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Minnesota Gophers: Earliest Known Photo of Goldy Gopher #TBT

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Goldy Gopher the mascot was born in 1952. This is the only known photo from that first year. You've come a long way Goldy.

whattttup 1952
whattttup 1952
U of M

From the 1953 Gopher yearbook.

If you're looking for a history of the Gopher. Well let me quote from this 1990 article about the history of advertising characters in the state of Minnesota.

A different Minnesota animal—the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, or gopher—was first chosen by the legislature in 1857 to represent the state. Today, the gopher officially represents both the University of Minnesota and all of Minnesota's cities, towns, and residents, but in one of its first uses St. Paul artist R. O. Sweeny cartooned the state's legislators as rodents pulling a program favored by railroad interests in an 1858 loan scandal.

There have been several versions of the university's gopher over the years. George Grooms, an Iowa artist,drew a semirealistic seated gopher in 1940. Wearing a cheerful smile and a beanie, that gopher was used for more than
three decades despite the artist's later admission that his model had been a chipmunk.

In 1979 the director of the University of Minnesota alumni association, Vince Bilotta, decided that a new gopher would be a fitting symbol for the group's seventy-fifth anniversary. Bilotta liked the Hamm's Beer bear so he called the brewery for the name of the artist. The original artist was dead, he was told, but Bill Stein, who had drawn the bear many times for ads, could be contacted in Minneapolis. Stein's resulting cheerful gopher was accepted and sent on mascot duty until 1985, when an updated image was sought again.

Macho and aggressive was what the gopher should now be. Steve Wanvig, an artist from Owatonna, drew a running, fist-in-your-face rodent wearing an "M" letter sweater. For the sports crowd, that was the right image. Others preferred the old gopher and formed a protest group called SOW or Save Our Wimp, championing the mild-mannered demeanor of the previous gopher. With slight changes to reduce his ferocity—removing his claws, thinning his torso—another version was approved for use by the university and licensed to the numerous manufacturers of memorabilia. The spelling of his name was also established as "Goldy," a nickname originally derived from sportscaster Halsey Hall's name for the winning Golden Gophers football teams of the 1930s coached by Bernie Bierman.

Since 1952 students wearing gopher costumes have entertained fans at games and other university events. At first Goldy was selected from the football marching band. In recent years Goldy, who was once considered male, has become "a universal Gopher," so male and female students both don the large head and-tailed costume. Like the original Hamm's bear and the Land O'Lakes Indian maiden, the gopher is silent.