150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University: a digital exhibition

Hallmarks of a University Introduction

Along with the University seal, the color orange and the Block “S” have historically represented Syracuse University. These old traditions and insignia elicit spirit and pride in students, alumni, and other members of the campus and greater community.

Origin of the Color Orange

Syracuse University declared pink and pea green as its first colors in 1872, though a year later they changed to pink and blue. Students were unhappy with these colors, and, in 1890, the senior class agitated for change. A committee was formed and discovered that no other college or university had claimed the singular color orange. That year the Alumni Association gave its approval, and orange became Syracuse University’s official color. Since then, the color orange has become an emblem of the University, saturating its history, from pennants and athletic uniforms to Otto the Orange and even the name of the student newspaper, The Daily Orange.
Front page of The Syracusan, June 16, 1890. Syracuse University Student Publications Collection, University Archives.

The highlighted paragraph illustrates student impatience for the University’s official color to be changed to orange.

Cover of Syracuse University Glee and Banjo Clubs program, 1891. Gertrude A. Shepherd Scrapbook, University Archives.

This program is one of the earliest illustrations of the use of the University’s official color, orange, found in the University Archives.

Photograph of cheerleaders and Otto on the basketball court, circa 1990s. Syracuse University Photograph Collection, University Archives.

Origin of the Block S

At an 1893 Athletic Governing Board meeting, the Block “S” was officially established as the highest award for a Syracuse University athlete. Baseball player George Bond, Class of 1894, was the first to wear the Block “S” when he sported it on a sweater at a baseball game that spring. For decades the letter was awarded to athletes at an annual Block “S” Dinner. While the Block “S” has historically been a symbol of Syracuse University athletics, the wider University community also identifies with it. “The Block ’S’ allows us to respect the past and represent the future,” stated Athletic Director Daryl Gross when he announced the Block “S” as the University’s official athletics logo in 2005. “The ’S’ represents not only the University and its athletics program, but the entire Syracuse community.”
Yearbook photograph of the 1893 Syracuse University baseball team. Syracuse University Yearbook Collection, University Archives.

This photograph is one of the earliest pieces of documentation of the use of the Block “S” found in the University Archives.

Arm band with the Block S, circa early 1910s. Earl W. Tucker Papers, University Archives.

Early Syracuse University students wore orange arm bands like this one to show their spirit at athletic events.