Colors and Shields

Princeton's Colors: Orange and Black

Class of 1870 ribbon, the earliest extant use of orange and black. Courtesy of Princeton University Archives

The evolution of Princeton's colors began in 1866. That year, George Ward, a member of the Class of 1869, proposed the color orange in reference to the Prince of Orange, William III of the House of Nassau. The first recorded use of orange was in 1867, when the Class of 1869 Baseball Club wore Ward's orange ribbon badges with "'69 B.B.C." Faculty approval followed in 1868, when students were permitted "to adopt and wear as the College Badge an orange colored Ribbon bearing upon it the word 'Princeton.'"

Orange and black followed in 1873. William Libbey Jr., a member of the Class of 1877, wore a necktie advertised as bearing "The Duke of Nassau's colors" on a dare from classmate Melancthon Jacobus. In 1874 Libbey arranged for the manufacture of 1,000 yards of orange and black ribbon for the freshman crew's hatbands at an intercollegiate regatta in Saratoga, New York, and offered it for sale in Saratoga's Grand Union Hotel as "Princeton's colors." When the Princeton freshmen won the first race, every inch of ribbon sold.

In 1888 "The Orange and the Black," written by Clarence Mitchell of the Class of 1889 to a tune arranged by Ernest Carter of the Class of 1888, further endorsed the colors. In 1896, when the College of New Jersey celebrated its 150th anniversary, the trustees changed its name to Princeton University and adopted orange and black as the official colors — despite the objection of Professor Allan Marquand of the Class of 1874 that orange and blue, the true colors of the House of Nassau, were preferable.

Stephen Voorhees, of the Class of 1900, an architect and trustee emeritus, discovered that there was no reference standard for Princeton orange. Drawing from a sample of bunting used to welcome Queen Juliana of the Netherlands in 1941, Voorhees dyed a piece of silk to be the official Princeton Orange, now standardized as Pantone(r) 158.

The Princeton University Shield

Princeton shield

Princeton's shield is adapted from the central image of the University Seal, the corporate signature of the trustees that is embossed on diplomas and printed on official documents. The shield depicts an open Bible inscribed with VET NOV TESTAMENTUM, to signify the Old and New Testaments, above a chevron that represents the rafters of a building. An optional ribbon below the shield bears the University motto, DEI SUB NUMINE VIGET, or "Under God's power she flourishes."

In 2007 the shield was redrawn as part of the University's new graphic identity (shown below), which included the adoption of specific typographic treatments of the University's name and shield ("signature") using the typeface family Princeton Monticello derived from an 18th-century American typeface, Monticello.

This version of the Princeton shield on the left can be found on the Bicentennial Banner, which has been used at Commencement, Alumni Day and other ceremonies since 1947.