Object Lesson: A Golden Reminder

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A monthly feature highlighting the artifact collection of the University Archives.

Notre Dame might hold an edge in terms of the overall record in the Fighting Irish/Wildcats football rivalry (37-8-2 between 1889 and 1995), but the Archives recently accessioned a memento of a day of Northwestern triumph. This gold belt buckle belonged to Kenneth L. "Tug" Wilson, who was a successful athletic director for 20 years, and commemorates a 20-0 shutout victory for the boys in Purple from the 1940 season.


An image of Dyche Stadium adorns the top edge of the buckle, above the record of the day's point tally. Below this is a picture of a shillelagh, or traditional Irish club. Usually made of blackthorn wood, and sometimes known as a blackthorn walking stick, this ceremonial weapon was the winner's trophy in contests held between these two teams from 1929-1948. Beating Notre Dame was a quite a feat in that era, and a good cause for pride. I like to think of "Tug" hitching up his pants and being reminded of his team's accomplishment, cracking a little smile and not needing to say a word.

The University president called off classes on the Monday following the game "to relieve emotional strain," as one publication had it, and the students cooperated by doing a snake dance down Sheridan Road.