Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History

Sauer, Anne

Branco, Jessica

Bennett, John

Crowley, Zachary


Bonfires, 1875


For many years, bonfires were the chosen means by which Tufts students on the Medford campus celebrated sports victories and other good news, despite being forbidden by proclamation of the college administration. The first recorded incidence of a bonfire was from 1875, when students seized a decrepit picket fence along the southern boundary of the Reservoir to fuel the flames. The occasion that prompted the fire is not known. In later years the Somerville Fire Department was quick to douse the fires when they appeared, and bonfires petered out in the years following World War I.

Packard Avenue, between and the Reservoir, was a favorite spot for bonfires. Ready access to the water of the Rez assured that the flames would not get out of control, but the trees in the vicinity suffered. Bonfires were also kindled behind , on the "Old Campus" (Fletcher Field), and on the south embankment of the Rez.

Fuel for the fires came from fences, boardwalks, and any other combustible material that could be located. When the local sources were exhausted, foragers went further afield, occasionally resulting in bills to the college for damages. After a time a pile of old boxes and waste lumber was kept on the slope behind for the tacit use of bonfire-builders.

Billboards erected alongside the college depot were another favorite source of fuel, much to the advertisers' anger. However, they made such a spectacular blaze that they were popular with the students, who reportedly thought the billboards an eyesore. Billboard fires were kindled in 1897 and 1898, both on the occasion of football victories over Tufts' traditional rival, Bowdoin College in Maine.

The use of bonfires diminished and all but disappeared after World War I.

Source: RTYT

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  • The encyclopedia seeks to capture more than 150 years of Tufts' achievements, societal contributions and outstanding alumni and faculty in concise entries. As a source of accurate factual information, the Encyclopedia can be used by anyone interested in the history of Tufts and of the people who have made it the unique institution it is.
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Numeric Entries
Dame, Lorin Low, 1838-1903
Dana, Charles A., 1881-1975
Dana Laboratory, 1963
Daniel Ounjian Prize in Economics,
Davies, Caroline Stodder, 1864-1939
Davies House, 1894
De Florez Prize in Human Engineering, 1964
de Pacheco, Kaye MacKinnon, ca. 1910-ca. 1985
Dean Hall, 1887-1963
Dean, Oliver, 1783-1871
Dearborn, Heman Allen, 1831-1897
Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, 1893
Department of Anesthesia, 1970
Department of Art and Art History, 1930
Department of Biochemistry, 1893
Department of Chemistry, 1882
Department of Community Health, 1930
Department of Dermatology, 1897
The Department of Economics, 1946
Department of Medicine, 1893
Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Department of Neurology, 1893
Department of Neuroscience, 1983
Department of Neurosurgery, 1951
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1893
Department of Ophthamology, 1893
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 1906
Department of Otolaryngology, 1895
Department of Pathology, 1893
Department of Pediatrics, 1930
Department of Pharmacology, 1915
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1854
Department of Physiology, 1893
Department of Psychiatry, 1928
Department of Radiation Oncology, 1968
Department of Radiology, 1915
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1955
Department of Surgery, 1893
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, 1973
Department of Urology, 1910
Dental Health Sciences Building, 1969
Dewick, Cora Alma (Polk), 1875-1977
Dewick/MacPhie Dining Hall, 1959
Dickson Professorship of English and American History, 1913
Dirlam, Arland A., 1905-1979
Dog Cart, 1900
Dolbear, Amos Emerson, 1837-1910
Donald A. Cowdery Memorial Scholarship, 1946
Dr. Benjamin Andrews Professorship of Surgery, 1987
Dr. Philip E. A. Sheridan Prize, 1977
The Drug Bust, 1970
Dudley, Henry Watson, 1831-1906
Dugger, Edward Jr., 1919-75
Durkee, Frank W., 1861-1939
Durkee, Henrietta Noble Brown, 1871-1946
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