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From Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana:


The Bear, as the mascot of Brown University, had its beginning when Theodore Francis Green 1887, a member of the building committee for Rockefeller Hall, placed the head of a real Brown bear above the arch that was the central feature of the trophy room in time for the opening of the new student union in January 1904. Green and other Brown men had felt a need for a definite symbol for Brown. He explained the choice of the bear thus: “While it may be somewhat unsociable and uncouth, it is good natured and clean. While courageous and ready to fight, it does not look for trouble for its own sake, nor is it bloodthirsty. It is not one of a herd, but acts independently. It is intelligent and capable of being educated (if caught young enough!) It is a good swimmer and a good digger, like an athlete who makes Phi Beta Kappa. Furthermore its color is brown; and its name is Brown.” The only known earlier attempt to have a mascot had occurred in 1902, when the Brown Daily Herald carried this notice on October 24: “Isaac L. Goff, the real estate man, has presented to the student body a brown and white burro, to be used as a mascot at the Harvard game, Saturday. The animal is valued at $100 and will arrive from Colorado Springs this morning.” The burro, frightened by the noise and the laughter which it provoked, showed very little aptitude as a mascot.

In the fall of 1905 the celebration committee decided to have a mascot for the Brown-Dartmouth football game and appointed W. Douglas Swaffield ’06 to obtain a brown bear and to escort it to Springfield. He engaged a bear named “Dinks” at Roger Williams Park, together with a keeper for him. On the day before the game, the Brown Daily Herald printed a new football song:

Oh, the Bear is for Brunonia,
But, boys, I have to smile,
For Dartmouth’s mascot ought to be
A green-backed crocodile.
However, on the day of the game (November 27th) Dinks retired to the corner of his cage and would not budge, and the bear that fascinated the spectators that day was his mate, the valiant “Helen,” who received a standing ovation on her entrance to Hampden Park. She was regarded as a good omen for Brown when the Dartmouth team arrived and she “squinted at them out of the corner of her left eye, growled ominously and raised a ready paw to strike the first near-redskin to come within the radius of her reach.” In spite of Helen, Brown lost.

The following season a student in a bear costume attended the game at Springfield. During the celebration of Brown’s victory the student “dropped exhausted,” whereupon “Another student sprang to fill the skin. On the way back to the city the mascots worked in relays.” Drawings of bears began to grace the pages of the Liber Brunensis, and the bear had gained acceptance as a mascot.

In 1921 a live bear was acquired and installed in a cage in the biology building, where he was much admired during his short life. His untimely death occurred when he was playing outside his cage and sampled some chemicals. The Class of 1922 as seniors acquired as a Spring Day mascot, a brother of the bear who had recently died. This bear was purchased from St. Margaret’s Church in Rumford, where he had been kept in the back yard since the church had purchased him for a celebration. This very durable bear, known as Bruno II, attended football games at home and away until Thanksgiving 1928, and then retired to Roger Williams Park, having grown to well over 500 pounds. Bruno II also had a short theatrical career in the spring of 1922 in a play, “Three Live Ghosts,” in a part which called for a young lamb, which was rewritten to give the bear an opportunity to appear.

Bruno III was a gift of Governor Louis J. Brann of Maine, presented to President Barbour at a dinner of the Brown Club of Boston in April 1936. Bruno III was afraid of crowds and climbed a tree from which rescue by the police was necessary at a football game in 1937. After that event, it was thought best that she live at the Slater Park Zoo. The Brown Key Society purchased an eight-month old cub in April 1938, another Bruno, who made his debut at the Brown-Harvard game in Cambridge, October 1, 1938. A succession of bears followed, many of them donated annually by Benson Wild Animal Farm with the understanding that at the end of the season the bear would be turned over to a zoo. When the cubs traveled to away games, they were housed in the neighboring city jails. It was reported in 1966 that it had been at least four years since there had been a live bear at the football games. A new cub was acquired from Delaware through the good offices of Mrs. Walter O’Keefe of Brook Street and made its first appearance at the game with Penn.

With the passing of a live bear as a fixture at the games, a series of students once more took his place in a bear costume. The occupant of the bear costume in 1968, Charles S. Carver ’69, recalled that his suit was rented from a Providence costume shop for the football games and that there was no bear at Parents Weekends that year as the bear suit had been rented out elsewhere as a Hallowe’en costume. One wearer of the bear costume with an appropriate name was Tim Bruno ’80. In the fall of 1980 Barbara Weiss donned the bear costume and became the first woman mascot in the Ivy League.

The Bear Fountain

When Faunce House was built, a bear fountain was installed in the courtyard. A present from Theodore Francis Green 1887, who had promoted the bear as Brown’s mascot, the bear is a bronze replica of one which he found presiding over a fountain in Breslau, Germany. Green made arrangements with the German sculptor, Professor Ernest Moritz Geyger, to cast a replica of the bear for Brown.

The Bronze Bruno

In 1922 at the fifteenth reunion of the class of 1907, the suggestion of a bronze bear as a class gift was brought up, but voted down in favor of the gift of a scholarship. Zechariah Chafee 1880, hearing of the idea, encouraged one of the class of 1907, Herbert B. Keen, to start a subscription among the alumni and was himself the first contributor. At the end of Commencement day $800 had been collected, and a spontaneous slogan “Put a Hair on the Bear” became the watchword of the campaign, encouraging alumni to subscribe a single hair for one dollar or a whole patch for one hundred. About $10,000 was needed. The Bronze Bruno committee selected Eli Harvey, animal sculptor of New York City, as sculptor of the bear. The committee proposed a life-size replica of the Kodiak Brown Bear.

At Commencement 1923, when the sculptor’s model was unveiled at the south end of the middle campus, Herbert B. Keen extolled the virtues of the bear as an example for the undergraduates, “because he typifies, in his magnificent strength, those qualities of fearlessness, hardihood and resistance to attack which make him a powerful opponent. We maintain that those of our young men who follow the example of the bear in these respects will make for better scholars than those who lack Bruno’s qualities.” Immediately after this ceremony the model was taken to the Gorham Company foundry. On August 18 it was cast in bronze in the presence of a large company which included Theodore Francis Green.

Some favored the site of the unveiling of the model as the permanent place for the bear, but it was decided that the statue would be placed in front of Marvel Gym on a pedestal containing a piece of slate rock said to have been stepped upon by Roger Williams when he alit from his canoe in 1636 at the place he was to name Providence. After Marvel Gym was closed, the statue was moved to the College Green.

The Kodiak bear

The big Kodiak bear which stands in Meehan Auditorium was presented to the University on October 15, 1948 by the alumni of the Middle West. Ronald M. Kimball ’18, friend of Jack Durrell, noted big game hunter who shot the bear, persuaded him to sell it, and Kimball and John J. Monk ’24 solicited funds to cover the purchase and moth-proofing of the bear. Durrell told this story of the event:

“My guide and I located this huge bear early one morning in March, 1938, on Sitka Peninsula, some 10 miles up the valley back of our camp. Through our binoculars, we watched him fight and whip four other bears (‘Named Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth, no doubt,’ Kimball interrupts.) He chased the last one over the top of the range. On his way back to the valley several hours later, we intercepted him while he was still some 300 yards above us. Knocked him down three separate times, but he got up each time and tried to get down to us and get even. My fourth shot, when he was much too close for comfort, blasted him off the ridge into an alder-filled gulch ... The guide estimated his weight at 1600, his hide alone weighing 150 pounds a month later. This bear, a Big Brown (true name, but vulgarly known as a Kodiak) was a fighter in every sense of the word, and should be a credit to Brown University.”
The bear was placed in the trophy room in Faunce House in a glass case, there to be admired by visitors until he moved to the lobby of the new Meehan Auditorium, where he still stands. During Brown’s bicentennial he made a trip to Boston to be present at the celebration of the Brown Club of Boston.

The Maddock Alumni Center Bear

The five-foot-six bronze bear in the yard at Maddock Alumni Center is the work of sculptor Nicholas Swearer, son of President Howard Swearer, from whom the statue was commissioned by the Class of 1949 as a parting recognition of the end of his administration. The statue was dedicated on November 12, 1988. At this time a miniature eighteen-inch bear was presented to President Swearer. This statue is of the mascot in a bear suit – the person inside can be detected by looking into the mouth of the bear.

The above entry appears in Encyclopedia Brunoniana by Martha Mitchell, copyright 1993 by the Brown University Library. It is used here by permission of the author and the University and may not be copied or further distributed without permission.

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