The University of Kansas is home to a mythical bird with a fascinating history: the Jayhawk. The legendary KU mascot originated in the 1850s border war in Kansas Territory over the question of slavery. No one knows the true origin of the term "Jayhawker," but it came to be applied to those who favored making Kansas a free state. Lawrence, where KU was founded in the aftermath of the Civil War, was a free state stronghold.
The first known connection between KU and the Jayhawk came in 1886, when Professor E.H.S. Bailey incorporated the term into the science club's cheer. This cheer soon evolved into the famous "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" chant. The song, "I'm a Jayhawk," was written in 1912 by George Bowles, the same year student Henry Maloy drew the first popular depiction of the mascot. Prior to that, the KU's athletic teams had no set mascot.
A total of five versions of the Jayhawk existed in cartoon form prior to 1946, when today's familiar smiling bird was created by student Harold "Hal" Sandy. It is KU's most recognizable symbol, and one of its best investments. Sandy sold the copyright to the Kansas Union Bookstore for $250, a substantial amount of money at the time. Today, it is a popular trademark that earns revenue for KU in support of scholarships and other purposes. On September 12, 1996, a parade down KU's Jayhawk Boulevard honored Hal Sandy on the 50th anniversary of his unique contribution to his alma mater. For more information about the history of KU and its famous mascot, go to www.kuhistory.com