is generally believed that the Pull tug-of-war was first held in
1898. The event
is mentioned in the November, 1898, issue of the college's student
newspaper, The Anchor, although no record of the outcome
appears. That makes the 2012 Pull the 115th in history.
nature of the event in its early years means that details from the
Pull's early history (pre-1909) are sketchy. It is known that there
were at least four years that the Pull was not held: 1918, 1943 and
1944 (war years), and 1957 (when, according to the student paper
at the time, a flu epidemic on campus prompted its cancellation).
Only three buildings
on campus are older than the Pull:
Van Vleck Hall (1857)
Graves Hall (dedicated 1894)
President's Home (completed 1896)
During the Pull,
each team has 18 students on the rope as "pullers," and another 18
acting as guides and morale boosters, or "moralers." The freshmen
are coached by the junior class, while the sophomores are instructed
by the seniors. The coaching arrangement also leads to a rivalry
between the even-year and odd-year classes.
Long held on
a Friday afternoon, the event was moved to Saturday in 1993 (Sept.
25) to allow more to attend and to avoid conflicts with the college's
The longest Pull,
held in 1977, was 3 hours and 51 minutes in duration, and was called
a draw. (The event is now limited to three hours maximum--a change
implemented in 1978; at the end of the three hours, the judges may
declare a winner by measuring gain.)
shortest Pull, held in 1956, was 2 minutes and 40 seconds. The shortest Pull under the
rules implemented in 1978 occurred in 2008 when the Class of 2011 defeated the Class of 2012 in 67 minutes
after gaining 71 feet of rope.
1995 was the
first year that a woman was chosen to be a puller (Keri Law '99 of
Niles, Mich., who was also a puller during the 1996 contest as a
sophomore). It is believed that 1994 was the first year that a woman
tried out as a puller (Nina Bieliauskas '97 of Ann Arbor, Mich.,
who in the end was a moraler).
There have been
four draws since 1909: 1916, 1926, 1952 and 1977. The 1926 competitors
later held a basketball game as a tie-breaker (which the sophomores
won). The 1977 event was called a tie after running 3 hours and 51
for the rope to break, such as happened in 1974. In that year, a
new one was obtained and the match was held on the following Monday.
The rope stretches,
and thus both sides can finish the Pull having gained rope. That
happened as recently as 1999 (the sophomore Class of '02 won having
gained 6 feet, 1 inch more than the freshman Class of '03).
The margin of
victory is sometimes slim. In 1995, for example, the sophomore Class
of '98 won by only 2 feet, 10 inches.
1909, the sophomores have won 65 times to the freshman class's
31. The last
sophomore win was in 2012. The last freshman victory was in 2011.
1909, the even-year class has won 54 times to the odd-year classes'
last even-year victory was in 2009. The last odd-year victory was
new rope was used for the 2006 pull.
The term "moralers," as
opposed to "morale girls," was adopted in 1992.