The History of Taft Day

How come students come together as a “blue mob” in Main Circle with painted H’s on their faces every fall? Taft Day has ended almost every Fall athletic season since 1980 with a charging spirit. 

Normally, the days building up to Taft Day are full of spirited events. Students dress up in different themed outfits each day of the week. The Main Building becomes unrecognizable, with hallways covered in an avalanche of psych cards. 

Although members of the community may imagine Taft Day traditions started with the founding of Hotchkiss, Taft was not the school’s initial rival. In fact, the school’s rival was The Hill School for almost 50 years. However, during World War II, when the U.S. enforced strict travel restrictions throughout the country, the Hotchkiss-Hill rivalry was suspended for four years. The Hill’s location, over 200 miles away from Lakeville in Pottstown, PA, made interscholastic games between the two schools impossible during the war, and later, impractical. 

After the war, the school did not continue its rivalry with The Hill. It began to play Taft in 1946 in regular athletic competitions in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council league. In 1980, the rivalry between the school and Taft was elevated to a position of prominence and Taft Day was founded.

Since that time, Taft Day incidents have nearly suspended the two school’s rivalry on several occasions. One of the most notable was when Hotchkiss students wrote Taft up for sale in the Waterbury Republic in 2004. According to Ms. Robin Chandler ’87, co-director of Athletics and assistant coach of Varsity Field Hockey, this was “the best prank. It was hilariously clever.” 

Additional incidents intensified the two school’s rivalry. In response to viewing their school on sale, Taft students “hired a plane trailing a banner to fly over the Hotchkiss campus during that afternoon’s athletic contests,” recalled Mr. John Chandler ’53 in his Letter to the Editors published in The Record’s 11/19/2015 issue.

The more recent introduction of Spirit Week, during which students dress up according to given themes decided by Blue and White and gather to burn a massive cardboard Rhino, Taft’s mascot, helps fuel the energy leading up to Taft Day. Ms. Chandler said, “Taft Day had gotten more hyped from the time when I was a student, when the school only had a pep rally and no actual Spirit Week.” 

During the duration of the rivalry, the school has a record of 25 wins, 12 losses, and three ties since Taft Day’s inception. For those who have not yet experienced Taft Day, Marcus Lam ’23 shared, If you thought dressing up was only limited to Troppy Tuesday or Halloween, you have yet to see Spirit Week and Taft Day unfold. Soon enough, hopefully, we’ll be back to wearing our all-blue outfits, face paint, and chanting.”

Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.