Cane Rush photo file

The first known Cane Rush was held in 1874. The Cane Rush served as a means of initiating freshmen into the ways of college life. It took place on the first Saturday or Monday of the school year after a five inning baseball game between the freshmen and sophomores. Members of the two classes striped to the waist and greased themselves with Vaseline, axle grease, etc. The two sides were arranged about one hundred yards apart. A hickory cane held by four men, two from each class, was arranged in the center. At a pistol shot, everyone else rushed to the cane. After a seven minute battle, the class having the most hands on the cane was declared the winner. The winning class number was carved on the cane. If the freshmen won, they could carry canes before Washington's Birthday. This date was later changed to the day of the first home football game.

Cane Rush photo file

The sophomores began to focus more on pulling off the freshmen's pants than grabbing the cane. According to a 1902 account, "So fierce was the struggle that some came out minus the clothing with which they entered and in one case a man who sent in with old clothing came out with new." The contestants began to strip down to underwear and, as early as 1918, wore nothing but grease. Thereafter, the contest became known as the Grease Rush.

The Grease Rush was not held regularly during the years of World War II and post-war students were not as interested in the event. The contest was briefly resurrected in 1949 and lasted several years. During this time, the rush was held behind "Tin Town". On Oct. 2, 1957, the following story appeared in the Polytechnic:

Saturday morning was the scene of the breaking of a long standing RPI tradition, the annual Grease Rush. The Rush was scheduled to begin at 9:00 on Saturday morning and not a single Freshman appeared at the field house at that time to take part in the event. The Sophomore Class won by default and at the same time the Freshman Class showed in this instance an appalling lack of class and school spirit.

In 1959, the Grease Rush was formally discontinued along with other traditional Frosh Week events. Lack of participation and failure to reignite interest were cited as reasons for its demise.

Cane Rush Rules:
Section 1. There shall be an annual cane rush between the Sophomore and Freshman Classes on the first convenient Saturday of the first term.

Section 2. The Rush shall be held immediately after a five-inning baseball game between the Sophomore and Freshman Classes at a place designated by the Grand Marshal. The Grand Marshal shall notify the presidents of the Sophomore and Freshman Classes of the time and place of the rush at least twenty-four hours before the rush is called.

Section 3. The Grand Marshal shall decide the rush and announce publicly the number of hands on the cane.

Section 4. The cane shall be the traditional cane rush stick and shall be held by four men, two from each class. The remainder of the opposing classes shall line up on opposite sides of the cane each at a distance of fifty yards from it. At a signal from the referee the classes shall rush for possession of the cane. At the end of seven minutes the hands on the cane shall be counted, a thumb and finger being counted as a hand. The class having the most hands on the cane shall be declared the winner.

Each contestant shall enter the rush with at least a pair of trousers and soft soled shoes.

Section 5. The members of the winning class shall be allowed to carry canes in the Institute Parade on the day of the first home football game. The members of the other classes shall not carry canes on that day.


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