Triangulars: An Ivy Beginning
Yalies began to debate competitively in the 1890s, with ad hoc debates against Harvard. A more formal association of Ivy League debaters began in 1908, when Harvard, Princeton, and Yale agreed to hold three annual debates,
known together as Triangulars. Debaters at each college fiercely competed before their faculty members for the coveted slots. These were high-caliber debates: overflowing audiences watched each debate, and judges and presiding
officers included university presidents, mayors, U.S. Court of Appeals judges, and even the former U.S. president Grover Cleveland. The debates were avidly watched by the public, even reported on by widely circulating newspapers
like The New York Times. One Times journalist remarked in 1896, "It is generally as important to win this debate [Yale v. Harvard] as to win the football debate in the fall."
Each Triangulars debate was three-on-three. Resolution topics ranged from current political and economic events, such as the independence of Panama (1904) or the repeal of the prohibition amendment (1919) to social questions like women's suffrage (1914) or the purpose of a college education (1895).