There was a long standing tradition at Morgan that took place during commencement week, the transfer of the spade, a beautiful wood and silver spade, the history of which has yet to be discovered. A member of the graduating class would present this spade to a member of the junior class for safe keeping for the following school year. The earliest note of this tradition was in The Clinton Recorder, June 14, 1901, but, from what is written, it is obvious that this ceremony had been in place for a year or two prior. Class Day Exercises in 1901 were held indoors with the reading of the Class History, Class Prophecy and the Class Oration. At the conclusion of the indoor portion of Class Day the audience, followed by the Senior Class and then the Junior class, moved outdoors where the graduates sang their Class Ode, the Ivy Oration was delivered, and the class ivy planted. “On the completion of this ceremony, the spade, which, by the way, is a very elaborate affair, will be delivered to Friend St. Claire Dickinson, orator of the junior class, who will reply in acceptance.”
The Spade Oration usually spoke of all the fine attributes of the Senior Class. In 1913 the spade was presented to the junior class by Merle Willard, who “gave the young and undeveloped group the usual collection of choice advice”, advising them to keep it bright and shining. In return, William Chittenden of the junior class, “distributed some choice hits among the seniors and closed by promising to guard and care for the precious instrument better than their predecessors had done.” From the oration of the class of 1940: “It was one year ago today that this spade was placed in our hands. I can truthfully say that never before had it been put into more capable and efficient hands. And, contrary to idle rumor, it has been carefully guarded and zealously nurtured throughout a most happy year….It is with the greatest reluctance that I am handing on to you this spade. For I am possessed of the fear that it is going into the hands of adolescents…The members of the distinguished class of 1940 in all their pontifical erudition, seriously question the wisdom of giving our cherished spade into such puerile and inexperienced hands. For it takes a lot of work to keep it shining as brilliantly as we have kept it.”
And so the spade was passed from class to class in good fun, each claiming their superiority to the class that was to follow. This tradition continued as students moved from the Old Morgan building to the “new” Morgan building in 1952 and continued until at least 1963, the last year any mention or photo of it has been found. The spade itself was kept in a display case in the front foyer of Morgan and graduates remember it being there until at least 1967,but the question is, where is it now? One possibility is that it might have been removed from the school during the 100 year celebration in 1971 but that has not been confirmed. A group from the Morgan Alumni Association were recently given permission to search through various closets and cabinets at the school in hopes of finding it but had no success. If anyone has any idea where the cherished spade might be, please let us know. The Alumni Association would like to see it returned to its rightful place, on display at Morgan, with the hope that this grand tradition be renewed and carried on into the future.