Muzzleloaders: In 1863, Gov. Leland Stanford gave Santa Clara College 40 Civil War-era muskets for the senior cadets, along with “accoutrements and side-arms and camp and garrison equipage.” As the student soldiers paraded down The Alameda in full dress, one envious classmate dubbed them “invincibles in peace, and invisibles in war.”
The center of campus: Long before the Abby Sobrato Mall became one of the centerpieces of campus, Santa Clara president Burchard Villiger, S.J., had given the land in front of the church to the town of Santa Clara for a public park. In 1876, the town council decided to abandon the plaza in favor of another location and, in a fit of persnicketiness, didn’t give the land back. Fears of squatters settling in front of the Mission spread among the faculty, but Joseph Donohoe, a San Francisco banker, saved the day. His generous donation of $6,050 allowed the College to buy the property back. Donohoe also founded the Nobili medal the same year.
Gifts from the sea: During the 1892–93 academic year, Mr. and Mrs. John Bergin gifted a “box of beautiful shells from the Gulf of California” to the College. It is unknown whether they were related to Thomas I. Bergin 1857, the first graduate of Santa Clara and the first recipient of a bachelor’s degree in California, and the namesake of the Bergin Legacy Society.
Mastodon tusk: In 1894–95, Santa Clara received a portion of a mastodon’s tusk from the late Lt. Jas. A. Turner, U.S. Marine Corps. It is, apparently, one of the few vestiges of the last ice age owned by the University.
A mounted stag’s head: Records show this gift came from Mr. Neil Friel, of Ferndale, California, in 1901. Alas, a search through the archives failed to turn up this taxidermic prize.
Seeds of change: Not long after the turn of the century, SCU received a package from William J. Wynn and Edward J. Livernash of the U.S. House of Representatives. Along with their donation of government publications, the august statesmen included “packages of various seeds.”