Horns and the practice of “horning” underclassmen held special significance for Middlebury students in the late 1800s. “Horns were traditionally blown at class rallies and, since sports were on the rise at the end of the century, they were probably used for athletic events too,” said Andrew Wentink ’70, the curator of Special Collections in the Davis Family Library.
The surnames of all 23 members of the Class of 1890 are etched into the side of this 14-inch-long noisemaker along with this comment: “This horn was blown September 3, 1889, for the amusement of the freshmen.” But that was not the first time this particular horn was pressed into service. According to the details meticulously incised into it, the horn was also blown in October 1887 “for the amusement of the citizens of Cornwall,” and again in November 1888 at a parade honoring U.S. president Benjamin Harrison and his vice president, Levi Morton, a favorite son from Shoreham. It was sounded at a party thrown by the class orator, Burton Willard Norton, in 1889, and it was blown for President Ezra Brainerd, Class of 1864, later that same year. Was “Old Metaphysics” amused? We may never know, but if you blow into the Class of 1890’s horn today, it emits an odious sound.
The metal instrument was donated to the College Archive by the family of Lucretius Henry Ross, Class of 1890, or perhaps by “L. H. Ross χΨ” himself. Vice president of his class, Ross went on to Harvard Medical School, became a physician, served as a trustee of the College, and passed away at the age of 91. And judging from his keepsake, he obviously enjoyed a good “horning” every now and then.