California Institute of Technology
Talk of the Archives





Talk of the Archives


Many capers have been pulled off by Caltech students, but the 1961 Rose Bowl prank remains arguably the greatest, for one reason because it was televised. The single original color photograph of the live prank, a Kodachrome slide, has just been donated to the Caltech Archives, along with full documentation of how the stunt was executed, thanks to the tireless efforts of alumnus and Lloyd man Lee Molho (BS 1963). Molho was at the center of the action when the Caltech pranksters covertly switched the Washington Huskies' instruction cards, resulting in the display of "Caltech" during half-time. Not one of the stuntmen was physically present in the stands at the time of the card trick.

The photographer, Bruce Whitehead, had just arrived in Pasadena to take up a research fellow position in physics. He got a ticket to the game and a seat on the 50-yard line through his father, a Rotarian with connections to the committee that oversaw the annual Rotary float for the Rose Parade. He just happened to be aiming his camera in the right direction as the cards flipped up into position. Whitehead loaned his slide to Caltech's Public Relations office, and a black and white photo of the prank was published on the cover of the January 1961 Engineering and Science. Whitehead then put his slide away for 52 years. Not until he was tracked down recently by Lee Molho and agreed to donate the slide to Caltech did his original see the light again.

The photo shows the text "Caltech" on a gold background. Since the Washington Huskies' colors are gold and purple, the gold was the closest the pranksters could get to Beaver orange. The donation from Molho and Whitehead includes artifacts and documents that reveal the full story of how the prank was carried out. They will form the Great Rose Bowl Hoax Collection at the Caltech Archives. Molho plans to publish his complete account of events in the near future.

Shown above: E&S cover, January 1961.

go to top

go to TALK OF THE ARCHIVES archive

©2009 California Institute of Technology. All Rights Reserved.   last update: 04/14/2016
| Site Map



go to the Caltech Archives home page