On October 12, 1868, the faculty of the College of New Jersey (as Princeton University was then known) passed a resolution permitting students “to adopt and wear as the college badge an orange colored Ribbon bearing upon it the word Princeton.” But even earlier, in June of 1867, Princeton baseball players wore orange ribbons with black writing at their match with Yale. And for its 1876 football game with Yale, Princeton's team proudly wore black jerseys with an orange “P” on the chest.
When orange stripes appeared on the black jerseys, sleeves, and stockings in 1880, the nickname “Tigers” became a part of the Princeton lexicon. College cheers incorporated the rallying cry of “tiger,” and as orange and black became every more ubiquitous, sportswriters of the day began to call the players “Tigers.” The tiger and its colors began to appear in College songs, in student publications, and even in the name of an eating club. 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.
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 since their graduation with the regal tigers that guard the entrance today. Tiger fever even infected the 1898 Bric-a-Brac wherein is featured the photograph of a stuffed “tiger” presented to the University by J. Ackerman Coles. It was the thought that counted in this particular case: the “tiger” was a leopard.
Tiger enthusiasm reached new heights in 1923 when the father of Albert “Red” Howard '25, guard on the University football team, captured a young Bengal tiger while on a 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.
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.
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).
"Tigers prowl around the Princeton campus." Web story and photo essay.
Susan Hamson (2003)
Last modified: Tuesday, 24-Apr-2012 13:59:00 EDT