Brown University’s Iron Men

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Brown University dedicated its new stadium, then known as Brown University Field, in 1925. The football team now had a permanent home on a large parcel of what had been undeveloped land bounded by Elmgrove Avenue and Sessions Street. Stilled by this new structure were the hum of insects and the call of birds that had once made their home in the woods and among the wild flowers there. Now, on Saturday afternoons in fall, cheers and crowd noises would echo through the East Side neighborhood.

The following year, in a fitting celebration of its new home, the Brown football team, for the first time in its history, won the Ivy League football championship. The players themselves earned the sobriquet The Iron Men Team. Twice they had played for an entire game, with no substitutions, and nearly accomplished the same feat against Harvard: As a gift to the second squad, so they too could earn letters, Coach Tuss McLaughry sent them all in to play in the last two minutes of the game. They even managed to score a touchdown in that short interval!

Three members of the second squad and three of the Iron Men were Jewish, and one of the Iron Men, a sophomore defensive guard and offensive tackle, grew up in Pawtucket.  His name was Louis Farber, and he was nicknamed Tarzan for his speed, toughness and agility.

Farber graduated from Pawtucket High School, where he played football, baseball, track and basketball. In his senior year, he was named an All-State guard for his football ability. He spent the next year at Moses Brown, and once again achieved All-State honors. At Brown, Farber captained the freshman football team before moving on to his varsity career.

Farber was offered a pro contract with an NFL team, but decided to remain in Rhode Island. For a few years, he worked in the family sheet metal business. Farber then found his career niche as a high school teacher and football coach, at which he excelled. He taught English and math at East Providence High School and was the school’s assistant football coach and later its head coach for 16 years. 

In 1950, Farber and his family moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he continued his career as a teacher and coach.

In recognition of his accomplishments, he was inducted into the Brown Hall of Fame in 1972. Louis Farber died in 2001. 

Another 50 seasons would pass before Brown won the Ivy League football championship again. To those who derided Brown’s football teams, fans would sniff, “Football does not make a university great. Brown has a higher, intellectual purpose.”

And on Saturday afternoons each fall, the city’s faithful fans still trudge up Sessions Street, past the throngs of youngsters seeking tickets or a way to sneak inside, to join the procession of students and alumni entering the stadium to cheer. Come what may, we are, after all, ever true to Brown.

GERALDINE S. FOSTER is a past president of the R.I. Jewish Historical Association. To comment about this or any RIJHA article, contact the RIJHA office at info@rijha.org or 401-331-1360.