By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow
This summer, Deborah Nygren donated a Rosenberger Elephant likely owned by her father, who attended the University of Alabama in the 1930s. The Rosenberger Elephant is distinct for its age, history, and size and is significant to the history of UA.
The Rosenbergers established a travel goods store in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1890s that continues to operate today; their business is the source of one story about the origin of the elephant as the mascot of UA ties the pacyderm to the Rosenbergers’ zeal for developing unique advertising strategies. Decking out the football team of UA with crimson elephant luggage tags in 1927 for the Rose Bowl, it is said that a journalist noticed the distinctive tags and later described the players as “red elephants,” leading to the color — and the animal — to be associated with them even today. However, some sports historians disagree with this history, and it is not mentioned in official UA accounts of how the team obtained its mascot. Nevertheless, this Rosenberger Elephant is a tiny look into the past of our great team. Read more about the store, and the legendary tags, on the Birmingham wiki.
Donnelly Walton, our archival coordinator, models the Rosenberger elephant in the photograph provided below. The second photograph, also of Donnelly, shows another Rosenberger elephant from our collections that still has its original keychain.