Archive for Monday, February 22, 1999


February 22, 1999


Newspaper articles chart the history of the Big Jay and Baby Jay, from a publicity stunt to beloved mascots.

An article from 1960 tracing the history of the mascot reported that the idea for a Jayhawk costume began in 1952 as a publicity stunt for the Union Book Store. It was so popular that there were requests for it to make appearances at athletic events to build spirit.

The Jayhawker, now Big Jay, was unveiled Oct. 3, 1953, said Le-Thu Tuttle, the mascot coach. Through the years, the costume has changed -- it has gotten lighter. Reports state that the earliest costume weighed anywhere from 45 to 60 pounds.

Big Jay's counterpart, Baby Jay, was "hatched" from an egg on the 50-yard line during halftime of the KU-Kansas State University football game on Oct. 9, 1971, according to news reports and Tuttle.

The idea for Baby Jay was "hatched" by Amy Hurst, a 4-foot-11 KU student who dreamed of being a mascot -- but certainly didn't fit the Big Jay costume.

Hurst pitched the Baby Jay idea to the KU Alumni Association, which ruled she could be the smaller mascot -- if she made the costume. After a summer of slaving over the design, it was approved and the smaller bird was born. The university later bought the rights from Hurst.

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