Tiger, The,

Tiger, The, emerged as a symbol of Princeton, ironically, not very long after Woodrow Wilson's class, at its graduation in 1879, gave the College a pair of lions to guard the main entrance to Nassau Hall. The growing use of the tiger -- rather than the lion -- as Princeton's totem has been ascribed by Princetonians of that period to two things: the College cheer, which, like other cheers of that time, contained a ``tiger'' as a rallying word; and the growing use of orange and black as the college colors.

In 1882 the senior class issued a humor magazine called The Princeton Tiger, depicting on its title page a lively tiger cub being born beneath the legend Volume I, Number 1. This tiger's influence was short-lived, however, since after only nine issues no other issue appeared until 1890 when another generation brought forth a second Volume I, Number 1. Meanwhile, football players of the early 1880s were wearing broad orange and black stripes on their stockings and on their jerseys, and sometimes on stocking caps. Watching their movements in the waning light of late autumn afternoons, sportswriters began to call them tigers.

The tiger soon began to appear in Princeton songs, beginning with ``The Orange and the Black,'' written in the late 1880s by Clarence Mitchell 1889:

``Although Yale has always favored
The violet's dark hue,
And the many sons of Harvard
To the crimson rose are true,
We will own the lilies slender,
Nor honor shall they lack,
While the tiger stands defender
Of the Orange and the Black.''

A few years later, Ernest Carter 1888's lovely ``Steps Song'' began, despite the awkward presence of Seventy-Nine's lions:

``Our lofty elms so gently break
The twilight crescent moon's soft light;
Old Nassau's tigers slow awake;
The Seniors hold the steps tonight.''

In 1905 Kenneth S. Clark '05 composed a song about a Princeton tiger ``who will eat right off your hand.'' ``But,'' he warned, ``when he gets in battle with the other beasts of prey, he frightens them almost to death in this peculiar way'':

``Wow, wow, wow-wow-wow.
Hear the Tiger roar;
Wow, wow, wow-wow-wow,
Rolling up a score.
Wow, wow, wow-wow-wow,
Better move along
When you hear the Tiger sing his jungle song.''

In 1893, a three-year-old eating club called The Inn changed its name to Tiger Inn.

In 1902, a pair of marble tigers, holding shields, appeared on the posts of the gateway north of Little Hall; another pair appeared on the north wall of McCosh Hall when it was built in 1907.

In 1911, with the tiger firmly established as the Princeton symbol, the Class of 1879 substituted A. P. Proctor's bronze tigers for the lions flanking the front steps of Nassau Hall.

That same year, carved marble tigers looked down from the tops of the pillars flanking the newly constructed Ferris Thompson Gateway at University Field, as many small tigers worked their way into the wrought iron gates below.

Thanks to the infinite variety possible in Gothic decoration, the tiger continued to put in an appearance in different places and in various ways: as brass weathervanes on top of Holder and Henry towers, on mouldings of 1879 Hall and Dillon Gym; and above a fireplace at the west end of Procter Hall at the Graduate College, where, if one looks carefully, he can discern a tiger peering out from the foliage carved in the stone.

All these tigers were undoubtedly conceived of as male. In 1969, the year coeducation was introduced, Bruce Moore's bronze tigers for the Adams Mall between Whig and Clio were created male and female.

In 1923, a live tiger who had been captured in India by the father of a football player, Albert F. Howard '25, was brought to Princeton as a mascot; but after several weeks of mounting community anxiety he was given to a zoo.

Since World War II a less ferocious and more convivial tiger -- an undergraduate clad in a tiger skin -- has appeared regularly at football games cavorting with the cheerleaders and the band, and delighting young and old alike. At the 1973 Yale game this friendly tiger was accompanied, for the first time, by a comely tigress, a large orange bow on her mane and a smaller one on her tail.

From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

Go to Search A Princeton Companion