As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are temporarily closed. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time and will provide updates on our website and social media.

University of Alabama Pinback Button

University of Alabama Pinback Button

Usage conditions apply
Downloads
Description
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.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
button, collegiate
date made
ca 1950s
associated institution
University of Alabama
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
metal (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 1 3/4 in; x 4.445 cm
ID Number
1982.0365.13
accession number
1982.0365
catalog number
1982.0365.13
subject
Sports
Football
collegiate
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Sport and Leisure
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Note: Comment submission on our collection pages is temporarily unavailable. Please check back soon!

If you have a question or require a personal response, please visit our FAQ or contact page.