Historical Materials on the Colonials Moniker

The Special Committee on the Colonials Moniker reviewed historical materials that provided important information about the history and use of the moniker at the university.

The committee was charged with researching the Colonials moniker based on six considerations and making a recommendation of whether the name should be changed. In addition to hosting town halls and collecting feedback from the GW community, including via a survey, historical materials were another way the committee gathered information.

The committee provided a selection of the materials it reviewed below. The materials were provided to support transparency into the committee’s work.


The use of “Colonials” as the GW moniker can be traced to 1926.  However, the word “colonial” was used and associated with the school for a number of years before that. GW was founded in 1821 as Columbian College, which later was changed to Columbian University. In 1904, the name officially became the George Washington University.

Information on mascots and nicknames also is available on the GW University Archives website.

Catalog of the Officers and Students of Columbian College, DC, 1860-1861, Vol. 40 (Washington: M’Gill & Witherow, 1861).
—In 1860, a class in Colonial History was taught at Columbian College, as shown in the school catalog.

The Columbian University President's Annual Report for the Year 1889-1890 (Washington: Gibson Bros., 1890): page 17.
—In the President’s Annual Report for 1889-1890, it was written that students in the senior class have had “critical readings in the Colonial and Revolutionary literature of America...”

New University Bulletin,” The Hatchet Vol. 1 No. 6 (Nov. 9, 1904): page 8.
—In 1904, an article in the Hatchet described how the University Bulletin was bound in "colonial buff and blue."

The Junior Dance,” The Hatchet Vol. 1 No. 6 (Nov. 30, 1904): page 21.
—The first social event after the renaming of the school to the George Washington University was the Junior Dance held November 24, 1904. The theme was colonial buff and blue, and George and Martha Washington.

Political Science,” The University Hatchet Vol. 4 No. 7 (Nov. 13, 1907): page 3.

Consular Course Made Best in Country,” The Hatchet Vol. 9 No. 11 (March 13, 1914): page 1.
—From 1904 until 1925 there were a number of mentions of “colonial” in relation to GW. Various lectures were held about the topic and buildings were constructed. For example, an article in The Hatchet in 1907 asked if President Needham had “given any thought to the establishment of a chair in colonial administration?”

Essay Subjects Announced,” The Hatchet Vol. 17 No. 29 (April 29, 1921): page 2.
—GW participated in the Colonial History prize for excellence in American Colonial History, which was offered by the Colonial Dames of America.

First Colonial Ball Opens Junior Week,” The Hatchet Vol. 21, No. 19 (Feb. 17, 1925): page 1.

Noted Guests Present at First Colonial Ball,” The Hatchet Vol. 21, No. 20 (Feb. 24, 1925): page 4.
—In 1925, the First Colonial Ball was held to open what was known as Junior Week. Mrs. Calvin Coolidge was the first patroness of the ball. This event was very popular and was mentioned numerous times in The Hatchet. Plans were made to hold future dances, which were also going to be called the Colonial Ball.

A New Nickname,” The Hatchet Vol. 23, No. 5 (Oct. 27, 1926): page 2.
—In 1926, after many names were used for athletic teams, this Hatchet editorial suggests using “Colonials” for the teams of GW. It is believed this is the official time when the name was changed, although it did not take hold fully until the early 1930s.

Other stories indicate that GW Historian Dr. Elmer Kayser suggested the name “Colonials” after sports came back to GW following the first World War. Other than Dr. Kayser himself saying it, however, this has not been verified like the Hatchet article.

George Washington University News Release September 16, 1966, Series 13, Box 6, Folder 7. Office of University Relations Records, Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Libraries, Washington, DC.

After 1926, the name “Colonials” was mainly used for sports. The word “Colonial,” however, has been used for many things since this time, including spaces on campus such as the Colonial Health Center, events like Colonial Inauguration, publications like the Colonial Wig, and university branding such as Colonial Cash and Colonial Printing.

Dear Colonial Boosters,” The Hatchet Vol. 45, No. 1 (Oct. 5, 1948): page 2.
—The Colonial Boosters, a student-led school spirit group that also conducted fundraising, gathered the original money used to purchase the first head for the new Colonial mascot.

The George Washington University, Cherry Tree 1949 Yearbook. Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Libraries, Washington, DC.
—Page 19 of the yearbook shows a picture of George, the new Colonial mascot, introduced at a University of Virginia football game in 1948.

George May Become an Endangered Species,” The Hatchet Vol. 79, No. 15 (Oct. 21, 1982): page 1, 6.

GW Students resurrect ‘George’ Mascot,” The Hatchet Vol. 80, No. 38 (Feb. 23, 1984): page 3.
—In 1982, the George mascot was retired and was supposed to be replaced with a general “colonial figure.” George was reintroduced in 1984 and has been the mascot ever since. 

Reconsider the Names Petition

The university received a petition from members of the university community requesting reconsideration of several names affiliated with the university, including the Colonials moniker.

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