Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History

Sauer, Anne

Branco, Jessica

Bennett, John

Crowley, Zachary


The Cannon, 1956


The cannon, a fixture of the Medford campus, is located between Ballou Hall and Goddard Chapel. It is a replica of an original twenty-four pound cannon taken from the deck of the USS Constitution "Old Ironsides."Since 1977, it has been used by student groups and individual students who paint messages on the cannon under the cover of night.

The cannon was a gift from the city of Medford and the Medford Historical Society, which had received the cannon a number of years before but did not have room to properly display it. It was given to the city by the National Park Service as a thank-you for funds raised by community schoolchildren to restore Old Ironsides.

In 1956, Tufts accepted the gift of the cannon from Medford and mounted it on a foundation between Ballou Hall and Goddard Chapel. It remained there until the mid 1960s, when it was removed for repairs and not replaced due to anti-military feeling on campus. It remained in storage until 1977, when a group of alumni led a movement to have the cannon returned to its original spot.

During the Fall semester of 1977, the cannon was painted as a protest, perhaps of the visit and conferral of an honorary degree on Imelda Marcos of the Philippines, in October 1977.It was quickly repainted by a student who objected to the defacing of the historic monument. Thus, the tradition of painting the cannon began and became an almost nightly activity. In 1985 and again in 1996, the cannon was sandblasted to remove the many layers of paint applied over the years.

For many years it was believed that the cannon was one of the original cannons from Old Ironsides. However, when Buildings and Grounds workers were removing the cannon from the front doors of Ballou Hall on the morning of Commencement in 1987, where student pranksters had placed it the night before, the cannon fell and a piece broke off, revealing that it was a replica.

Painting the cannon is a competitive activity. Students must guard their handiwork or run the risk of having their message painted over by a rival group. Over the years the cannon has sported political messages, rallying cries for athletic teams, and birthday greetings.

Source: TW, November 17, 1956; TC, July 1977; TD, December 5, 1986; OBS, October 2, 1987

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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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