The Senior Parade was a facetious annual ritual that flourished in the early 1900s. It took place on the first Saturday in October, the day of the freshman- sophomore baseball game (right around the time of Cane Spree). The assembled seniors attended not just to watch the underclassmen play, but to heckle them. To liven things up, they did so wearing a motley assortment of costumes.
Shortly before game time, the seniors would gather out back of Nassau Hall, either around the cannon or in front of one of the surrounding campus buildings. Each classmate was expected to show up in a costume of his own choosing. A class photo got taken there, for eventual publication in the Bric and/or Nassau Herald (ditto occasionally in such ephemera as the 1905 Princeton-themed calendar in which this shot appeared). The assembled seniors then capered on down Prospect Street to University Field and enlivened the game.
In October 1904 the Prince commented on "growing interference" by the seniors—presumably the very bunch depicted in this 1905 calendar portrait. It also cited the Alumni Weekly's recurrent suggestion "that the parade, which is recognized as too good a feature of the Fall term to be abolished, be held on some date other than that on which the Sophomore-Freshman games take place."
By 1907 the Senior Parade had become even more disruptive (prompting official complaints that classmates should at least try to keep outside the foul lines). In September 1908 the faculty Committee on Discipline pre-emptively canceled it by banning "all costuming and masquerading" on the day of the game.
Six months later the Class of '09 deftly pivoted to make the Senior Parade a partly-costumed celebration of St Patrick's Day—switching the route to finish at the Nass instead of the ball field. Seniors continued this March 17 tradition until it got suspended in 1917-18 for WWI, then abandoned in 1919-20 when Prohibition struck.
SENIOR PARADE & ALUMNI P-RADE
The heyday of the Senior Parade overlapped with the nascent alumni P-rade (spelling interchangeable). At Reunions in 1897, alumni had begun regularly marching down Prospect in class-order to attend the annual Yale baseball game. For the next decade, these two Saturday extravaganzas—one in October, the other in June—shared certain similarities.
The Prospect Street route was the same. Heckling also happened at both games, with Reunion spectators more sedate but louder (bigger crowd, professional bands). And senior-year “costuming and masquerading” naturally predisposed recently-graduated classes to consider adopting frivolous outfits of their own. In 1901, the 5th Reunion introduced a class-wide costume to wear on the march; by 1910, nearly every class from the 1st thru 10th Reunions was doing likewise.
As for the seniors themselves, successive classes showed surprising sartorial restraint as first-time participants in the Reunions P-rade. Joining the back of the line on that last Saturday before their graduation, seniors did not step out in carnival costumes. Instead the tradition was to don ordinary dark jackets, white pants, and straw hats. With few exceptions, this conventionally sporty ensemble (often topped with a Japanese parasol) remained the customary pre- graduation P-rade garb for seniors up until the 1940s.
-- Tim Tulenko '67
“1905 Princeton Calendar”
Daily Princetonian, 10-5-1904; 10-14-1904; 10-5-1907; 9-30-1908; 3-18- 1909; 3-16-1920.
“Football, Baseball, and Horseplay”, Princeton Alumni Weekly, vol. 5, no.3, 10- 15-1904, p.44.