Days Gone By - stories from the past

Which story do you believe is true about the University of Alabama mascot, Big Al?

Big Al is the University of Alabama’s mascot and has been associated with the U of A since the 1930’s.


two elephantsAlabama elephants ca. 1950s (found on rollbamaroll) 

Many versions of elephant mascot

There are many versions as to how the elephant became associated with the University of Alabama.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Settlement: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 2)

The following version was posted in the Members of the Birmingham-Jefferson Historical Society in the newsletter October 13, 2009:

One of the two oldest, continuously-operating, businesses in Birmingham is ROSENBERGERS’S BIRMINGHAM TRUNK,INC. Opened in 1897 by J. D. Rosenberger, in an era when travel was by horse and wagon, train and ship, the need for durable and fashionable trunks, suitcases and “grips” afforded a needed business opportunity.Rosenbergers_Birmingham_Trunk_Factory2

The downtown Rotary Club was founded in 1913, made up of respected business and professional men. J.D. Rosenberger was a founding member; and he was a member of the Board of Directors in 1914, 1921 and 1922.

In 1927, The University of Alabama football team had an outstanding record, and was invited to play in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. The train trip across the country took many days for the team to travel. As a proud fan, J.D. Rosenberger, had given each member of the team a new suitcase. A name tag was attached to each suitcase, also provided by Mr. Rosenberger; and each tag had the Rosenberger Birmingham Trunk Company logo, which was a red elephant, exploiting the name “trunk”.rosenberger larger

As the team traveled across the country, and when they arrived at Pasadena, they were met by newspaper and magazine reporters, as would be expected. The tags with the red elephants were noted on all of the team members’ suitcases, and the reporters mistook the meaning, thinking that they represented the team logo. So the elephant team mascot was born!

University of Alabama Athletics version

This is in part the one from the University of Alabama Athletics website:

The tradition started in 1930 according to the University of Alabama Athletics website form a story Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal wrote about the Alabama-Mississippi game he had witnessed in Tuscaloosa four days earlier.

Strupper wrote:

“At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fans in the stands bellowed, “Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,” and out stamped this Alabama varsity.”

Strupper and other writers continued to refer to the Alabama lineman as “Red Elephants,” the color referred to the crimson jerseys.

According to the website “Roll Bama Roll”, in the 1940s an “elephant mascot named Alamite was a regular sight on gamedays in Tuscaloosa” and “Alamite would also bear that year’s queen onto the field prior to the game as this photo from the 1947 contest against LSU show.”Alabama elephant in parade 1950s

What do you believe? Do you know of any other versions? 

SOURCES

  1. www.rollbamaroll.com  
  2. Wikipedia
  3. University of Alabama Athletics website
  4. Birmingham-Jefferson Historical Society in the newsletter October 13, 2009

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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23 comments

  1. Sherron Hayes

    I’m not a bama fan … But I like the first one better!

  2. Paul Poag

    Being a Bama fan for 55 years, I have always gone with the University of Alabama’s explanation.1930..Wallace Wade was the Head coach.The elephant name was first given to them by the sports writer from Atlanta. This is also documented in the Bear Bryant Museum & the University Archives. Roll Tide!

    1. I guess all the believers of the first story have never been to a BAMA game. The thundering feet when they enter the stadium is enough for me to know where the name comes from. Roll Tide Roll

  3. Jeremiah McMinn

    I’ve always assumed the 2nd of the two stories. The first always seemed to me like it was a little rude. I’m sure that even if the reporter did make a mistake in thinking that the elephants were a mascot that the southern gentleman of Alabama would not have made it clear that the luggage was a gift. It just seems… A bit off. It would be somewhat unprofessional to talk about someone’s mistake as being what created the mascot. I just think Alabama has more tradition than that.

  4. William Nabors

    Always thought the first one was the correct write up. RTR!!!

  5. I like to think that the second story is true… True strength and dominance, even back then!!! RTR!!!

  6. Jeremy Britt

    Lame! Lol. This was one deciding factor when i was kid on who to pull for. I read up on both teams, but fell in love the the story for auburns war eagle tradition

  7. W K Boris Moran

    Yea lame for sure but so is tide

  8. R Daniel Proctor

    Lame elephant still crushes baddest tiger.

  9. […] of Alabama Grads of 1914 & beginning of future of Bryant-Denny Stadium  What is the true source for the University of Alabama elephant mascot known as Big Al? The day the Birmingham police helped the University of Alabama football mascot retrieve his […]

  10. Gayla Mixon

    How cruel!! Are those chains I see!!!

    1. Joni Collopy

      Yes. Elephants do not belong in captivity, but if they are where they can reach people, they are restrained somehow for human safety.

    2. Gayla Mixon

      How about elephants safety???

    3. Joni Collopy

      That’s another l reason why they don’t belong in captivity.

  11. the second story is the true version.

  12. I heard they have an elephant mascot because they are from “Tusk”aloosa!

  13. The second story sounds a little more believable to me. I agree with Jeremiah, I think tradition runs deep and that makes more sense. Not a fan of seeing chains on the elephants in the pictures.

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