John Adams, Class of 1755, never did get to take his meals in luxurious Annenberg Hall. And now, by the appearance of the protruding middle finger on his right hand, he seems to be scorning all the first-years who do. A statue of Adams has adorned the wall near the exit of the current first-year dining hall since 1935 and has been fodder for pranksters—who break off his plaster extremities—ever since.
“This happens every year,” says Raymond C. Traietti, building manager of Memorial Hall, who explained that John Adams hasn’t always appeared to be flipping people off. “It started out with students putting things on his hand, like the lobster shells on clambake night. One year he appeared to be pointing with his index finger. It’s been a slow evolution to the middle finger.”
Though Harvard re-plasters the hand almost every year, Traietti notes that most of the damage occurs during the first couple of weeks of the fall, so often the results remain throughout the school year.
But the second president of the United States will soon be able to regain his dignity—according to Traietti, new fingers are on order. He says he hopes this practical joke will grow old. “I think students realize, ‘Hey, [Annenberg] is a cool place,’” Traietti says. “I mean, I don’t know why they pick on poor Adams...What’s wrong with John Winthrop?”