Penn Traditions

School Colors
There are several stories concerning the origin of Penn’s colors.One tale explains that George Washington, having been invited to a Pennsylvania Commencement to receive the first presidential honorary degree, donned his best uniform-- blue tunic trimmed in red.Mention of his attire was the first official recording of colors at a Penn function, and the use of red and blue continues as a mark of deference to our Founding Father.

Another legend, perhaps more plausible, concerns an early track meet at Saratoga, N.Y., between Penn, Harvard and Yale.When asked by the meet’s officials what colors would be representing the Penn faction, the Pennsylvania captain replied, “We’re going to be wearing the colors of the teams we beat" --Harvard Crimson and Yale Blue.We shall assume that Penn was victorious, and thus loyalty to the red and blue was sworn.

In all seriousness, the University of Pennsylvania has used different shades of red and blue at different times over the past century. Yet the University has been faithful to a resolution adopted by the Trustees on May 17,1910: "The colors shall be red and blue...The colors shall conform to the present standards used by the United States Government in its flags." These are the colors used today.

Ivy Day
One of the oldest traditions at Penn is Ivy Day, when the graduating class plants Ivy by a building and an “Ivy Stone” is placed on a building to commemorate the occasion.In 1981, the day was officially moved to the Saturday preceeding Commencement.Also on this Saturday, the prestigious Spoon, Bowl, Spade and Cane awards are given, honoring four senior men, while the Harnwell, Goddard, Brownlee and Hottel awards are presented to four senior women.During this celebration, an address is given by a prominent speaker chosen by the class.Recent Ivy Day addresses have been presented by Penn parent Joan Rivers and basketball great Julius Erving.

Toast Throwing
Toast throwing is one of the most unique sporting traditions at Penn which crowds of Quakers fans perform as a sign of school pride.After the third quarter of Penn football games at historic Franklin Field, the spirited fans unite in the singing of “Drink a Highball.”As the last line is sung, “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn,” the fans send toast hurling through the air to the sidelines.Legend has it that this tradition began back in the mid-1970s, and after a couple of games where thousands of pieces of toast covered the track, a group of engineering students modified Penn’s motorized turf cleaner so it would be able to pick up larger pieces of trash.These days, it is belovedly called the “Toast Zamboni” and is a permanent fixture at Penn football games.

The Penn Band
The Penn Band, which proudly deems itself as the most dedicated and school spirited group on the Penn campus, has been a bastion of music and mirth at the University of Pennsylvania for the past 105 years.Win or lose, the members of the group are diehard fans of the athletic teams they support through performance.The organization is an extremely active one, performing several dozen times from late August through late May during each academic year.Unlike many collegiate band programs, the Penn Band is a volunteer organization-- no scholarships, stipends or academic credits are offered to its 100-plus members.

The organization has a rich performance history.The Band was the last organization to be conducted by the great John Philip Sousa.The Penn Band was the first collegiate marching band to ever march in the Macy's Day Parade.Past performances during the group’s storied past also include the Rose Bowl, the 1954 World’s Fair, and the Miss America Pageant Parade.The Band has also performed for former Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as well as former Vice President Al Gore.Recent Penn Band tours have included performances at Disney World’s 20th Anniversary, Universal Studios Florida, and the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament, not to mention the countless football halftime shows it has put on for the past 105 years.


Fight On, Pennsylvania
by Ben S. McGiveran '23
music by David B. Zoob '23

Fight on,
put the ball
across the line.
Fight, you
there it goes,
across this time.
Red and Blue
we're with you,
and we're cheering
for your men.
Then fight, fight, fight,
fight for Penn.

Cheer Pennsylvania
Cheer Pennsylvania,
cheer evermore!
We're here to see
the Red and Blue
score and score
And when we give
a resounding hoorah!
Ever loyal to
old Pennsylvania.

The Red and Blue
by Harry E. Westervelt 1898
music by William J. Goechel 1896

Come all ye loyal classmen now,
in hall and campus through,
Lift up your hearts and voices for
the royal Red and Blue.
Fair Harvard has her crimson,
Old Yale her colors too
But for dear Pennsylvania
We wear the Red and Blue.
Hurrah! Hurrah! Pennsylvani-I-ah!
Hurrah for the Red and Blue!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah for the Red and Blue!

Hail! Pennsylvania
by Edgar M. Dilley 1897

Hail! Pennsylvania, noble and strong;
To thee loyal hearts we raise our song.
Swelling to Heaven loud, our praises ring;
Hail! Pennsylvania, of thee we sing!
Majesty as a crown rests on thy brow;
Pride, Honor, Glory, Love before thee bow.
Ne'er can thy spirit die, thy walls decay;
Hail! Pennsylvania, for thee we pray!
Hail! Pennsylvania! guide of our youth;
Lead thee thy children on to light and truth;
Thee, when death summons us, others shall praise,
Hail! Pennsylvania, thro' endless days.

Drink A Highball

Drink a highball
at nightfall,
be good fellows
while you may.
For tomorrow
may bring sorrow,
so tonight
let's all be gay.
Tell the story
of glory of
Drink a highball
and be jolly;
here's a toast
to dear old Penn.

The Field Cry Of Penn
arranged By Morrison C. Boyd '13

Hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree,
Down went McGinty to the bottom of the sea,
She's my Annie and I'm her Joe,
So listen to my tale of -
WHOA! Any ice today, lady? No?
Gitty up.

Penn-syl, Penn-syl, Penn-syl-va-nia,
Penn-syl, Penn-syl, Penn-syl-va-nia,
Penn-syl, Penn-syl, Penn-syl-va-nia,
Oh, Pennsylvania.