(Very) Big Thursday Was A Very Big Deal

Think of Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl and no sleep for 48 hours. Think of the Hatfields and McCoys and you might begin to imagine what Big Thursdays were like in the state of South Carolina.

Begun by legislative decree in 1896 as an added Thursday attraction to the State Fair held every October, it went uninterrupted from 1908-59 when  Clemson demanded the schedule move the game to Death Valley in the even-numbered years.  This game day cover you see here was the last one you’ll ever see, and it commemorates the end of a great tradition.

We mentioned the game went uninterrupted since 1908, but it wasn’t as if it was always a lovefest. In fact, the fun was put on a hiatus for five years before that, in the aftermath of an unfortunate incident involving a  Columbia merchant, who created an anatomically unlikely drawing of a Gamecock and a Tiger in his storefront window, causing a subsequent armed showdown between offended Clemson fans and defenders of the first amendment rights of the storekeeper.  No shots were fired, but in the aftermath of the scandal, no games were played again until 1908.

In succeeding years, the rivalry has endured a few other memorable moments. In 1946, a pair of New Yorkers printed and sold over 10,000 bogus tickets, causing the crowd to spill over onto the playing field and frequently interrupt the flow of the game. And then there was the halftime of that same game, when a Clemson student raced onto the field and ripped the head off a rooster, who presumably had been cock-a-doodle-dooing too loudly for the Tiger fan’s gameviewing pleasure.

Too bad for the rooster, but he should have known better.  On Big Thursday, anything was likely to happen, even to a rooster.

Click here to buy a poster of this program cover.

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