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Abstract

Columbia University adopted cap and gown early in its history and embraced them earnestly. Its second president made gowns mandatory on campus every day, a practice that lasted until the American Revolution in 1776. They were still worn to commencements through most of the nineteenth century, their popularity ebbing and flowing, until Columbia established its own rules for academic dress in 1887, which included a scarlet gown for doctors on ceremonial occasions. It was the second coloured gown in use within the Ivy League, after Pennsylvania. Several years later, Columbia’s president hosted the meetings that led to the modern Code. The university adhered to it for sixty-eight years, longer than many of its Ivy League peers, although it tried three times to depart from it only to have each scheme defeated. Its current academic dress, which provides for gowns in a shade of medium blue for all degrees, can trace its history to the days when it was King’s College in the British province of New York. [Excerpt].

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