Before there was a Bruin Jr., there was Bruin. In the autumn of 1887, a student at Friends Pacific Academy (the university’s predecessor) brought to campus the cub of a black bear his father shot in the nearby Coast Range. A professor, George Hartley, adopted the bear, called it Bruin, and kept it in a pit in Hess Creek Canyon next to campus.
When Hartley was about to leave Newberg in 1892, he tried to find the now-grown bear a new home. The Portland Zoo had enough black bears, and apparently Hartley could find no other options. After an offer from a local meat market, Bruin was turned into bear steaks.
The skin was preserved, stuffed, and mounted on an iron frame in the academy’s meager museum. Over time, moths and decay took their toll, and the hide came perilously close to destruction. The skin was sent to the furnace, but was rescued by students. The senior class made Bruin its unofficial mascot, taking the hide on class outings. After graduation, the senior class traditionally passed Bruin down to the juniors. Apparently, the junior class grew impatient one year and swiped the skin from the class of 1898. And so the tradition began.
The fragile hide was kept in a metal milk can, which was occasionally padlocked and chained to protective students. In 1934, Bruin’s bearskin retired again to the museum and was replaced by a small canvas replica dubbed “Bruin Jr.”
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