It’s a somewhat lesser-known story from the annuals of Ohio Wesleyan University history.
In a move that left many in the community in a mixture of astonishment and amusement, in April 1910 fraternity men of OWU declared their intention to shun traditional headgear. On a day that would be forever marked in the university’s annals, these young men made the symbolic gesture of burning their hats, signaling a departure from the norm.
An Unconventional Protest
It all transpired one evening in Delaware. The decision was not a mere spur-of-the-moment act, but a premeditated one. This was evident from the meeting of the Panhellenic society where the bold resolution was conceived. The fraternity members, in a show of solidarity, formed a procession and marched purposefully to Monnett Hall.
Bonfires Light Up the Night
Monnett Hall in fact became the epicenter of this unprecedented event. Here, a grand bonfire was erected. One by one, the derbies, a symbol of their erstwhile sartorial choice, were thrown into the roaring flames. The sight of hats being consumed by fire, an emblem of their newfound conviction, was a spectacle that would be spoken about for years.
However, the fraternity men’s fervor didn’t stop there. After the symbolic burning at Monnett Hall, additional bonfires were kindled on the paved streets of the city. The sight of these multiple fires and the ensuing revelry caught the attention of the local authorities. Both the Delaware fire department and the police had to be summoned to restore order and ensure the safety of all involved.
Impact and Legacy
While the reasons for this radical choice remain cloaked in mystery, the act itself speaks volumes about the spirit of youthful rebellion and the desire to challenge conventions. This incident, though seemingly trivial in the grand scheme of things, underscores the ever-present quest among the youth to assert their identity and make their voices heard.
Sources: Various newspaper accounts of the day, including from the Omaha World and Fall River Daily; Image: DALL-E 3