I was speaking to someone the other day who told me LSU & Tulane picked their colors for their schools based on the leftover material from Mardi Gras. Makes sense, but it is true? I had to ask her, “Are you sure this isn’t some old wive’s tale?” She was convinced it wasn’t and so I bring you some actual research (usually too lazy for that) about the colors of Mardi Gras, LSU & Tulane. You may have heard all these stories before, but it is new to me and the time to share seemed apropos!
The story “legend” goes that leftover Mardi Gras fabric would become school colors. LSU supposedly got first pickings for colors and got the purple and gold and Tulane took the remaining green and is now green and white. Actually, Tulane’s colors are Olive and Blue, but they are known as the “Green Waves.”
Now don’t beat me up on this post all you LSU, Tulane & Mardi Gras historian freaks. I do not get paid based on my content, I get $200 a month from NOLA.com whether I write what I ate for lunch or if the sky is blue (well, they may fire me for that) and I actually pay for hosting and owning the dot com on my personal site. I have 3 kids and laundry to do and I finished my thesis a long time ago – hence the limited research! Yes, I pay to blog so click on my dang adds or throw me a tip or something Mistah (or at least a comment).
Let’s look at some timelines, Tulane was founded in 1834, LSU was founded in LSU was 1853. The first session began January 2, 1860, the first Carnival of Rex in 1837 but Mardi Gras came to New Orleans in 1699.
The colors of Mardi Gras were chosen in 1872 by the then King of Carnival, Rex.
* purple represents justice
* green stands for faith
* gold stands for power
According to LSU football history, there are some discrepancies in the origin of Royal Purple and Old Gold as LSU’s official colors.
It is believed that those colors were worn for the first time by an LSU team in the spring of 1893 when the LSU baseball squad beat Tulane in the first intercollegiate contest played in any sport by Louisiana State University. Team captain E.B. Young reportedly hand-picked those colors for the LSU squad.
Later that year, the first football game was played. On November 25, 1893, football coach/chemistry professor Dr. Charles Coates and some of his players went into town to purchase ribbon to adorn their gray jerseys as they prepared to play the first LSU gridiron game.
Stores were stocking ribbons in the colors of Mardi Gras — purple, gold and green. — for the coming Carnival season. However, none of the green had yet arrived at Reymond’s Store at the corner of Third and Main streets. Coates and quarterback Ruffin Pleasant bought up all of the purple and gold stock and made it into rosettes and badges.
So now we have some documented history that ties a school’s colors to Mardi Gras colors.
According to one Mardi Gras website:
The accepted story behind the original selection of these colors originates from 1872 when the Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia visited New Orleans. It is said that the Grand Duke came to the city in pursuit of an actress named Lydia Thompson. During his stay, he was given the honor of selecting the official Mardi Gras colors by the Krewe of Rex…thus, did these colors also become the colors of the House of Romanoff. The 1892 Rex Parade theme (“Symbolism of Colors”) first gave meaning to the representation of the official Mardi Gras colors. Interestingly, the colors of Mardi Gras influenced the choice of school colors for the Louisiana arch-rival colleges, Louisiana State University and Tulane University. Whe LSU was deciding on its colors, the stores in New Orleans had stocked-up on fabrics of purple, green and gold for the upcoming Mardi Gras Season. LSU, opting for purple and gold, bought a large quantity of the available cloth. Tulane purchased much of the only remaining color…green (Tulane’s colors are green and white).
Hmmmmm…but how does Tulane get olive and blue? I guess we have a little flaw here.
Interestingly, the colors of Mardi Gras influenced the choice of school colors for the Louisiana archrival colleges: Louisiana State University and Tulane University. When LSU was deciding on its colors, the stores in New Orleans had stocked up on fabrics in green, purple and gold in preparation for the upcoming Mardi Gras Season. LSU chose purple and gold leaving Tulane with the only remaining color – Tulane’s colors are green and white.
And then Wikipedia claims:
The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold. These colors are said to have been chosen by Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff Alexandrovitch of Russia during a visit to New Orleans in 1872. For the Grand Duke, the decision was simple, and true to his noble roots, he selected the official colors of the House of Romanov. (See Social Clubs for more details) This doctrine was reaffirmed in 1892, when the Rex Parade theme “Symbolism of Colors” gave the colors their meanings. The colors in turn influenced the official colors of Louisiana State University (purple and gold) and Tulane University (blue and green). According to lore, fans of Louisiana State University, prior to a match against Tulane in New Orleans, sought a color to purchase while in the City. As purple, green and gold were prominent in the city, the LSU fans bought purple and gold as it wasn’t green and would later adopt the colors as their official colors. Before and during Mardi Gras, purple, green, and gold fabric is certainly abundant.
So, after doing my limited research, I still am not sure about Tulane, LSU purple and gold makes perfect sense, but not the Tulane Olive and Blue. Now feel free to comment and add any links as I must tend to breakfast for my kids who are on vacation this week (oh joy). And if you are reading this post on NOLA.com, please go tell my bosses how much you love me and please come visit my personal blog for lots of Lagniappe! If you are reading this on my personal blog, tell all your friends to read Kiss My Gumbo. If you are still reading this post, thank you for reading – I write for you. Happy Lundi Gras!
The Princess of Positive has spoken!
update: I corrected the founding date of LSU – thank you jsmi128