100 Years of Buggy History – 1928-1932

Previous Articles: Intro & 1920; 1921-1923; 1924-1927

This week, 100 Years of Buggy History gets into the late 1920s and early 1930s. Say hello to Frew Street, as the Buggy Course makes its final change, and goodbye to Campus Week, as the faculty worries about the impact of festivities on its students.


Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 4, 1928 @ 3:30pm; Finals on Saturday, May 5, 1928 @ 10:30am

Sweepstakes Committee: George Campbell (Chair), James Ashwell, John Wilkins, Morgan B. Maze, Thomas Lippert

Race Results: (1) KapSig; (2) SigNu; (3) Phi Kappa

Design Comp: SAE (Winner); Phi Sigma Kappa (Honorable Mention – Best Aesthetic Design)

Weather: Perfect; High of 81/86 (Low of 49/56)

1928 brought about the last major change to the course that has carried over for 92 years, and the races moved out of the Greek system for the first time.  Meanwhile, Campus Week, the home of Buggy, was shortened to 2 days in a sign of things to come.

  • Campus Week Shrinks.  Campus Week, the precursor to Spring Carnival, was shortened from 3 days to 2 days (with fewer decorations and no “Mardi Gras” celebration) upon the decision of the Faculty Executive Committee.  The result was that Friday’s prelims were pushed to the afternoon, rather than run in the morning, as more events had to be crammed into 1 fewer day.
  • Frew Street Appears and the Final Course Change is Made.  CMU officials put together a petition for the opening, grading, and paving of Frew Street late in 1926, and by March of 1928, Frew Street had been completed.  Frew Street replaced Woodlawn Avenue beginning in the Chute, and extended the road until it intersected with Tech Street.  As a result, the Buggy course was changed one final time, following Frew Street to the Frew/Tech intersection, rather than turning through campus and around CFA.  That course is still intact today.
The course, beginning in 1928. Letters A-E are the starts of each of the 5 Hills
  • Dorm Participation.  For the first time, Buggy was opened to a non-Greek organization.  In order to make Buggy an all-campus event, rather than just focused on the Greek system, the Men’s Dorms were permitted to enter Buggies; though it’s unclear if any actually did.
  • Design Comp Trophy Change.  In a change to the previous rules, the winner of the race is also permitted to win Design Comp (prior to 1928, if the winner of the race won Design Comp, the Design Comp trophy would go to the 2nd place Design Comp finisher).
  • Buggies, Both Old and New.  An unknown number of organizations entered Raceday 1928.  But we do know something about most of those orgs’ buggies.  Beta Sigma Rho, Beta Theta Pi, DTD, and PhiKap, all returned the same Buggies from 1927.  ATO, Delta Mu (KDR), Delta Phi Delta, Kappa Sigma Rho, PiKA, SAE, SigNu, and Theta Xi, all brought back the same Buggies from 1927 but with some mechanical changes, new parts, or new designs.  Alpha Sigma Phi, DU, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Sigma Kappa, and SigEp, each built new Buggies for Raceday 1928.
  • Prelim Heats.  Heat #1 saw KapSig lead the entire way, finishing with a 3:08.6.  ATO and Kappa Sigma Rho went into the freeroll 2nd and 3rd, respectively, but as they approached the finish line, SigEp caught Kappa Sigma Rho for 3rd (ATO finished 2nd).  In Heat #2, SigNu went wire-to-wire, finishing in 3:13.6, while they were followed into the freeroll by SAE and Delta Phi Delta.  By the finish line, Delta Phi Delta had passed SAE for 2nd, while SAE held on for 3rd.  In Heat #3, PiKA was the one who led the entire way, finishing in 3:10.2, while Beta and DTD went into the freeroll in that order, but neck-and-neck.  Eventually, DTD passed Beta for 2nd, and Beta had to settle for 3rd.  In Heat #4, Theta Xi was first into the freeroll, but Phi Kappa, who was 3rd into the freeroll, managed to pass both Phi Sigma Kappa (who was 2nd early) and Theta Xi to win the heat in the top time of 3:05.  Theta Xi held on to 2nd, and DU managed to finish 3rd.  The top 2 from each of the 4 Heats (KapSig, ATO, SigNu, Delta Phi Delta, PiKA, DTD, Phi Kappa, Theta Xi) advanced to the Finals on Saturday.
  • Finals.  On the front hills, PiKA grabbed the early lead, going into the freeroll first.  They were followed closely by Phi Sigma Kappa and Phi Kappa.  Unfortunately for PiKA, they couldn’t quite make it to the backhills, as they crashed in the chute.  Ultimately, it was KapSig who crossed the finish line first, followed by SigNu and Phi Kappa.  KapSig made a 4 second improvement off of their first day time and set the “course record” (of course, it was a new course) with a winning time of 3:04.4.  KapSig’s winning team consisted of driver Robert Wright and pushers Allen, Lovewell, Stauffer, Flannigan, and Kennedy.
  • Design Comp.  SAE took home the design trophy thanks to their mechanical qualities.


Raceday: Prelims on Saturday, May 18, 1929 @ 10am; Finals on Saturday, May 25, 1929

Sweepstakes Committee: Unknown

Race Results: (1) PhiKap (3:05.6 – COURSE RECORD); KapSig and SigNu finished 2nd and 3rd (order is unknown)

Design Comp: Unknown

Weather: Rain for Prelims, High of 75/Low of 50; Sunny for Finals, High of 72/Low of 45

1929 saw the elimination of Campus Week, which left only Buggy to carry the torch of CMU traditions (and caused the races to run on back-to-back Saturdays).  The lack of available Tartan archives limits our knowledge of the year a bit, but we do know a little.

  • Campus Week Ends.  In a vote in May 1928, the Faculty Executive Committee officially discontinued Campus Week, over the objections of the Student Council and student body.  The faculty decided that Campus Week was too much of a distraction from schoolwork.  A petition from the students in December 1928 would ultimately help usher in the 1930 Spring Carnival, but the result of no 1929 Campus Week meant that Buggy could only take place on Saturdays.
  • Participation Shrinks.  The other result of Campus Week being eliminated was that fewer organizations participated.  In fact, there were only 10 teams competing in 1929, roughly half of the number of participants in 1928.
  • Heats and Results.  The Prelims were divided into 3 heats, and the winner of each Heat would then move onto the Finals the following week. Heat 1 consisted of 3 teams, and the heat was won by PhiKap (driver: Harry Kolb; Hill 5 Pusher: William Henderson).  Heat 2 also consisted of 3 teams, and was won by KapSig (driver: Bob Wright).  Heat 3 had 4 teams in total, and the winner was SigNu (driver: Bruce Finney).  Ultimately, those 3 teams squared off the following week, and PhiKap raced to victory, in a course record 3:05.6. See photos below.


Raceday: Prelims on Wednesday, May 7 @ 7:30pm; Finals on Saturday, May 10, 1930 @ 9:30am

Sweepstakes Committee: Dave Tomer (Chair), Albert Redding, James Leonard, Albert Scott, Harold Weitzel

Race Results: (1) Beta (2:57.5 – COURSE RECORD); (2) Phi Sigma Kappa

Design Comp: (1) Theta Xi

Weather: Sunny; High of 86/88, Low of 68/64

1930 witnessed the return of the 3-day festivities in the Spring semester, but this time under a new name…Spring Carnival.  It also brought about a very unique Raceday structure.

  • Introducing…Spring Carnival!  After cancelling Campus Week in 1929, enough students banded together to convince the faculty to bring back the tradition on a trial basis, and the faculty approved the student council’s program in January 1930.  The resulting event was dubbed Spring Carnival.  Following its conclusion, the Tartan called it “the beginning of something new and something decidedly essential to the school and to the student body.”  And 90 years later, here we are.
  • Raceday on Wednesday?  The official Spring Carnival program kicked off at 9pm on Thursday night with the Coronation Dance, and the Sweepstakes Finals were scheduled for Saturday from 9:30-11am.  But due to the addition of an event called Circus Day (a.k.a. the Country Fair) on Friday morning, the Sweepstakes Prelims, which were originally expected to be on Friday at 10:30am, were moved to Wednesday evening, May 7, at 7:30pm.
  • Small Fields Make For Unique Heats.  The then-typical heat setup of the top 2 from 3 heats plus the next 2 fastest times advancing to the finals had to be scrapped when only 8 organizations entered a Buggy.  Instead, the race was modified so that there were 4 total heats, with 2 Buggies in each heat.  Of those, 6 of the 8 teams would qualify for the finals on Saturday (it was likely the winner of each heat, plus the two fastest 2nd place finishers).
  • Orgs and Results.  The 8 teams squaring off in Buggy were KapSig, PiKA, DTD, Beta, SigNu, PhiKap, Phi Sigma Kappa, and Theta Xi.  Of those, the 6 who advanced to the Finals were SigNu, DTD, Beta, KapSig, PhiKap, and Phi Sigma Kappa (sorry to PiKA and Theta Xi).  In the finals on Saturday morning, it was Beta who ended up on top, setting the course record in a 2:57.5, with Phi Sigma Kappa closely behind in 2nd.


Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 8 @ 10am; Finals on Saturday, May 9 @ 10:30am

Sweepstakes Committee: Dale Knouse (Chair – KapSig)

Race Results: (1) DTD (2:59), (2) Beta, (3) KapSig

Design Comp: (1) Theta Xi

Weather: Probably overcast (light rain in Pittsburgh on both days); High of 61/72, Low of 47/52

1931 saw a close race, with 3 preliminary heats leading into a very exciting finals.

  • Pushing Rules are Relaxed.  It’s unclear exactly when this happened, but some of the rules from the mid-1920s were relaxed by 1931.  There was no longer a prohibition on track or cross-country athletes pushing a Buggy.  This did cause a bit of an issue, however, because a track meet against Washington & Jefferson was scheduled for the Saturday of Finals.  It’s unclear if any track athletes skipped the meet to push Buggy, though the Tartans’ domination of the Presidents by the score of 104-30 in the track meet suggests that no one stayed behind to push.
  • Raceday Back to Friday.  After a 2-year hiatus, Prelims moved back to its standard Friday slot, replacing the prior year’s Circus Day.  It turns out that Circus Day did not give sufficient time in the day for Prelims, and there was far more interest in Buggy than in Circus Day.
  • Pittsburgh Aviators Take to the Buggy Course.  A report from the Pittsburgh Press on May 2, 1931 suggest that the Pittsburgh School of Aviation division of Main Aeronautics Company (I believe this is now known as the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics) would be entering a Buggy on Raceday that was designed to look like Kaye Don’s Silver Bullet.  It’s unclear how exactly they were entering, but my best guess is that this represents the entry of a new CMU fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha (formerly Kappa Sigma Rho, which went dormant in 1935).  Lambda Chi Alpha at Pitt seemed to have some connection to the aviation community.
  • Heat Selections and Prelims.  This year, all organizations were required to attend a Heat Selection meeting on Thursday at 11:30am, and failure to show up would result in a disqualification.  Ultimately, 15 organizations entered the race.  They were divided into 3 heats, in which the top 2 teams from each heat would advance to the Finals.  The heats and results were:
    • Heat 1: Alpha Sig, Theta Xi, DU, ATO and SAE – DU and SAE were the top 2 teams, and the Heat was won with a 3:15.5 time.
    • Heat 2: Phi Kappa Psi, PhiKap, SigEp, SigNu, and Beta – SigEp and Beta were the top 2 teams, and the Heat was won with a 3:26 time.
    • Heat 3: Lambda Chi Alpha, KapSig, Phi Sigma Kappa, DTD, and PiKA – KapSig and DTD were the top 2 teams, and the Heat was won with a 3:09.5 time.
  • DTD Sweeps Pittsburgh.  We don’t have a lot of details about the Finals.  But we do know that it was very close.  DTD managed to shave 10 seconds off of their Prelim time to win, with a 2:59 time, and Beta and KapSig finished very closely behind, with only a few yards distance between those 3.  DTD’s winning buggy was driven by Ernest Lemon.  But not only did DTD win CMU’s Buggy race, they also won Pitt’s buggy race!  This was the first time that an organization swept both races. (And yes, Pitt had buggy too.  More on that next week).
  • Travelling Trophy.  DTD’s win earned them a trophy.  But early in the fall of 1932, they noticed that their precious trophy had gone missing!  One week later, the trophy was returned to them by mail.


Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 20 @ 11am; Finals on Saturday, May 21 @ 11am

Sweepstakes Committee: Lorin C. Brown (Chair – SigNu)

Race Results: (1) Beta (2:54.8 – COURSE RECORD); (2) DTD; (3) ATO

Design Comp: (1) Theta Xi; (2) Beta

Weather: Sunny; High of 83/82, Low of 51/59

1932 saw a couple of rule additions, the introduction of lanes to the course, and the first of many devastating DQs.

  • Designs Must Race.  In 1932 a new rule was added that to be eligible for Design Competition, the Buggy must actually race.  It’s unclear why this rule was added (possibly to get more buggies racing?); one can only imagine a rash of orgs that decided “let’s build this Buggy but not bother to actually race it!”.  Another older rule returned as well, as track and cross-country runners were once again deemed ineligible to participate.
  • Alternates Permitted. For the first time, orgs were allowed to submit the name of 2 alternates on their roster, in addition to the 5 pushers and 1 driver, in order to provide for a backup in the event of an injury or illness.
  • Front Hills Add Lanes.  Traffic flow must have been a problem on Tech and Schenley, because in 1932 the City of Pittsburgh decided to add traffic dummies and flashers to the top of the hill.  This created an imbalance on the front hills, and therefore Sweepstakes decided to create lanes for the buggies.  Any buggy leaving its lane prior to the neutral zone at the top of Hill 2 would be DQ’d, and spectators were warned to stay off the street on the front hills to avoid interfering with the outside buggies.
A view of the traffic dummy can be seen in the background of this photo (from a later date)
  • Beta TRIes a New Design.  The rule requiring buggies to have 4 wheels was eliminated at some point, so Beta decided to try something radical in 1932 – a 3-wheeler!  Designed as a standard trike, it turned out to be a successful experiment, as Beta won the race in a new course record time of 2:54.8, shaving almost 3 seconds off of their prior course record. The design also earned them a 2nd place finish in the Design Competition.
  • Prelim Heats.  We don’t know exactly how many teams competed, but we do know it was at least 9.  The race was run in 3 heats, with the top 2 from each heat advancing to the finals.  KapSig led the field heading into the finals, but given how spread out times were in the early era, the buggies were all packed closely together.  The heat results were:
    • Heat 1: (1) Beta (3:05), (2) Phi Kappa Psi, (3) SigNu (Beta and Phi Psi advance)
    • Heat 2: (1) KapSig (3:03), (2) DTD, (3) DU (KapSig and DTD advance)
    • Heat 3: (1) Theta Xi (3:08), ATO, (3) Alpha Sig (Theta Xi and ATO advance)
  • Phi Psi’s Bad Day.  In the finals, all 6 orgs were bunched together until the final stretch.  But on Hill 5, it was Phi Kappa Psi who pulled into the lead.  They went on to cross the finish line first!  Unfortunately, Hill 5 pusher George Kavel was one of many over the years who misjudged how fast the buggy would roll on Hill 5, and the buggy crossed the finish line without a pusher.  As the May 24 Tartan wrote, “the Phi Psi car crossed the finish line first but did it so easily that it didn’t need a pusher at the finish.”  That resulted in Phi Psi being DQ’d for a pushbar violation, handing the win over to Beta’s 3-wheeler.
Photo of PhiKap’s Winning Buggy in 1929 (from 05-19-1929 Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph)
Photo of SigNu’s Top 3 Buggy in 1929 (from 05-19-1929 Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph)
Photo of SAE’s Buggy in 1929 (from 05-19-1929 Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph)
1932 Starting Line (from the 1933 Thistle)

100 Years of Buggy History – 1924-1927

Previous Articles: Intro & 1920; 1921-1923

This week, 100 Years of Buggy History goes further into the 1920s. The course continues to evolve, rules start to become standardized, the Prelim/Finals setup begins, and one fraternity creates the first Buggy dynasty.


Raceday: Saturday, May 17, 1924 at 10:00am

Sweepstakes Committee: William Fencil (Chair), Vernon L. Wendlandt, Albert Thomas, L.F. Vogt

Race Results: (1) KapSig, (2) SAE, (3) DTD

Design Comp: DTD (Winner); Beta (Honorable Mention)

Weather: Sunny; 71 Degrees (Low of 45)

1924 was a relatively uneventful year of Buggy, but it did see a couple of important changes that brought the race closer to what we see today.

  • Raceday on the Weekend. The 1923 races went off successfully, so there were few planned changes to the races for 1924.  The biggest change that was planned?  Moving Raceday from Friday to Saturday!  By having the race on Saturday morning, Sweepstakes hoped that more alumni would be able to attend the race.
  • Push or Drive? Another rule was added in 1924 to clarify that Pushers are pushers and Drivers are drivers. They could not swap places. In addition, a rule clarified that the transition zones for pushers were 5 yards wide, and that the transition must occur in that zone.
  • Steam Tunnels Change the Course. It wasn’t initially planned, but the course was forced to change in 1924 due to the construction of CMU’s steam tunnels. Originally, the starting line was going to be moved in front of Central Building (Baker Hall) to give teams an equal footing at the start, but due to construction of the steam tunnels (running from Scaife Hall to Margaret Morrison), the starting line was moved to its present location – in front of Margaret Morrison at the bottom of Tech Street. The finish line was unmoved (it remained at the end of the now-CFA parking lot, the current site of Spring Carnival’s Midway).
  • KapSig Goes Back to the Wheel Well. KapSig brought back their same buggy from 1923, but they couldn’t get the same harness racing wheels on loan. So instead, they reached out to James Dawson Callery (a Pittsburgh banker, industrialist, and sportsman), who lent them 4 wheels from his harness racer, Lady Jones.  (Side note: Lady Jones was a champion runner back in the early 1900s, but her biggest claim to fame is that she is the only horse, and KapSig’s 1924 wheels were the only wheels, to have defeated a trotter named The Harvester, who was elected into the Wisconsin Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2011. )
  • Raceday Results. 18 Buggies competed in 1924.  KapSig appears to have won somewhat easily, with SAE and DTD coming around the final turn together thereafter.  The KapSig buggy was driven by W.C. Wilson.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said that KapSig’s repeat win was very unlikely, saying that “the odds would certainly have been 100/1 against their repeating,” though that seems to suggest a lack of understanding of Buggy by the Post-Gazette.
  • Design. DTD took the Design Competition, though we don’t have any information about what their buggy looked like.
  • Tappa Tappa? The May 21 Tartan’s headline for their Raceday 1924 noted that “Tappa Tappa Tappa” was DQ’d, but I have been unable to determine who “Tappa Tappa Tappa” is – This is the only reference in CMU’s archives (aside from a 1927 reference to the “Tappa Tappas” having a buggy), and Google didn’t turn up any references to this as a nickname. So I may be missing a joke or a reference here – But if you know it, post below!


Raceday: Friday, May 15, 1925 at 9:30am

Sweepstakes Committee: Ben J. Kristof (Chair), G.I. Murphy, R. De Pue, Sid Forbes, Bill Escher, W.A. Donahue, J.V. Bowser

Race Results: (1) KapSig, (2) SAE*, (3) DTD, (4) SigNu

Design Comp: (1) DTD, (2) Delta Mu (became KDR in 1930), (3) ATO, (4) PiKA

Weather: Ideal; 73 Degrees (Low of 43)

1925 saw some new rules try to level the playing field, and we got one step closer to the present-day course setup.

  • Raceday Moves Back to Friday. After a 1-year Saturday trial run, Raceday was moved back to its then-typical place on Friday.  But students made a strong push for alumni to come back and watch anyway.  The Tartan said that Buggy is put on “more for the entertainment of former students than for any other purpose.”
  • Starting Line Success; Finish Line Moves. One thing from 1924 did stick – The start of the course was permanently moved to the bottom of Tech Street (outside Margaret Morrison Hall).  In addition, the finish line was moved to this point as well. This resulted in a downhill straightaway to the finish line, rather than the uphill and/or curved approach to the finish line of previous years. See photo right.

1925 Course Map, courtesy of the April 28, 1925 Tartan
  • No Athletes Allowed. A couple of new rules were enacted in 1925.  One expanded the prohibition on varsity letter earners from track and cross-country runners to all varsity athletes.  It didn’t matter the sport; if you earned a varsity (or freshman) letter, you were ineligible.  Another prohibited the use of demountable parts on the buggy.
  • Design Comp Rule Changes. Another set of rules directly affected Design Competition.  “Freak” buggies (originally banned in 1923) were still prohibited, but now an additional rule was added so that Buggies must race in the same condition as they were in for design competition.  So orgs were no longer able to create a separate buggy just for Design Competition.  In addition, the trophy rules were changed so that if the buggy that won the race also won the Design Competition, the Design Comp trophy would go to the 2nd place finisher in the Design Competition.
  • Heat Discussions. For the first time, the idea of Preliminary Heats was proposed, in order to eliminate “the disorder which has ruined the chances of some of the contenders in former races”. 4 heats were proposed, but the plan was ultimately scrapped (at least for this year…).
  • The First Dynasty is Born. We don’t know too much about the race itself, other than the top 4 finishers.  KapSig pulled off the threepeat, becoming the first true Buggy dynasty.  SAE crossed the finish line 2nd, but the Tartan notes that their placing was contested, so we don’t know if they were officially awarded 2nd place or something else (possibly DQ’d?). Meanwhile, according to the May 19 Tartan, some pushers tried to make better time by running with the buggy in the freeroll.  Apparently they forgot how gravity and wheels work though, and the pushers all flopped onto the asphalt as other buggies sped past.
  • Design Winner. The winner of the Design Competition, DTD, entered a yellow buggy that was trimmed in brown, with a highly polished nickel radiator and a fin-like projection in the back.


Raceday: Friday & Saturday, May 14-15, 1926 (Prelims on Friday; Finals at 11:00am on Saturday)

Sweepstakes Committee: Unknown

Race Results: (1) PiKA (3:18.3); (2) KapSig; (3) SAE

Design Comp: (1) ATO

Weather: Probably overcast with a possible drizzle on Friday; High of 71/65 on Friday/Saturday (lows of 54/51)

We don’t have a ton of information about 1926 (the Spring 1926 Tartan issues are missing from the digital archives), but the biggest change came in the form of the races – for (probably) the first time ever, the races were run in heats.

  • Racing in Heats.The biggest change to Buggy racing from 1926 was that, for the first time, the races were run in heats.  We don’t know how many orgs competed or how many heats they ran, but based on the records, our best guess is that the race was run in 3 heats of 6 buggies each.  6 teams would advance to the finals (likely the top 2 from each heat), where they raced in a single Finals.
  • The Need For Speed. According to the June CIT Alumnus, many of the buggies were built for “speed alone”, which was probably the result of the “no freaks” rule that was still in place.
  • Prelims. The 6 teams to advance to Finals were (1) PiKA, (2) KapSig, (3) PhiKap, (4) Woodlawn Club, (5) SAE, and (6) DTD.  We know for certain that in one of the 3 Prelim Heats, PiKA defeated KapSig.  Based on that, and the order in which the teams were printed in the May 15, 1926 edition of the Pittsburgh Daily Post, my assumption is that Heat 1 had PiKA 1st and KapSig 2nd, Heat 2 had PhiKap winning and Woodlawn Club 2nd, and Heat 3 had SAE on top with DTD 2nd.
  • Finals. In the finals, PiKA toppled the KapSig dynasty, and earned its first solo Buggy victory, with a 3:18.3 time.  KapSig finished 2nd, but they were pushed to the limit by the underslung buggy of SAE, which finished 3rd.


Raceday: Prelims on Friday, May 13, 1927 @ 10:30am; Finals on Saturday, May 14, 1927 @ 11am

Sweepstakes Committee: Fred Woods (Chair), R. Buckley, J. Deane, Don Campbell, J. Schmid, Jim Bair

Race Results: (1) KapSig (3:15.8); (2) DTD; (3) Theta Xi

Design Comp: (1) Beta; (2) Phi Sigma Kappa (inactive in 1937); (3) Delta Mu (KDR)

Weather: Sunny on Friday, possible overcast on Saturday (High of 62/61, Low of 46/47)

1927 saw some expansion from 1926, with a few minor changes to the rules and one more major change to the teams.  Other than that, it was a year of consistency before one last significant change in 1928.

  • Athletes Allowed.  After a 2 year ban on athletes from any school sports, orgs were once again allowed to include athletes on their teams; as long as those athletes didn’t compete in Track or Cross-Country.
  • And 1 Pusher Makes 5 – The biggest change in 1927 saw the addition of a 5th Pusher to the team, splitting the backhills into 3 segments, rather than 2.  Prior to 1927, “Industries Hill” (which was essentially, but not quite, Frew Street) had 1 pusher on the equivalent of Hill 3, and then the final pusher taking over for the equivalent of Hill 4 and the race to the finish line.  The new rule added a 5th pusher at the end of the present-day Hill 4.  See photo right for a basic map.

Edited course map to show the addition of a 5th Hill, added in 1927.
  • Bump-and-Run Won’t Work.  The rules for transitions were a little more restrictive in the 1920s.  The first pusher was required to push until the start of the transition zone (the Buggy can’t just be shoved ahead), and the second pusher must be touching the Buggy by the time the transition zone ends.
  • ROTC Back on Duty. The crowds from earlier years proved unmanageable for the Alumni Police Force, so this year ROTC volunteered to patrol and control the crowds.
  • Making Finals. 18 organizations competed on Raceday.  They were divided into 3 heats of 6 teams for the Prelims.  8 teams made the finals – The top 2 from each Heat, and then the 2 fastest remaining times (you can imagine this addition may have been caused by a Buggy in 1927 that finished 3rd, but whose time was faster than the winners/second place finishers from other heats).  Only the first 4 buggies in each heat were timed.
  • Prelim Heats and Incidents.  In one of the 3 Prelim Heats, KapSig was victorious, with PhiKap running 2nd.  In a second Prelim Heat, DTD finished first and PiKA crossed the finish line in 2nd, but PiKA was DQ’d for a “rules infraction.”  There were “several wrecks” and “a couple of DQs”, and the biggest incident came courtesy of Kappa Sigma Rho, whose buggy suffered two broken wheels.  Luckily, the driver was uninjured.
  • Finals.  In the Finals, DTD got the early lead and reached the freeroll in front.  But from there, it was all KapSig, who passed DTD in the freeroll and never looked back, getting their dynasty back on track.  KapSig’s buggy was driven by Russ Roller.
  • Design Comp.  Design comp was won by Beta, who entered an “aluminum bodied chariot”, which may have been ahead of its time.  Phi Kappa Psi (inactive in 1934) may have had a chance, as they built a “remarkable” replica of Major Henry Seagrave’s “The Slug”, the land speed record holder and first vehicle to break 200 MPH.  Unfortunately, Phi Kappa Psi didn’t get their buggy to the design competition in time, and so they were ineligible to compete.
Photo of the Backhills (Present-Day Hill 4) in 1926, from the 1926 CIT Alumnus

100 Years of Buggy History – 1921-1923

Previous Articles: Intro and 1920

This week, 100 Years of Buggy History takes a look at the early 1920s: 1921-1923. It’s a period full of interesting designs and controversies, plus some rule changes as the students worked to make the sport endure. And…history was made, with the first ever women’s team competing against the boys, 55 years before women’s teams were welcomed more generally into Raceday.


Raceday: Friday, May 13, 1921 at 10:30am

Sweepstakes Chair: Unknown

Race Results: (1) Iota Sigma Delta (Skeleton) (4:38), (2) Gamma Mu Epsilon (4:42), (3) Xi Sigma Upsilon (5:04)

Design Comp: (1) Delta Upsilon (Fish); (Honorable Mention) Sigma Nu (Toonerville Trolley)

Weather: “Ideal” – Morning clouds gave way to sunshine; temperature unknown.

The April 27, 1921 issue of The Tartan promoted Raceday 1921, taking place on the 2nd day of Campus Week, as the “funniest event of the program”, noting that “anyone who has a weak heart should be accompanied by an undertaker…No arrangements have been made to undertake or care for anyone but the racers.”  Among the drivers of the 18 teams competing were “some of the most infamous agitators of the human race”.  But aside from the humorous introduction to Raceday 1921, here’s what we know about the year:

  • Rule Changes – Teams Grow, Complexity Shrinks. The “rulebook” in 1921 again consisted of only 5 rules, but the 5 rules were different from 1920. Rules requiring buggies to have 4 wheels and 1 driver and 1 pusher at a time remained, as did the rule limiting participation to fraternities. But gone were the requirements to swap rear wheels and the ability to change places at any time, the weight limit had been lowered from 75 to 50 pounds, and teams grew from 2 to 4. With respect to team size and transition zones, the teams were essentially set up as 2 teams of 2 – Rather than having the pusher and driver swap places with each other, now the pusher and driver were each required to be replaced by a fresh pusher and driver for the final portion of the race, outside Machinery Hall (present-day Hill 3) to the finish line.
  • Crowds Gather. According to the May 14, 1921 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2,000 people headed to the Buggy course to watch the race.
  • Orgs. 18 teams competed in 1921. We don’t know all 18, but among the competitors were: (1) Beta, (2) DU, (3) Phi Epsilon Pi, (4) SAE, (5) SigNu, (6) Theta Xi, (7) Xi Sigma Upsilon, (8) Delta Epsilon Omega (XSU and DEO would merge in 1922 to become Delta Xi, which would become ATO in 1923), (9) Woodlawn Club, (10) Tau Gamma Phi (became DTD in 1923), (11) Kappa Sigma Rho, (12) Alpha Pi, (13) Iota Sigma Delta (became Alpha Sigma Phi in 1925), and (14) Gamma Mu Epsilon (which became Theta Tau in 1922, and went inactive in 1948 following a scholarship issue).
  • Pre-Race Incident – SigNu vs. US Army: Raceday got off to a bit of an inauspicious start.  After presenting the buggies for display and judging of the design competition, SigNu was nearly knocked out of the race when an army truck (which routinely roamed the campus in 1921) failed to stop as SigNu’s buggy was crossing in front of it.  Luckily, thanks to the audible gasps and screams of the crowd, SigNu was able to escape injury and the brothers left with minor scratches as they got away from the truck.
  • Racing Troubles for Many Orgs. The race itself was not the prettiest either; in fact, only half of the teams actually finished the race.  Tau Gamma Phi (DTD), who won the race in 1920, didn’t even make it to the present-day Hill 1, as they lost a wheel making the first turn of the race on to Tech Street.  Multiple other organizations crashed into them, and the “crashing of timber and the shrieking of the crews stilled the blood of the on-lookers…it was only by some strange kind of fate that the men received only scratches instead of serious injury.”  In addition, Beta’s and Alpha Pi’s buggies both broke down on the course and they dropped out of the race.
  • Major Crash. The worst incident came of the race came from SAE.  SAE was looking good early, and had a lead for a while, but while coming down the freeroll at a high rate of speed, the steering apparatus broke and threw the buggy off the road.  The buggy either hit the curb and tore off two wheels (per the Tartan) or smashed to pieces against a stone wall (per the CIT Alumnus).  Either way, both driver (Wilson) and pusher (Ted) were “hurled through the air” and after they landed, the Buggy landed on top of them “pinning them to this hard world.  And thus they remained until rescued.”
  • Race Results. Once SAE crashed, Iota Sigma Delta assumed the lead and never looked back. The full non-DNF finish order: (1) Iota Sigma Delta (Alpha Sig), (2) Gamma Mu Epsilon (Theta Tau), (3) Xi Sigma Upsilon (ATO), (4) Kappa Sigma Rho, (5) Phi Epsilon Pi, (6) SigNu, (7) Delta Epsilon Omega (ATO), (8) Woodlawn Club, and (9) DU.
    • ISD’s winning team was comprised of Arthur W. Hedgren, Edwin W. Olstolf, Leroy L. Byerly, and “Wilson”
    • GME’s 2nd place team consisted of M.W. Obenour, A.D. Swecker, W.J. Allen, and J.J. Pannek
  • Design. In 1921, not all of the Buggies were built for speed. Some were just creative, in an attempt to win the Design Competition. And it worked! The winner was DU’s green fish (see photo right), but other creative designs included SigNu’s replica of the Toonerville Trolley, a cartoon trolley that ran in newspapers from 1908-1955, and an unknown organization’s “elaborately decorated” rickshaw.

1921 – DU’s Fish Buggy in Action, published in the June 1921 CIT Alumnus


Raceday: Friday, May 26, 1922 at 10:00am

Sweepstakes Chair: R.E. Hedlund

Race Results: (1 – TIE): SAE and PiKA (4:30); (3) Delta Mu

Design Comp: Sigma Nu (Pirate Ship)

Weather: Rain (0.75 inches fell in Pittsburgh that day); Temperature unknown.

Rain fell on Friday morning, but that wasn’t going to stop Buggy from making its third annual running.  1922 brought the first ever (but certainly not the last) major controversy in Buggy history, saw history made (and seemingly forgotten), and was the first time that Buggy had to deal with a common problem over the last 100 years – Crowd Control.

  • Course Under Construction. An article in the May 17, 1922 Tartan indicated that the Buggy course for 1922 was being constructed, though I assume that meant it would be under construction.  The winning bid for the construction came from Booth & Flinn, at a cost of $1 million, with various sources of materials.  The article notes that the bid seems a little high, “but when you figure that our boys will make about 75[mph] on the straightway and even 90 on the turns you’ll realize that it is necessary that we have a first class road bed.”  The course at the time was, at least in part, a stone road, so construction is certainly possible; but between the speed, the timing, and the cost, something about this article seemed a little odd.
  • Design Comp. The Design Competition trophy went to Sigma Nu, who entered their Pirate Ship, captained by Cy Comfort (see photo right).
Cy Comfort and his Pirate Brig – Published in the June 1922 CIT Alumnus
  • Getting on the Course is Easy; Completing it isn’t. Buggy had a record 20 entrants in 1922. But while many entered, few finished. The course ended up “lined with nuts, bolts, wheels, and overturned” buggies. One example was DU’s “Grasshopper” Buggy.  DU was a little too “frisky” as it rounded the first turn onto the present-day Hill 1, and it took a jump over the curb, knocking it out of the race.
  • History…or Herstory. One of the 20 entrants in 1922 made history…or should we say herstory?  Women’s racing didn’t officially begin until 1979, but women racing began in 1922, when the Alpha Kappa Psi sorority entered a buggy on Raceday!  Unfortunately, they weren’t able to finish the race without incident either, as they wrecked on the course (it’s unclear if they crossed the finish line).
  • Leader goes down. The race itself looked like it was going to be a classic battle between SAE and SigEp (Sigma Epsilon Phi, which became Sigma Phi Epsilon in 1925).  SigEp, with Buggy #1 (buggies were given numbers back then), led early on, but at the top of present-day Hill 2, SAE caught up to SigEp.  In the freeroll, SigEp took the lead back and was ahead by 100 feet when suddenly SigEp lost one of their rear tires, enabling SAE and several others to pass.
  • Controversial Finish. The first major controversy in Buggy history came as the teams approached the finish line.  PiKA had finally caught up to SAE as they approached the straightaway to the finish line.  But there were so many spectators around the finish line that they crowded the course, leaving just a narrow pathway down the middle of the road that was only wide enough for one Buggy. The two Buggies both aimed for the single lane and collided, ultimately crossing the finish line together, radiator-to-radiator.  Due to the size of the crowd and the spectators running to the finish line, the judges were unable to see which buggy actually crossed the finish line first. Ultimately, Sweepstakes decided, for the first and only time in Buggy History, to declare race a tie, awarding a trophy to both teams. But they only had 1 trophy available to present to the winner!.  So, according to a letter to the editor from R. E. Hedlund in 1956, he was given another $10 by the Campus Week Committee to go out and buy an additional trophy.


Raceday: Friday, May 25, 1923 at 10:00am

Sweepstakes Committee: H.D. Sonnemann (Chair), W.A. Anderson, D.R. Williams, W.B. Cunningham

Race Results: (1) KapSig (#19), (2) Theta Xi (#8), (3) SAE (#3), (4) Delta Xi (#10)

Design Comp: Delta Xi (Winner); SAE and KapSig (Honorable Mention)

Weather: Sunny; 85 Degrees (Low of 47)

“The fourth annual death-defying, nerve-thrilling, hair-raising, stupendous, extraordinary event of all events” took place in 1923.  The controversy of 1922 resulted in some new rules for 1923 to avoid the same type of situation, and instead of having just 1 pusher (or 2 pushers/2 drivers), the teams were expanded to 4 pushers.  But the real name of the game in 1923?  Wheel technology.

  • New Rules – More Pushers, Fewer Athletes, Less Buggy Variety. There were a few complaints about past years that led to new rules in 1923.  One was based on the 1922 controversy – Sweepstakes needed a way to keep spectators off of the course.  Another was around the Design Competition – certain organizations were creating clever looking designs (such as the prior Design Comp winners, the Fish and the Pirate Ship) that were not feasible as racing competitors.  Furthermore, the varsity track coach (Coach Beeler) was concerned that running over stone roads could injure his athletes, so track athletes were prohibited from pushing. And lastly, it turns out that pushers get tired and breaking up the course into smaller segments is more effective (also, the minimum buggy weight was increased to 60 pounds).  The new rules were:
    1. Each team now consists of 1 driver and 4 pushers
    2. There is 1 pusher at a time, and the pushers change in designated transition zones
    3. No one receiving a letter in track or cross-country is eligible to push
    4. “Freak” buggies, such as fish, chariots, cigars, grasshoppers, and ships are not eligible for Design Competition
    5. Any spectator on the course while the race is being run will cause his fraternity to be DQ’d
  • Course adds Transition Zones. Because the race now incorporated 4 pushers with set transition zones, those transitions needed to be determined.  Thus, the course changed slightly and the transition zones were demarcated (see photo at right, from 1924, though it applied only in 1923).
1923 Course Map (published in the 05-08-1924 Tartan)
  • Crowd Control. Another change to the 1923 course was that the finishing stretch of the race would be roped off, to further prevent spectators from crowding the field and obstructing the view of the judges.
  • Practice Incident. Practices began at least a few weeks before Raceday, and our first known practice accident was reported on May 2, 1923.  We don’t know which organization, or where it occurred, but “the demolished appearance of the racer, which was hauled back to its garage by means of a Ford, certainly made an impression of disaster.”
  • Race Results. 16 Buggies were entered in 1923, but the race was really a battle of the top 3.  SAE started the race out in front, and led going into the first turn (present day Hill 1).  The gap closed in the freeroll, and by the time they reached the final transition (from Pusher 3 to Pusher 4), SAE, Theta Xi, and KapSig were all bunched together.  From there, KapSig’s final pusher, D.V. Beeder, took over and grabbed the lead for good, powering KapSig to victory.  The winning KapSig team consisted of E.R. Roller (Driver), H.C. Wurtenberger, P.A. Morrison, W.D. Shelton, and D.V. Beeder (Pushers).
  • Wheel Technology. It turns out that the key to KapSig’s success may have been wheel technology.  KapSig reached out to S.A. Pickering, a Pittsburgh-based harness racing horse owner, and got him to lend them 4 wheels from the wagon of his harness horse, Dr. Strong.  Those wheels were not just successful on the harness track; they guided KapSig to Buggy victory.
1923 First Turn (onto present-day Hill 1)
1923 – Beta
1923 Winning Buggy – KapSig
1922 Starting line(?), published in the 05-16-1923 Tartan

100 Years of Buggy History – Intro and 1920


For those of you who haven’t been refreshing this site every 5 minutes since Raceday 2019 ended, this year is the 100th anniversary of Buggy at Carnegie Mellon!  This year’s Raceday, which we are affectionately calling “Buggy 100” (#Buggy100), takes place on April 16-18, 2020, so make sure you’ve got the dates marked on your calendar.

As part of our big push to celebrate the Buggy Centennial this year, we are diving extra deep into our history.  While the “History” tab of our site may give you the winners and their times, this year we wanted to take a more in depth look at the past 100 years of Buggy History at Carnegie Mellon. So with that said, we are introducing the “100 Years of Buggy History” series, which will run weekly (roughly) on the cmubuggy.org site.  We’ll not only give you winners and times, but where possible, we’ll go into more detail about each year of Buggy.  That includes information about Raceday – the weather, the crowds, the heats, the incidents, and the excitement – as well as any other interesting Buggy-related storylines that popped up over the course of the school year.  We’ll also be loading up these posts with whatever photos, videos or other juicy gossip we can get our hands on from each of those years.

I doubt any of you were around for the early years (someone who participated in 1920 would be 117 years old today, and it turns out that as of today, the oldest living person is only 116).  But if you have any interesting stories from the years of Buggy that you were around for, or if you know people (especially people like parents or grandparents, who may have participated in the early years) who have told you stories from their day, please let us know – you can email me at bryan.arsham@cmubuggy.org!  We’d love to include that stuff.

The information that we put into this series is sourced from whatever records that we can get our hands on from the various years.  Other than any stories we get from you all, the vast majority of this information comes from the excellent archives of the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries Digital Collections, with a significant percentage coming from The Tartan (other sources include the Thistle, the CIT Alumnus, and various Pittsburgh-area newspapers).  But with that comes a couple of caveats, that I wanted to get out of the way now. 

  1. The digital archives are not 100% complete, and coverage of Buggy was better in some years than others.  For example, the digital archives are unfortunately missing 1937 (our current white whale), so we have very little information on that year, whereas the Tartan in 1976 essentially included weekly Rolls Reports, so we have a ton of information from that year. 
  2. We weren’t around for a lot of these years, so if something was printed in our main sources incorrectly, or was misleading, we may not know.  You might be surprised to find out that over the past 100 years, the reporting on buggy has not always been the most accurate! Take, for example, the 2019 Tartan article on Raceday, titled “SDC Wins Buggy For Second Year In A Row”, which isn’t technically wrong, but ignored that it was SDC’s third consecutive Women’s victory, and record eighth consecutive Men’s victory.  Therefore, if we have any indication that a fact was incorrect (either it conflicts with something in our historical database, or it conflicts with another written report), we are either ignoring that piece of information or will call out the conflict in our post. Otherwise, for purposes of this series, we are accepting the written reports as true. 

The number of years covered in each post will vary a bit based on how much information we have about the given year, but as of now, the plan is that most posts will cover roughly 5 years (give or take).  We will also use today’s terminology (for example: CMU, rather than CIT, to refer to the school) as appropriate to make the history as understandable as possible for today’s readers.

So without further ado, let’s kick off the 100 Years of Buggy History series with the origins of Buggy: 1920.


Raceday: May 14, 1920

Sweepstakes Chair: R.N. Crosby

Race Winner: Tau Gamma Phi (which became DTD)

Design Comp Winner: Sigma Nu

Weather: Sun was shining; temperature unknown

1920 used to be our White Whale.  We knew that Buggy began in 1920, but the results, and information about the races, were lost to history.  That is, until our own BAA Vice President Jeremy Tuttle went digging a little more, and discovered the June 1920 CIT Alumnus.  The CIT Alumnus was a (mostly) bimonthly alumni newsletter published until roughly 1982, and although it did not regularly cover Buggy, there were some important historical references in those early years.  So, what do we know about 1920 – the first year of Buggy?

  • “The greatest, wildest, jazziest, most blood-curdling, hair-raising, breath-stopping, shirt-tearing event in Tech annals” got its start at Carnegie Mellon on April 21, 1920, with an announcement in The Tartan about the Interfraternity Motor Sweepstakes taking place during Campus Week.
  • The very first Raceday had only 5 rules (compared to today’s 100+ page rulebook):
    1. All buggies must be equipped with 4 wheels
    2. The crew of each team will consist of 2 men – a driver and a pusher – who may change places at any time
    3. The minimum weight of the buggy is 75 pounds
    4. The rear wheels of each buggy must be interchangeable, and during the race each buggy will be required to pit and swap the left rear and right rear wheels
    5. Only 1 man on each team may have his feet on the ground at 1 time, except in the pit.
  • 10 fraternities entered the inaugural race.  We don’t know which 10 (there were 14 National and Local Fraternities on campus in 1920), but 5 are confirmed: Sigma Nu, Sigma Rho (which became Beta Theta Pi in the afternoon following Raceday 1920), Theta Xi, Tau Gamma Phi (which would become DTD in 1923), and Kappa Sigma Rho (which became Lambda Chi Alpha in 1929, and went dormant in 1935).  Others believed to be present in 1920, based on participation in later years (but no confirmations of 1920 participation), include Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Delta Upsilon.
  • The course was a little different than today.  It began outside the Design school (CFA), travelled towards Margaret Morrison Hall, went up Tech Street, down through Schenley Park (Schenley Drive), and then turned back on to campus at Machinery Hall (the Chute).  Outside Machinery Hall, the buggies would pit and the rear wheels would be swapped.  The buggy would then continue past the College of Industries, and end back where it started outside the Design school. A rough estimate of the course is shown on the right.

Map Showing the Rough Outline of the Buggy Course from 1920

  • We don’t have a ton of information about the race itself.  What we do know is that the race was won by Tau Gamma Phi, and that they were awarded a trophy.  In second place was Sigma Nu, while both Beta Theta Pi and Theta Xi saw their buggies break down during the race.
  • Although SigNu didn’t win the race, they did win the very first Design Competition.  The SigNu buggy was a “chariot built around a bicycle”, while the 2-man team dressed as charioteers.  From the description, I suspect that SigNu is Buggy #1 in the photo to the right.
  • Not all of the buggies were designed with speed in mind.  One fraternity “used their ingenuity” to use a bathtub on wheels (which I suspect is Buggy #2 in the photo to the right).  Reports are that the buggy gave a very realistic rolling motion when in action.

Starting Line from the June 1920 CIT Alumnus

  • Wheel technology has always been on the forefront of the buggy builder’s mind, and that was no different in 1920 – the Carnegie Alumnus reports that wheel technology included wire wheels, wooden wheels, bicycle wheels, and even roller skates.
  • Lastly, I have to commend the writers of the various Tartan articles from 1920.  The language used back then was very colorful and made for an enjoyable reading experience.  I’ll give some examples of that language coming up next week, as we move forward in the 1920s.