The undergraduate tomfoolery of "burying" textbooks and holding mock funeral services for a particularly onerous class was introduced early in the college's first 50 years. Practiced on many campuses in the 19th century, this tradition was periodically revived and abandoned at Amherst during the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s.
Planned in secret, the pageants included processions and burials or cremations. Mathematics courses, especially algebra and geometry, were the most frequent victims. Students observed the trappings of formal mourning. They composed "hymns" in Latin or Greek and sang "dirges" around funeral pyres. They prepared clever printed programs for each occasion, and secretly distributed them on the evening prior to the ceremonies, which normally took place in the early hours of the morning. These were class-sponsored events, seen as a way of demonstrating class spirit, and the programs always boldly identified the hosting class.
These dramatic presentations held considerable significance for the students. The programs and other memorabilia from these mock funerals were often preserved in scrapbooks compiled during their college days, and have survived in the Archives and Special Collections.
"Funeral Services and Wake at the Burial of S. Gunn"
by the Class of 1861
October 6, 1858
Burial of Mathematics textbook by the Class of 1873
May 23, 1870
Pages 2 and 3
Burial of Mathematics textbook by the Class of 1875,
July 5, 1872
Burial of "Math. E. Matica," July 6, 1875
"Cremation of 'Chicky Red Tape,'" June 21, 1880