This Day in UNC History, 1792: the UNC Library’s First Book

On this day in 1792, the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees received what would be the University Library’s first book. The book was a second edition copy of The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God Thomas Wilson. Two volumes bound in one, the book contained a biography of Bishop Thomas Wilson, some of his papers, and his sermons.

Title Page, Volume I, Works of the Right Reverend Father
The title page of The Works of the Right Reverend Father, Volume I, presented to UNC by Brown University in 1960. A copy of the book, presented to the Board of Trustees in 1792, was the University Library’s first book.

But the story of the gift actually begins seven years earlier, in 1785. That year, Bishop Wilson’s son, Dr. Thomas Wilson, donated copies of The Works of the Right Reverend Father to the United States Congress, asking for them to be distributed to a university or college in each state. On March 22, 1785, Congress passed a resolution to do so.

The copy given to North Carolina was first given to the Newbern Academy, a school chartered in 1764. A statement written on the flyleaf of the book explains:

In pursuance of the above resolution the undersigned, delegates form the State of North Carolina, have agreed to transmit the works of Dr. Thomas Wilson to Newberne, to be deposited there in the Library, belonging to the public Academy, till the time arrives, which they hope is not far distant, when the wisdom of the Legislature, according to the express intention of the Constitution shall have caused a College or University to be erected in the State.

Jno. Sitgreaves              Hu. Williamson

The school was rechartered in 1784, and among the school’s trustees were William Blount and John Sitgreaves (who signed the above note as a North Carolina delegate to the Continental Congress). In 1789, Blount and Sitgreaves were appointed trustees of the University of North Carolina, and in 1792, about a year before construction began on the University’s first building, Sitgreaves transferred the book to UNC.

The book was last recorded as part of the university’s collections in the 1869-1870 academic year, and, according to University Librarian Louis Round Wilson’s Historical Sketches, is suspected to have been lost during the closure of the University from 1871-1875. It was not among the books mentioned when the University Library, Dialectic Society library, and Philanthropic Society library merged in 1886, nor was it listed in the 1891 inventory of the University Library’s collections.

In 1960, on the occasion of the University Library’s millionth volume, Brown University presented UNC with a copy of The Works of the Right Reverend Father to replace the university’s lost first book.

In December 2014, historian Lynn Roundtree presented Chancellor Carol Folt with a second copy of the university’s first book. This copy, along with the copy given by Brown University, is now kept in the Rare Book Collection in Wilson Library.

The Strange History of the Old East Plaque

The Old Well and Old East residence hall (background) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina.
The Old Well and Old East residence hall (background) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina.

Old East, with a cornerstone laid in 1793, was the first state university building in the United States and is one of the oldest continually used academic buildings in the country. Today it serves as a dormitory, but in years past it has also housed classrooms. Its long history and central location on campus makes it one of best-known and most beloved buildings at UNC.

One of the more interesting stories related to Old East involves the original cornerstone and plaque laid ceremonially in 1793. That original cornerstone is missing. It is speculated that during a planned 1840s renovation of the building (which featured several new additions to the architecture of the building), the cornerstone may have been accidentally covered or perhaps even stolen.  What is known for sure is that by the time the University reopened after closing for several years in the 1870s, the bronze commemorative plaque created for the cornerstone had disappeared completely.

This plaque was 13.3 cm x 19.2 cm and was created by Roswell Huntington, a silversmith from Hillsborough. In 1792, at age 29, he was commissioned to engrave a bronze plate for the cornerstone of Old East. The Latin inscription was on one side, with the English translation on the reverse.

Front Side of the Old East Commemorative Plaque; note the crack across the middle. Courtesy of The North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library
Front Side (English inscription) of the Old East Commemorative Plaque; note the crack across the middle. Courtesy of The North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library
Back Side of the Commemorative Plaque. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library.
Back Side (Latin inscription) of the Commemorative Plaque. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library.












In English, the plate reads:

‘The Right Worshipful William Richardson Davie, Grand Master of the most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Freemasons in the State of North Carolina, one of the trustees of the University of the said state, and a Commissioner of the same, assisted by the other commissioners and the Brethren of the Eagle and Independence Lodges, on the 12th day of October in the Year of Masonry 5793 and in the 18th year of the American Independence, laid the cornerstone of this edifice.’

Note that the date is listed as 5793 from the Masonic calendar.

In a strange twist of fate, the plate was eventually found over 40 years after its disappearance in Tennessee at the Clarksville Foundry and Machine Works. The owner of this business was a man named Thomas Foust. One of the metal workers was about to melt the plaque down, but showed it to Foust before doing so. Foust happened to be UNC Class of 1903 and as soon as he saw the plate, he recognized William Davie’s name and knew it had to be significant to the university.

The plate was returned just in time for the 1916 University Day celebrations. It was presented to University President Edward Kidder Graham during the festivities. The 2016 University Day celebrations mark the 100th anniversary of its return.

The Carolina Alumni Review featured an article entitled “The Presentation of the Plate” in the November 1916 issue, with a detailed look into how Foust came to find the plaque and how the university thanked him. The article makes note of the fact that President Graham was presented the plate by A.B. Andrews Jr., a graduate of the class of 1893 and the Grand Master of Masons of North Carolina at the time. The article also quotes a letter written by Thomas Foust concerning the discovery of the plate.

Foust wrote, in part, “Some days ago, the foreman in my foundry stopped me as I was passing through and said, ‘Here is a plate that looks like it might be valuable and I think I will keep it.’ . . . As he handed it to me the name of William R. Davie caught my eye and after a little further examination, for it was so dirty and tarnished that it was almost illegible, I saw that it must be linked with the history of the dear old University and at once carried it to the laboratory of the Red River Furnace Co., where we cleaned it sufficiently to make it entirely legible.”

He further noted that the plate had come to his foundry along with a lot of other scrap brass. It was purchased from a local junk dealer to be melted down into brass castings. He could not determine where the junk dealer had found the plate. After the plate had been cleaned, he showed it to professors at Southwestern Presbyterian University and especially enlisted the help of a Dr. Shaw, who was also a UNC alum, to try to contact the Charlotte Observer and get confirmation that the plaque did have a connection with UNC.

In recognition of his part in returning the plate to the university, President Graham sent Thomas Foust a copy of Kemp Battle’s History of the University with the inscription: “To T.B. Foust, ’03: In grateful acknowledgement of his fine and thoughtful loyalty, that restored to his Alma Mater the plate commemorating the laying of the cornerstone on October twelfth, 1793. This October twelfth, 1916.”

 The plaque is today housed at Wilson Library.

UNC vs. UGA Football Goes Back More than a Century

As is befitting the two oldest state universities in the country, the football rivalry between UNC and the University of Georgia goes back more than a century, with the teams first meeting in Alanta, site of this year’s game, in 1895 (100 years after UNC began offering classes and 94 years after the University of Georgia opened). Carolina won the first game, held on October 26, 1895, 6-0, and followed that with another win over Georgia just five days later.

Tar Heel, 22 October 1914.
Tar Heel, 22 October 1914.

One of Carolina’s biggest wins against Georgia came in 1914. UNC won 41-6 in a dominating performance. The Tar Heel could not resist multiple references to William Sherman’s march through Georgia, which was a not-so-distant memory, having occurred only fifty years earlier:

About fifty years ago one General Sherman with an army of blue coated men marched through Georgia. Last Saturday a squad of men led by Head Coach Trenchard and Capt. Tayloe, both marched and ran through Georgia. In the sixties the march was attended by slaughter and devastation of human life; last Saturday the march was also accompanied by slaughter and devastation — this object being this time the destruction of Georgia’s hopes for a Southern conference championship in football.

1947 Yackety Yack.
1947 Yackety Yack.

Carolina and UGA did not meet again for 15 years. The two schools played fairly frequently from the 1930s through the 1960s, with the most notable matchup coming in the 1947 Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl game, won by Georgia, 20-10, featured two legendary players: UNC’s Charlie Justice and Georgia’s Charlie Trippi.

From 1967 to 1977, the UNC and Georgia teams were coached by brothers: Bill Dooley, who led the Tar Heels, and his older brother Vince, who coached the Bulldogs. The last game between the schools was also the only one coached by the two brothers. UNC and Georgia met in the 1971 Gator Bowl, with Georgia winning 7-3. Following the close game, Vince Dooley said, “I think my brother Bill outcoached me,” leading to the ironic Daily Tar Heel headline: “Gator Bowl: Bill Wins, Heels Lose.”

UNC and Georgia have played 30 times, with the Bulldogs winning 16. The last UNC victory over Georgia came in Chapel Hill in 1963.

Eben Alexander and the Revival of the Modern Olympic Games

Crowds entering the Olympic stadium, Athens, Greece, April 8, 1896. Eben Alexander Papers, Southern Historical Collection.

A few days ago we published a blog post looking at the history of UNC athletes in the summer Olympics, beginning with Harry Williamson’s participation in the 1936 summer games. It turns out the Carolina connection to the Olympics goes back even further than that.

When the Olympic games were revived and the first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896, UNC faculty member Eben Alexander was there. Alexander was a professor of Greek at Carolina and served as the United States ambassador to Greece and Serbia from 1893-1897.

Eben Alexander, 1907 (Yackety Yack)
Eben Alexander, 1907 (Yackety Yack)

When Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator who is credited with creating the modern Olympic movement, began to talk about reviving the Olympic games, he found an eager ally in Alexander, who was one of the first contributors to the committee assembled for the Olympics. Alexander spread news about the games back in the United States and helped to recruit a large contingent of athletes to come to the Athens for the games. The presence of American athletes and fans ensured that the games would not be dominated by Greece and other European countries and helped to build support for the Olympics as a truly international competition.

There is a small collection of Alexander’s papers in the Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Library. These include a few letters related to the first Olympics and the photo shown above.

Alexander’s influence in convincing American athletes to come to Greece is evident in a letter from Princeton University listing the athletes they were sending to the games (most of the first American Olympians were college track stars from Ivy League schools). Even more interesting is a transcript of a letter from Alexander’s wife, Marion Howard-Smith Alexander, describing the scene at the Olympic stadium during the games.

On April 14, 1896, Marion Howard-Smith Alexander wrote a letter to her sister, Eleanor Howard-Smith, describing the scene in Athens at the first modern Olympic games. She wrote:

I must begin by telling that the stadium with the thousands of people & the beautiful views about it was a sight to remember for life. Many people will regret bitterly that when they hear from their friends how entirely successful & interesting the games have been. Our boys who have nearly swept the fields of honor each day, are great favorites with the Greeks. One fellow in particular when he went out on the streets would be followed by an admiring crowd shouting “NIKE” which means victor.

In 1897, following the election of William McKinley, Alexander left Greece and returned to teaching at Chapel Hill. He remained on the faculty until his death in 1910. In many obituaries, Alexander’s role in helping to revive the Olympic games was held up as one of the most significant achievements of his career.

UNC’s Olympic Firsts

Athletes and coaches from UNC have participated in most summer Olympic games since 1936. The list below is an effort to compile a handful of notable Olympic firsts from Tar Heel athletes. I used the list of UNC Olympians available on and a similar list on Wikipedia. It’s possible that some of these may be incomplete — if we learn of any mistakes or omissions (and we’d like to hear from you if you can help!), we’ll post the updates as soon as possible.

First Olympian: UNC’s first Olympian was Harry Williamson, who ran the 800 meters at the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin. A native of High Point, Williamson was a track star at Carolina, winning conference championships in the mile and half-mile. After winning both of his qualifying heats in Berlin, Williamson finished sixth in the 800 meter finals. See if you can pick him out on this YouTube video of the race.

First Medalist: The first medalist from UNC was the remarkable Floyd “Chunk” Simmons, from Charlotte, who played football and ran track at Carolina. A terrific all-around athlete, Simmons won the bronze medal in the decathlon in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. He competed throughout his life, winning age group awards when he was in his 70s and 80s. As if that wasn’t enough, Simmons had an acting career, appearing in multiple movies including the hit 1958 musical South Pacific. Simmons looked back on his career in a 2007 interview with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library, available on

First Gold Medal: It should be no surprise that the first UNC alumnus to win a gold medal was a basketball player. In the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Larry Brown became the first Tar Heel to play on an Olympic basketball team and helped the U.S. men’s team win the gold, defeating the Soviet Union in the final. Carolina women first won gold in the 1996 Olympics with the women’s soccer team, which featured several players from UNC, including star Mia Hamm.

First Women: Several athletes competed in the Olympics before coming to UNC, including swimmers Ann Marshall (1972 Olympics), Janis Hape (1976 Olympics), and Wendy Weinberg (1976 Olympics).

As far as I was able to tell, the first woman from UNC to compete in the Olympics while still a student was Sharon Couch, a track star who finished sixth in the long jump in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

First Individual Gold Medal: Former Tar Heel athletes excelled in team sports in the Olympics, participating in gold medal-winning teams in men’s basketball and women’s soccer. A former UNC star did not win an individual gold medal until the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, when Allen Johnson won the gold in the 110 meter hurdles. The first woman from UNC to win individual gold medals was Marion Jones, who won three golds in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. However, Jones later returned the medals after admitting to steroid use.


James K. Polk: 19th Century Student Activist?

Was there such a thing as student activism in the 19th century? If so, what form did this activism take? An article in the Daily Tar Heel, published December 5, 1967, asserts that one of UNC’s most famous alums, United States President James Knox Polk, led a “rebellion” in 1816 among the students that culminated with the resignation of the University’s president at the time, Robert Hett Chapman. The title states, “U.S. President Was Campus Activist.”

page 5, 12/5/1967, Daily Tar Heel

What is true is that an actual student uprising against the faculty did take place, and it not only led to the ousting of Chapman, but also to the expulsion of the leader of said rebellion. What is false is that Polk led it, although he may very well have been present and subsequently inspired by the cause. This September 1816 event has been written about in numerous histories, however the misleading newspaper headline regarding Polk’s role requires clarification of who did what, but more importantly, presents an opportunity to revisit what was a fascinating chain of events at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Although Polk was on campus at that time, having enrolled as a sophomore in spring 1816, the “leader” of the September 18, 1816 “uprising” was actually a student by the name of William Biddle Shepard. As Battle states in his history of the university, he gave a speech without approval, and the next day he was suspended for 6 months. Shepard, the future congressman, eventually left to attend the University of Pennsylvania. Others, not including Polk, were also suspended due to their support of Shepard’s defiance. News of the controversy spread quickly across the state, requiring the University to make a public statement justifying their response.

The oration expressed popular Republican and anti-British sentiments (inspired by bitterness over the War of 1812), despite a campus ban on making speeches supporting party politics. And it so happened that the person required to review speeches beforehand was the unpopular Peace Federalist and University President Robert Hett Chapman. Biddle not only dismissed Chapman’s edits, he gave the speech in its original form and then refused to stand down, inspiring near chaos to ensue on campus for days afterward. For Chapman, this event was essentially the last straw. Over the few years of his tenure, he and his family were subjected to student pranks of all sorts, including the tarring and feathering of the gatepost at his home and other destruction to his property, sometimes accompanied by taunting notes. Totally unrelated to these stressors, but certainly compounding the problem, his teenage daughter also died suddenly at age 15. She is buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. Chapman submitted his resignation in November 1816.

How does Polk fit into the picture? To write the Daily Tar Heel article, Charles Sellers’ biography James K. Polk: Jacksonian would have been an ideal source. In this book, Sellers quotes from Polk’s speech “Eloquence,” an inaugural address he delivered to the Dialectic Society, of which he was a member. With one line, Polk the undergraduate essentially advises his fellow students to never bow to faculty and to stay true to their ideals. Sellers uses this to emphasize the role and influence of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies on campus, each essentially a hotbed for 19th century anti-authoritarianism. This same quote appears in the DTH article and is credited as the speech that sparked the rebellion. The snag is that “Eloquence” was delivered on May 20, 1818, therefore almost two years after the Shepard oration. Polk was likely inspired by his rebellious classmates, but the documentation does not prove his involvement in the Infamous Uprising of 1816. Nevertheless, this provides fascinating insight into the rebellious nature of the 19th century undergraduate, which certainly continues to resonate with those at UNC centuries later.

page 9 of Polk’s Inaugural Address, 5/20/1818, from the Dialectic Society Papers, University Archives

For further information:

Speeches by Polk in the Dialectic Society papers : “Composition on the Powers of Invention,” circa 1816-1818; “Composition on the Admission of Foreigners into Office in the United States,” 30 August 1817; Inaugural Address, 20 May 1818.

Senior speech controversy at Exhibits:

The Olympic Torch in Chapel Hill

Charles Shaffer, Jr., with the Olympic torch, 23 June 1996. Photo by Dan Sears for UNC News Services.
Charles Shaffer, Jr., with the Olympic torch, 23 June 1996. Photo by Dan Sears for UNC News Services.

Twenty years ago this summer, the Olympic torch relay passed through Chapel Hill on its eventual way to Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

UNC was placed on the torch relay route thanks to the work of alumnus Charles Shaffer, Jr., an Atlanta attorney who was one of the early members of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, the organization that successfully pitched what began as an unlikely proposal into a successful bid for the 1996 games.

In recognition of his work in bringing the Olympics to Atlanta, Shaffer was asked to participate in the torch relay and got to decide where he would like to run. As an alumnus with longtime family ties to Carolina, Shaffer chose Chapel Hill.

On June 23, 1996, the torch came to Carolina. Members of the local community, including UNC journalism professor Chuck Stone, carried the torch through Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Charles Shaffer took the torch onto campus and past the Old Well, where a large crowd was waiting. The photos on this page are from the UNC News Services collection in the University Archives.

Photo by Dan Sears for UNC News Services.
Photo by Dan Sears for UNC News Services, 1996.
Photo by Dan Sears for UNC News Services, 1996.
Photo by Dan Sears for UNC News Services, 1996.

From Tokyo to Chapel Hill: UNC’s First International Student?

One of the earliest — and possibly the first — international student to attend UNC was Shinzaburo Mogi, from Tokyo, Japan, who was enrolled during the 1893-1894 school year. Mogi had an interesting personal history. His family in Japan was involved in the production of soy sauce, beginning the company that would later become Kikkoman Corporation. Mogi himself made several attempts to manufacture soy sauce in the United States.

Mogi has a brief entry in the earliest alumni directory, noting only that he was a student during the 1893-1894 year. He is listed among the freshman class members in the 1894 yearbook, but does not appear to have been mentioned in the student newspaper for those years. Nor could I find anything about him in the University President’s correspondence for 1893-1894. The Registrar’s record book for the 1890s show that Mogi was here for just one term, taking classes in Math, English, and Physics.

The only other references to Mogi that I could track down were from local newspapers, including one published a few decades after he left UNC.

Note: Some contemporary coverage of Mogi described him using terms that are now considered slurs and framing that modern readers will see as tokenizing. We are sharing these items in this post as part of the very limited historical record about Mogi’s time at the University

Mogi is first mentioned in the Durham Globe on February 2, 1894:

Durham Globe, 2 February 1894.
Durham Globe, 2 February 1894.

The so-called “conversion” mentioned by UNC President George Tayloe Winston is evidence that there was still a strong religious emphasis at the University at the time.

Mogi received a brief mention in the social column of the Raleigh Evening Visitor a month later when he visited Raleigh to attend the state museum.

Evening Visitor (Raleigh, N.C.), 10 March 1894.
Evening Visitor (Raleigh, N.C.), 10 March 1894.

Mogi didn’t appear in local newspapers again until an article about international students at UNC published in the Salisbury Evening Post in 1920.

Salisbury Evening Post, 30 January 1920.
Salisbury Evening Post, 30 January 1920.

We believe that the Shinzaburo Mogi who attended UNC is the same as the member of the Mogi family who came to the United States in the 1890s and opened the first soy sauce factory in America. In Ronald Yates’s 1998 book, The Kikkoman Chronicles, he says that Shinzaburo Mogi, then 20 years old, left Japan in 1892 with the intention of bringing the family business to the United States. Little is known about Mogi’s early years in the United States (the book does not mention his time in Chapel Hill), but he is known to have opened a soy sauce plant in Denver in 1907. The business was not successful, and Mogi moved to Toronto where he managed another soy sauce factory. This, too, was a short-lived effort and he eventually settled in Chicago where he worked as a trader, importing Japanese soy sauce and also continuing to invest in American soy sauce companies. Mogi returned to Japan in the 1930s and died in 1946.


The School Colors: The History of Carolina Blue

2015 University of North Carolina commencement; Photo by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2015 University of North Carolina commencement; Photo by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The school colors for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are some of the most recognizable in higher education. Carolina Blue is a symbolic and beloved shade that, for many alums and Carolina fans, immediately conjures up images of the school, the Carolina sports teams and a sense of community. Carolina Blue has a long history tied to the culture of this university.

Dialectic Society membership certificate with blue ribbon, 1807. Southern Historical Collection.
Dialectic Society membership certificate with blue ribbon, 1807. Southern Historical Collection.

The use of a distinctive light blue in association with UNC began not long after the first students arrived on campus in 1795. The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies were a huge part of student life at the time. Through the nineteenth century, students were required to be members of either the Di or the Phi. These two literary and debate societies were both an academic and a social way of life at the time. It was traditional for students from the west of Chapel Hill to affiliate with the Di and students from the east to join the Phi. The Di’s color was light blue and the Phi’s was white.

At major university events, such as commencements, balls and social events all of the student officials and marshals wore the color of their chosen society. The Chief Marshal or Chief Ball Manager would wear both colors because he was a representative of the whole student body and not just his society. Ribbons of the appropriate societal color were also attached to the diplomas of graduates, as emblems of their time with the Di or Phi.

In 1888, UNC started its first intercollegiate athletic teams. By this time, light blue and white were recognizable parts of the university’s student life and culture and the decision was made to carry those colors over (in combination) to athletic life as well.

A UNC Diploma from 1793 with blue ribbon indicating membership in Di Society; Southern Historical Collection
A UNC Diploma from the 1840s with a blue ribbon indicating membership in Dialectic Society. Southern Historical Collection
A UNC Diploma from 1800 with a white ribbon, indicating membership in Phi; Southern Historical Collection
A Philanthropic Society membership certificate with a white ribbon, ca. 1850s. Southern Historical Collection










At the beginning of the 20th century, the school colors had been established as light blue and white and these colors began to appear on a variety of ephemera associated with the university. This went beyond sports uniforms and diplomas. Shades of Carolina Blue began to appear on many official documents as a signature of the university. At the turn of the century, blue appeared on the commencement programs and was especially highlighted in the University seal. The exact shade of blue deemed official had not yet been established and different years saw slightly different shades. Between 1900 and 1901, for instance, the blue used on the seal became a great deal brighter and lighter.

Seal from the 1900 graduation program. North Carolina Collection.
Seal from the 1900 graduation program. North Carolina Collection.
Seal from the 1901 graduation program. North Carolina Collection.
Seal from the 1901 graduation program. North Carolina Collection.









Blue was accepted for use by organizations all across campus, from clubs to academics to research. A 1908 pamphlet created by the Campus Y featured the color.

A pamphlet from the campus YMCA from 1908, using Carolina Blue; Wilson Library Carolina Collection
A pamphlet from the campus YMCA from 1908, using Carolina Blue; Wilson Library Carolina Collection

A question soon developed—exactly what shade of light blue was the correct shade? While many Carolina fans will purport to recognize Carolina Blue when they see it, there has been quite a bit of difference between the shades of blue used by official University departments and teams. No one shade of blue has been the True Blue because things have developed over time. For instance, in the 1960s Carolina basketball games began to be broadcast on television in color for the first time. On a television set, the blue then in use looked washed out and extremely light. It was almost grey. The shade of blue was thus darkened for many athletic uniforms, but kept the same on University logos, merchandise and documents. Over time, there grew a disparity between the shades of Carolina Blue used across campus.

Consider these pantone color swatches. Which one is the real Carolina Blue?

A spectrum of Carolina Blue pantone swatches; Courtesy David C. Smith
A spectrum of Carolina Blue pantone swatches; Image by David C. Smith

The correct answer? All of them. Each one of these shades has been used officially by the University as representative of Carolina. UNC Hospitals often used Pantone 543 (on the far right). The athletics departments often favored bolder, sharper blues such as Pantone 297 and 298 (which look more teal, but show up strongly on uniforms and merchandise).

The July/August 2002 issue of Carolina Alumni Review
The July/August 2002 issue of Carolina Alumni Review

For many years, the University’s official stance was that Pantone 278 (far left) be used to represent the University but different shades were still used across campus. In 2002, the Carolina Alumni Review ran a cover story discussing the disparity between blues across campus.

In 2015, UNC worked with Nike on a project to revise and standardize Carolina’s athletic uniforms and logos. The decision was made to make Carolina Blue officially Pantone 542 (second from the right). This shade was noticeably darker and greener with a warmer tone than Pantone 278 (Old Carolina Blue). These days if you purchase Carolina merchandise, the blue should be in this tone. For more information on the regulations for the look of official Carolina products, see the UNC Branding & Visual Identity Guidelines here: