Current Issue

Feb.†8, 2012

Vol. 112, No. 7

Campus Notebook

From Princeton’s vault

Why tigers?

By W. Barksdale Maynard ’88
Published in the February†8, 2012, issue


What: Founded in 1912 by the Class of 1894, the Society of the Claw honored prominent Princeton men with real claws from tigers hunted in the British Raj.†

When did the tiger first become our feisty emblem? Orange and black team colors (from the House of Orange and Nassau in Holland) preceded it by several years. As late as 1879, a graduating class gave ≠statuary lions to adorn Nassau Hall, a ≠mistake that later needed correcting.†

Nobody seems to have thought of us as Tigers until after the founding of Tiger, the humor magazine, in 1882. Its name was a play on the nonsensical “Princeton Tiger” cheer from Civil War days: “Hooray! ... Tiger! ... Sh-sh-sh-boom-ahhh!”†

The Yale football team had a chance to “beard the tiger in his den,” a letter to The New York Times said in 1886, in perhaps the earliest off-campus reference.†

Online newspaper databases suggest that the feline association didn’t start to become universal until 1890 – some years later than usually assumed — with the extensive coverage of the Yale game that year. “The Princeton tigers come running out on the field,” said The New York Tribune. It’s been Tigers ever since.

Where: Collection AC53, Princeton University Archives

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CURRENT ISSUE: Feb.†8, 2012