The Traditions of May Day at Lawrence and the Hat Hunt at Milwaukee-Downer College
Photographs, newspaper articles, programs, and dance cards document the two spring traditions in this exhibit. May Day began at Lawrence in 1905. The festivities of the celebration of May 1 included the election of a Queen of the May and her six Maids of Honor chosen from senior class women. The identity of the Queen and her Court was kept a secret until they took their places around the traditional May Pole and performed the dance for students and campus visitors. The event was sponsored by campus organizations including the Lawrence Women’s Association. The tradition continued until 1966.
The annual Hat Hunt began at Milwaukee-Downer College as a prank in 1894. When Parson Ames visited the college as a speaker, freshmen girls hid his hat. This began the tradition of sophomore students hiding the hat and freshmen women searching for it. The woman who found the hat was carried through the campus on a wooden serving tray by her classmates who declared, “We’ve found it!” The Hat Girl hid the hat the following year. The Hat Hunt was a rite of passage for the freshmen class; they proved they were ready to be sophomores by successfully finding the hat.
This exhibit is in Riverview Lounge in Memorial Union. Questions about the exhibit may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone interested in viewing more materials that document the events covered in the exhibit are welcome to visit the University Archives located on Level B in the library.
Interested in learning how to resurrect the May Day or Hat Hunt festivities at Lawrence? Visit the Archives and the University Archivist will be happy to assist you in reviving the traditions and documenting them.