Cap Night

Students gathered in the area known as Sleepy Hollow. Freshman, all wearing gray caps, await the moment to toss the caps in the bonfire. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Couzens Hall and Alice Lloyd Hall did not exist. Rather, the empty plot down the slope from the Detroit Observatory was known as Sleepy Hollow. By day, Sleepy Hollow was used for women students’ physical education. However, every year in early June came Cap Night. By custom, U-M freshmen wore a certain style of gray cap or faced hazing. On Cap Night, much of the student body marched from State Street to Sleepy Hollow to sing Michigan songs, celebrate the year and throw the gray caps into a bonfire, transforming freshmen into sophomores. While the ritual now is lost, alumni cherished the fond memories, remembering Cap Night as “a far more thrilling and impressive spectacle than any stilted formalities could ever hope to make commencement.”

— Adapted from “The Lost Campus” by James Tobin, the Heritage Project website


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