The history of cheerleading originates in the United States in the late 1880s with the average crowd yelling and singing to cheer on their team. No one is quite sure how they documented that she was the first cheerleader in history, but Princeton University is credited in 1884 with creating a Princeton cheerleader and marking her place in cheerleading history.
Then a few years later, Princeton graduate Tom Peebles brought cheers to the University of Minnesota. But it wasn’t until 1898 that fellow University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell led what was the first cheer in history in November 1898. The story is that Minnesota was having such a terrible football season that the people felt the need to think about positive things. Songs and cheers arose. Minnesota went on to organize a men’s cheerleading squad in 1903 and organized the first cheerleading fraternity in cheerleading history, Gamma Sigma. Ironically, cheerleading began as an all-male sport, deep, loud voices were felt to project more than a woman’s voice. It wasn’t until the 1920s that women became much more involved in cheerleading and began to incorporate gymnastics, pyramids, and throwing. Today, junior cheerleaders are predominantly made up of female cheerleaders, however college cheerleaders are still roughly fifty percent male.
Well, the students cheered all they could for Minnesota and still got beat. It was the scientific thesis of a student that the positive support of the fans would actually help send positive energy towards the team and help them win. Well, the joy was not enough to get a victory, but it created a new sport. The University of Minnesota stuck with the idea and eventually started having an organized cheering group at every game.
The evolution of cheerleading to a sport was further developed by the University of Minnesota when women became known for their athletic ability by including gymnastics in their routines. Then, in the 1930s, the sport became a display of showmanship, as athletes became much more entertaining and fun to watch. The megaphone would become the next great addition to cheerleading history in the early 20th century and the pom-pom introduced by Lawrence Herkimer really gave cheerleaders a symbol to hang their hats on.
Herkimer has to be seen as the grandfather of cheerleading. He has done much for cheerleading history by founding the National Cheerleading Association at SMU and organizing cheerleading schools in 1946 and ’47. Herkimer camps have now grown to over twenty thousand attendees.
Today, sport has become a highly athletic and competitive field that showcases men and women of incredible talent. Herkimer and the University of Minnesota have forged a unique cheerleading history.