One of the things that piqued my interest most strongly during research for Witmer Stone: The Fascination of Nature was the discovery that Stone’s college class, the University of Pennsylvania (UP) Class of 1887, in a thoughtful and forward-thinking gesture, left a loving cup to be presented to the Class of 1987 at its graduation. The cup was eventually inscribed with the names of the class presidents for 30 years, going back to their undergrad days. (The class selected a new slate of officers each year or two after graduation.)
A 1901 article at the time the cup was first purchased mentioned that it was left for safekeeping in Houston Hall, UP’s historic (first in America) student union building. After that, plans seem to have gotten a little sketchier. A newspaper account of a 1914 class reunion reported that “the last living member of the class will deposit the cup with a trust company as a bequest to the class of 1987.” The potential complications and uncertainties of that arrangement are obvious. The waters really get muddy in a 1920 letter to class secretary Stone, informing him that one of the class members was taking “the ’87 loving cup home to Pittsburgh with him.” Assuming that referred to the cup being held for the Class of 1987, it introduces a lot of mystery to the story line.
Not surprisingly, the cup seems to have gotten lost on its way to the 1987 commencement. Class of 1987 officers that I contacted had never heard of it. I was silly enough to walk all around Houston Hall one day looking for it in the display cases sprinkled throughout the building, and I futilely investigated a few other dead ends at UP. The range of possibilities for the fate of the cup would include being put out with the university trash in 1947 to residing today in an attic in Indiana. For me, it’s become the holy grail of Stone-related relics. If it ever miraculously turns up, I think the best thing to do would be to put it in a safe, secure place for presentation to the UP Class of 2087 at their commencement.