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
``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.   n 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
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.
Save the Tiger!
This is adapted from
Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion,
copyright Princeton University Press (1978).