IU’s alma mater is sung at countless university events, from football games to Commencement. But have you ever wondered about the origin of our beloved song, its author, and that odd word “Frangipana” that rhymes so well with Indiana? A plaque outside the Frangipani Room in the Indiana Memorial Union tells the tale:
The song, according to its author, Joe T. Giles, BA 1894, MA 1902, had its beginning on October 24, 1892, when some fifty students boarded the Monon to Lafayette for the Purdue football game. During the ride, someone mentioned the need for a new college yell. One with Indiana in it.
But what would rhyme with Indiana? Gloriana, suggested one. Then into the mind of Ernest H. Lindley, AB 1893, who often helped in his father’s uptown drugstore, flashed the name of a popular perfume of the day — Frangipana, which was derived from Frangipani, a tropical tree or shrub of Mexico, Jamaica, the Guianas, and elsewhere. Thus came the alliterative first line of the new yell — Gloriana, Frangipana, Indiana.
When Indiana University’s first glee club was invited to sing at the State Oratorical Contest in 1893, the ensemble had no college song. Whereupon Mr. Giles, who organized the club, wrote verses to the melody of a familiar Scottish song, borrowing heavily on the yell for the chorus. The records show that the song ‘Hail to Old IU,’ as we know it today and the word Frangipana made their debut on March 10, 1893, in the Plymouth Congregational Church in Indianapolis.
So that’s how “Hail to Old IU” came to be. Below, from the 1894 Arbutus, are the handwritten music and lyrics, complete with the rarely sung second, third, and fourth verses.