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Boston College Eagle

virtual exhibit summer 2005 - burns library

Introduction | Adoption | Mascot | Symbol | Conclusion

Adoption of the Eagle as the University Mascot


Prior to 1920, Boston College lacked a mascot. In the Spring of 1920, the Boston College Track team won the Eastern Intercollegiate competitions. Charlie Donelan of the Boston Traveler illustrated the mascot-less collegiate team as a stray cat lapping up the opposition. This did not sit very well with one loyal alumnus who voiced his displeasure to the Heights editorial staff. Identified at the time only as "The Old Man," the alum suggested that the lack of a school mascot led to the insulting cartoon. In his letter published in the May 14, 1920 issue, he suggested to the current student body, "Why not select - the Eagle, symbolic of majesty, power, and freedom. Its natural habitat is the high places. Surely, the Heights is made to order for such a suggestion." The old man was later identified as Rev. Edward J. McLaughlin (Ex-1914). This is a portrait of McLaughlin circa 1954.




In response to the Old Man's letter, the editor of the Heights, reminded his fellow students that the cause of the insulting cartoon was not the fault of the sports cartoonist, as the student body (past and present) had never come up with a mascot. He wrote: "The fault is ours entirely. It is important that we adopt a mascot to preside at our pow-wows and triumphant fetes." He urged students to write to the Heights to voice their opinion of the Eagle or voice an alternative for the school mascot. In the June 17th issue, the first published drawing of an eagle appeared in a corner of the special pictorial edition. The artwork was not credited but was probably the work of either Robert P. Walsh (1922) or J. Robert Brawley (1920), both members of the newspaper's art department.




Known as the "College Cartoonist," J. Robert Brawley (1920) claimed to have drawn the first sketch of the eagle. McLaughlin's letter was brought to the attention of the student Athletic Association moderated by Rev. Richard A. O'Brien, S.J. In 1944, Brawley recalled "I was sold on the eagle idea of Father McLaughlin...I went to work into that night...I grabbed a big sheet of drawing board, some water colors and went to work...when I got done, I had so much paint on it, the board must have weighed five pounds...the supplies really caught it that night. I brought the sketch into the school the next morning to Father O'Brien and he put it on the bulletin board with the notation that it was the proposed new mascot. It was a sketch of an eagle bearing in its talons a BC banner and soaring over a bulldog crouched in the shadow of the football. That's all I did...The eagle won. Father McLaughlin [had] the idea, he presented it and it was chosen. I am grateful for the credit I have received but Father McLaughlin was the creator of the eagle." Brawley's yearbook photograph is reproduced here.




There was much excitement when Boston College defeated the heavily favored Yale University football team in games played in 1919 and 1920. In the October 15, 1920 issue of the Heights, BC athlete Luke Urban was pictured in a cartoon drawn by John T. Sullivan. He was shown with a bald eagle perched on his shoulder, taming the Yale Bulldog. In the same issue, the editor noted his disappointment that the local newspaper cartoonists still represented Boston College as "a sort of flat impersonal picture of a foot-ball player bearing a neat and inoffensive tag." He went on that the "University Heights has the altitude, the rocks, the trees, and the general wild and free aspect which go to make up the popular conception of what an eagle's surroundings should be...We want the eagle for the Boston College mascot."





A month later, in the November 12 issue, an editorial entitled "About that Bird" was published. The editorial goaded the college's cartoonists to feature the eagle in their efforts, as "The work of getting the idea accepted lies almost entirely with them." They encouraged their readers to continue to voice their opinions. A month later, the Heights Art Department staff member John T. Sullivan (1924) drew the boldest cartoon depiction of the Heights to date, showing an eagle knocking a Holy Cross football player from the top of Gasson Tower. The cartoon celebrates BC's 14-0 victory over their bitter rival and, more important, clearly depicts the eagle as the symbol of Boston College.




The University quickly adopted the eagle more formally into campus life. A column dedicated to sports entitled "Through the Eagle's Eye" appeared for the first time in the January 20, 1921 issue of the Heights. The relay team was pictured in the February 2 issue with an eagle emblem incorporated into their athletic-wear.




Alumnus J. Robert Brawley, perhaps answering the call of current students for cartoons representing the eagle, contributed two significant pieces to the 1921 Sub Turri yearbook. This piece celebrated that season's undefeated football team earning the Eastern Championship. Obviously, this depiction was more fitting than the cartoon that depicted BC as a stray cat in the previous year. Father McLaughlin must have been a happy man.


Introduction | Adoption | Mascot | Symbol | Conclusion


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