In 1922 the University of Chicago commissioned the Conn Music Company to build a big bass drum to foster the school's team spirit. When the university abandoned its football program, the giant drum was discarded under the school stadium and later contaminated by atomic bomb research conducted at the stadium during the 1940s.
In 1955, Col. D. Harold Byrd, a former Longhorn Band member, purchased the drum from the University of Chicago for $1 because he thought Texas should have the largest drum in the world. Big Bertha measures eight feet in diameter, 44 inches wide, and 10 feet tall on her four-wheeled cart. She weighs more than 500 pounds. After having the drum decontaminated and carefully restored, Byrd donated it to the Longhorn Band where it has been a booming tradition ever since.
Original photo courtesy UT Center for American History; colorized by Von Allen