Jason Schiffer and Chris Houtz with Lehigh cannon

Lehigh University Police Department Chief and Assistant Vice President of Campus Safety Jason Schiffer (left) and Assistant Chief of Police Chris Houtz refurbished a brass cannon donated to Lehigh 75 years ago.

Lost, Found, Then Lost Again, Lehigh Football Cannon Reaches 75th Anniversary

A brass cannon donated to Lehigh 75 years ago has been recovered and restored.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Holly Fasching ’26

In 1947, during a disappointing football loss to Rutgers University, James Hildebrand ’50 had grown tired of hearing the opponent’s cannon fire after each touchdown.

He convinced his father into donating the family’s brass cannon to Lehigh, according to the Feb. 16, 1988, edition of The Brown and White. The following year, the cannon, which had been used to signal the return of whaling ships in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and acquired by the family, was officially presented to Lehigh and fired at a pep rally before the 1948 Rivalry game.

Plaque on Lehigh football cannon

As part of the restoration, a new plaque was installed to commemorate James Hildebrand ’50 and his donation of the cannon.

Now, 75 years later, the approximately 80-pound cannon resides in the office of Jason Schiffer, assistant vice president of campus safety and chief of police. But it has had quite the journey since that 1948 pep rally.

Initially, the cannon was a staple at home Lehigh football games and, as intended, fired each time the team scored. It was cared for by the cheerleaders until the late 1970s, when the Kappa Alpha Society (KA) took over.

On March 18, 1979, the cannon disappeared, according to a Letter to the Editor written by John Felegi ’81 in the May 4, 1979, edition of The Brown and White. Felegi wrote, “Because of the importance of this cannon to the alumni and to the athletic department, in addition to its value in creating spirit at the football games, any information regarding its disappearance would be greatly appreciated.”

It was eventually found but again went missing at the end of a football season about 20 years ago, according to Allen Biddinger, associate athletics director for athletic facilities and events, and a police report was filed. The Marching 97 obtained a smaller replacement.

A decade passed before the cannon was found in the basement of a local residence and returned to the Goodman Stadium Operations Office. Since the Marching 97 had a replacement, the cannon remained with the athletics department, Biddinger says, until he assumed his current position. He didn’t feel comfortable being responsible for it and, five years ago, asked the Lehigh University Police Department (LUPD) to take possession of the cannon.

Lehigh cannon

The Lehigh cannon inside the university's police department with an archived photo of the cannon in use at a football game from The Brown and White in the background.

LUPD not only uses the cannon now at campus events, such as the Veterans Day flag-raising ceremony, but it also has provided much-needed maintenance. Chris Houtz, assistant chief of police, sanded and stained the wood base and laser-etched a Lehigh logo into each side, while Schiffer took the cannon apart, polished it, replaced hardware and added a brown and white paracord. A new plaque was also installed to commemorate Hildebrand’s donation of the cannon.

“I thought we could bring some brown and white into it and then make it safer as well,” Schiffer says. “It's a really interesting piece of Lehigh tradition that is worthy of preserving.”

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Holly Fasching ’26

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