Flying High at the Heights: The Eagle as Mascot
By David Horn
We all know that the Boston College mascot is the eagle, but the owl and the antelope were given careful consideration when a mascot was chosen in the 1920’s. Some people were sorry that the owl was not chosen: they thought it would have been a real hoot. And the idea of the antelope foundered on possible spelling problems and the absence of any obvious puns.
Somehow the students of Boston College survived, indeed prospered, from the founding of the college in 1863 until 1920 without a college mascot. Then an alumnus, Rev. Edward J. McLaughlin, having heard that other symbols were being considered, suggested that the eagle, representing majesty and power, would be a fitting choice. He pointed out that the eagle’s choice of habitat made it especially appropriate for “The Heights,” the campus in Newton to which BC had moved in 1913.
The first drawing of an eagle appeared in a special edition of The Heights, and the new symbol was featured in the 1921 yearbook, Sub Turri. Drawings are relatively easy, but what about a live mascot? In the fall of 1923 BC received a live bird – which was actually a hawk! It had been injured in a storm; when returned to health, it flew away – no bird imitations for him. The first live eagle was given to the college in 1924 but was unhappy here and was soon transferred to a zoo.
Perhaps despairing of finding happiness with a live bird, the college accepted the gift of a large stuffed bald eagle, which served as mascot from 1926 to 1961. At that time three students led an effort to obtain a live bird, named “Margo” in a campus-wide contest, and the college had to meet all the bureaucratic requirements of that era for the care of the eagle.
Why “Margo”? Think of the school colors.
Margo was cared for in the Franklin Park Zoo but died there in 1966, and new environmental regulations made it virtually impossible to have a live bird on campus or at athletic contests. Thus the human eagles, the costumed students who lead the cheering on campus.
The most prominent eagle on campus is the one at the top of the pedestal in front of Gasson Hall, on Linden Lane. The eagle has been here since 1954 and was placed atop its pink granite column in 1957. The sculpture was made in Japan, and the column was given to BC by the City of Boston after it was displaced by the construction of the old Central Artery. The base of that column, with its four eagle faces, is in back of Gasson, on the edge of the “Quad”.
Alums returning to campus might think the Gasson eagle does not look the same. The original gold-painted bronze sculpture was replaced in 1993, one in a long line of representations of the glory of the college.
David E. Horn is the Head Librarian of Archives & Manuscripts at the Burns Library.