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Black and Blue Marks: History of the School Colors

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Painting, Edward L. Bauer, MD, by Cameron Burnside, 1945

Information about the origins of Jefferson Medical College’s school colors may be traced to a single letter written to the Alumni Association from Edward L. Bauer (JMC 1914) in 1968.

The colors, light blue and black, each of equal width, were adopted at a class meeting held during the 1889-1890 session, as told to me upon several occasions by my father, Louis Demme Bauer, class of 1890.

The younger Bauer was a reliable source for historic arcane; he would become the third Jeffersonian to author a history of his beloved alma mater, Doctors Made in America, Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott, 1963. (The book’s covers sport a black binding and blue boards.) The earliest physical evidence of the colors which survives in the Archives is an invitation card with a black and blue ribbon for the class of 1890.

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Booklet, Class and Field Songs of JMC (1908)

Bauer’s letter goes on to document a "revival of interest in the colors" when the JMC football team was coached by faculty member Randle Rosenberger (JMC 1894) in 1908. A little booklet (Season of 1908 Class and Field Songs of the JMC) underscores this anecdote. Under "Class and Rally Songs" a stanza reads:

Hail thou, Old Jefferson.
     Thy praises we will sing;
And keep on high
     Our flag of blue and black.
Three cheers for blue and black!
     Glorious Old Jefferson!
This is thy day.

Bauer remembered that "Mrs. Weed" would place decorations, among which was the lone football pennant in black and blue, in the banquet hall for alumni celebrations.

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TJU flag, ca. 1967

About that same time, Commencement bunting included the unofficial school colors. Dean James Holland (who served 1887-1916) authorized the first use of light blue and black in the cowls of graduation robes worn by Jefferson degree recipients.

Referred in the Board of Trustees minutes as “The Rite of Spring,” the annual Black & Blue Ball (followed by similarly colorful Commencement exercises) began 71 years ago, sponsored by Kappa Beta Phi fraternity. The original All-College dance, the Black & Blue Ball was held at the Ballroom of the Penn Athletic Club on March 6, 1933. It must have been a somewhat staid and sober event since it was a "dry" party: Prohibition wasn’t repealed until late that year, December 5. This black tie gala was for many years the only opportunity for students, faculty and alumni to socialize. Early on, its solvency became a source for raising student aid monies.

Edward L. Bauer not only dabbled in trivialities, he had a profoundly serious side. As the city's chief immunologist he was a respected champion of public health who was recognized as the man who freed Philadelphia from diphtheria.

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Commencement programs and invitations, showing school colors JMC Yearbook, 1899 JMC pin and medal, 1907


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