a part of the Princeton student's way of life sometime in the late
1850s or early 1860s. The first cheer, ``Hooray, hooray, hooray!
Tiger siss-boom-ah, Princeton!'' was adapted from the ``skyrocket''
cheer of the Seventh Regiment of New York City. Princetonians of
the early 1860s remembered fifty years later hearing the Seventh
Regiment give this cheer from their railroad coaches at the Princeton
depot on their way to Washington, a few days after the outbreak
of the Civil War. But a member of the Class of 1860 was pretty sure
that he had heard a classmate give the rocket cheer in Professor
Schenck's chemistry class in the spring of their senior year. The
``tiger'' (the word itself or a roar) was a common element in early
cheers, generally. Its use in the rocket cheer did not refer to
the Princeton mascot; he came later (see Tiger).
skyrocket cheer was quoted by Rudyard Kipling in his story A Matter
of Fact (1892): An English newspaperman, encouraging his reluctant
American colleague, a Princeton graduate, to cable a fantastic story
about a sea serpent to the New York World, ends his exhortation
with the words ``Sizz! Boom-ah!''
the 1890s, the skyrocket cheer developed into the ``locomotive,''
Princeton's longest-used and most distinctive cheer, which starts
slowly and picks up increasing speed, suggesting the sound of a
``'Ray 'ray 'ray
Tiger, tiger, tiger
Sis, sis, sis,
Boom, boom, boom, ah!
Princeton! Princeton! Princeton!''
cheer, used in the first half of the century, first Nassau and then
Tiger were spelled out three times, followed by ``fight, team, fight.''
Still another, the ``short'' cheer, was used principally to honor
individuals: ``R-r-r-ay, Lourie.''
Cheering played a more important part in football
games in earlier years. With no band, time-outs were filled with
locomotives and Nassau cheers, and with no public address system,
the infrequent withdrawal of a player was greeted with a short cheer
in his honor. And, as a Philadelphia Press reporter brought out
in his account of Yale's 29 to 5 victory over Princeton in 1900,
the cheering did not end with the game. When the Yale adherents
danced about on the field to celebrate their victory, he reported,
the Princeton stands responded with ``the steady, deep pulsation
of the locomotive.'' Even after everyone else had left the field
and darkness was closing in, ``still in obedience to the cry of
a white-hatted figure up on the fence, a knot of Princetonians cheered
-- cheered the team, cheered the scrub, cheered the team man by
man, cheered Princeton, and last of all . . . sang in husky voices
each verse of Old Nassau.''
In recent years
cheering has been less ritualistic, more responsive to the immediate
situation, with rhythmic chants such as ``go-Tiger-go,'' ``take
that ball away, heh, heh, take that ball away,'' and the one-word
call first used for basketball, later applied also to football:
``DE-fence,'' repeated time and again.
has become less important, the activities of the cheerleaders have
become more spectacular, with tumbling on the sidelines, and push-ups
under the goal posts to recount the points after each Princeton
score. Cheerleaders were once chosen for their prominence on campus
(sometimes as captains or managers in other sports); more recently
they have been selected because of their special talents for the
acrobatics of cheerleading.
This is adapted
Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion,
copyright Princeton University Press (1978).