Roar, Lion, Roar: A Celebration of Columbia Football

Games > Mascots

The Columbia Lion

It may surprise you to learn that before 1910, Columbia had no official mascot.  So how did we end up with a lion? At the April 9, 1910 meeting of the College Alumni Association, George Brokaw Compton of the Class of 1909, made his debut in alumni affairs by urging the adoption of a Columbia mascot and suggesting it should be a lion. The proposal was enthusiastically adopted at the meeting and then the arguments, both pro and con, began.

Back and forth discussion played out in the pages of The Spectator and alumni publications for about a month. Some thought the lion was too closely tied to British imperialism, while others thought an eagle or Matilda the Harlem Goat (pictured below) would be better choices. In response to the British imperialism arguments, Compton retorted with, “We have the King’s Crown, let us have the King’s Lion.” On May 4, 1910, the Student Board ended all the controversy when they voted to make the Lion the official mascot of Columbia.

Matilda the Harlem Goat

In the early 1900s, Matilda the Goat lived with Patrick Riley on a farm on the northeast corner of 120th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. By legend, Riley lent her to Columbia students for pranks in the early days of the Morningside campus. When Matilda died in 1914, Columbia students donned academic regalia and honored her with a dirge. Charles Friedgen, owner of a drugstore across Amsterdam (now Hartley Chemists), acquired the remains and had them stuffed, preserved, and placed in the store window. When the store, under new ownership, moved two blocks south to 118th street in 1954, Matilda went along, cleaned up for window display. The business closed in 1960 and Matilda's fate is unknown.  

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