By Dave Block ’93

While recent fundraising efforts suggest that generosity toward the College lies deep within the heart of many Pards, apparently that’s not always been the case.

The June 12, 1889 issue of The Lafayette offers a rebuke to those withholding support for the baseball team: “At the college meeting the other day, when the question of giving over the coal money to the treasury of the base-ball club came up for vote, we noticed several of the richest students in college voted against giving the money. When asked personally to contribute to this necessary object, they either refused or gave a pittance of what they received. One, a freshman, boasted of having received seven dollars back and of giving but two dollars to the club. Such meanness is very deplorable indeed. We are very well aware of the fact that many of the boys cannot afford to give away their money, but when those who really can afford it, refuse to, so they get a few more ice creams or beers, then generosity is at a very deplorable state at Lafayette. Our ball team is certainly meriting support, as it has won for our college an enviable name on the base-ball arena. Let there be more liberality shown in such matters.”

What was the coal money cited by the newspaper? Elaine Stomber ’89, College archivist, offers insight.

“In response to the growing needs of our intercollegiate athletic program, students formed the Lafayette College Athletic Association in 1880 under the leadership of John Markle, Class of 1880 (who later became donor of Markle Hall of Engineering),” she explains. “Dues were set at $2 and funds were used to support our athletic teams. At that time, the College provided little funding for athletics.”

“Based on [a] quote from the Lafayette newspaper on April 1, 1883, I believe students during this period were assessed a fuel charge at the beginning of every academic year, along with tuition and room,” says Stomber. “Depending on the severity of the winter, a portion of the ‘coal money’ could be refunded to students in the spring. It seems likely that the athletic association was encouraging students to donate their returned coal money to support the baseball team. From this quote, it sounds like the winter of 1883 was colder than usual, and less coal money was refunded to students: ‘The college authorities have been getting more coal, which indicates that but little coal money will be returned next month.’”

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