History Department


History 303: Research and Writing Seminar in History


Andrew Morris


The year was 1952, and the newly crowned Geraldine Cox took her first steps as Poly Royal Queen across the stage. Her coronation marked the eighteenth year California Polytechnic State University elected one woman, who reflected the character and dynamic of everything the campus had to offer, to “reign” over the activities of their annual Open House. Open House had been held annually at Cal Poly since 1902, but in 1933 Julian McPhee had a grander vision of what it could contribute to students and the surrounding community: a fully-fledged “country fair on campus” that the west coast had never seen before. Perspective students would have more interaction with the campus’s agriculture programs and a better sense of how Cal Poly prepared them for their future endeavors. Open House, thereafter referred to as “Poly Royal,” attracted the attention McPhee was looking for. The San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram’s front page raved about the hundreds of visitors from nearby counties Poly Royal brought to town. The following year, 1934, was when the very first Poly Royal Queen was crowned, a tradition that would remain until Poly Royal’s discontinuation in 1989.

Soquel Filice, “When Poly Was Royal: Queens on Campus,” Special Collections and Archives, accessed January 20, 2016,

Filice, “When Poly Was Royal.”

Kennedy Library, n.a. “Poly Royal,” Special Collections and Archives, accessed January 22, 2016,

“Poly Royal.”

“Poly Royal.”