From Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana:
Freshman caps were first worn in 1907, when the Cammarian Club, in an attempt to strengthen class spirit, ruled that freshmen would wear brown Eton caps from the beginning of the year until May 30. In 1908 the style was improved so that the new cap would “fit closely about the head without the bulge in front, but will be larger than the small skull cap used last year, thus ensuring more adequate protection for the head during inclement weather. As last year, the cap will be brown in color with a white inch-and-a-half button on top.” A freshman who tried to sell his own style of cap in defiance of the prohibition of the Cammarian Club was apprehended and put under the pump by a sophomore committee. The end of the wearing of the caps on May 30 was marked by a parade of the freshmen through the principal downtown streets and their return to Lincoln Field for the burning of the caps in a bonfire. In 1915 the Cammarian Club was criticized by the Brown Daily Herald for abolishing freshman caps in January and reinstating them in March. In May 1928 the Cammarian Club once again abolished the caps, after the investigation of a local merchant who had undertaken to manufacture the caps and sell them as a lower price than the University’s supplier and was selling them to purchasers who were not Brown men. For one year freshmen were required to wear black ties, after which the wearing of the caps was revived in 1929. The Cammarian Club was influenced in its decision by “the continually growing popularity of the Brown cap among the less select high school and newsboy circles in Providence.” In place of the cap, the freshmen were required to identify themselves by wearing a black tie and a felt hat within the city limits at all times except Sundays, holidays, and college vacations. The tradition of freshman caps was waived during the Second World War and after the war when so many entering students were veterans older than the usual freshmen. It was revived in the fall of 1947. The “beanies” survived through the class of 1975, mainly because of the $2.75 charge per cap which, with the sale of outing tickets, helped support Freshman Week. With the arrival of the class of 1976, the sale of caps was dropped and each student was assessed five dollars for Freshman Week.
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.