Becoming Stanford: New Spotlight at Stanford exhibit explores the history and meaning of Stanford's Insignia

January 7, 2019
Josh Schneider

Have you ever wondered why Stanford is represented by the color cardinal, and not the original choice of gold? Or why the university's motto is in German?

Kathleen Smith, Curator of Germanic Collections and Medieval Studies, and Josh Schneider, Assistant University Archivist, are pleased to announce Becoming Stanford: The History and Meaning of Stanford's Insignia, a new Spotlight at Stanford exhibit focused on the development of Stanford's insignia.

The exhibit, based upon a similar physical exhibition displayed at Green Library in 2015, explores the historical elements underlying the design and adoption of Stanford's symbols. Learn more about the contentious history of the Stanford motto, “Die Luft der Freiheit weht;” explore depictions of the Palo Alto tree ("El Palo Alto"), a historical landmark still standing on the east bank of the San Francisquito Creek; and immerse yourself in the rich tradition of Stanford's coats of arms, flags, and crests (never adopted), the symbols of heraldry developed by Professor Eric Hutchinson (Chemistry) to represent the university's schools in 1967.

Becoming Stanford: The History and Meaning of Stanford's Insignia, screenshot captured 07 January, 2018.

The Stanford University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and University Archives acquires, preserves, and provides access to primary source materials that support the research needs of the Stanford community and beyond, including through the creation of exhibits. For more information about Stanford's insignia, or about any of the collection materials included in this exhibit, please contact the University Archives at