AFTER AN ABSENCE of some years, Columbia University has returned the crosses to its official crown emblem. The crosses had been missing since March 2004, when they were replaced with trapezoidal lozenges, but the more historic cross design has quietly returned to favour as the Ivy League institution’s official symbol. Columbia was founded in 1784, but claims the earlier heritage of King’s College, founded in 1754 but exiled to Nova Scotia, where it now has university status, after the tumult of the American Revolution. A copper crown (right) was originally attached to the cupola of College Hall, King’s College’s home in the colonial city of New York. When Columbia was founded in 1784, a year after New York’s independence was recognized, the state legislature gave the property and endowment of King’s College to the new Columbia College, which was organized by the remaining non-Loyalist members of King’s College.
Despite moving premises, Columbia kept the original copper crown. Prof. John McVickar exhibited the crown in 1820 to Stratford Canning, His Britannic Majesty’s Minister-Plenipotentiary to the United States, who quipped to the Columbia profesor: “You should preserve that crown carefully, sir, for you republicans will by-and-by need a crown.” That copper crown now rests above the fireplace in the Trustees Room of Columbia’s Low Library, atop the portrait of the first head of King’s College, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson.
The removal of the crosses in 2004 was criticised by some as an act of political correctness and a disingenuous denial of the school’s claimed foundation in the Anglican King’s College of 1754.
But the be-cruxed crown once again graces the official documents and websites of “Columbia University in the City of New York”, as it has officially been called since 1896.
Officially, there are four different versions of the Columbia crown now used. They are (from left to right), the official university crown, the lozenge variant, the Columbia College crown, and the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences emblem.