City Life

The curious case of UW–Madison's school colors

The reasoning remains a bit of a mystery

Don’t call it red — the University of Wisconsin–Madison school colors are white and cardinal.

But how those school colors came to be still puzzles campus archivists today. Even Arthur Hove — the late campus historian who became close friends with some UW–Madison chancellors and many others on campus — could conclude only that those colors were “generally accepted in the 1880s as the school colors.”

The name of The Daily Cardinal, a student newspaper established in 1892, remains one of campus archivists’ few clues today.

“I would have loved to find more information about this, but it feels as though even Art Hove had exhausted any resources,” Gil Taylor says after he and his team spent the week digging. “My guess is that there is simply not an explicit statement concerning the determination of the colors and if there is, it is well hidden.” 

This is a blurb from the May 2019 cover story "50 Things That Give Madison Color." Click here for the full story.


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