By Dolly Hintz (Team Picture from The Spider, Richmond College, 1897; Spider Photo from Richmond College Yearbook for 1900, artists Evan R. Chesterman, Thomas T. Duke and Allan D. Jones)
Have you ever been bitten by a spider? I have – twice! No, not one of those good looking University of Richmond athletes—the actual arachnid! While spending four hours at an “urgent care” facility (that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one!) for a doctor to tell me if the bites were fatal, I read the newspaper. In it there was an article about the Richmond Spiders. I thought to myself, “Why would a fine Virginia university have this nasty creature as its mascot?” So after finding out, in fact, that I would live, I went home and “googled” the question.
According to Wikipedia, between 1876 and 1893 the Richmond baseball team was thought of as an “energetic team of young colts”; therefore they were called the UR Colts. In 1894 Richmond Times-Dispatch sports writer Evan Raglund Chesterman used the term “spider” to refer to the baseball team’s pitcher Puss Ellyson’s “lanky arms and stretching kick.”
In my quest for additional information I found the book University of Richmond Campus History Series by Jules Reuben Alley in the college book store. This book gives credit to Mr. Chesterman and said he reported that the lanky pitcher “seemed to take to the field with his fellow teammates as a spider in a web.” An article in the February 1920 issue of The Collegian suggested that “the spider was the synonym of success, good judgment and painstaking perseverance.” The idea of the spider as the University mascot became permanent. The University of Richmond is the only college in the U.S. to have this unique mascot.
Over the years there have been several interpretations of the spider mascot. Most recently, it was the rather placid caped hornet-looking character. In 2010 the University marketing department were looking for ways to help promote the Athletics department, coinciding with the opening of the new stadium. In November of that year, The Collegian presented several designs for a new more aggressive looking mascot. Readers were asked to vote online for their favorite. Six thousand votes were cast and the winner was the headband wearing, muscle bound, fiercer looking spider designed by Rickabaugh Graphics.
The current scarier mascot was introduced during reunion week in June 2011. Over the years the mascot was referred to as “Spidey” although never used in promotions. A new name was necessary because “Spidey” is a trademark used by Marvel Entertainment, LLC. The name WebstUR received the most votes and is being used to promote the newest image of the university’s unique mascot.
My question has been answered. I wish the newest mascot good luck with his more fierce demeanor in intimidating UR’s opponents; however, as I deal with the results of my encounters with his real life sneaky “relatives,” I hope in the future they will resist and desist “takin’ a bite outa me”!And also, the two pictures accompanying this story are from the Virginia Baptist Historical Society (VBHS) on the UR campus. University history can be found in the University Archives managed by the VBHS; the society currently is featuring an exhibition through 2013 called “Free Indeed” to help commemorate the 150th anniversary of emancipation.