Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Smokers began as social events for male students in the early years of Tufts College. Soon after the founding of the college, various campus groups began holding smokers in order to better the social life of Tufts undergraduates. The smokers were large social events featuring music, speeches, food, and, of course, smoking.
After the construction of Goddard Gymnasium in 1883, students began to hold large-scale annual smokers on the gymnasium floor. Early annual smokers included the freshman class smoker and the Inter-Fraternity Council smoker. The freshman class smoker served as an opportunity to develop unity among the male freshman, and also helped introduce members of the class to their peers. The Inter-Fraternity Council smoker introduced students to different fraternities in order to help them choose a fraternity to pledge. Each event was quite gala, with banners decorating the gymnasium and students attending in formal dress.
Over time, smokers developed into more informational gatherings. By the 1950's, mixers had taken the place of smokers as the main social event on campus. Smokers had evolved into information sessions rather than purely social gatherings. By the 1960's, for example, the Inter-Fraternity Council smoker was a Sunday afternoon event that allowed freshmen to visit each fraternity house prior to rush week. Instead of a social gathering with speeches and musical performances, freshmen visited each fraternity and had their pledge cards signed by members of each house. By then, even the Leonard Carmichael Society was holding smokers to introduce interested students to the different community service programs available through their organization.
By the late 1960's students no longer called any of their gatherings smokers. Although the event had evolved with the times, smokers dropped out of Tufts history, to be replaced by information sessions, fairs, and open houses.
Source: TW, JB1917, JB1922