We introduced the title “pipe custodian” to readers in an Ask Flamingle HQ back in May, which prompted several follow-up questions and comments. One reader — a noted collector of UW memorabilia — owns what he believes is a pipe from the Class of 1893 and shared a picture with us, shown above. The pipe custodian was one of various officers of the UW’s senior class from the 1890s until 1944. The custodian had charge of the “pipe of peace,” which officers of the junior and senior classes smoked together in a graduation-week ceremony, during which they also literally buried a hatchet. If you’re thinking, “This sounds awkward,” you’re onto something. In theory, the tradition was based on a fanciful idea of a Native American ceremony, though it appears that just about everyone involved in creating and performing it was white. A highly decorative version of the pipe of peace will be included in Sifting & Reckoning, a Chazen Museum exhibit displaying the work of the UW’s Public History Project. In 2019, UW–Madison embarked on the project to investigate and report on various campus incidents of exclusion and discrimination — it includes information about the Pipe of Peace Ceremony. Sifting & Reckoning opens September 12. Read more about the Public History Project and exhibit in the fall issue of On Wisconsin magazine.
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