoed similar sentiments, suggesting that the theft “transcended the prank stage.” While Johns Hopkins administrators suggested that the thieves, if caught, would be expelled, Hopkins Dean Edward Berry also said he did not expect the thieves to be identified.
Baltimore Sun – May 30, 1934
Diamondback – June 1, 1934
Testudo was stolen again by Johns Hopkins students early Saturday morning, May 17, 1941. When Maryland students discovered Testudo missing from his perch at the Coliseum, they immediately gave chase to the fleeing Hopkins students. After an unsuccessful pursuit, Maryland students alerted Baltimore Police of “the crime of the century,” who then notified Johns Hopkins officials of the theft. This time, Hopkins administrators found the bronze Terrapin locked up at the Homewood athletic field, where Hopkins students planned to bring the terrapin onto the field during intermission of a lacrosse match between Hopkins and the University of Maryland the next day. Instead, the Hopkins administrators sent Testudo back to the University of Maryland, much to the chagrin of their students. According to one Hopkins student, “about a hundred of us, certain that we’d beat the Marylanders this afternoon, got in autos and trucks and went to College Park last night to do something about that Terrapin.” For better or worse, by the time this gang of Hopkins students arrived, Testudo had already been taken by another group of “about fifty.” Police, searching for the terrapin, stopped the gang of Hopkins students several times, but, without Testudo, they were let go. “When we got back to Homewood,” one student said, Testudo was “on the steps of Levering Hall. So we locked it up and decided we’d pull it on the field this afternoon and give it back to its owners.”
Diamondback – May 20, 1941
Testudo was stolen several times in 1947. In the first instance, Johns Hopkins students captured the terrapin in May before the national championship lacrosse game. Sidewalks on the Johns Hopkins campus were painted by individuals who believed Maryland would beat Hopkins in the upcoming game. In retaliation, Hopkins students traveled to College Park and stole Testudo. As many as 25 Hopkins students were caught, “scalped,” and held hostage by University of Maryland students until Testudo was returned.
Later that same year, Testudo was stolen on Halloween night by University of Maryland students who resided in West Virginia. According to news accounts, on the evening before the theft, a student asked a police officer about the penalty for stealing Testudo. “Don’t know,” the officer replied, “it has never happened to a Maryland student.” In this case, Testudo was not painted or damaged, but temporarily removed and left “camouflaged in the greenhouse shrubbery.”
Only a month later, Testudo was stolen again from his pedestal outside Ritchie Coliseum, this time by students from Loyola College. Maryland students, less than excited by this specific kidnapping of Testudo by Loyola students, cited a lack of an athletic rivalry between the two schools as the reason for their indifference to his disappearance. In this case, Testudo allegedly attended a Loyola pep-rally and spent an evening on “The Block” on East Baltimore Street in downtown Baltimore. He was returned undamaged and without Loyola’s colors painted on him. Loyola students also sent a letter back with Testudo, thanking University President Byrd, for his “generous hospitality” in loaning them the statue and even wrapped Testudo in a blanket for his trek back to College Park.
After the abundance of kidnappings, Testudo was moved from his perch outside of Ritchie Coliseum into storage in the General Services Department on the east side of Route 1 for several years. Upon the completion of the new football stadium at the University of Maryland in 1950, Testudo was brought out of storage, relocated outside of the new stadium, and filled with cement to prevent future thefts. Seeking a more central location for the statue, students requested that it be moved to the front of McKeldin Library, where Testudo has resided safely since 1965.
A star was born 85 years ago today, June 2, 1933! As part of Class Day festivities celebrating the graduation of the Class of 1933, our beloved “real Testudo” completed her final task and unveiled the original bronze statue created in her likeness that stood in front of Ritchie Coliseum. But what led up to all this hoopla?
Athletic teams at the Maryland Agricultural College/ University of Maryland had had various nicknames over the years–the Farmers, Aggies, Old Liners, even the Ravens at one point–but the university had never had a mascot. Members of the Class of 1933 decided they wanted to correct this and worked with then-Vice President Harry Clifton Byrd to choose the appropriate animal and create the first bronze representation. While the students diligently gathered the necessary funds, Byrd wrote the owner of the Holland Sea Food Company in Crisfield, MD, his hometown, asking him to send
one big Diamondback Terrapin of Maryland variety, and not one of those that come from North Carolina. I want it to use as a model for a sculpture
When this beautiful creature arrived in College Park, SGA President Ralph Williams took her off on a train trip to Providence, RI, to meet up with sculptor Aristide Cianfarani for multiple modeling sessions. The Gorham Manufacturing Company, led at the time by former UMD quarterback Edmund Mayo, created the statue and dispatched it to College Park, where our plucky terrapin participated in the unveiling.
The original statue stood in front of Ritchie Coliseum, but, at 300-400 pounds in weight, was subject to frequent turtle-napping by rival schools. When university officials tired of tracking down the missing bronze and arranging for its return, they filled Testudo with cement and steel rods, bringing its total weight to approximately 1,000 pounds, and permanently attached the piece to its base. They also decided to move Testudo to a more secure location, and, after several shifts, positioned the statue in front of McKeldin Library in 1965, where it remains to this day.
The popularity of this university symbol has led to the creation of additional replicas, located across the campus. You can find Testudo near the information desk in the Stamp, at two different spots in Maryland Stadium, at the top of the south stairs at Xfinity, on a brick pathway at the Riggs Alumni Center, and now in the Robert L. and Gertrude M. Edwards Courtyard at Van Munching Hall.
So when you pass one of the statues today, give Testudo’s nose a vigorous rub for good luck and wish our beloved mascot “Happy Birthday!”
It’s final exam time, and not only do students rub Testudo’s nose for good luck, they also leave offerings of various sorts at his feet–food, candles, beer, notes, furniture, flowers, and on and on. The UMD Archives does not routinely preserve all of this, but we did save one little verse left for our beloved terrapin in the late 1990s:
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of exams I shall fear no question, for thou art with me. Thy shell and thy nose, they comfort me. Thou preparest a pen for me in the face of mine professors Thou anointest my head with knowledge, my cup runneth over Surely good grades and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life And I will dwell in the house of the Terrapin forever. Help us in our hour of need, Testudo!
Wishing all our Terps much success during exams and a terrific winter break!
Thought you might appreciate this little prayer left among many offerings for Testudo at finals time in the late 1990s. We found this again recently while looking for the answer to another reference questions related to our beloved mascot.Enjoy, and good luck on exams!
A Prayer to Testudo
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of exams
I shall fear no question, for thou art with me
Thy shell and thy nose, they comfort me
Thou preparest a pen for me in the face of mine professors
Thou anointest my head with knowledge, my cup runneth over
Surely good grades and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Terrapin forever
37 is for the number of sections on (the original) Testudo’s shell
Testudo, we all know him. Whether as the mascot who tirelessly cheers our sports teams to victory, or the subject of statues and artwork throughout the campus and the College Park area, or maybe even as the dapper guy on the right asking out three sorority sisters at once, he is a constant presence in our lives at the University of Maryland. But did you know that the University Archives at Hornbake Library has the preserved remains of the real-life diamondback terrapin who served as the model for the Testudo statues, like the one in front of McKeldin? This treasure is the subject of today’s post!
Our story begins in January 1933, when Harry Clifton “Curley” Byrd, then an assistant to University President Raymond A. Pearson, wrote a letter to the Holland Sea Food Company in Crisfield, Maryland, his hometown. Byrd instructs Mr. Holland to send:
“one big diamondback terrapin of Maryland variety, and not one of those that come from North Carolina. I want it to use as a model for a sculpture.”
The impetus behind acquiring this turtle originated with the Senior Class of 1933, which wished to leave behind a terrapin statue as a class gift. Consequently Dr. Byrd purchased “Archbishop,” aka “Archie,” (soon to be re-christened Testudo) and sent him on to Providence, Rhode Island, to be modeled in bronze by the Gorham Manufacturing Company under the direct supervision of Maryland Agricultural College Class of 1904 alum — and former quarterback — Edmund C. Mayo. “Archbishop” traveled overnight on the train in the company of Senior Class President Ralph Williams, who was also responsible for bringing “Archie” back alive to participate in the statue’s dedication.
According to the May 27, 1933, issue of the Old Line student magazine, Mr. Mayo, now president of Gorham Manufacturing, produced the statue at cost, after Aristide Cianifarani made a model of the live terrapin in clay, based on designs by Joseph Himmelheber. The base of the statue was a separate gift from the Student Government Association, and was likewise produced at cost by Bunt Watkins based on designs by Major Howard Cutler, who had previously designed Ritchie Coliseum, where the statue was to reside.
As to the reasoning behind the gift-giving, the unsigned article continues:
“The memorial has been erected for two purposes. First, it will perpetuate the symbol that the University has adopted, and second, it is to serve as an award to the class winning the annual Freshman-Sophomore struggle. The name of each victorious class is to be engraved each year on a bronze plaque on the base of the memorial, for ten years. After that, bronze plates will be placed around the top of the base, to perpetuate the conquering classes in name at least.
The bronze Terrapin is five feet long, twenty inches high and three feet wide. The original, who measures ten inches, will help unveil his own image on June 2.”
On the day of the big reveal, “Archie” was again called into service. As reported by the Diamondback, “with a string attached to the cloth covering the bronze image and tied about his neck, he ambled off at the precise moment and unveiled his image.”
Unfortunately, the strain of his duties and a particularly hot summer proved too much for Testudo née Archbishop, and he died shortly thereafter. Again, the Diamondback reported, “Dr. R.V. Truitt, head of the Zoology Department, has kept ‘Archie’s’ remains in a state of preservation and now the S.G.A. has essayed to finance the mounting of the terrapin so that he may repose in the Coliseum to arrest the curious gaze of future generations of Maryland students.”
“Archbishop” no longer lives at Ritchie Coliseum, but instead enjoys a quieter after-life, preserved in a humidity-controlled case in a vault in the University Archives at Hornbake Library.
Many classes that tour the Archives and all visitors to Hornbake on Maryland Day have the chance to count the number of sections on his shell and take selfies with the university’s most famous diamondback terrapin! The campus community is forever grateful for his brave sacrifice. Happy Maryland Day, everyone! Don’t forget to stop by Hornbake and visit the real Testudo!
This is a post in our new series on Terrapin Tales called UMD123! Similar to our “ABC’s of UMD” series last semester, posts in this series will take a look at the university’s history “by the numbers.” New posts will come out twice a month, on Wednesdays, throughout the semester; search “UMD123” or check out Twitter#UMD123to see the rest. If you want to learn more about campus history, you can also visit our encyclopedia University of Maryland A to Z: MAC to Millennium for more UMD facts.
In 1902, Maryland Agricultural College did something it had failed to do in ten years of playing collegiate football: it hired a coach. Up until then, teams were coached and managed exclusively by the students, with entirely mixed results. D. John Markey (pictured below) was a Frederick, Maryland businessman who had played football at Western Maryland College and was recruited to coach for the princely sum of $300 (approximately $8,000 today). Once he accepted, Markey brought about changes that had an immediate impact, if not entirely on the scoreboard.
According to several published sources, Markey brought an emphasis on physical fitness and fundamentals that had been lacking in previous years. According to Kings of American Football, a 1952 history of the Maryland football program, Markey “installed the first tackling dummy every seen there, and insisted his squad learn the fundamentals of tackling and blocking.” Newspapers during the season remarked on the team’s improvement from previous years, and the student yearbook remarked on the improved student interest in the team, as well as its “first-class” management.
The most recent issue of TERP magazine includes not only the regular “Ask Anne” column of university history mysteries but also a special feature on some of the most interesting, unusual, and unexpected artifacts from Maryland’s history. The feature, “Pieces of UMD,” highlights several objects, including former Dean of Men Geary Eppley’s football jersey, the cornerstone box from the cadet Barracks, destroyed in the 1912 fire, and the original Testudo. Additional artifacts, such as a bottle of Curley Byrd whiskey and a gas mask carried by a student during the Vietnam War protests of the 1970s appear in the online version of the article. Visit http://terp.umd.edu/pieces-of-umd to see the whole array.
Tell us if this situation sounds familiar. You find yourself walking past the famed Testudo statue in front of McKeldin Library and really want to give his nose a solid rub for good luck. The only problem is that you don’t know how many dirty, germ-infested hands have touched that same exact surface just moments before. Such a scenario could dissuade anyone, even the most loyal of Testudo lovers, from giving the 80-year-old statue a rub for good luck.
The Testudo statue was unveiled in 1933 by an actual diamondback terrapin.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank has no problem rubbing the statue’s nose.
You have no need to worry, though, because it turns out that Testudo’s nose is much cleaner than you may think. Copper and its alloys, including bronze, are anti-microbial surfaces, which in short means that the surface kills bacteria, yeasts, and viruses on contact. This discovery is nothing new or ground-breaking. In fact, early human civilizations, dating back to 2000 B.C., used copper as a means to better sterilize their drinking water. Recently though, copper and its alloys have been put to use in public places in an effort to prevent the spread of bacteria and germs transferred on frequently touched surfaces.
So the next time you pass up the coveted opportunity to give Testudo’s nose a rub for good luck, remember that he is killing more bacteria and germs than he is actually spreading. Chances are his nose is much cleaner than a lot of other surfaces we have no problem touching every day. No need to fear the turtle.
Ever get tired of drinking the same old Coca-Cola or Pepsi? Wish you could drink an alternative cola while displaying your passionate school spirit at the same time? Well, in 1967, you could! Say hello to Terrapin Cola, distributed by University Food Services starting in 1967.
For 15 cents students could buy a 12-ounce can of Terrapin Cola, featuring their own school mascot Testudo. What could be more exciting than that? Well, apparently a lot of things. For one, it was reported that Terrapin Cola made the university a 125% profit. On top of that, Terrapin Cola tasted horrible, no matter how hard students tried to like it.
In an article published by the Diamondback, which can be read in its entirety here, students reacted negatively to the taste of the controversial new product. Students commented that Terrapin Cola tasted like “RC with garlic added,” that it “doesn’t have any oomph,” and finally, that “it’s very good embalming fluid.” In fact, four out of five students agreed that the product did not taste good and that it would be a great idea if only a decent-tasting cola was in the can. Students also stressed their concern about the price, saying that it would “taste a lot better at 10 cents a can” and that the university is “making a huge profit and keeping it for themselves.”
So exactly how much profit was the university making, and where was this profit going? According to two more Diamondback articles referencing the controversy, there was never really as much profit as was originally reported, considering the costs it takes to put the product into the consumer’s hand. Also, the profit made on Terrapin Cola actually benefited students directly and was not stashed in some secret fund as some students believed. As to quality, it was confirmed that Terrapin Cola, despite its nasty taste, did in fact meet federal and state regulations.
It seems like Terrapin Cola was an honest attempt to give students a new, exciting choice, not to intentionally rip them off. Apparently that plan backfires, though, when you fill the can with something that tastes like battery acid.
Maybe “Terrapin Beer” could have been a more popular alternative…