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24 old-timey sailor animal logos, ranked

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A bunch of mid-20th century logos are extremely similar, but we can find key differences.

Banner Society illustration.

Many college athletic departments used to have logos that featured their mascots wearing sailor hats. A bunch of them are helpfully gathered in this tweet:

The striking similarities are not coincidental. One artist from California drew the logo designs for a large amount of teams between the 1930s and ‘70s:

Franks awarded Arthur Evans—head artist for the Angelus Pacific Co. of Fullerton from 1932 until his retirement in 1977—the moniker of ‘Most Prolific Cartoonist,’ reporting that he was responsible for at least ‘90 percent of the college mascots’ being used at the time. ‘Art Evans is a legend around here,’ longtime Angelus office manager Jean Ruppe is quoted as saying. ‘Colleges and high schools would send a rough idea of what they wanted, and Art would get busy and come up with a sports mascot.’

Evans drew many of those sailor hats on various species over those decades. There’s no definitive answer about why so many schools wanted sailor hats, but the most popular explanation on the internet is that, in the middle of the 20th century, freshmen had to wear sailor hat-looking beanies as a hazing ritual on a lot of campuses.

So let’s rank a bunch of mid-20th-century sailor logos on a scientific scale.

I’ll award between one and five points for jauntiness (because what fun is a mascot if that mascot isn’t having fun itself?), fearsomeness (self-explanatory), and naval usefulness (because if you’re wearing a sailor hat, you really should be able to help sail a boat).

1. NC State’s sailing wolf: 13 points

Jauntiness: 5
Fearsomeness: 5
Naval usefulness: 3

Look at this self-confident, emotionally fulfilled, vicious animal that’s about to attack its prey and enjoy the snack that ensues. We should all be as confident in our day-to-day tasks. This wolf will be ultra-useful when it comes time to force prisoners to walk the plank, and its positive attitude will boost morale among everybody onboard.

2. Oregon State’s sailing beaver: 12 points

Jauntiness: 5
Fearsomeness: 2
Naval usefulness: 5

Can build a dam, saving the rest of your crew months of work if you need to control the flow of water. Will have a blast while doing it and scare off some people, despite merely being a jolly creature with massive chompers, going to town on a bunch of flotsam.

3. Rice’s sailing owl: 11 points

Jauntiness: 1
Fearsomeness: 5
Naval usefulness: 5

Is this a fun owl? Obviously not. But a good crew member doesn’t have to be fun. They must simply know the water well, and who has better field of vision than a rugged owl, which can see well at night and thus be invaluable for aerial recon?

4. Washington State’s sailing cougar: 10 points

Jauntiness: 4
Fearsomeness: 3
Naval usefulness: 3

A friendly cougar. Has been keg-standing Fireball for a few seconds too long and is slurring its words, but retains its ability to eat you. Good for morale aboard the boat.

T-5. Texas’ sailing longhorn: 9 points

Jauntiness: 1
Fearsomeness: 5
Naval usefulness: 3

Very scary. Gets a bonus for having an obviously detachable hat, but a demerit for being known to charge after smaller animals. Could cause damage to the boat or endanger crew members if there are any rats aboard.

T-5. Michigan’s sailing wolverine: 9 points

Jauntiness: 3
Fearsomeness: 3
Naval usefulness: 3

A grizzled veteran of several foreign wars. Has seen some things. Is ready to yell HARD A-STARBOARD at the first sign of an oncoming Ohio State.

T-5. Auburn’s sailing Tiger: 9 points

Jauntiness: 3
Fearsomeness: 3
Naval usefulness: 3

Scores decently on fearsomeness, because, well, it’s a tiger. Is somewhat jaunty, because it looks more confused than worried and seems fine with its surrounding environs. Large cats do well in water, giving it high naval usefulness.

T-5. LSU’s sailing tiger: same

T-5. Occidental’s sailing tiger: also same

T-5: Missouri’s sailing tiger: also same

As Occidental’s school magazine explains, their tiger is “Oswald,” but:

To alumni of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, he’s known as ‘Tommy Tiger.’ Auburn University’s legions of football fanatics refer to him as ‘Aubie.’ The nation’s 33rd president and Show Me State native provided the moniker for ‘Truman the Tiger’ at the University of Missouri. But to devotees of Louisiana State University, he’ll always be ‘Sailor Mike.’

Thank Evans, who was prolific at drawing identical tigers for different schools. It helped that there was no internet at the time.

It’s not clear which school got this logo first, by the way. One theory from an Auburn blog:

We can be sure it was not made for LSU or by an Alabama graduate. It most likely started at a small college in Los Angeles, only a few miles from the Arthur Evans, and made [its] way East.

T-11. BYU’s sailing cougar: 8 points

Jauntiness: 2
Fearsomeness: 2
Naval usefulness: 4

BYU’s since updated this oldie but goodie and brought it back. This cougar does not look especially care-free. In fact, it seems troubled. It also doesn’t look overwhelmingly scary, though it does look old, and seniors are sometimes wonderful sailors.

T-11. Baylor’s sailing bear: 8 points

Jauntiness: 3
Fearsomeness: 2
Naval usefulness: 3

Does not look like a bear that’s going to eat you. Does seem like a bear you might want to play cards with below deck before lights-out.

T-11. Miami’s sailing ibis: 8 points

Jauntiness: 1
Fearsomeness: 4
Naval usefulness: 3

Is already wet, smoking, and coming out of a fight, making Sebastian a brutal adversary in any sort of aquatic warfare.

T-11. Marshall’s sailing bison: 8 points

Jauntiness: 3
Fearsomeness: 4
Naval usefulness: 1

A deadly beast, because it’s a bison, but doesn’t look that angry here. Appears to be mean-mugging for the camera and not totally into this. Character concern for a seafaring mission.

T-11. Brown’s sailing bear: 8 points

Jauntiness: 2
Fearsomeness: 2
Naval usefulness: 4

Carefully deliberating on what to do next, a valuable naval quality. Suspicious of its surroundings but not really looking for a fight, in the same way the Ivy League is not looking for a fight whenever everyone else heads off to the FCS playoffs.

T-11. Virginia Tech’s sailing turkey: 8 points

Jauntiness: 1
Fearsomeness: 5
Naval usefulness: 2

I don’t know if you’ve ever come across one in your backyard, but if you haven’t, let me tell you: Turkeys don’t play like that. You don’t want to approach one. Turkeys would destroy humans if we did not breed them in confinement and then use machines to turn them into Thanksgiving dinner. I’m staying far away.

T-11. Wisconsin’s sailing badger: 8 points

Jauntiness: 5
Fearsomeness: 1
Naval usefulness: 2

An absolute delight. A friendly badger I’d be happy to have rummage through the dumpster outside my apartment. Doesn’t have a care in the world. Also doesn’t look menacing or smart. Is not a badger I would want leading an expedition abroad.

18. Cincinnati’s sailing bearcat: 7 points

Jauntiness: 3
Fearsomeness: 1
Naval usefulness: 3

Looks happy, but has a pregnant smile that forebodes something dangerous on the horizon. That’s not a look that inspires confidence in anybody. Would likely do fine in the water and could even gather fish on behalf of the rest of your crew.

T-19. North Carolina’s sailing ram: 6 points

Jauntiness: 1
Fearsomeness: 4
Naval usefulness: 1

A ram is an epic hassle to get onto a boat and would not do well in water. This one looks downright suspicious of everything around it.

T-19. Alabama’s sailing elephant: 6 points

Jauntiness: 4
Fearsomeness: 1
Naval usefulness: 1

Downright thrilled. Somehow not striking fear into anybody, and would be a disaster in any seafaring situation, because it weighs enough to sink a small boat.

21. Cal’s sailing bear: 5 points

Jauntiness: 1
Fearsomeness: 2
Naval usefulness: 2

Appears to be a baby bear, which drastically cuts into its jaunt and fear factor. Could be fun to play with, which would improve everyone’s mood. Has little naval experience, because nobody in Berkeley wants to spend time commuting to the port of San Francisco.

T-22. Kansas State’s sailing wildcat: 4 points

Jauntiness: 1
Fearsomeness: 2
Naval usefulness: 1

Is incredibly unsure of itself and unhappy, probably because its hat is crushing its right ear. Until that’s rectified, not useful at all on a boat.

T-22. UCLA’s sailing bruin: 4 points

Jauntiness: 2
Fearsomeness: 1
Naval usefulness: 1

A cute pet that isn’t happy about being domesticated.

24. Wash. U’s sailing bear: 3 points

Jauntiness: 1
Fearsomeness: 1
Naval usefulness: 1

Has chicken pox, which could infect the entire crew. Fortunately, the great doctors at Wash. U should be able to get this mammal back on its feet in no time.