The Origin of Duke Blue

Shield of Duke UniversityOn Sept. 23, 1965, the Executive Committee of Duke's Board of Trustees adopted "Prussian Blue" as Duke's official color. There is no other known, official action on the matter of school colors.

In the late 1880s, the student body of Trinity College, which is now an undergraduate college of Duke University, chose dark blue for the school color. According to tradition, the chosen color — sometimes called Yale Blue — was selected to honor Trinity's new president, John Franklin Crowell, who was a Yale graduate. However, the history of Yale Blue is unclear. One Yale source reports that "green was Yale's color for half a century, until 1894, when blue officially replaced it." Be that as it may, a Trinity College cheer was printed in the April 1889 edition of The Trinity Archive (Volume II, no. 7, p. 137). It began: "Rah! Rah! Rah! For the deep dark blue!"

By 1910, blue and white often were paired together in the college's songs and cheers. White may have been used to meet the need for a contrasting color on athletic uniforms. Because of this, blue and white may have come to be regarded as the school's colors. However, since 1996-1997, the road uniform for our teams has been royal blue on black, and it's doubtful anyone is saying the Duke colors are black and blue! We know of no document that officially designates blue and white as our school colors.

However, there is a color known as Duke blue, and its use came about in 1961, when President J. Deryl Hart appointed a committee to develop a distinctive doctoral robe for the university. The need to define the shade of blue for the robe came up in the course of the committee's work. After consulting with fabric suppliers and examining color samples, the committee recommended to Douglas Knight, Hart's successor, that "an official University blue be accepted and approved. The color we recommend is neither royal nor Yale, but Prussian blue" (Memorandum to President D. M. Knight from the Subcommittee on Academic Gowns, Jan. 8, 1965).

"Prussian Blue" is neither as dark as navy blue nor as light as royal blue — two colors often compared to Duke Blue. At its meeting on Sept. 23, 1965 the Executive Committee of Duke's Board of Trustees "unanimously adopted the recommendations of the subcommittee that Prussian blue be officially adopted as Duke blue" (Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of Duke University, Sept. 23, 1965).

Technical Details

  • Duke Blue is registered as number 287 in the Pantone® Color Matching System.
    • Colors in the range of Pantone® numbers 283 to 289 are used for Duke Blue. The reason for the range of numbers relates to differences in printed materials, computer applications and textiles.
    • The Pantone® Process Color Imaging Guide formula for Duke Blue is 100% Cyan + 69% Magenta + 0% Yellow + 11.5% Black.
  • In a web color palette, Duke Blue is hexadecimal code 001A57; RGB 0,0,156; Hue=160, Saturation=240, Brightness=73.

Related Resources

  • Kirschenfeld, Aaron. "True Blue." Duke Magazine, March/April 2010.