Alumni Museum

DHS West’s Senior Mantle is over 100 years old

Teddy Roosevelt was president in 1908, and Henry Ford unveiled the first Model T car that year. That also was the year when the tradition of a Senior Mantle was established. 
     The Senior Mantle is a graduation gown, plus accouterments, covered with unique cloth patches designed by a member of each graduating class at Downingtown High School for more than 100 years. 
     The emblems on the Mantle express the hopes and aspirations of each senior class. Any member of the senior class can submit a design. There are many design styles illustrated on the robe, abstract to realistic. Some designs are very intricate and complex, incorporating a variety of materials and textile techniques that reflect the time period.
     This cloak of honor is worn at the installation ceremony of each senior class president. When the outgoing senior class president removes the robe and places it on the shoulders of the incoming senior class president, he or she is symbolically transferring the honor and distinction of Downingtown High School to the next class. In recent years, the robe has been transferred at an evening awards assembly.
     Records show that the ceremonies were first held in the early 20th Century at the original high school on West Lancaster Avenue (current site of Messiah Lutheran Church) in the borough and the Downingtown Opera House, which became the Roosevelt Theatre in 1929, on Brandywine Avenue in Downingtown.
     In 1932, the transfer ceremony started being conducted at the new Junior-Senior High School on Manor Avenue (where the Downingtown Education Center is now located) until Downingtown West High School was opened in 1960.
     Since the original Mantle was getting fragile after 33 years, a replacement graduation gown was purchased in 1941 by the Downingtown High School Alumni Association for $9.50. By 1989, there was no more room for patches on the gown; so a matching hood has been used to accommodate patches done in recent years. 
     After a second high school was established in 2004, separate sashes for each school were added to the Mantle to accommodate additional patches. However, only a hood and a sash are worn at graduation because the Mantle and its many patches are so fragile. 
     After graduation in 2008, the Mantle and its accouterments were retired in a place of honor, protected from the elements which could damage the fibers. And both high schools continue the unbroken tradition by having their patches sewn on new hoods, according to DHS West art teacher who has been responsible for the Senior Mantle at the school for more than 25 years.

Additional Documents

Past Presidents

Distinguished Service Award Winners

History of Downingtown Schools

Historic Notes

Downingtown Area High School Alumni Association
540 Trestle Place
Downingtown, PA  19335

610.269.8460 ext. 6208
downingtownalumni@gmail.com

Established in 1884, Downingtown Area High School Alumni Association is one of the Oldest Active Public High School Alumni Associations in the country!