Spring Hats, Julius Caesar and Marriage Proposals: Leap Day Through the Front Pages of the “Lariat”, 1904-1988

Today is February 29th, which of course means it’s Leap Day, the extra day added to the calendar every four years to make up for the fraction of an extra day we experience beyond the standard 24 hours. Over the course of four years, those fractions add up to another full day, so we add it to the end of February, and the world celebrates with news reports of people who only celebrate a birthday every four years.


But a quick review of the front pages of the Baylor “Lariat” dating back to February 29, 1908 show a diverse range of stories penned by Baylor students on Leap Days past. On that day in the early 20th century, it appears Leap Day didn’t even rank a front-page mention, but the ad in the lower corner certainly wouldn’t look out of place today in that it promotes Spring fashions on a date still firmly in winter’s grip.


Fast forward to 1928, where our first mention of leap year is made by an anonymous “Lariat” scribe. They posit the idea that people with Leap Day birthdays only celebrate every four years and “consequently they never do get very old.” Unfortunately for the Bears of 1928, the author notes that there were no students listed with February 29th birthdays.


Bill Donoho, who penned this cheeky review of the tradition of women proposing to men on Leap Day, used the real names of Baylor students to voice fictional (one assumes) opinions on the subject. Reponses range from wholeheartedly embracing the notion to one male’s assertion that only an examination of a woman’s “bank account” would lead to his accepting such a proposition.  A review of the 1940 “Round-Up” reveals photos for three people mentioned in the post: Dorothy Kelly, Mildred Adams, and Joe White, seen below.

1968Kay Wheeler’s report from Leap Day 1968 mentions the women-proposing-to-men trope, but she goes deeper by asking Jack Thornton, Data Processing Director, to run the “student data cards” through his computer to see if any of Baylor’s enrolled students had a February 29th birthday. The shocking answer: no. She ends her piece with a rather deadpan response from Dr. Walter Williams, a professor of math, who noted that “February was the shortest month, it’s the one that got [the extra day].”


In 1984 the review of Leap Day’s history takes a decidedly scientific (and non-humorous) turn, reviewing Julius Caesar’s decree in 46 B.C. to reform the Roman calendar, but then noting that the 365.25 year was “a little [sic] longer than the solar year of 365.2422 days, a difference accounting to 0.0078 of a day per year, or about three days every four centuries.”

Regardless the decade, if you’d like to read more of these Leap Day issues from the 20th century years of the “Lariat”, click on the links below, or head to http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu and click on the Baylor “Lariat” collection to start your search for whatever makes you leap for joy.

View the “Lariat” for the following Leap Days:

February 29th, 1908
February 29th, 1928
February 29th, 1940
February 29th, 1968
February 19th, 1984

Visit the Texas Collection online at http://www.baylor.edu/lib/texas for more priceless Texana. 

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