One of the minor ironies of modern football is while the game on the field gets more violent with each passing year, much of its surrounding ephemera is imbued with images of sportsmanship and peaceful coexistence.
The Harvard-Yale game day program covers are a perfect case in point. For the past 50-plus years, these covers have depicted the two uniformed captains shaking hands as if they’d met by chance at a Halloween ball, decked out in their football costumes and inquiring about each others’ wives and children.
But it wasn’t always like this. For nearly 20 years, from 1933-50, when the teams themselves usually came straight out of the Social Register, the Yale illustrator W. B. Crocker provided combative cover art that depicted snarling bulldogs, frightened bears, intimidated lions, and gremlins in Yale colors firing artillery in the direction of a Harvard army tank that was manned by its Crimson gremlin counterparts.
There are many examples of Crocker’s art, and we’ll be showing more in the months to come, but our personal favorite has to be the one that decked the cover of the 1934 Harvard game program. Look at the expression of steely determination on the bulldog’s angry mug. Behold the sheer terror that has seized the hapless Mr. Harvard, his skirt jacket in tatters, cowering in precarious balance on the top post of a fence that is hopefully out of reach of his merciless predator. Disregard the fact the players on these two teams will undoubtedly fight wars, break bread, and shake (not stir) martinis for the next 50 years before retiring to their respective Valhallas, and pretend for a moment that the grudge between bulldog and Crimson was as real as Crocker’s imagination.
Click here to buy a poster of this program cover.