Most people know that Harvard’s school color is Crimson, Yale is Blue and Princeton is Orange and Black. Less well known is that the University of Pennsylvania’s colors are Red and Blue.
What exactly is the origin of Penn’s colors. When looking through an old Franklin Field Illustrated swimming program from 1929 we stumbled across the answer. In an article written by Henry White Andrews (Penn class of 1876) we learn the answer. Andrews tells the story of an early Penn rower (Henry Laussat Geyelin, Penn class of 1877) who first came up with the idea in 1875:
“To the best of my knowledge the first time that the colors were worn was by me at some game at Saratoga, July 15, 1875. At the time there was no Intercollegiate Association, for the Intercollegiate Association was not organized until 1876…The game in 1875 at Saratoga were given by the Intercollegiate Rowing Association and a Citizens’ Committee of Saratoga. I was the only representitive of Pennsylvania at that meet, having entered on my own individual responsibility, and I did not represent the A.A. or any organized body. When I made my entry I was asked what colors I would wear and in looking over the list of colors found that almost all combinations had been selected by other colleges. I then selected red and blue and wore a cap with these colors.
I selected them because they were the colors of the Signal Service and the cap which I wore was the one which was used in the races of the New York Yacht Club. So in the spring of 1876 I had the colors Red and Blue in my mind and often discussed them with other University men in connection with our adopting some colors. Now, in regard to their being a combination of other universities, as a matter of fact they ar not.”
Andrews goes on to say that Red and Blue were first worn at the spring track games on May 13, 1876. He notes that they even printed a four-page program of about 3 x 5 inches in red and blue.
How know if any of those original 1876 track programs still exist, but if they do, they’d be quite a collectable. Penn’s first football game was also in 1876 against Princeton at the Germantown Cricket Club on November 11th. It is not known whether they wore the Red & Blue.
An old Penn football song sums it up:
“Hurrah, Hurrah, Pennsylvania,
Harrah for the Red and the Blue.
One Color’s in the bushing rose,
The other tints the clouds.
see the Wikipedia entry on the Red & the Blue for some different theories on the origins of the school’s colors.
The Red & The Blue was also a magazine published by the University of Pennsylvania in the 1920s, an image of a cover is at the beginning of this post.