By Cara Jordan
Early in 2012, a curious textile arrived at our new studio. The hooked rug bears the proud image of a bulldog in a Yale sweater and an inscription reading “Handsome Dan II.” We were hooked (no pun intended)…who was this Handsome dog?
Handsome Dan II hooked rug. Courtesy of private collector.
Handsome Dan I
Clue to Handsome Dan II’s identity are his blue sweater and the football next to him. After some research, we learned that the tradition of Handsome Dan began in 1889 when Yale got its first official mascot, Handsome Dan I. Handsome Dan, a bulldog, was purchased for $5.00 from a local blacksmith’s shop by Yale student Andrew Graves. Handsome Dan attended Yale’s football games and was trained to “speak to Harvard,” whereupon he would bark ferociously. He remained Yale’s mascot until his death in 1898. Handsome Dan’s body has been stuffed and can still be seen today in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium.
Handsome Dan’s successor, Handsome Dan II, came to Yale in 1933. He was bought with saved pennies by the freshman class and nicknamed “Bad Dan.” In 1934 he was kidnapped by Harvard students and photographed with the statue of John Harvard. Handsome Dan II passed away in 1937 due to complications from a broken leg.
Handsome Dan XVII, "Sherman"
Since then there have been a long succession of Handsome Dans at Yale. The likeness of Handsome Dan has even appeared on Christmas cards and is part of the Yale team logo. The newest Handsome Dan, Handsome Dan XVII, known as “Sherman,” has been part of the Yale tradition since 2007. Yale’s adoption of the bulldog as its mascot was the first officially recognized U.S. collegiate mascot. Since then many other colleges have also adopted the bulldog as their own.
Family records tell us that this hooked rug was made by Blanche Paull, the great grandmother of owner’s partner Matthew Carter. Ms Paull was an accomplished artist whose son Tom attended Yale. The rug likely dates to Handsome Dan II’s tenure, between 1933 and 1937.
Detail before conservation.
MTS is looking forward to conserving this historic hooked rug so that the family can display it for future generations.