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Shield of the University of Pennsylvania

The shield (or coat of arms) of the University of Pennsylvania was adopted in roughly its present form by the school's trustees in 1932-1933. It features three major symbolic elements: the open books, to signify learning; the dolphin, taken from the center of Benjamin Franklin's coat of arms; and the three "plates" (circles on the chevron), taken from the center of the Penn family's coat of arms.


The colors of red and blue (originally described as "gules" and "azure"), are -- according to the University's archives -- believed to have been chosen originally by a student representing the University in a track meet held at Saratoga, New York, in 1874. The University's trustees standardized the particular hues in 1910, stipulating that "The colors shall conform to the present standards used by the United States government in its flags."

Sometimes the shield is depicted with the motto: LEGES SINE MORIBUS VANAE, which translates as, "Laws without morals are useless."