ACC holds a series called ‘Blast from the Past’ where we look back at the historical events that made cheerleading what it is today. This month we are taking a trip back to the 1880’s when the first ever cheerleaders came about.
The history of cheerleading originates from the United States in the late 1880’s with your average crowd yelling and chanting to encourage their team. No one is quite sure how they documented that it was the first cheer ever but credit is given to Princeton University in 1884 for coming up with a Princeton cheer.
Then a few years later, the Princeton grad Tom Peebles brought cheering to the University of Minnesota. But it wasn’t until 1898 that fellow University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell directed what was the very first official cheer ever in November of 1898. The story is that Minnesota was having such a terrible football season that people felt the need to come up with positive chants and cheering was born. Minnesota went on to organise a male cheer squad in 1903 and started the first cheer fraternity in the history of cheerleading, Gamma Sigma. Ironically enough cheerleading started out as an all male sport, it was felt there deep loud voices were more projecting than a woman’s voice. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that women became much more involved in cheerleading and began to incorporate gymnastics, pyramids and throws. Today, youth cheerleading is predominantly made up of female cheerleaders however college cheerleading is still about fifty percent male.
The students cheered all they could for Minnesota yet they still got beat. It was a student’s scientific thesis that positive fan support would actually help send positive energy toward there team and assist them in winning. Well, the cheer wasn’t enough to garner a win but it did create a new sport. University of Minnesota stuck with the idea and eventually began to have an organized group of cheers at every game.
The evolution of cheerleading to a sport was again developed by The University of Minnesota as the women became known for there athletic ability by including gymnastics in their routines. In the early 1900s, the megaphone would become the next big addition to cheerleading history and then the pom pom which was introduced by Lawrence Herkimer. The pom pom would go on to become a universal symbol for the world of cheerleading. Then in the 1930’s the sport developed into much more of a display of showmanship as the athletes became much more entertaining and fun to watch.
Herkimer has to be seen as the grandfather of cheerleading. He has done so much for the history of cheerleading by founding the National Cheerleading Association at S M U and holding cheerleading schools way back in 1946 and ’47.
Today the sport has evolved into a highly athletic and competitive field displaying males and females of incredible talent. Herkimer and University of Minnesota have carved out a unique history of cheerleading.