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The university claims Big Bertha to be the world's largest drum; it measures 8 feet (2.44 m) in diameter, 44 inches (1.12 m) in depth, and stands 10 feet (3 m) tall when on its four-wheeled cart. The drum weighs more than 500 pounds (230 kg). Big Bertha is wheeled onto the field for the half-time show during varsity football games, and is used in other occasions such as parades and spirit rallies. The drum is managed by the Bertha Crew, sometimes called "drum wranglers." The crew move the drum and play it after touchdowns. Big Bertha is nicknamed the "Sweetheart of the Longhorn Band".
In 1922, the University of Chicago commissioned C.G. Conn Instruments to build a bass drum for the school. Its first use was in the 1922 game versus rival Princeton University. When the University of Chicago ended its varsity football program, the drum was stored under the school's bleachers. It later became radioactively contaminated as a result of research for the Manhattan Project conducted at the stadium during the 1940s.
Colonel D. Harold Byrd, a former Longhorn Band member, brought the drum to the university in 1955 after purchasing it from the University of Chicago for $1.00 and paying to have it decontaminated and restored.
In 1961, the University of Texas and Purdue University chapters of Kappa Kappa Psi pledged to bring their respective drums to a showdown to decide the title of "World's Largest Drum" at the fraternal national convention in Wichita, Kansas; however, as only the Purdue branch of the Fraternity showed up with the Purdue Big Bass Drum, Big Bertha lost the self-claimed title of "World's Largest Drum". As of 2018, The Guinness Book of World Records lists a Korean drum as the largest.
In March 1980 a Kappa Kappa Psi pledge class hand-scraped years of toxic lead paint from the body of the drum and the drum's trailer returning the finish to a high luster. The 6 pledges' names are inscribed on the inner wall of the drum and can only be seen when the drum heads are removed.
- "Texas Traditions: Big Bertha". Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. https://web.archive.org/web/20071025035015/http://www.utexas.edu/friends/fun.php?which=3. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
- "Purdue's Big Bass Drum makes long-awaited return to Chicago". http://www.purdue.edu/uns/html3month/020702.Matter.BBDhistory.html. Retrieved 2009-12-13.
- "Largest drum" (in en-GB). http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-drum.