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Greek Games

Identifier: BC38

Collection Scope and Content Summary

The Greek Games collection consists of committee reports, faculty reports, instruction reports, judging guidelines, rule books, correspondence, music and lyrics sheets, programs for the annual Greek Games, newspaper clippings and magazines containing articles about the Greek Games, general information pamphlets, tickets, judges’ scorecards, scrapbooks, promotional flyers, reference materials including reproduction photographs, design sheets and manuals, and manuscripts. The collection also contains photographs of the Greek Games, costumes and props from the Greek Games and other pieces of realia related to the Greek Games. There are no administrative records from the earliest years, 1903 – 1917. The records for the years 1918 to 1929 are minimal, demonstrating the lack of formal centralized planning. The records after that are extensive, providing information on the various committees and faculty members that planned the Greek Games; the exception is for the Greek Games of 1953, where only one record is extant. The records for the 1960s are not as uniformly structured as those from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, demonstrating the decline of the Greek Games as a part of campus life and contributing to their eventual cancellation in 1968. The Reference Materials (Series IV) used in order to create as accurate a presentation as possible illustrate the commitment the participants had to the Greek Games in their heyday. The intensive work that went into the staging of the Greek Games in also apparent in the intricate props that were used in the Greek Games, particularly in the costumes worn and wreathes awarded during the Games (Series V).

Items produced as a consequence of the Greek Games, both Programs for each year’s event (Series II) and Publicity Materials (Series III) highlight the pageantry and complexity that were a hallmark of the games. The Programs highlight the scope of the Greek Games by including both reproduction photographs of the events as well as the poetry and lyrics that were created for them. The Publicity Materials highlight the interest people in the greater New York area had in the Games as demonstrated by the extensive clippings scrapbooks created by both the Athletic Department and the Publicity Committee. It is of note, however, that by the 1960s this interest had waned considerably, and the clippings from this time come almost exclusively from the Barnard Bulletin and the Columbia Spectator.


  • Creation: 1903 - 2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1903 - 1969


This collection has no restrictions.

Reproductions Restrictions

Photocopies or scans may be made for research purposes.

Publication Rights

Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections. The Barnard Archives and Special Collections approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Historical Note

The Greek Games were started in 1903 as an informal competition, when Alice Rheinstein Bernheim and Cecil Dorrian, members of the Class of 1905 challenged the Class of 1906 to a competition loosely modeled on Ancient Greek athletic competitions, including both athletic and lyrical competitions. The early years of the Games were very informal with a greater emphasis on the athletic contests, which consisted of wrestling, archery and tug-of-war. Although other colleges and universities held similar athletic contest based on the Greek model, Barnard’s was unique in becoming more “Greek” in nature, with a greater emphasis placed on the costuming, poetry, pageantry and performance. In 1908, the class of 1910 presented a chorus and dance as part of the competition. The athletic events also changed to reflect the greater emphasis on historical accuracy and evolved to include such competitions as the discus throw, hurdling for form, hoop rolling, torch races and chariot presentations. A panel of judges awarded scores to the participants in the various competitions, including the poetry and costumes. In 1909, the Games were dedicated to a specific patron deity, which from that year forward became part of the competition.

Starting in 1912, tickets were offered for admission to people other than students, faculty and alumnae; in 1913, men were allowed into the audience and shortly thereafter, notable women and men of the day were invited to be judges of the competitions. Christopher Morley, from the Saturday Evening Post attended as a spectator in 1923; W. H. Auden was a Judge of Lyrics in 1947. As the Games became a staple of Barnard College campus life, they became more formalized and better organized. Initially organized by two small committees from each class, the increased extravagance and size of the Games required greater oversight. This was reflected by the creation of a centralized Greek Games Committee, formed from members of both competing classes, that oversaw everything from finances to lyrics to musical selection. Faculty oversight was also necessary, and professors from the Physical Education, Classics, English, Dance and Music Departments were key members in the organization of the Games. Of particular note are Edward Delevan Perry, Professor of Ancient Greek; Agnes Wayman, Marion Streng, Lelia Finan and Marion Philips, Professors of Physical Education; and Bird Larson and Mary Porter Beegle, dance instructors. Dean Virginia Gildersleeve was also instrumental in providing support to the Games.

By the 1920s, the Greek Games became an elaborate pageant based more on aesthetic performance than on athletic skill. Having been established as an essential part of campus life, there was great interest in the Games for the first half of the 20th Century. However, in the 1960s, interest in the Games began to wane. They were seen as an antiquated tradition of campus life that had little to do with the concerns of the students. This feeling culminated in 1968 when, in conjunction with the student strikes at Columbia University, the participants in the Greek Games voted to cancel the Greek Games in solidarity with those students.

There was an attempt to re-establish the Greek Games in 1969 as part of a more general music and arts festival, but it was unsuccessful due to lack of interest. Other attempts were made to remount the games in later years, but were also unsucessful. The McIntosh Activities Council (McAC), a student-led group, restarted a different version of the Greek Games in the 2010s.


27.6 Linear Feet (28 document boxes, 1 banker's box, 1 photo album, 1 oversize photograph, 1 oversize wooden hoop)

4 Cassettes (four DV cassettes)




The Greek Games were an annual competition, based on Ancient Greek competitions and consisting of athletic and artistic contests, held at Barnard College between the freshman and sophomore classes between the years 1903 and 1967, with sporadic attempts to revive them in later years. This collection consists of materials used in and created during the annual competition at Barnard College. Included are reports, instructions, rule books, annual programs, publicity materials, newspaper clippings, reference materials, correspondence, photographs, costumes, and props.

Collection Arrangement

The Greek Games Collection is arranged in 6 series. The series arrangement of the records is as follows:

Series 1, Organizational Papers, 1918 -1996

Series 2, Programs, 1910 - 2012

Series 3, Publicity Materials, 1903 - 2001

Series 4, Reference Works, 1898 - 1966

Series 5, Ephemera, 1914 - 1965

Series 6, Photographs, 1913 - 1963

Physical Location

This collection is located in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library. To use this collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at 212.854.4079 or

Acquisition Information

Portions of the collection were donated by alumnae and transferred to the Archives from other offices of the College from the 1970s through the present day. The acquisition date and source of the remainder of the collection is unknown.


No accurals are expected.

Related Collections

BC38 Greek Games is a historical collection, meaning that there will be no new additions, that represents the original Greek Games. To see what the Greek Games became when the McIntosh Activities Council (McAC) revived this event, please look at BC37.13 McAC records.

Separation Note

Roughly 1100 photographs of the Greek Games and related activities originally housed with this collection were relocated to BC17, the Barnard College Photograph Collection. Additionally, a small number of films of the Greek Games that were previously considered a part of this collection are now housed with Barnard's moving image collections.

Processing History

This collection was processed by Marcia Bassett, Archivist and Elizabeth Parker, Queens College Intern ’11. Finding aid written by Elizabeth Parker in December 2010 and edited by Martha Tenney in 2015.

Descriptive Rules Used: Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Encoding: Machine readable finding aid encoded in EAD 2002.

Finding aid written in English.

Guide to the Greek Games Collection
Elizabeth Parker and Martha Tenney
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Repository

3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027 United States