Encyclopedia of Union College History by Wayne Somers.
American colleges began to adopt distinctive colors for their sports teams in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1866 (the same year that Princeton and Brown chose their colors), a committee of three members of each Union undergraduate class met to select a college color, and chose magenta. Union's baseball teams began to wear magenta-trimmed uniforms in 1874.
Union's admission to the Rowing Association of American Colleges the following year precipitated a crisis because Harvard also used magenta. (Crews wore colored handkerchiefs on their heads so that spectators could identify them from a distance.) A flurry of dubious claims to priority on both sides ensued, though Harvard probably was in fact the earlier school to use magenta in sports.
One of the most persistent myths in Union's history would have it that the issue was settled by boat race between Harvard and Union. The less romantic truth is that a group of Harvard alumni reminded their school that its real color was crimson, used as early as 1859 (the crew changed to magenta in 1866 when they could no longer purchase crimson handkerchiefs). Meanwhile, tacitly admitting that it would not be able to force Harvard to change, Union switched to garnet, wearing it for the first time in a regatta on Saratoga Lake in July 1875.
Many other colleges use some red-based color, and for a time the Concordiensis delighted in running such sports titled as "Garnet to Clash with Violet."
Sometime in the mid-twentieth century, the College adapted PMS 202 as the standard for garnet (the same color used by Colgate for "red" and Lafayette for "maroon").
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