Campus History

Pat Answers


In a starkly partisan view of a future that’s now long past, a St. Patrick’s Day parade float promises penury for attorneys and, for engineers, easy street — complete with fat cigars, moneybags, and evidently what passed for a sexy secretary in the olden days. The float illustrates the fierce rivalry between the students of the UW’s Law School and its College of Engineering during the first half of the twentieth century.

The mischief began in March 1912, when engineers claimed
St. Patrick as their patron and held a parade in his honor. By 1920, the parade included floats mocking other academic disciplines, with a special focus on “shysters” — law students. The shysters soon decided they needed no ribbing from mere “plumbers.” In 1925, they retaliated using, in the words of engineer J. D. Woodburn ’47,
“well-aged henfruit” — rotten eggs hurled at the parading engineers. However, Woodburn noted, “The aim of the lawyers was no better than their judgment,” and they left their sulfurous stains on bystanders as well as their targets.

The rivalry escalated to a near riot in 1938, with vandalism marring the law and engineering buildings. The university then decided to put an end to the antics. Though the 1939 parade was relatively peaceful, the march was suppressed in 1940, replaced with Engineering Expo. Sixty-nine years later, the Expo continues, and the 2009 event will take place from April 16 to 18.

Published in the Spring 2009 issue


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