From Special Collections and Archives: The Fish Cap

Although freshmen are generally known as “rats” at most colleges, Freshmen at R-MC have been called “fish” since at least the 1890s. Although we do not know the exact origin or first use of “fish” to refer to freshmen, the first Yellow Jacket yearbook in 1899 refers to “big fish, little fish and a few minnows.”  One legend surrounding this says that the appearance of our freshmen on campus often coincided with major rainstorms from hurricanes and tropical storms that led to major flooding on campus, hence the name “fish.” The campus and the streets surrounding it were prone to significant flooding before major work on drainage was done, and photos in the College archives from the 1960s show students rowing down Henry Street.

Photo of Freshman RMC beanie, 1940s
RMC fish cap, 1940s

The “fish cap” or freshman beanie, such as the one shown here, was required to be worn publicly by all freshmen during the Fall semester to distinguish them from returning students. Upperclassmen would make freshmen carry their books, drop and do pushups on command, and many other activities now banned as hazing. The freshmen had one hope: if the R-MC football team beat Hampden-Sydney, freshmen could remove the beanie early saving themselves from several more weeks of hazing.

To learn more about this tradition, contact us at archives@rmc.edu

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