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KU Traditions Past: May-pole Scrap and May Fête

May 15th, 2012

As Robert Taft explains in his history of KU, Across the Years on Mount Oread, the first May-pole scrap occurred on May 1, 1891. The preceding night, the junior class had erected a pole forty feet high in front of old Fraser (then known as University Hall), and on the pole was a banner marked with the figures, ’92.  The pole was found on the ground the next morning with a sophomore wielding an axe beside it.  The juniors, aided by a group of freshman, tried to regain the pole and banner, but the seniors came to the rescue of the sophomores and together they burned the banner.  The battle raged into the evening and the “May-pole scrap” was born.  This battle between freshman and sophomores continued for nearly fifteen years as an annual event and eventually developed into a series of duels that were not confined to May-day alone.  The May-pole scrap was discontinued by 1905 because of the violent nature of this KU tradition.

May-pole Scrap, 1904
1904 May-pole Scrap between the freshman and sophomore classes to determine whose colors would be hoisted on the May pole. May Day Photographs, Call Number: 71/10/1904

In its place a new tradition was established, the May Fête.  Read the rest of this entry »