A Trinity education is an experience you share with your classmates and friends, but also with the generations of students who have walked these same halls, worn these same colors, and studied in the shade of these same trees. We’ve established many time-honored traditions during our 187-year history, but perhaps none as important as our commitment to the strength and relevance of an education in the liberal arts and sciences.
The oldest continuously observed tradition at Trinity, matriculation is the symbolic act of enrolling at the College. Every incoming first-year student is asked to sign the matriculation declaration, known as “The Charter and Standing Rules,” first penned in 1826. The signing ceremony, held in the soaring Trinity Chapel, is the culmination of the President’s Convocation, an inspirational welcome for the incoming class, and the official opening of the academic year.
The College Colors
The national fascination with baseball during the Civil War spurred the advent of intercollegiate athletics in the 1860s. In 1868, Trinity students chose green and white for their athletic uniforms, since the colors were already associated with a popular campus marching group called the Archers. When the College moved to the current campus location in 1878, students called for new colors for the “new Trinity.” They voted for dark blue and gold for the simple, if practical reason that the colors “go well together.”
The College Seal
The Trinity seal dates back to the College’s name change from Washington College to Trinity College in 1845. Parts of the seal reflect the college’s Episcopal roots. The abbreviated Latin inscription atop the shield reads “The Seal of the College of the Most Holy Trinity” and the motto below reads, “For Church and Country.” The shield is also crowned with a bishop’s miter, or ceremonial headdress. The imagery on the shield itself hails from the original Washington College. The Greek-revival façade is meant to be the original Seabury Hall on the old campus and the 13 stars—representing the 13 colonies—are a patriotic nod to George Washington, for whom the old college was named.
The Lemon Squeezer
During Class Day in 1857, a senior named William Niles presented a wooden lemon squeezer to the Class of 1859 as recognition of the sophomores’ “aggregate excellence in scholarship” and “moral character.” From that day forward, every Class Day included a ceremonial passing down of the lemon squeezer to the rising class that proved the most popular. It didn’t take long for a “spirited rivalry” to build between first-years, sophomores, and juniors.
In 1895, tipped off (and ticked off) that the squeezer was going to the Class of ’97, representatives of the Class of ’96 staged a brazen theft of the squeezer from the speaker’s podium, triggering a free-for-all, cross-campus chase that ended with a ’96 man galloping away with the squeezer on horseback. Over the next century, more substitute squeezers were stolen and replaced and re-stolen than we can count. The latest version of the lemon squeezer makes its only appearance during Convocation, when the College president squeezes a fresh lemon to make a toast to the incoming class, followed by lemonade for all.
Songs of Trinity
The popularity of a cappella vocal groups at Trinity has its roots in the collegiate musical culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Students and faculty would write original lyrics to popular songs and traditional hymns to be sung at campus ceremonies, athletic events, and casual get-togethers. Some songs were written about well-liked professors and administrators, while others were lyrical odes to the alma mater, like Trinity’s own “’Neath the Elms.” Listen to a recording of "'Neath the Elms," written by Trinity student Augustus P. Burgwin in 1882 and sung by the Trinity Pipes.
The Luther-Roosevelt Long Walk Inscription
There is a large rectangular stone set into the sidewalk in front of the Fuller Arch at Northam Towers in the middle of the Long Walk. Inscribed into the stone is an Old Testament verse from 1 Kings 20: 11, reading, "Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off." The quote was the centerpiece of a Commencement address delivered at Trinity in 1918 by former President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, who came at the request of his friend and Trinity President Flavel S. Luther. An estimated 5,000 people came to hear Roosevelt speak about how American military hubris had reinforced the German will to pursue World War I. Soon after the commemorative “Luther-Roosevelt” stone was laid in 1919, Trinity students began the tradition of never walking on the stone before their Commencement day, fearing that to do so would in some way prevent their graduating. Graduating seniors do make a point of ceremonially stepping on the stone as they process at Commencement.
Trinity didn’t always have a mascot. The credit for popularizing the Bantam goes to the Honorable Joseph Buffington, Class of 1875, who was the longest-serving judge in the history of the United States courts when he retired in 1938. In addition to being a world-class jurist, Buffington was an infamous toastmaster. The origin of Trinity’s mascot can be traced to a spirited speech Buffington gave at an 1899 Princeton Alumni Association dinner. Comparing Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to the big shots of the “collegiate barnyard,” he described Trinity as a proud, unfazed rooster.
“You will therefore understand, gentlemen, the spirit in which the Trinity bantam, game from comb to spur, crows at your door, hops in, shakes his tail feathers, and with a sociable nod to the venerable John [Harvard], and a good natured "How d'ydo" to the ponderous old Elihu [Yale] steps into the collegiate cock pit, makes his best bow to the tiger [Princeton], says he is glad to be here, is not a whit abashed at your hugeness, [and] is satisfied with himself and his own particular coop."
The name caught on with Trinity students and alumni and the press soon started referring to Trinity athletic teams as the Bantams.
50th Reunion Hat
At their 50th Reunion, the Class of 1953 was greeted with a new tradition from the Class of 1952. The tradition continues today, whereby a representative from the previous year’s 50th reunion class passes the hat to the president of the class being inducted during the Half-Century event at Reunion. The president then wears the hat during the alumni parade on Saturday.
Each year the new 50th Reunion class adds a pin that represents their class and some part of their Trinity experience.
The top hat contains the following pins, from the classes below who have been inducted into the Half-Century Club. See a detailed image of the hat.
1952 – American Flag
1953 – Bantam
1954 – Lemon Squeezer
1955 – Let’s Back Ike
1956 – Ben Franklin Silver Coin
1957 – Lemon Squeezer
1958 – Long Walk, Clock Tower, Seal, Eisenhower, tassle
1959 – Gold Elm Leaf
1960 – Chapel
1961 – 1961 Round pin
1962 – Ivy leaf
1963 – Bantam
1964 – Bishop Brownell