The Saga of the Axe
by A.M. Kidd, California Monthly, November 1951

California's capture of the Stanford Axe in 1899 has inspired a wondrous assortment of mythical legends. To most people, the following is about as accurate a statement as can be put together:

Give 'em the Axe, the Axe, the Axe.
Give 'em the Axe, the Axe, the Axe.
Give 'em the Axe, give 'em the Axe, give 'em the Axe —

Right in the neck, the neck, the neck.
Right in the neck, the neck, the neck.
Right in the neck, right in the neck, right in the neck —

However, recent research has brought us enough facts to form a fairly full picture of the events around the capture.

To start at the beginning, the Axe yell existed years before the Axe itself.

Inspired by the yell, Stanford got its Axe sometime before 1899. It was not specially made but was a lumberman's axe weighing ten pounds with a fifteen inch blade — and painted red. At game time, flourishings of the Axe accompanied the Axe yell.

The Stanford - Cal baseball game of April 15, 1899 — the day of the capture — was a momentous event. Stanford's athletic activities had taken a big slump in that year and the previous one. Stanford had lost the 1898 track meet 88-38 to Cal. Cal also won from Stanford and the '98 Freshman football game and its first Varsity football meeting (22-0). Same story in the '99 track meet: California won 74-43.

These are facts enough to show that Stanford was dead set on winning that baseball game of April 15. This was the second game of the series, Cal having won the first game 4-1. It was played in San Francisco — at 16th and Folsom Streets.

The Axe was brought out at game time with plenty of blue and gold ribbon. Every time Stanford made a good play the Axe was brought down on a block and the ribbon was insolently cut. Stanfordites paraded the Axe in front of the Cal bleachers, shouting the yell.

Axe or not, Cal won the game 9-7, the first time California won the series in two straight games.

It was during this game and these taunts that Evvy BROWN '98 suggested stealing the Axe to Jimmie HOPPER '09. HOPPER said no — then. However, as they filed out from the field after the game, HOPPER changed his mind.

As it happened, Cal rooters left the field first, having been seated nearest the exit. Among them were HOPPER and BROWN who lay in wait for the Axe. Out it came, in the hands of Stanfordite Carl HAYDEN, flanked by two other Stanford men.

When HAYDEN came out the 16th street, BROWN — along with Clint MILLER '00, Archie CLOUD '00 and Jerry MUMA '00, were lying in wait. As HAYDEN passed, they jumped him. Immediately there was a riot. HOPPER and Fred DOREY '00 joined in.

Some time before, Paul CASTELHUN '00, Jack McGEE '99 and others had independently formed the same idea of getting the Axe. When they saw the fray, they rushed in too. So did many others, including Harry MORISON '00, Al ADLER '02, Brick POWERS '01, Bingo SESSIONS '01 and Tadini BACIGALUPI '02.

One Stanfordite picked up Bingo SESSIONS and threw him into the middle of 16th Street.

The Axe itself was the center of a struggle between Evvy BROWN and Stanfordite HAYDEN. When HAYDEN let go the handle, BROWN was pasted in the eye; a beautiful shiner. However BROWN got the Axe and passed to MUMA. Then MUMA became the target. The struggle slashed his suit, but he passed successfully to CLOUD. CLOUD held on for a while and suffered a cut finger.

The Axe then went to CASTELHUN [who ran with it]. CASTELHUN lived a few blocks away and hoped to get it to his home. He was a football player, though not in college that year and not in training. Besides, he wore a heavy overcoat. So he tired and passed the Axe to BACIGALUPI, who was trapped in a blind alley and reversed his field.

Here there is a diversity in the account of the eyewitnesses. But all agree that the Axe was passed to Billie DRUM.

Billie DRUM '00 was with Coleman BROUGHTON '00. They had just boarded a street car, but, seeing the struggle, got off again. Although BROUGHTON was a broad jumper and sprinter, DRUM ordered him to keep out of it. BROUGHTON was slated for a field day the following week. DRUM was a crack sprinter himself, though he was not in college at that time. (Actually he was still in the Army and should have been in uniform, so he was anxious that his part in the battle should not be publicized at that time).

Meanwhile, a squad of police was at the grounds. Jack McGEE '99, whose brother was a police officer, tried to persuade the cops that Stanford men were stealing a California Axe. He at last succeeded in confusing things, for the sergeant in charge, Michael Joseph CONBOY, said in his rich brogue, "They are college byes. Let them foight it out."

DRUM and CLOUD place the point of this adventure at the northerly side of 16th Street about 150 feet west from Folsom Street. Others disagree. At any rate, all agree that Evvy BROWN yelled, "Give it to Billie DRUM." And DRUM got it.

From that point the Axe was taken to the Ferry building by the wild route shown on the map. There are wide variations in the account by many of the participants; however, most of them were not familiar with San Francisco locality. Therefore we credit the detailed and consistent account of Billie DRUM, who lived in San Francisco. It reads as follows:

"The Axe was thrust into my hands and I started running. First to 16th and Shotwell Street, then northerly on Shotwell Street to 15th Street, then westerly on 15th Street to the southwest corner of Valencia and 15th Streets.

"There was a livery stable at this corner and I had a notion that I might get some sort of a vehicle which would help me get away. I ran into the livery stable, saw no one. Then ADLER showed up and told me that I would have to keep going as Stanford men were coming. I came out of the livery stable still carrying the Axe and started westerly on 15th Street.

"I had gone about 150 feet when two fellows came along side. One said, "give the Axe to me, Billy, I'll carry it for you.' I passed it over.

"Those two with the Axe ran westerly on 15th Street to Guerrero Street, then turned northerly.

"I followed by it was not until I reached the corner and saw them streaking towards 14th Street that I realized that I had handed the Axe to two Stanford men — believe they were STROUT, a Stanford hurdler and GILMAN, a Stanford football man.

"I started after them and caught them close to the corner of 14th and Guerro Streets and grabbed the handle of the Axe and hung on. These two men seemed anxious to convince me, by argument, that the Axe belonged to them.

"Meantime, California men were coming, Everett BROWN and Jimmy HOPPER in the lead.

"Jimmy HOPPER left his feet in a flying tackle, which brought down the three of us, the two Stanford men and myself, on the hard concrete sidewalk.

"More California men arrived — the Stanford men disappeared.

"At the corner was a Goldberg, Bowen and Company delivery wagon.

"We hailed the driver and California men with the Axe, and seemingly free of pursuit, piled in, gave our loose change to the driver who drove us to the corner of 14th and Market Streets.

"On foot again, the Axe was taken westerly on 14th Street to Noe Street, then northerly on Noe Street to Duboce, then westerly to Scott Street (i.e. around the old German Hospital, now San Francisco hospital), then northerly to Oak and Scott Streets. At the southeast corner of Scott and Oak Streets was Muller's Butcher Shop, at which a friend, Fred EARLE, was employed.

"We borrowed a saw at this place, sawed off the handle of the Axe, wrapped the head in brown paper, stuffed the Axe under the overcoat of Clint MILLER (the only one wearing an overcoat).

"The Axe handle was shoved down my pants leg.

"From Oak and Scott Streets, we walked to Fillmore and Oak Streets, where we boarded a Fillmore Street Car going north, transferring to Washington Street going east.

"We left this car at Powell and Clay Streets and walked easterly down Clay Street to the Ferry, stopping at a Chinese hardware store on Clay Street to cut the Axe handle in two, Everett BROWN keeping one half, I the other."

(end DRUM account)

Thus the group approached the Ferry Building. The group consisted of BROWN, MILLER, CLOUD, DORETY, MUMA, ADLER, and possibly one or two others. About an hour had elapsed since the Axe was captured.

In the meantime, other Cal students had already arrived at the Ferry. The police were there searching them (in vain) for the Axe. Among this group was Jack McGEE, who demanded a search warrant and confused the cops with a personal package of his own that he had left at the Ferry Building.

Clint MILLER, then custodian of the handle-less Axe, tells what happened as the Axe group approached the Ferry:

"News had reached us that search warrants were out, that a bunch of Stanford men were at the ferry with officers searching every U.C. man who crossed the bay. The heft of the axe I deposited next to the skin in the region of the solar plexus. By buttoning up my coat and overcoat I managed to look innocent and we all walked down to the ferry, myself in the lead. We were rapidly joined by U.C. boys anxious to know where the axe was. We told them it was out near the Cliff House, buried; this was to avoid suspicion.

"As we approached the Ferry Building I saw several policemen and the President of the Student Body at Stanford searching the boys. I thought the jig was up. Then I suddenly saw a girl with whom I had gone to High School. She was going into the narrow gauge slip. I turned and waved goodbye to the boys and ran and overtook her arm and went with her to the narrow gauge ferry (which went to Oakland and not Berkeley). I had no ticked to get onto the boat and I had decided to dash past the ticket collector when I got to the gate. Had I gone to buy a ticket I would have had to pass cops.

"Jimmy HOPPER saw my game. He went to the ticket office, bought a ticket, rushed over and dropped it into my pocket just as I entered the gate. The boys all followed me and we got safely to Oakland that night and put the Axe in the safe of Morris the Photographer."

So much for the capture of the Axe on April 15, 1899. The next step was to store it safely. The following Sunday Al LEAN, the trainer of the team, slept with the Axe under his pillow. Monday drill was called off and the baseball team, plus MILLER, BROWN, HOPPER and others, celebrated. Lol PRINGLE was then elected custodian. [In the picture to the right PRINGLE is shown holding the Axe on the day after its capture]

Later, after PRINGLE had taken the Axe to the Chi Phi house and placed it on a table, a Stanford man got into the house and almost made away with it. A forged note purporting to be signed by Al LEIN and asking PRINGLE to let the bearer have it to photograph was given to PRINGLE, but he refused to surrender the Axe.

That night, the telephone bells rang in several different houses on campus to tell the students that a large party of Stanford men was on its way to Berkeley to regain the Axe. No one got up to answer the phone, except possibly one man and he didn't believe it. So the Stanford raid was a complete surprise. Stanfordites cut the telephone wires and searched the Chi Phi House, but failed to find the Axe. It was actually in a space behind a sliding door, which was not searched.

Miniature axes were made immediately after the Axe rally and were worn by Californians.

Some time later, Stanford took a kind of revenge which fell pretty flat. The Cal track team, on an Eastern trip, had been impressed with the Yale fence, sacred to seniors. Soon after, a fence (which looked like a lunch counter) was erected in the space east of North Hall. The seniors never occupied it; the juniors sat down there just to goad the seniors; the whole thing was a flop and an eyesore. One morning the papers carried the big headlines: "The Axe is Avenged." Stanford students had carted off the fence, leaving only a few planks. Relieved Californians gathered these overlooked planks and sent them down to Stanford with a letter saying that if they needed any more wood to warm their cold feet they could have it.|

Interesting difficulties subsequently came up concerning the storage place of the Axe. For some years it was kept in a safe deposit box of a Berkeley bank. On one occasion, a search warrant for stolen property was served on it. The manager of the bank consulted with the bank's attorney, Judge WASTE. The judge said, "Pay no attention to the warrant. It has been issued from San Francisco County instead of from Alameda County." He was then asked what should be done if a warrant did come from Alameda County. "That's easy," said the Judge, after a thought. "Give the Axe to me and I'll put it in my private safe deposit box. They will never think to get a search warrant for my box."

Thus was the Axe guarded, except at the yearly Big Game rallies when an armored car carried it to and from the rally.

Its recapture by Stanford in 1930 and its present status as a trophy passing from school to school, have no part here, the purpose of this story being to clear the facts, once and for all, of the glorious capture of the Axe by California in 1899.

One last mention is due the men who participated in the original capture. What has become of some of the wild youths in the past 50-odd years?

Tadini BACIGALUPI '02, a carrier of the Axe is now a San Francisco attorney and former President of the San Francisco Bar Association.

Paul CASTELHUN '00, football great, another carrier of the Axe is now a San Francisco surgeon.

Archibald Jeter CLOUD '00, one of the four who first jumped the Stanford men with the Axe is now President emeritus of San Francisco Junior College.

Frederick Gerber DORETY '00, in one of the first rioting is now an attorney and former Vice President and General Counsel of the Great Northern Railroad.

William Pierpont DRUM '00, star sprinter who ran the longest distance with the Axe is now an Engineer for Southern Pacific Railroads.

James HOPPER, tackler of the Stanford imposters, is now a Journalist, Story Writer and former War Correspondent.

Allan POWERS '01, early fighter in the capture is now a surgeon in Tracy.

Charles R. SESSIONS '01, early participant in the rioting is now a San Francisco engineer.

Harry MORISON '00, among the captors, is now a San Francisco lawyer.

John Anthony McGEE '99, who delayed police at the Ferry is now a San Francisco attorney.

©1951 San Francisco Examiner
Extremophiles Inc.