Astonishing “Ivy League” History Facts


There are eight (8) Ivy League schools in the United States. But why are they called the “Ivy League”? What makes them such prestigious and famous Colleges? Also, what does it take to be part of this exclusive club?

8 Ivy League Schools


  1. Harvard University
  2. Yale University
  3. Cornell University
  4. Columbia University
  5. University of Pennsylvania
  6. Princeton University
  7. Brown University
  8. Dartmouth College

Why They’re Called “Ivy League” Colleges

The term “Ivy League” appeared around the 1930s to 1950s, mainly to give a name to the group of colleges that had huge endowments, were old, and whose student-athletes excelled in major sports like basketball and football.

The Ivy League universities had been around longer than the name. Harvard was built in 1636. Yale was founded in 1701 (and named after benefactor Elihu Yale). Princeton University came to be in 1746 (it was formerly known for more than a century as the College of New Jersey). In the same year, Brown University was founded.

  • In 1751, Benjamin Franklin opened the University of Pennsylvania
  • In 1754, England’s King George II had Columbia University built (It used to be called King’s College)
  • In 1769, Dartmouth College was built, thanks largely to a large financial gift
  • In 1865, Andrew Dickinson White and Ezra Cornell established Cornell University in New York

These colleges were grand rivals in many sports. The popularity of their players and games spurred many spectators to group the eight schools and elevate them to a higher status than the rest.

Nobody can tell for sure what the “Ivy” stood for, although many of these colleges in the Northeastern part of the country had ivy growing on their walls. The oldest record, though, was from a sports reporter, Caswell Adams, who used “Ivy League” in his report on the football match between Columbia and UPenn.

Because he wasn’t assigned to cover his alma mater, Adams complained about the elitism of the “ivy-covered” universities.

This happened around 1936, but the schools only officially entered into a formal agreement and group in 1945.

It was written down as the “Ivy Group Agreement”, and originally only covered intercollegiate football games. In 1954, there was another agreement. This time, the group would cover all sports.

Ivy League Style


Because of the popularity of the Ivy League schools, the dress style that many of the students wore trickled into the mainstream.

In the 1950s, it was trendy to wear the casual attire that many upper-class American and British citizens wore when they did golf, football, hunting, or tennis.

Usual summer attires involved two-button blazers, striped blazers, Ascot ties, Oxford shirts, and wingtip shoes or penny loafers. Cardigans were also a favorite, for men and women. The tweed sweaters and vests were also in, and many of the men styled their hairs to look like their favorite players from the magic 8 school.

J. Press and Brooks Brothers had shops near the Ivy League schools, and they were some of the biggest sellers of the “quintessential” Ivy League look, which would be the predecessor to the “preppy” trend.

The look remained popular until the 1960s, when the hippie movement began to spread across the West.

The Flower Power revolution began to invite people to wear more casual attires, eventually adopting bell-bottom pants, bold and bright colors, long hair styles (even among men), full skirts, and other clothing inspired by Native American, Asian, or Latin American.

In 1967, SE Hinton wrote about the rivalry between leather-clad Greasers and Ivy League dressers Socs in her novel “The Outsiders”, keeping alive the Ivy League trend.

How Yale-Harvard Rivalry Really Began


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Yale had a lot of founders, namely Samuel Andrew, Thomas Buckingham, Israel Chauncy, Samuel Mather, James Noyes II (son of James Noyes), James Pierpont, Abraham Pierson, Noadiah Russell, Joseph Webb and Timothy Woodbridge, and Rev. James Pierpont. All, except for Pierpont, were graduates of Harvard.

These Harvard alumni, with Pierpont leading them, were disappointed that Harvard no longer required their new students to study Biblical Hebrew. These ministers wanted to keep the Puritan spirit alive, however, so they started their own institution, originally simply called “Collegiate School”.

The school was built with the help of Elihu Yale, a businessman. Cotton Mather, whose father was then the president of Harvard, encouraged the college administration to change the name to Yale College.

At this time, Harvard was becoming more liberal with religious and philosophical courses, which angered the alumni and even Increase Mather, its then-president.

This difference in teaching sparked the infamous Yale-Harvard rivalry that would rear its head every now and then, particularly in 1875, when the competition in football really began, and in 2000 when presidential rivalry between George W. Bush from Yale, and Al Gore from Harvard sparked another famous Yale-Harvard match.

Ivy League “Big Three”


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Many people know about the Ivy League, but youngsters now probably don’t know or don’t remember that there was another prestigious group before it: The Big Three. In fact, the Ivy Group Agreement was patterned after this earlier club.

The group involved Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. It started in the 1880s, with the three schools being the best and most watched in football matches.

One thing that made these colleges different from other schools was that most of their board members and administrators were “old-stock Protestants” or White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP), an informal term popularized by Edward Digby Baltzell.

Consistently, though, these three schools are ranked in the top 3 among national universities, and the World Ranking of universities this year included these three in the top 10.

Now that you know these fun facts about the Ivy League, prepare yourself for hype of the next intercollegiate games.

Rob Clark admin staff managing editor

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