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In 1901, UW students began capping off their freshmen year with a beanie bonfire. The beanies that were set ablaze (along with what looks like crates, barrels, and even sheds) were a symbol of freshmen subservience to upperclassmen. Male first-years were required to wear dark green Eton caps from the beginning of the fall semester to Thanksgiving, then from Easter until Cap Night at the end of the school year. (They originally wore them year-round, but after a few cases of frostbite, older students magnanimously allowed freezing freshmen to protect their ears with heavier hats throughout the winter season.) If a first-year was caught without his cap or didn’t touch the red button atop his beanie when speaking to an older student, he would be thrown into the lake or face other embarrassing consequences. The natural end to a year of hazing was a giant, raucous bonfire on Library Mall that freshmen used to burn their humiliating hats and relish their newfound freedom to torment the next crop of newcomers. After a particularly wild Cap Night resulted in several broken bones and serious burns in 1923, students voted to abolish the cap code and year-end celebration.

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