“History of the University of Iowa Mascots”


“The Sad Story of the Iowa Mascots”

At Fry Fest 2013 we were fortunate to display my artwork in the Collector’s Showcase next to the world’s biggest collector of Hawkeye memorabilia Lonny Tanner, an Iowa farmer and father of 6 girls. I had never heard of the University of Iowa’s first mascot “Burch” the bear, featured in person on campus, at home football games and on pennants over 100 years ago, 1908-1909. According to the Daily Iowan, the arrival of Burch from Idaho in 1908 had been heralded as a good omen for the team, but a disastrous football season ensued and Burch fell out of favor with Iowa fans. Students quit wrestling with him as he grew larger and more ferocious. Sadly, Burch met an untimely death when he escaped out his pen (located in the old Iowa Field), was lost for over a week and then fell through the ice on the Iowa River and drowned. When he heard of Burch’s fate, Burch’s guardian “Jimmy” who was the “venerable” mower of the Iowa Field, dissed the poor bear saying “Well, he was no kind o’ use anyhow.” When questioned further, Jimmy admitted to fearing that Burch’s ghost would return to haunt the campus and in that event, a new caretaker would be needed immediately. Mr Dill, local taxidermist was unable to preserve Burch’s body, but did preserve the head, and it was placed in the museum. The next mention of a mascot was in 1927 when “Rex” the dog arrived on campus as the ROTC and University of Iowa mascot. Rex reigned from 1927 to 1932 when he died of old age and kidney trouble, and was replaced by his grandson Rex II who very sadly also fell through the Iowa River ice and drowned March 1, 1935. According to the DI, Rex was a purebred Great Dane weighing nearly 200 lbs who could talk and had an encouraging conversation on the practice field with Coach Ossie Solem on Monday May 2, 1932.  It was not until 1948 that a hawk named “Herky” (“Hercules”) arrived on the scene. According to the DI, the bird’s first appearance on campus was Friday Oct. 5, 1956 at the first pep rally of the season. Herky, the real bird, is included in the painting perched on top of the entrance to the first Iowa Field, remnants of which can be found on our campus just west of the main library on the east side of campus. Herky has undergone several renovations to become our present day favorite. I have included the new and old stadiums to provide a historical retrospective, showcasing the three mascots representing over 107 years of University of Iowa history.

Thanks to Lonny Tanner and his associates, and my husband Tom Aunan for all the research and info which helped in the making of this painting of the history of the University of Iowa mascots. Thank you to UI Library archivist David McCartney for help finding all this information, especially articles from the Daily Iowan.

In this painting:  Herky the hawk (bird) on first Iowa Stadium, holding a pennant featuring himself, new south end of Kinnick Stadium, corn which Andy Eiffert plants every year near the Iowa fields, Nile Kinnick statue, present-day Herky is in the stands along with Santa and the Easter bunny.


Archival Prints    –    Canvas Giclee

image size: unframed: framed:
Open Edition Print 10″ x 8″
Open Edition Print 14″ x 11″

Limited Edition (100) Canvas Giclee 33″ x 24″

History of the Iowa Mascots Canvas Giclee Black Metal Nielsen FrameCanvas Giclee Framed

“History of the University of Iowa Mascots” Ornament

2.75″ round ornament is signed on reverse and packaged for gift-giving.

History of Iowa Hawkeye Mascots 300 dpi.jpeg“History of the University of Iowa Mascots”