University of Alabama Pinback Button


This round pinback button was made for supporters of the University of Alabama. The button is white with red text that says, “University of Alabama” and a red “Sailor Elephant” logo. The “sailor elephant” is an example of logos made popular after World War II, where common collegiate mascots were recreated with a sailor hat. Common examples of these “sailor” mascot logos include versions of the University of North Carolina ram, the Baylor bear, the Auburn tiger and the Oregon duck, among others. Most of the mascots are attributed to Arthur Evans, the head artist at Angelus Pacific Co. of Fullerton, California. Evans was a prolific graphic artist and former Disney employee.

The University of Alabama athletics are most known for their success in collegiate football. The Alabama football team was founded in 1892 and the team has been officially known as the “Crimson Tide” ever since the phrase was used by Hugh Roberts, a sports editor at the Birmingham Age-Herald. Roberts used the term to describe the Alabama football team after their match against Auburn in 1907. The excellent play by the Alabama line defined the match and while the team had previously been referred to as the “Thin Red Line,” Roberts chose to describe this new unite as a “Crimson Tide” that went through or over the opposing team.

Since that time, the team has also become associated with their elephant mascot, who, in modern times is portrayed by a character known as Big Al. There are two stories of how the elephant became associated with the Crimson Tide. The first is that a local luggage manufacturer provided the 1927 team with custom luggage for their trip to the 1928 Rose Bowl. The company's logo was a red elephant which journalist Grantland Rice compared to the team's size. The second story is attributed to a 1930 quote from Georgia Tech Hall of Famer and Atlanta Journal staff writer, Everett Strupper, who said:

"At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, 'Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,' and out stamped this Alabama varsity. It was the first time that I had seen it and the size of the entire eleven nearly knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly doubled in size."

The 1930 team that Strupper described in his quote would go on to a 10-0 record, outscoring opponents 217-13. Alabama would meet Washington State in the Rose Bowl that year and defeat them 24-0 on their way to being declared National Champions. Regardless, the elephant was a common fixture in Alabama athletic tradition by 1940. This, at one point, included the presence of Alamite, a live elephant mascot, who would appear on the sidelines of home games and at homecoming parades.

Date Made: ca 1950s

Associated Institution: University of Alabama

Location: Currently not on view

Web Subject: SportsName Of Sport: FootballLevel Of Sport: collegiate


See more items in: Culture and the Arts: Sport and Leisure


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1982.0365.13Accession Number: 1982.0365Catalog Number: 1982.0365.13

Object Name: button, collegiate

Physical Description: plastic (overall material)metal (overall material)Measurements: overall: 1 3/4 in; x 4.445 cm


Record Id: nmah_664437

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