Hail to the Orange, Hail to the Blue!

In October 1894 it was increasingly apparent that the University needed to adopt official colors, as the colors that the University was using to decorate and the colors that the athletic teams were using were not the same. With the dedication of the new Engineering Hall looming in November 1894, it was therefore decided a decision must be made for colors to represent the University. This way they could order the correct color decorations in time for the dedication ceremony.

Up until that time, the school often used black and gold as celebration and dedication colors but these were never formally adopted. A committee was created consisting of faculty and representatives from the Students' Assembly to make a recommendation for official school colors. The University came very close to adopting orange and white with green accents as the official school colors, as that was the original suggestion of the committee. It was then sent to the Athletic Association who decided that orange and navy blue would better suit the school and athletic teams. This decision was officially ratified by the University Convocation on October 24, 1894 (Illini 1894).

Dr. Draper, who was soon to be sworn in as the first President of the University, stated at the Convocation: "I am proud to be able to be the first to hold aloft the University colors...Blue is an emblem of steadfastness and stability. Orange has come down to us through 200 years of history. It was the color under which the world's first great battle for liberty was fought. May they long be held aloft and be proudly triumphant, not only on the athletic field, but in the field of literature, of science and of art" (Illini 1894)

When George "Papa Bear" Halas founded the Decatur Staleys in 1920, which would later become the Chicago Bears, he used the orange and blue colors of the Illini for his new team (FightingIllini.com 2001). Halas was a former Illini and graduate of the class of 1918. Another famous Illinois alum, Harold "Red" Grange, also played for the Bears. The Bears used Memorial Stadium as its home field during the 2002 renovation of Soldier Field in Chicago.

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"Hail to the Orange"
Produced by Creative Services | Public Affairs from sound files provided by the Marching Illini/School of Music and The Senior Memorial Chime, Altgeld Hall Tower.
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