A History of Rose Bowl Tickets (1902-1944)
The Rose Bowl will soon kick off for the 110th time. The oldest and proudest of bowl games, the Rose Bowl is no longer special. It is just another playoff game, unique only for its venue and history. However, because of its long history and past meaning, the Rose Bowl provides a unique opportunity to review football’s past by examining the history of its tickets.
The Romans used coin-like disks rather than the paper or electronic tickets we use today. Still, after the world switched to paper tickets, people began putting them away in scrapbooks, shoeboxes, and other locations, so tickets from long-ago games remain available for review. Part of the fun of reviewing old tickets is that they reflect the artistic styles, technologies, currency values, and social issues surrounding the events. With that said, let’s look at selected Rose Bowl tickets over the years.
Paper tickets were issued for the first Rose Bowl in 1902, though I’ve never seen an image of one. The images below show tickets issued for the second Rose Bowl played in 1916 and the 1921 editions. Both are relatively plain except for the Art Nouveau appeal of the Tournament Park logo. (The 1902-1922 games occurred at Tournament Park in Pasadena. Tournament of Roses Stadium, aka the Rose Bowl, opened in 1922.)
The 1925 ticket began a long run of tickets styled after a bank note or currency; for the next 15 years, they printed the tickets on heavy-weight paper, triple or more the thickness of a cereal box. The tickets changed slightly each year, but each included a background image of the Rose Bowl, a bouquet of roses, or both.
During this era, the 1929 ticket was the first to have the seating assignment printed on the main part of the ticket rather than the gate check portion that was torn off upon entry. I assume the change occurred so attendees could take home a more attractive keepsake than their predecessors.
In most years, the primary background of selected fields on the ticket varied in color based on their seating location and price (as seen in the variations of the 1932 ticket). The ticket with the red Rose Bowl image costs $4.00, while the ticket with the green image is half the price.
A welcome recess from the currency look occurred in 1939 and 1940 when the graphics evoked images of Hawaii rather than Pasadena.
The 1940 ticket saw a return to the currency approach, which then stuck around for another sixteen years. Of course, life changed in America on December 7, 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, an event with a direct impact on Rose Bowl tickets. The folks in Pasadena had already printed tickets for the 1942 Rose Bowl, but fears arose that the Japanese might stage an attack on January 1, 1942, knowing there would be 88,000 people sitting in the Rose Bowl that Thursday afternoon. The threat caused the Army and California’s governor to cancel the game, but the following day, they moved it to Durham, North Carolina, where Duke hosted Oregon State. The new location required a new set of tickets for Duke’s 55,000-seat stadium, so while the world is full of unused tickets for the 1942 Pasadena version of the ticket, those issued for Durham are more difficult to find, at least in pristine condition.
With the war on, the Rose Bowl tickets melded the currency style, with the patriotic ‘V for Victory’ symbol playing a prominent role.
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