Auburn Family

The History Behind Auburn's Orange and Blue

If you attend any sporting event at Auburn University it is sure that fans sporting orange and blue will surround you.

Associate Professor of Reproductive Physiology, Dr. Dale Coleman, has researched the history behind Auburn’s colors.

“I consider myself an armchair historian,” Coleman said. “I like to know why things are, what they are, and where they came from. “

Coleman has traced Auburn’s orange and blue all the way back to the Duke of Westminster in Chester, England.

In the beginning Coleman first asked himself, when did the students start wearing the orange and blue? Below are his findings.

(Photo via Google Public Use Search: Auburn Tigers)

Auburn’s first time in orange and blue

Auburn first appeared in orange and blue at the first football game against the University of Georgia in 1892.

Auburn University, then known as the East Alabama Male College, did not have school colors.

In preparation for the game, George Petrie, Auburn’s football coach and Dr. Herty, Georgia’s coach, agreed to promote school colors as a way for fans to identify themselves.

Maria Allen “Miss Allie” Glenn of the Auburn’s founding Glenn family approached Dr. Petrie suggesting colors.

“She new that Petrie’s alma mater, the University of Virginia, had selected new sporting colors, and they were the dark blue and orange,” said Coleman.

To help Petrie visualize the idea, Miss Allie found a dark blue sweater and knitted on an orange A. Thus, the orange and blue that paints the plains were born.

(Photo via Google Public Use Search: Encyclopedia of Alabama)

Why did the University of Virginia choose orange and blue?

Originally the University of Virginia’s (UVA) colors were silver, gray and crimson red.

“They symbolized a bloodstained confederate uniform, and the faculty at University of Virginia did not want the students to desecrate those symbolic colors on a field of sport,” Coleman said.

In the fall of 1888 the students of UVA held a rally to pick new sporting colors. In attendance was student athlete Allen Potts.

Previously Potts had been in England rowing with the Oxford rowing club. He came back with a scarf that was dark blue with two orange stripes.

At the rally Potts’ scarf was pulled off his neck by another student and waived in the air as a possible color combination. The student body then adopted the colors displayed on the scarf as their new sporting colors.

The history behind the rowing scarf

Rowing teams paint colors and patterns on the blades of their ores to identify themselves.

“Each team had an identifying color because rowing is a distance game, and when the team came from around the bend you would want to know what team is it,” Coleman said.

Potts, from the UVA, while rowing for Oxford swapped his rowing scarf for one of a competing team as was tradition in the sport.

The scarf Potts had at the rally in 1888 was from the Grosvenor Rowing Club.

Founded by the Duke of Westminster, the Grosvenor Rowing Club was named after the Grosvenor family and rose out of their home in Chester, England.

The Duke of Westminster in 1886, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor chose the dark blue and orange for the rowing club even though they are not his heraldic colors.(Photo: Used with permission: Dale Coleman)

“It’s still a mystery why he chose dark blue and orange,” Coleman said. “Orange was not a color that was very reproducible so it was kind of novel.”

The Grosvenor Rowing Club still competes under orange and blue.

Making the colors official at Auburn

The board of trustees voted on the schools colors in 1949, when Auburn was still called the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. Looking back in the minutes the board was presented with several color swatches to assist them in selecting the exact colors.

According to the minutes Auburn’s first official colors were technically called ultramarine blue and golden orange.

“They have varied over time and have tended to have gotten brighter and sharper,” Coleman said.

The colors today are more commonly referred to as burnt orange and navy.

Auburn has now been sporting orange and blue for over a century.

(Photo via Google Public Use Search: Auburn University)

Fight on you orange and blue. Go! Go! Go! (Lyric form: War Eagle, Auburn University Fight Song)

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