Vintage OSC Benny Beaver Pennant and a Benny Beaver History Lesson!

Here is an early pennant showing Benny Beaver wearing an OSC hat, likely from the 1950’s. This pennant, about 9 inches long, is one of the few pre-OSU pennants showing Benny’s face (most show him wearing an OSU hat, so post-1961) so it is unique in that sense.

Now for a little history lesson (thanks to Wikipedia) on OSU’s use as the Beaver for a mascot, and more specifically, the one and only Benny the Beaver!  The university’s school newspaper in 1908 is the first known organization on campus to adopt the beaver as its namesake. The school yearbook’s long use of the name, known as “The Beaver” starting in 1916, eventually helped solidify the beaver as the university’s official mascot. The popularity of the beaver was also shared by students at University of Oregon. For several early publishings, students at this school also used “The Beaver” as their yearbook’s title.  We all knew that Ducks really want to be Beavers, right?

OSU’s first documented use of “Benny Beaver” was found in a photograph showing students posing next to a statue of a beaver inscribed with the name “Benny Beaver.” The photograph appears in the 1942 edition of the yearbook.  Prior to the beaver, earlier mascots include “Jimmie” the Coyote (1892–1893) and “Bulldog” (1906–1910, unofficial and for specific teams only, such as the Wrestling squad). The beaver mascot’s name, “Benny,” was officially adopted in 1945. Two failed attempts to maintain a live beaver mascot include Bevo Beaver (rescued from Mary’s River in 1921 and later stolen) and Billy Beaver (made mascot in 1935, and later fell ill and died).

The early Benny Beaver “cartoon” icon/logo, seen on this pennant, was created by famous graphic illustrator, and former Disney employee, Arthur C. Evans.  As the art director for Angelus Pacific Company, Evans submitted his design to OSU and it was approved for use in 1951. His logos were used at hundreds of other universities and high schools throughout the nation. Benny has had a few changes over the years, most noticeably in 1998 and again in 2013.  While those were significant departures from the Disney style Benny, that old Benny still remains used by OSU on some shirts and souvenirs.

A couple other interesting facts… In December 2010, Benny Beaver was ranked 13th on a list titled 20 Worst Behaved Mascots Of All Time. Despite the bad press, Benny Beaver won the 2011 Capital One Mascot of the Year write-in campaign, earning the mascot program $1000 and inclusion in the following year’s Capital One All-America Mascot Team.

OSC Pennant

1950’s Oregon State “Carter Hoffman” Wood Carved Mascot

Carter Hoffman was a well-known artist from Los Angeles who made individually hand carved wood mascots for various colleges back in the 1950s.  These figurines can be easily identified as each has the “Carter Hoffman Original” stamp on the bottom of it’s feet.  Sold under the name “Carter Hoffman Artcraft” they have become highly collectible and can routinely fetch several hundred dollars and up.  A brochure from the 1950s lists over 120 different schools that they made mascots for, including Oregon State College. They also produced bottle stoppers for a period of time which were usually the heads of a mascot glued to a cork.

The full mascots were advertised inside college football game programs, like this one below showing the Ivy League mascots from a 1954 Harvard-Columbia program.  They could be ordered from Carter Hoffman in several different sizes. Most are 4-5 inches tall, however there are 8-10 inch versions which very infrequently appear.  This Oregon State Beaver Mascot below is about 5 inches tall.  Because they are hand carved, each one is unique.

I have only seen two different Oregon State Carter Hoffman carvings and only this one bottle stopper, all three of which were sold by Inside The Park Collectibles, an online auction site that specializes in these mascots. The first OSC mascot and bottle stopper were sold in 2009 and the other mascot sold earlier this month, nearly 5 years after the first!  That is a pretty good indication of their rarity!  Point being, if you see one for a decent price, even if for a different school, buy it!

Carter Hoffman Wood Carving 1 Sold for 324 in 20095840c_lg[1] 1950's Carter Hoffman Drink Poure Sold for $433 in 2009 2450d_lg 2450e_lg columbia-harvard Program-1954 hoffman-catalog-2FullSizeRender

Vintage OSU Bobblehead (aka Nodder) c. 1962

Call them bobbleheads, call them nodders, even call them wobblers. Whatever you call them, though, the vintage 1960’s hand-painted papier-mâché and ceramic dolls depicting team players or mascots with heads connected to its neck by a spring are among the most whimsical collectibles in sports.  Although bobbleheads have been around in some form since the 1800’s, it wasn’t until about 1960 when Lego, a Swiss firm, started making American dolls and had them manufactured in Japan, hand painting each one on paper mache.  These dolls were made for MLB baseball teams from 1960-1972 in different styles and for colleges and universities they appear to have been made primarily in the early 1960’s.  They could be bought through mail order or sometimes in stores… prices seem to have ranged from $1.00-$2.98.

The early dolls made for colleges, circa 1960-1962, were generic, depicting the same large-eyed Caucasian boy in a different team uniform.  Fragile as they were, especially in the hands of young sports fans, it’s difficult to find these bobbleheads in good condition today and they can command a premium (from $100-$400), depending on the school and condition.

This specific bobblehead, standing 7 inches high, with OSC (Oregon State College) painted on the chest, dates to 1961 or 1962.  It would seem to be the former, because by 1962 Oregon State had changed from College to University, but from my research it seems the green bases normally date this to 1962, which makes it unique if that really was the case and the school had already changed names when these were produced!

1962 Bobblehead

Forrest Smithson – OSU’s First Olympic Medalist in 1908

Forrest Smithson was born in Portland in 1884 and attended Oregon State (then OAC) where he was an AAU track champion in 1907 and 1909. While attending Oregon State, Smithson competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, where he won gold in the 110-meter hurdles on the final day with a then world record setting time of 15.0 seconds. He became not only the school’s first Olympic medalist, but he and two other Oregonians that same Olympics were the first medalists for the state of Oregon.

A devout Christian, Smithson was a student of theology at Oregon State who eventually become a Baptist Minister. He is probably best known for a famous picture of him clearing a hurdle at the Olympics with a bible in his left hand.  Many thought the picture was of the Olympic finals race, further depicting his legend. But no official accounts depicted him carrying such unlikely cargo and one actual picture of the finals does not show the Bible in his hand.  The story, as it turns out, was that Smithson posed for the picture after his victory to make a political protest against Sabbath competitions.  Smithson understood the powerful forum for social criticism that Olympic victories allowed.

The first picture is the famous Forrest Smithson Bible picture.  Second is a picture of the final race where he is second from the right. The final picture shows an actual gold medal from the 1908 Olympics that I’m sure Smithson kept in a safe place… probably right next to his Bible until his death in 1962.

olimpiaa[1] second from right 1908-medal[1]