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Tommy Trojan, officially known as the Trojan Shrine, is one of the most recognizable figures of school pride at the University of Southern California. The life-size bronze statue of a Trojan warrior sits in the center of campus and serves as a popular meeting spot, as well as a centerpiece for a number of campus events. It is the most popular unofficial mascot of the university.
The Trojan Shrine was sculpted by Roger Noble Burnham, who used USC football players such as Russ Saunders, Ernie Pinckert Henry Becker, Larry Stevens and John Ward as visual references for the statue. It was unveiled during the University's 50th Jubilee in 1930. It cost $10,000 to build, after which a $1 surcharge was added onto the season football tickets in order to help offset this cost.
The statue was created by Harold C. Swartz, a noted sculptor. Swartz exhibited extensively beginning in the early 1920s. He participated in all the major fine art exhibitions in Southern California and won many prizes. He was a member of the Sculptors Guild of Southern California and the California Art Club. Swartz had a solo exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1923. He exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1925 and 1929. Swartz designed several fountains for Hollywood celebrities, most notably Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Large bronze sculptures were the centerpieces of these fountains.
Swartz, like many artists in Los Angeles, did work for movie studios, including MGM. In many newspaper articles published around the end of World War II, Swartz is credited with the creation of the Oscar. This is disputed by all other historical sources. However, Swartz’s student George Stanley is officially credited with the design of the Oscar. Nonetheless, the style and technique of the Oscar is very similar to many of Swartz’s sculptures. His work “Dans Macabre” resembles the “Oscar.” This work was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1929 and a facsimile appears in a 1931 film called “Scandal Sheet.”
Swartz was purely a modernist. He abstracted his subjects, employing cubist elements that were mildly surreal and often allegorical. Swartz’s works were received with great critical acclaim. He was also successful at executing realistic busts of well-known public figures, including Von Kliensmid, the president of the University of Southern California. He won a commission to create a bust of Theodore Roosevelt, which was located a local high school. Swartz also executed “Tommy Trojan,” a monumental sculpture of a Trojan warrior on the University of Southern California campus.
On August 17, 2017, during the USC village grand opening, the Hecuba, Queen of Troy statue was unveiled to the public. This large statue serves as the female counterpart to Tommy Trojan and represents the Women of USC.
Tommy Trojan is located at the core of the campus and often serves as a meeting ground for students and visitors. Many people take pictures with the statue. The Shrine is surrounded by the Bovard Administration Building, Ronald Tutor Campus Center, and Alumni Park. Trousdale Parkway passes next to the statue. USC offers the Tommy Cam, which is a live image of the statue, with daily time-lapse videos. The statue is unique in that the figure is flexing every muscle in his body, a physically impossible feat. Inscribed on the base of the statue are the five attributes of the ideal Trojan: Faithful, Scholarly, Skillful, Courageous and Ambitious. On the reverse is a plaque bearing a quote by Virgil: "Here are provided seats of meditative joy, where shall rise again the destined reign of Troy."
USC's cross-town rival UCLA had vandalized Tommy Trojan (often by painting the statue in the UCLA colors of blue and gold) during the week of the annual USC-UCLA football game. To prevent this, university officials now cover the statue during that week to protect it from UCLA vandals. Students also gather for Save Tommy Nite on the night before the game against UCLA. In addition, members of the Trojan Knights maintain an all-night vigil around Tommy Trojan during the rivalry week to further deter would-be vandals.
Many people identify Tommy Trojan as the symbol of the university. However, Tommy Trojan is not USC's official mascot; that title belongs to Traveler, a white Andalusian horse. Before Traveler, a real local dog named George Tirebiter served as the unofficial mascot. A statue of the dog is also a feature of the campus.
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