Dear Mr. Mudd: Have Orange and Black Always Been Princeton’s Colors?

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Have orange and black always been Princeton’s colors?

There were no official school colors at the College of New Jersey (better known simply as “Princeton” as early as 1756) until it assumed the name Princeton University in 1896. Students complained about this in the June 1867 Nassau Literary Magazine, then the baseball team wore orange badges with black lettering in a baseball game that month. George Ward, Class of 1869, had suggested orange in honor of William of Orange and of Nassau, for whom Nassau Hall is named.

As can be seen in this 1889 menu for the Class of 1879’s tenth reunion dinner, the cannon was a longstanding symbol of Princeton and one that predates other symbols. In part, the cannon contributed the black in the orange and black color scheme eventually adopted (more information below). Woodrow Wilson Collection (MC168), Box 44, Folder 4.

The colors of William of Orange were orange and blue, and orange and black came about largely through repetition more than intent. In fact, the 1874 baseball uniforms had orange trimming against a “greyish blue,” perhaps reflective of the original orange and blue color scheme for the House of Nassau. Yet it seems unlikely that with blue’s already-close association with Yale that it would have achieved much popularity for Princetonians, who hoped to show their school pride by bearing their team colors at sporting events. A sea of blue on both sides would have been counterproductive.

Poster advertising the Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving Day football game, November 26, 1891. Office of Athletic Communication Records.

Faculty approved the wearing of orange ribbons with “Princeton” printed on them in black ink to represent the College of New Jersey on October 12, 1868. Students in the regatta at Saratoga, New York in 1874 wore orange and black ribbons on their hats, which had been purchased by William Libbey of the Class of 1877. Libbey popularized the wearing of the orange and black on campus.

Sample of orange and black ribbon purchased by William Libbey in 1873 (note the orange has faded somewhat over time). Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 391, Folder 1.

Rumors circulated at Rutgers that they should not choose orange and black as their colors because those colors belonged to Princeton, though this had not officially been set. In 1876, Princeton’s football team wore black jerseys with an orange “P” on the chest in their game against Yale. By the end of the 1870s, orange and black were understood to be Princeton’s colors, but this was not official until 1896, when the Board of Trustees adopted orange and black as the colors of the gowns for Princeton University as they changed the name of the institution. At the time, some were advocating that the colors be changed to orange and blue to reflect the historical significance of the pairing as the original colors of House of Nassau, but this did not win the day. By that time, Princeton was closely associated with three symbols–the tiger, the cannon, and the tiger lily–all of which had black in their color schemes.

Example of the tiger lily as a symbol of Princeton from the program for the Yale-Princeton polo game, June 18, 1892. Scrapbook Collection (AC026), Box 194. Another, late 20th-century example can be seen on our Tumblr page.

Though the tiger gradually edged out the tiger lily and the cannon as the most popular mascot, Princeton’s orange also drifted away from what one would normally see in the coloring of a large cat. In 1960, the Trustees adopted an official shade of orange, to be known as “Princeton Orange, a far brighter one than an actual tiger’s fur.

Sources:

Board of Trustees Records (AC120)

Historical Subject Files (AC109)

Papers of Princeton

For further reading:

Armstrong, April C. “When Did the College of New Jersey Change to Princeton University?

Cleeton, Christa. “Which Came First? The Tiger or His Stripes?

Linke, Dan. “When Did People Start Referring to the College of New Jersey as Princeton?

The Tigress

In 1969, after several years of experiments integrating women into the classroom, Princeton University announced that it would become fully coeducational, admitting women to all of its degree programs. Female undergraduates brought many changes to Princeton traditions with them, but not all of these are present on the 21st-century campus. One new tradition from the 1970s and early 1980s lost to time was a new mascot: The Tigress.

The Tigress in a publicity shot for Triangle Club’s American Zucchini, 1975. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 86.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 4-10

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the school’s president petitions Bill Clinton for an end to a “discriminatory policy,” Nassau Hall gets new tigers, and more.

January 4, 1836—Two students “having been detected in having ardent spirits in their rooms” are asked to withdraw from the College of New Jersey (Princeton).

January 5, 1993—Princeton University president Harold Shapiro signs a letter along with 66 other American university presidents urging U.S. President Bill Clinton to remove the ban on homosexuals in the military as a “discriminatory policy” that “is antithetical to our institutions’ commitment to respect for individuals, as well as for equal access and opportunity.” The action invites intense criticism for Shapiro.

Harold_Shapiro_1993_Bric

Harold Shapiro, ca. 1993. Photo from the 1993 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, juniors take up roller skating when cars are banned, a fire forces the school to start over almost from scratch, and more.

March 2, 1927—In order to protest the new “car rule,” which bans student use of automobiles on campus, Princeton juniors take to roller skating. The New York Times reports on their activities, noting the posters the skaters pinned to their shirts, with various comic slogans, including “And Mama said I could.” Five of the skaters will be photographed for the March 13, 1927 issue of the New York Herald Tribune. Although their efforts capture national attention, ultimately the car rule will remain in effect for decades.

3_with_car_ca1920s_AC112_BoxSP14_Item_3412

Three students with a car on campus, ca. 1920s, presumably before the ban on student use of automobiles. Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box SP14, Item No. 3412.

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Which came first? The Tiger or his stripes?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

What is the origin of the Princeton Tiger? Which came first the tiger or his stripes?

TigerHead

In 1992 the Office of Communications produced a photo essay concerning this very topic! The answer is that Princeton adopted the stripes long before the actual tiger!

Here is an excerpt from that essay:

On October 12, 1868, the faculty of the College of New Jersey  (later to be called Princeton University) passed a resolution permitting students “to adopt and wear as the college badge an orange colored Ribbon bearing upon it the word Princeton,” thus simultaneously keeping alive the college’s historical association with the Royal Dutch House of Orange while publicizing the unofficial college name, Princeton.

But even earlier—June of 1867—Princeton baseball players wore orange ribbons with black writing (’69 B.B.C.) at their match with Yale. At a Sarasota regatta in 1874, members of the freshman crew wore hatbands of black and orange silk ribbons. And for its 1876 football game with Yale, Princeton’s team proudly wore black jerseys with an orange P on the chest. 

During the celebration of Princeton’s sesquicentennial in 1896, the trustees not only changed the college’s name to Princeton University but also adopted orange and black as the official colors for academic gowns. The design reflects the tiger’s colors though not its many stripes; yet, undoubtedly a tiger’s heart beats beneath these conservative robes. For several years college cheers had contained the rallying cry of “tiger,” and orange and black were growing in use as the school colors Sportswriters of the day started to call the players “tigers.” The tiger and its colors began to appear in college songs, student publications, and even the name of an eating club. Then they showed up carved in stone, beginning most conspicuously with the large tigers placed atop the gateposts between Little and Blair halls in 1902. Very permanent tigers were cropping up on buildings all over campus.

By 1911 the tiger had become so firmly established as the University mascot that the Class of 1879 replaced the pair of lions that had flanked the doorway of Nassau Hall… with the regal tigers that still guard the entrance, acknowledging the tiger as a unifying decorative element on campus.

Lions at the entrance to Nassau Hall - Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings, Box MP81 Image 3306

Lions at the entrance to Nassau Hall – Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings, Box MP81 Image 3306

Tiger enthusiasm reached new heights in 1923 when the father of Albert Red Howard ’25 captured a young Bengal tiger while on an expedition to India and sent it to Princeton as a mascot. In the end, the combination of community anxiety and the cost of care led to the tiger’s ultimate transfer to a New Jersey zoo, but it was not the last live tiger to saunter through the Princeton campus.

Since the 1940s, a less-alarming live tiger has appeared regularly at Princeton football and basketball games or at least an anthropomorphized one. Dressed in forty pounds of faux fur, flowing tail, and padded paws, countless Princeton students have donned the tiger suit to entertain sports crowds and socialize at various events. In 1973 a few years after women were first admitted to the University, a tigress accompanied the well-known male mascot for the first time, distinguished by orange bows on her head and tail. Today, with the novelty of coeducation long past, there is only one tiger that entertains children, rallies school spirit, and gets chased by members of the opposing team’s school. In the end, one tiger is symbolically fitting: one tiger for one Princeton.

Tigers at Nassau Hall 1911 - AC111 Box MP71

Tigers at Nassau Hall 1911 – AC111 Box MP71

The University Archives has a plethora of images, documents and tiger references. In the Historical Subject Files, Box 393, one can find an article by the former Keeper of Princetoniana, Frederic Fox ’39.

Within this article Fox notes that the “Tiger did not come to Princeton easily.” Officially the tiger’s entrance came about due to members of the Class of 1879, though originally those classmates of Woodrow Wilson preferred lions. In 1889, their 10th reunion, they gave the University a pair of lions because it was the emblem of the royal house of Orange-Nassau.

These two lions flanked the entrance to Nassau Hall and were attributed to the French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue of Liberty. However, in the 1990s it was determined that they were produced by the now-defunct J. L. Mott Ironworks, a company that sold zinc statuary and bathroom fixtures through catalogs. The lions stood guard at Nassau Hall from 1889 to until they were removed in 1911. The current tigers by the artist A.P. Proctor were presented to the university by the Class of 1879 in 1911, with the lions moved to the steps of 1879 Hall, where they stood for about 60 years before moving into storage. They were re-discovered in 1998 in the basement of Palmer Hall, restored and placed back in public view (see final article in link). Today the they can be seen on the steps heading from Goheen Walk to Wilcox Hall.

PU museum lions

Here at the archives we have a copy of the Proctor tiger that guards our card catalog in the public area.

Tiger Miniature

 

We also have this furry unofficial Tiger friend to greet you at the front desk, courtesy of our former employee, Matt Reeder!

Furry Tiger

Related Sources

Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series, circa 1850-1996

Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series, circa 1850-1980

Historical Subject Files Collection, 1746-2005

Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978). Also available online.

Oversize Collection

Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection, c. 1968- c. 1991

Princeton Memorabilia Collection, c. 1782-2000

Princeton Music Collection, 1849-1982

Princetoniana Committee: Campus Traditions, History, and Lore sections on The Tiger.

Smagorinsky, Margaret. The Regalia of Princeton University: Pomp, Circumstance, and Accoutrements of Academia. (Princeton, New Jersey: Office of Communications and Publications, Princeton University, c. 1994).

Tiger Magazine

“Tigers prowl around the Princeton campus.” Web story and photo essay.

View more photos from the Historical Photograph Collection: Grounds and Buildings Series online here.

Princeton Alumni Weekly article, February 8th 2012, Why Tigers?

For more about tigers on campus see this article.

Excerpts from this post have been adapted from the FAQ written by Susan Hamson (2003)