Being the first university in the U.S. means that Penn has had plenty of time to accumulate a hefty bit of folklore. From the mysterious split button to the anecdotes of a saucy former president, these old tales are sure to delight and dismay!
The famed laboratories of David Rittenhouse were the brainchild of then–President Craven Wittlebaum. Wittlebaum commissioned the sinister labyrinth after realizing that application rates would skyrocket if only the most beautiful Quakers were free to roam the campus during college tours. Before potential applicants arrived, admissions officers and a hired team of “beautification agents” could be found herding the most aesthetically–offensive students into the inescapable halls of DRL for temporary storage. The building is still used for this purpose today.
Wharton alumnus and kind philanthrophist Humphrey Raymonds spent the majority of his first months at Penn dedicating himself to community service and the promulgation of the greater good. That all changed one day when he found a magic book in the depths of the Van Pelt Library. In exchange for his soul, the book offered Raymonds teddy bears wearing little “Wharton” t–shirts. The little dipshit accepted the deal in a breathtaking display of capitalistic prowess and in turn had his heart and soul devoured. That is why, to this day, Wharton students are soulless, heartless monsters. And dipshits.
Legend has it there was once a nursing school at Penn. No one knows if it still exists, and no one has bothered to find out.
Long ago, 1920 Commons created the best food in the world: fiesta fried meatloaf. People scoffed at the meal, casting it off as “gross,” “unnatural,” and “Mexican”. However, one bold freshman girl by the name of Juju McGee — known throughout campus for her debilitating cleft lip — decided to try a piece. As she swallowed the first bites, tears of pure joy and wonder cascaded down her face, mending her broken smile. News of the miracle food spread around campus, and underclassmen and graduate students alike made pilgrimages to taste the sacred loaf. For a while, its effects were dazzling: it stopped hangovers, extracted wisdom teeth, and even cured a minor form of cancer. Over time, the food was completely devoured, and the cooks of Commons were never able to replicate the magic again. However, the fiesta fried meatloaf left many legacies on campus, including giving birth to Amy Gutmann.
1910, Homecoming — Sophomore Bertrand Steadpoole pulled the ultimate prank by showing up to the football match at Franklin Field with eight goats hidden under his overcoat and another in his hat. With Penn up by just five points in the fourth quarter and Yale on a drive seemingly destined for the red zone, Steadpoole released his small herd onto the field. The beasts rushed towards the saltiest objects in sight, the legs of legendary Yale quarterback James “Steam Room” Murrow and began to gnaw. The officials could do nothing to stop the attack, even when they threw pieces of toast at the animals in hopes of luring them away from the helpless athlete, inadvertently starting a beloved tradition. Time expired with Penn victorious, the goats satiated, “Steam Room” Murrow dead from the rapid loss of blood and Steadpoole a hero of Penn lore.
1740 — Legend holds that to celebrate founding the university, Ben Franklin took Abigail Adams to City Tavern and seduced her over mugs of cider and talk of frugality and doing it in glass houses. Years later John Quincy Adams would become the first secret–bastard–love–child President of the United States.
1925 — If you thought it was hard to sneak liquor into the Quad now, try doing it during prohibition! In the ‘20s, spinsters would stand guard at the upper quad gates quoting Leviticus and inspecting everyone’s petticoats for hidden contraband. Amazingly, freshman Molly Ward smuggled an entire case of brandy up her vagina, saving a Spring Fling that nobody would ever forget. Or stop tasting.
1936 — President Franklin Roosevelt visited Penn to rally his fan base for a re–election bid. After a stirring speech on the grit of the American people delivered in Houston Hall, Roosevelt spent the evening touring campus and mingling with the student body. The next morning campus was abuzz with tales of the Commander in Chief dominating a beer pong table for two whole hours, sticking the landing after riding down a frat–house staircase in his wheelchair, almost getting to third base with this really hot Communications major, going for an amazing 40–second keg stand, shitting on a statue of Ben Franklin and being found naked, unconscious, bound and gagged on the roof of a top–four sorority.
1981 — Sculptor Claes Oldenburg unveiled his public piece “Split Button” to general acclaim, but the artist always regretted not following his original plan “Split Butt Plug.”
2008 — Pilam Junior and self–proclaimed "not a fucking hipster" Becca Boone set a Pennsylvania record by making 23 bros feel terrible about their musical tastes in one night. Even more impressive: none of the bands that she suggested they listen to were actually real**.
** The band “Shit Tickler” formed three months after Boone came up with the name, listing a number of imagined “post–folk” bands, a wholly fabricated genre.
The first show ever performed by legendary vocalist and bad boy Ken Kweder was attended by none other than Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who was on campus to deliver the commencement address. Twenty minutes after entering the bar for a quiet glass of Chardonnay, Reagan stunned onlookers as she gyrated topless on top of the bar to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” even going so far as to slingshot her pair of utilitarian beige undergarments at the stunned face of the eldest Mr. Ryan. Kweder has been changing lives ever since.