Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Pictorial History of Santa Claus

Santa Claus, as we know him, seems to be an American invention (based on various Dutch and German Christmas traditions) which dates to at least 1810, and perhaps earlier.

An image of Santa Claus published by the New York Historical Society in 1810 shows him as the traditional, European St. Nicholas. Within ten years, he was portrayed on rooftops with reindeer and a sleigh. 

This short video, a Pictorial History of Santa Claus (in two minutes or less) shows several rare, early images of Santa Claus which illustrate how several of the most recognizable features of Santa Claus took root very early, although representations of Santa continued to vary dramatically for several decades.

Santa Claus also proves himself to be above politics - appearing with Union Troops in 1863 and with General Robert E. Lee in a post-war children's book, General Lee and Santa Claus.

Link: A Pictorial History of Santa Claus (in two minutes or less)

(Look for my more detailed history of Santa Claus appearing soon)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Grandstands, Armchairs and Drugstores - Second-Guessing the History and Origin of "Monday Morning Quarterback"

Harvard's All-American QB Barry Wood, who introduced the world to the idiom "Monday morning quarterback".
A “Monday morning quarterback” is “one who criticizes or passes judgment from a position of hindsight.”[i]  Or, as Frank Sinatra more poetically put it, in replaying the events leading up to a painful break up:

[I]t's so easy looking at the game the morning after
   Adding up the kisses and the laughter
Knowing how you'd play it if the chance to play it over ever came
   But then, a Monday morning quarterback never lost a game

In the United States, the National Football League (NFL) generally plays its games on a Sunday, so it is not particularly surprising that these hindsight quarterbacks would discuss the game on Monday.  What is more surprising, however, is that the idiom first came into widespread use with respect to college football games played on Saturdays.  Monday, it seems, was the day when people went back to work and picked apart the game with their friends.

In an earlier post, I traced the origin of “Monday Morning Quarterback” to a widely reported speech by Harvard quarterback Barry Wood to delegates of the 46th annual meeting of the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools on December 4, 1931.  In the face of criticism of the evils inherent in the overemphasis on football in schools and colleges, Woods deflected blame from the game and its players, placing it with the “Monday morning quarterbacks” in the stands.  The expression was certainly in use within the narrow subculture of Ivy League and other major football powerhouses before the speech, but it quickly took hold among sportswriters across the country after Woods’ comments appeared in print.  The idiom was later used in an Army officers’ training manual and was frequently used in accounts of military action during World War II.

(See The History and Origin of “Monday Morning Quarterback” – it’s worth a look, if only to see a photo of General Patton wearing a football helmet with his Army uniform)

The earlier post is accurate, as far as it goes, but it missed the forest for the tree.  “Monday morning quarterback” was only one, albeit the most popular one, of more than a dozen alternate hindsight quarterbacking idioms, and it wasn’t the first.  “Grandstand quarterbacks” sat in judgment from as early as 1927.  And many people did, in fact, get together to kvetch about the game on Sundays– and there was a name for that – “Sunday Morning Quarterbacks.”

Sunday Morning Quarterback

The earliest example of the expression “Sunday Morning Quarterback” in print I found is from 1927.  It appeared, appropriately enough, in a syndicated column written by the archetype of the America football coach – Knute Rockne.  Unlike other critics of football’s hindsight critics, Rockne respected the Sunday morning quarterbacks, even if he took their advice with a grain of salt:

It has been my experience, however, that no college quarterback has ever been able to compete with the Sunday morning quarterback.  This latter species is always correct.  He insists on the right of playing Saturday’s stock market on Sunday, whereas the poor little quarterback has to play it on Saturday.  However, I wouldn’t be without the Sunday morning tactician for the world as they are always interesting, they add color and they are the barometer of interest.

The Sunday morning soothsayers are never harmful as long as they kept within bounds but none of them will ever make the All American.

The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa), September 28, 1928, page 16.

A few days later, a writer in Indiana (where Rockne coached Notre Dame University’s football team) used the expression:

A Corner in Pigskin, by W. F. Fox Jr. 

Various coaches, successful and otherwise, throughout this country have refreshing names for the gents and ladies who devote half of Sunday morning and all of Sunday afternoon to the business of verbally firing a coach.  Some coaches call them “Sunday morning quarterbacks”; others call them “boards of tragedy,” and still others resort to the more or less trite appellation “second guessers.”

The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana), October 31, 1928, page 26.

The expression “Sunday morning quarterback” appeared in print occasionally before 1932, but does not appear to have been as popular as “Monday morning quarterback” became soon after appearing in print in late-1931.   Perhaps it was the alliteration; perhaps it was because more people did, in fact, discuss the games on Mondays.  The widespread use of the expression, “Monday morning quarterback,” may even have paved the way for the various other hindsight idioms, many of which first appeared within a year or to following its debut. 

The proliferation of second-guessing idioms may also have been spurred by technological advances that made it easier for more fans to enjoy and second-guess games.  The All-American quarterback Barry Wood, who was Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard, suggested as much in the same speech in which he introduced the world to the expression “Monday morning quarterback”:

In brief, Wood said the growth in public interest was due chiefly to increased means of transportation and the radio; that the press in printing what critics called “football ballyhoo” was only meeting the readers’ demands; that football coaches who strive for winning teams are forced to by the alumni and the spectators; that a football player who gets a false idea of his own importance, as critics charge, quickly realized he is “just one of the mob” when he gets into the football world.  The answer to over-emphasis was to be found not on the field but in the stands where sit what Wood called “the Monday morning quarterbacks.”

Wilkes-Barre Record (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, December 5, 1931, page 28.

With “Monday morning” and “Sunday morning” quarterbacks making the rounds, “day-after quarterbacks” might be the next logical step.  However, I could find only a single, one-off example of the expression in print in 1939, illustrating once again that pop-culture and linguistic fashions are not entirely logical.

Santa Cruz Evening News (Santa Cruz, California), October 5, 1939, page 4.

But despite many coaches’ misgivings about so-called “Sunday morning” or “Monday morning” quarterbacks, Knute Rockne always knew where his bread was buttered and even his obituary noted his good relationship with the fans, as noted in an item published the day after his untimely death in a plane crash on March 31, 1931:

He knew his boys, he knew the thousands of “Sunday morning quarterbacks;” he knew the fair-weather friends who travel with only winners and he knew the loyal type who stick when the road is rocky.

All that acclaim that he won never changed him.  He hated the “high hat” just as thoroly [sic] as he did the “drug store cowboy.”  He never wore it.

Lincoln Evening Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), April 1, 1931, page 19.

Coincidentally, the final lines of this brief tribute hint at another pre-“Monday morning” quarterback idiom.

Drugstore Quarterback (and cigar store)

In November of 1931, two weeks before Barry Wood introduced “Monday morning quarterback” to the masses, little Hobart College of Geneva, New York was on the verge of breaking a 27 game losing streak.  It was an away game at the home of their ancient rival, the University of Rochester, and their fans behaved poorly (at least as reported by the Rochester press):

Hobart supporters in the left end of the stand were in ecstasy.  The drugstore quarterbacks from Geneva, who wore Hobart colors and little purple footballs on their coat lapels, were being just as scurrilous and low-lived and loud-mouthed as drugstore quarterbacks, under such circumstances, could be expected to be.  College city “townies” have been ever thus.

Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), October 22, 1927, page 9.

“Drugstore quarterback” appears to be a riff on (or echo of) an earlier, more widely used idiom, “drugstore cowboy.”  A “drugstore cowboy” seems to have been a dandified version of what became known as the “Urban Cowboy” in the 1980s; a ladies’ man who hangs out at drugstore soda fountains affecting the suave, debonair air of a silent film matinee cowboy:

Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Indiana), February 29, 1924, page 5.

The “Drug Store Cowboy is the latest classification given local “faddish” young men.

Beside “Jelly-bean” and “Cakeeater” “Drugstore-cowboy” will go down in the book the ever changing younger generation.

The dress of the “Drugstore Cowboy” is distinctive as is that of the “Jelly-bean” and “Cake-eater.”

The biggest and fussiest cowpuncher John E. available, classy boots, and in some instances the real thing – high heeled rough leather boots, a classy wool shirt of the right shade of blue or gray, and a neck scarf with lots of cow boy lingo compose the apparel distinctive of the “drugstore Cowboy.”       

Winfield Daily Free Press (Winfield, Kansas), November 1, 1922, page 2.

The evils of the “Drugstore Cowboy” were well documented (or at least sensationalized):

Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pennsylvania), October 18, 1923, page 7.
Decatur Herald (Decatur, Illinois), July 9, 1923, page 2.

Although “drugstore quarterbacks” may have been less dangerous to the public welfare, they were still up to no good – or at least up to pointing out the faults of their no-good favorite football team:

Football coaches call them the drug store quarterbacks.

Anyway after any game there are several scores of people who can tell you the faults of both teams.  They can tell you why a certain team lost and why a certain team won.  In very few cases does the other team win because it was just good enough to win anyway, but usually because there was a certain break or a certain negligence of which the winner took advantage.

A drugstore quarterback can play one of the best retrospective games in the world.  He can’t lose, for he is looking back over the game that has been played, knowing what the other team has done.

The Anniston Star (Anniston, Alabama), June 1, 1936, page 8.

If someone could hang out at the soda fountain talking sports, wouldn’t “soda fountain quarterback” make just as much sense?

And it did:

Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), October 24, 1932, page 7.

The early popularity and longevity of the expression “drugstore cowboy” (which is still in occasional use today) may help explain how “drugstore quarterback” survived for so many years.  It was still in regular (if not frequent) use during the 1950s and it appeared in print as recently as the 1990s.

The expressions “drugstore” and “soda fountain” quarterbacks debuted during Prohibition, when alcohol could not be sold openly.  Since Prohibition ended in 1933 there have been a few, scattered or one-off expressions that reflect the change; “beer parlor” and “beer garden” quarterbacks (just once, in the same article in 1934), “tavern quarterback” (just twice, in 1955 and 1972) and “bar room quarterback” (twice, in 1972 and 1975):

“Soda fountain quarterback” and several other alternate, second-guessing quarterback idioms debuted within a few years after “Monday morning quarterback” became widely known.  And while “Sunday morning” and “drugstore” predate “Monday morning” with respect to quarterbacks, they are not the earliest known such idiom.

Grandstand Quarterback (and Bleacher and spectator)

In October 1927, one year before “Sunday morning quarterback” first appears in print, Joe Williams, the Sporting Editor of the New York Evening Telegram writing in his syndicated column, As Joe Williams Sees It, seems to credit Percy Haughton, who coached Harvard from 1908 to 1916 and Columbia from 1923 to 1924, with expression “Grandstand quarterback”:

Haughton made the observation that the stands surrounding the football fields held several hundred times as many quarterbacks as ever got into uniform.  He never missed an opportunity to put the grandstand quarterbacks on the griddle.  He wrote a book on the game and devoted considerable space to the subject.  The grandstand quarterbacks, Haughton pointed out, fail to realize the quarterback is a mere boy who has probably not reached voting age, and that under the eligibility rules in force he could not have piloted a major football team for more than two years, and probably not that long.

“As Joe Williams Sees It,” Pittsburgh Press (Pennsylvania), October 17, 1927.

But although Haughton’s book, Football and How to Watch It (1922), addresses the subject, he did not refer to the second-guessing fan as a “grandstand quarterback,” he called them “Mr. Know-it-all.”  It seems likely, then, that Williams was using a term that was already in use in 1927 but which may have been coined sometime after 1922.   

And people in the grandstand were not the only ones who were critical of their team’s performance.  If you could only afford a cheap seat in the bleachers, you might be a “bleacher quarterback,” which first appeared in print in 1932:

All the passes evolve from spinners, reverses, multiple spinners, end arounds, or some deceptive play.  A [UC Santa Clara] Bronco never takes the ball from the center and just fades back so that even the bleacher quarterbacks in tier 42 can see it coming.

Oakland Tribune (California), November 18, 1932, page 27.

The early second-guessing quarterback idioms all presuppose seeing the game in person (grandstand or bleacher) or complaining about it after the fact (Sunday or Monday), perhaps at a drugstore soda fountain.  But advances in technology gave rise to new opportunities.  Radio and television made it possible for fans to enjoy the game at home, in their own parlor or living room, from the comfort of their favorite armchair or easy chair.

Armchair Quarterback

Time Magazine, Volume 20, Number 24, December 12, 1932, page 44.

But while listening at home has its comforts and benefits, you had to rely on the play-by-play announcer to fill in all of the details – and that wasn’t always pretty.  Instead of second-guessing the game, a disgruntled "Armchair quarterback" might second-guess the announcer:

Now that Rt. Hon. R. B. Bennett, Hon. James G. Gardiner and Premier Bracken of Manitoba, have all joined in the paens of praise for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers it might not be remiss for a Saturday afternoon radio quarterback to make some observations.

To begin with I didn’t see the game.  I sat in a comfortable overstuffed chair at home, and while the radiators hummed with heat I heard of the frozen ground at Lansdowne Park; how men, women and children sat huddled in fur coats, parkas, mackinaws, rugs and buffalo robes, while a “cross” wind blew in their faces.

I sipped tea while the Blue Bombers gave the coup de grace to the Rough Riders.  It was a typical football broadcast with all the old school tie traditions of sportsmanship. . . .

We started off with the lineups of both teams but the announcers didn’t bother much with the substitutions.  Poor Tony Golab must have been on for a few minutes because we suddenly heard he made a nice gain.  Then “Tony” became the forgotten man.  We wondered about his ankle, too.

Minor Mystery.

Once in a while our jittery announcer made life really interesting.  Ottawa had intercepted a Winnipeg forward just before half-time, but the Blue Bombers came right back with the ball.  It was one of life’s little mysteries, so we threw a few lumps of sugar in the tea.

The Ottawa Journal (Ontario, Canada), December 12, 1939, page 16.

Luckily, play-by-play announcing has advanced to a higher art form, so it’s unlikely that you will have the same difficulties today (although I seem to remember the local announcer bungling a few high school and local college games when I was in school a few decades later).

Easy Chair Quarterback

Decatur Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois), September 28, 1934, page 14.

Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota), October 20, 1936, page 9.

Radio Quarterback

Next Saturday is the blank space on plenty of college eleven schedules as the teams rest up for strenuous Thanksgiving day games.  But the radio quarterback can still turn his dial to a goodly number of not-so-bad tilts.

Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon), November 18, 1934, page 9.

Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon), October 15, 1939, page 1.

Parlor Quarterback

Another of [Bo] McMillin’s stock phrases used in admonishing the parlor quarterbacks is “Say son, I’ll bet you were nine years old before they’d let you go bye-bye.”

The Advocate-Messenger (Danville, Kentucky), December 12, 1936, page 3.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), November 12, 1942, page 3.

Television Quarterback

Chicago Daily Tribune (Illinois), September 14, 1952, page 212.

As radio gave way to television, the “radio quarterback” gave way to the “television (or TV) quarterback,” further complicating the life of football coaches under pressure from an ever increasing number of hindsight “quarterbacks”:

Sol Kampf, assistant football coach at the University of North Dakota, was asked by a New Yorker whether fans saw the Dakotans games on television . . . “We don’t have television in North Dakota,” replied Kampf . . . “You’re lucky,” commented the New Yorker.  “At home we not only have grandstand and Monday morning quarterbacks, but now we have television quarterbacks . . . .”

Pampa Daily News (Pampa, Texas), September 21, 1949, page 7.

Living Room Quarterback

As some combination of home design, marketing and linguistic fashion transformed the Victorian “parlor” to the mid-century modern “living room,” second-guessing quarterback idioms followed suit, as evidenced by this discussion of the changing economics of football:

Blackout Saturday

The ridiculous thing about a “blackout Saturday” was the blacking out of a city which had no actual game.  It happened one Saturday in New York when neither Columbia, NYU nor Fordham had a home game.  This was one Saturday when the NCAA couldn’t find TV’s so-called impact on football attendance.

Whether TV helps or hurts the college gate is not important to the guy who watches the game from his parlor easy chair.  The fact remains that there are more living room quarterbacks than there are grandstand quarterbacks.  The NCAA should take these fellows into consideration.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (Fairbanks, Alaska), January 5, 1952, page 4.

Relative Frequency of Use

“Monday morning quarterback” is, and has been, far and away the most common hindsight quarterbacking idiom since it first appeared in print in late-1931.  To get a sense of the relative frequency of use of the various hindsight idioms and how that changed over time, I recorded the approximate number of newspaper archive search-hits for each of several such idioms during the period from 1925 to 1945 and from 1950 to 1959.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Fraternal Orders, Fraternities, Bed Sheets and Pillow Cases - Wrapping Up the History of the "Toga Party"

In National Lampoon’s classic comedy Animal House (1978), the “animals” respond to Dean Wormer’s decision to put them on “Double Secret” probation by planning a decadent roman orgy or “toga party.” 

“They’re going to nail us whatever we do, so we might as well have a good time . . .

John Belushi’s (as John “Bluto” Blutarsky) primal toga chant ushered in a resurgence in American college fraternity “Toga parties.”  A toga party is a type of costume party in which attendees wrap themselves in bed sheets reminiscent of ancient Roman or Greek togas, in keeping with the nominal “Greek” theme of a typical American fraternity.  The toga party in Animal House is said to be derived from screenwriter Chris Miller’s experiences at Dartmouth University during the late-1950s and early ‘60s. 

A number of sources online point very specifically (almost unbelievably) to the precise time and place of the first known college toga party – Mark Neuman’s home on Hillcrest Avenue in Flintridge, California in 1953, while he was attending nearby Pomona College.  Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have hosted a toga party in the White House to make light of the fact that many people likened her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to an American “Caesar.”[i]  

Image from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library

But the toga party, under other names, is much  older even than Eleanor Roosevelt who was born in 1884.  Eleanor Roosevelt’s parents or grandparents could have attended a toga party (then generally known as a “sheet and pillow slip party”) in the 1870s.  The earliest known college fraternity toga party (if not by that name) was held at the Ohio State University (where else?) as early as 1886.

It all started, as these things often do, in California: 

Sheet and Pillow-Slip Parties.

They do things differently in California than in any other known spot on the face of the globe.  Henceforth the drolleries of leap year parties must “pale their ineffectual fires” before the last California social novelty called “sheet and pillow-slip parties.”

The San Francisco Call, of the 10th inst., describes glowingly the last one given there, under the auspices of Pensacola Lodge No. 333, Independent Order of Good Templars.  The ball-room is described as presenting the supposed appearance of the Ku-Klux in full regalia.  About one hundred persons were entirely enveloped in white sheets and pillow-slips arranged in every conceivable shape and style.  Some wore white dominoes, and others were dressed in a costume which led the blushing reporter to imagine that the ladies had taken their costumes from under the pillow rather than from over.

. . . For merriment and fun at the “sheet and pillow-slip” are said to exceed even the leap year parties now prevailing.  If the “new departure” should break out here which it may do (there is no telling how soon,) the important event will be duly chronicled.  There is something as suggestive as it is spicy about the “sheet and pillow-slip” party, and it may be the first step in the great reformation in dress tending towards increased simplicity and economy, now occupying the minds of thinking women, and husbands with large milliner bills to pay.

The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), March 22, 1872, page 4.

There are reports of “pillow slip parties” during every decade from 1870 through the 1960s.  The latest example I could find was a single reference to one held in 1970.   Most of the “pillow slip” parties in the 1900s were hosted by fraternal organizations (like the Order of Templars, Freemasons, Oddfellows, Sisters of Malta, and Easter Star, Order of Moose or the like), civic organizations (like the American Legion or the YWCA), or church groups.   I imagine these parties to have been more innocent that a late-20th century fraternity bash, but you never know.  Some of those societies were secret-societies and may have just kept those secrets well.

The notices for several early “pillow slip” parties played up the (relatively) titillating nature of the event:

“Pillow slip” parties are the latest sensation at Dalton, Ga.  They are very popular, and – immensely suggestive.

The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, North Carolina), October 31, 1872, page 2.

Dressing up in loose, suggestive clothing presented a perfect opportunity for dancing – as it did for Delta House to the music Otis Day and the Knights in Animal House:

Grand Sheet and Pillow Slip Party

As well out of the world, as out of fashion.  Another rich treat is in store for all lovers of the terpsichorean art in this section, and the announcement will be received with pleasure that a grand sheet and pillow slip party is to be given under the management of the Terpsichorean Social Club, at Dyer’s Hall, New Year’s Eve., Dec. 31, 1874. . . .  The music will be all that can be desired, the calling will be good, and the floor in prime condition for dancing, and a fairer galaxy of ladies or a handsome set of men will probably never again assemble under a roof in Reno.

Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), December 6, 1874, page 3.

Ghost Party. – A sheet and pillow slip party will be given at the Pavilion Skating Rink this evening in addition to the other attractions, and after the masquerading everybody will have an opportunity to dance.

Sacramento Daily Union, March 25, 1876, page 5.

In 1878, a steamboat en route to New Orleans from Cincinnati, Ohio treated its passengers to a dance party:

Thursday night the young folks on the boat indulged in a “phantom ball,” or, as Pilot Kenley characterized it, “a pillow-slip party.”  The performance had a decidedly ghostly look, but nobody seemed frightened, and for an hour or two the dance (and fun) ran “fast and furious.”

Gettysburg Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), March 8, 1878, page 2.

At some point before or during 1886, the Terpsichore society of the Ohio State University (Terpsichore is the Greek muse of music and dance) put on what may be the earliest known college “toga party” (even if not by that name):

Genesis of the Terpsichore.

In the beginning, Uncle Sam created the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Ohio State University. . . .  And William said, “Let Terpsichore bring forth the Pillow-slip Party . . . ;” and it was so.

The Makio (Published Annually  by the Fraternities of the Ohio State University), Volume VI, 1886, Columbus, Ohio, Gazette Printing House, 1886, page 79.

In 1892, a pillow-slip “ghost party” caused a stir in Richmond Hill, Queens in New York City:


Richmond Hill Excited Over a Grewsome Gathering.

It was a grewsome thing to do and no one knows exactly how the idea originated.  Although it occurred three weeks ago all Richmond Hill is still talking about it. . . .  In the vicinity of this quiet little village are several cemeteries.  Pine grove is one of the most beautiful and best kept, although not so long established as most of them.

A man named Leonard is in charge of it and he lives with his family in a cozy little house, near the main entrance.  In his household are two bright and vivacious young women . . . and they decided about a month ago to give a party to those who were not away for summer vacations. . . . 

Someone suggested that it be a ghost party. . . . The guests were all to come with sheets and pillow slips as their fancy dress.  Holes to look through and to permit the entrance of air to breathe were to be cut in the pillowslips.  The arrangements were similar to those for a masquerade ball.  But the crowning feature of the occasion was to be a parade of the guests attired in their ghostly garb through the cemetery at midnight. 

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 7, 1892, page 8.

On Saturday evening several friends of Mr. J. D. Wallace went out to his country residence and surprised him with a pillow-slip party.  In spite of mishaps, the gay group finally arrived, and first gave the astonished host a ghost dance on the porch and all over the front yard.  Each visitor was arrayed in a weird pillow-case, and wearing masks.  After the fears of Mr. Wallace had been allayed the crowd went inside and continued the ghastly proceedings, to the amusement of Mrs. Wallace, who had been a party to the deal.

The Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita, Kansas), October 23, 1898, page 6.

“Toga Parties”

References to “toga parties,” by that name, appear regularly in college fraternity yearbooks during the 1950s, 1960s and into the early 1970s.  The earliest reference I could find is from Georgia Tech's Chi Phi brothers' “Toga Party” in October 1951:


Maybe the Greeks had a word for it, but the Chi Phi brothers at Georgia Tech could not think what to call the skit they presented at their Toga Party Friday evening, which was rated one of the best campus parties of the year.

The Atlanta Constitution, October 6, 1951, page 12.

There are several references to “toga parties” thrown by the Sigma Chi chapter at Albion College and an unknown chapter of Theta Delta Chi in 1952.[ii]  

A sorority at the University of Miami got into the act as well, with a "Greek Toga party", but on a very non-Animal House-esque schedule - 3:30-6:30 PM:

Coeds Fill Up Party Calendar as Sorority Rushing Begins.

The Miami News, October 3, 1952, page 1 (address witheld to protect the very, very innocent).

The Alpha Kappa Lambda chapter of the University of California Berkeley hosted a “toga party” in 1953, the same year in which Pomona College is said to have hosted their “first” college toga party - this party at least looks fun.

Food was served in Roman style at "toga party" held at the Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity house in Berkeley.  The principal fare, however, was a 20th Century favorite - sandwiches.  Some 90 U. C. students attended party.

Oakland Tribune, April 13, 1953, page 15.

The “toga party” was only one of many party themes used by 1950s fraternities.  During a typical November pledge-dance evening at Gettysburg College in 1959, for example, one might have attended a “Roman Toga party” at the Phi Gam house, Beatnik-themed parties at Tau Kappa Epsilon, Alpha Chi Rho or Kappa Delta Rho, a Beachcomber party at Sigma Chi, a “hobo” party at Phi Delta Theta, a German party at Sigma Nu, a days of chivalry “When Knighthood Was in Flower” party at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a Bohemian attire party at the ATO house, a gangster party at Theta Chi, or a totally theme-free party at Phi Sig (although they were giving away brandy snifters). [iii]

Animal House did not invent the “toga party,” but it did turn them into a permanent and popular fixture in American pop-culture.  College fraternity members of the 1950s did not invent “toga parties” either, although they may have raised them to a higher art form than the civic, church or fraternal order “pillow-slip” parties practiced by generations of their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents.

[i] Harry Mount, Carpe Diem: Put a Little Latin in Your Life, New York, Hyperion Books, page 80.
[ii] The Shield (Theta Delta Chi), Volume 69, Number 2, page 63; Battle Creek Enquirer, November 23, 1952, page 28.
[iii] The Weekly Gettysburgian, November 20, 1959, pages 1 and 8.

NOTE: Edited October 29, 2018, to include additional references to several early "toga parties" from 1951-1953.