Auburn’s first homecoming may actually have been 104 years ago—and America’s first

First Homecoming In America National Champs? It kind of maybe seems so.

Yesterday, we had this big thing about Auburn’s first homecoming… because if you call the modern tradition of cupcake opponents and alumni cornhole contests and new T-shirt designs (as opposed to goat barbecues and Festivals of Lights and a week’s worth of Auburn Spirit sermons) and whatever else goes on these days “homecoming”, and we obviously do, than Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of homecoming at Auburn. Or at least that’s what we thought up until this morning.

From the May 5, 1909—repeat: 1909—issue of the Plainsman (then the Orange and Blue):

President Joseph, President of the Auburn Alumni Association, has announced a home coming of old students at the coming commencement, and has made an earnest plea for the presence of all old Auburn men. Mr. Joseph points out that 1909 marks a new era in the history of Auburn, and this home coming is demanded. Several large, expensive buildings have recently been erected, water works installed, electric lighting system extended, a general widening and extension on every side, and Mr. Joseph says it is the duty of the old students to come back at this very auspicious time and see something of the growth of their alma mater. Also an object of this home coming is to arouse enthusiasm for Auburn. Old members of the Auburn Band are going to be with us; so you may count on music, festivity and good cheer at Auburn about June 1.

About June 1, 1909, 1909, 1909, 1909.

When was Missouri’s first homecoming that they claim as the oldest in the country? 1911.

But LSU had them beat anyway, right? Wasn’t theirs in 1909? Yeah. No, wait… they just made that up. It wasn’t until 1925. And even if it had been in 1909, it wouldn’t have been until December.

But, man, dang—there’s a new Oldest Ever contender, which Google only just now told us about: Baylor.

Except according to Baylor, they’re not a contender—they’re the champ, as certified last year by no less an authority than the Smithsonian Institute (the poor man’s TWER). Well you know what, Baylor? Josh Dowdy, the guy who won the Make Us Blush, Win Our Homecoming Tickets contest, won them partly because he declared TWER “the Smithsonian Institute of Auburn history and culture.” So set that that crown on the ground, Bears. Because as pretty and traveling exhibit-worthy as your first homecoming seems, what with its, you know, photos and stuff, it wasn’t held until NOVEMBER 24, which is, like, a million years later than About June 1.

Sure, sure, I know what you’re going to say—”Curator Henderson, if what you say is true, than why did Auburn feel like its 1913 homecoming was the first of its kind in the south as you reported yesterday?”

Valid point, patron—and hey, I actually under-reported Auburn’s pride in the thing: When the invitation first went out, organizers— again, understandably (see: Football, HUNH, Coke, coeds, etc.)— seemed to think it was actually the first in the country, or at least that’s what the line “This is the first time in the history of any American institution that any such an invitation has gone out to its former students” would suggest.

And there’s also the question of, you know, whether it actually happened—the Orange and Blue archives are, sadly, somewhat spotty, and it likely wouldn’t have been published in the summer anyway in order to give us that “Wasn’t That The Best First Homecoming In America Ever?” article. The Auburn Alumnus wasn’t around at the time to issue a report. And there doesn’t appear to be mention of it in the Glomerata, either, unlike the goat meat ‘n’ orchestras throwdown of ’13 (GMAOT’13).

But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen—it was, after all, “demanded” that it happen, and the “duty” of everyone to attend, and an About Date was listed. Nor does its lack of goat meat and orchestras and advanced planning—only a month or so, as opposed to the 1913 event’s half a year’s worth of promotion—necessarily mean it should only qualify for the HINO (Homecoming In Name Only) Bracket. Music? Festivity? Cheer? That’s a homecoming, friend, even if Auburn didn’t think—or just forgot—that it was (and if, you know, it happened).

Auburn’s seeming ignorance of, or amnesia regarding, or possible discounting of “such an invitation (to a home coming)” having “gone out to its former students” just four years before what Tom “Mr. Auburn Everything” Bragg, the Auburn Alumni Association’s new president (of course), said was the first homecoming invitation in the history of American higher education could possibly, long shotly simply be a matter of semantics, or even just syntax.

President Joseph invited the sons of Auburn for a home coming, i.e. (maybe) to simply come home. President Bragg invited the boys to a Home-Coming—and he actually always had it in ALL CAPS. And with the word “grand” in front of it: “A GRAND HOME-COMING.”

So all that said, if it happened (as President Joseph demanded), then the Smithsonian of Auburn Culture and History is claiming it, and demanding that Auburn’s Alumni Association do likewise “with a banner in Jordan-Hare Stadium”, Skotnicki-style.

Congrats, everyone!

Related: Football guru Richard Billingsley says Auburn should claim century-old crown.

We’re documenting the evolution of homecoming at Auburn for the rest of this week. Like, nonstop vintage homecoming action. I’m excited. Go here. Stay tuned. Beat Western Carolina!

Keep Reading:

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* Auburn wore green jerseys TWICE in the 1930s
* An Auburn coed and her machine gun
* Leonardo DiCaprio and his Auburn hat are back—this time on the streets of New York

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