America’s romance with Yale first blossomed in 1901 when senior Alan Hirsch copyrighted his rousing football song Boola Boola, selling more sheet music the following year than any other song. It became so popular that John Philip Sousa performed it alongside The Stars And Stripes Forever. The country’s favorite ragtime duo, Irene and Vernon Castle, performed Boola Boola as a Turkey Trot.
It hit the charts the same time Burt Standish’s frolicsome Frank Merriwell At Yale became a dime novel best-seller in Main Street drug stores. It also evolved in comic books ending the 1940s as a popular NBC radio show. Hicks in the sticks voted Frank Merriwell the original All-American Boy.
Then another roar, louder, wilder, louder, full of unbounded joy. The Yale cheer! The band drowned out by all the uproar. The sight of sturdy lads in blue, delicious with delight, hugging a dust-covered youth, lifting him to their shoulders and bearing him away in triumph. Merriwell had won his own game, and his record was made. It was a glorious finish. Old Yale can’t get along without him.
Soon Scribner’s on Fifth Avenue upended the dime novel heroics of Merriwell and stocked the upscale shelves with Owen Johnson’s Dink Stover at Yale, the 1912 blockbuster F. Scott Fitzgerald famously acknowledged as the textbook of his generation. The book’s dramatic crisis resolved with Dink tapped for Skull and Bones:
I am not satisfied with Yale as a magnificent factory on democratic business lines, I dream of something else, something visionary, a great institution not of boys, clean, lovable and honest, but of men of brains, of courage, of leadership, a great center of thought to stir the country.
In 1954, magazine magnate Henry Luce, Yale ‘20, okayed the article that appeared in LIFE Magazine and was devoured by 10 million readers. “The Ivy Look Heads Across the US” pinpointed New Haven as the look’s home. “Sometimes regarded more of a club than a clothes shop,” the article continues, “J. Press is delighted that its look is now capturing the country.” LIFE also benignly credits Brooks Brothers as “perpetuating the Madison Avenue look.”
Brooks Brothers never deigned to open a store in New Haven. Playing Second Hand Rose, the company tendered biweekly retail travel exhibits in the Hotel Taft. With J. Press at the top of the pack, local merchants including Arthur Rosenberg, Fenn-Feinstein, White’s, and Langrock bended their knees to the nascent aristocracy who paid for their wares with proceeds from the family trust.
A virulent fever erupted in the ’60s forever changing Old Eli. Co-Education, anti-war protests and civil rights riots threw the New Haven Heyday of Ivy into the dustbin of history.
“Where’er upon life’s seas we sail, for God, for Country and for Yale,” is still audible in Battell Chapel as in days of old now charged with a changing cast that sings to the song of a different drummer.
Henry Luce’s 20th century newsreel banner hits the right note for postmodern 21st century Yale—
TIME MARCHES ON.