Chip’s in the dining hall

You’ve probably caught a glimpse of the enormous taxidermic moose head perched above the senior section of Hill House Dining Hall — it’s pretty hard to miss — but have you ever wondered how it ended up there, or even how it got in Choate’s possession? Serena Sandweiss ’20 has asked herself the same thing, saying, “Huh, I’ve always wondered why it’s there. It’s not even our school’s mascot!”

Chip the Moose was given as a parting gift by alumnus Terrell van Ingen ’1917 before he headed off to war. In a letter written to then-headmaster George St. John, van Ingen stated that he wanted to leave Choate with a going-away gift, so he decided to leave the school the “biggest thing he had.” A few days after its arrival, the. moose head was initially set up on the front lawn of the Sally Hart Lodge, which was then the headmaster’s home study. Frank Waterman, architect of Hill House and several other buildings on campus, aided Headmaster St. John in deciding the  permanent location for Chip. In 1918, Chip was mounted in the dining hall, where it resides to this day.

Besides having first been situated on the lawn of the Sally Hart Lodge and then in the dining hall, Chip has been kidnapped not once, but twice. The first of the moose-nappings took place during the school year of 1982-83. A late 2000s article entitled “A Little Bit of Choate History” stated, “In a daring prank, the moose was kidnapped from its resting place and held for ransom.” With the help of the entire campus, who made T-shirts saying “The moose is loose in the Hotel Edsall,” Chip was brought back to his home. Ms. Judy Donald, archivist of Choate Rosemary Hall, added, “Chip is such an interesting fixture that students think it would be a fun thing to kidnap, as a sort of senior prank sort of thing.”

The second incident occurred in 2001 with collaboration between the parent of a Choate student and a school official. After the Choate parent purchased a boar’s head, the two put together a plan to swap the heads, mainly “to see if anyone would notice.” The two schemers remain to this day anonymous, but after a month, the moose head was once again returned to its rightful place.

Strange as it may sound, “Chip” has been a mascot for longer than the Boars. The moose head was pictured on the crest of Rosemary Hall (first the family crest of the founding headmistress Caroline Ruutz Rees), while The Choate School conquered rivals with its own mascot, the Choate Judges.

Although some might question this moose head’s place in the Choate community, it serves as a daily reminder of the school’s storied past. If Chip were to go missing again, there would be more than a literal gap in the senior section: there would be a gap in Choate Rosemary Hall’s history.

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