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Harvard University (U.S.)


Last modified: 2023-12-30 by rick wyatt
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[Flag of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts] image by Joe McMillan, 11 March 2004

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Description of the flag

The oldest university in the United States, founded in 1636 as Harvard College, named for its principal early benefactor, John Harvard. Harvard coat of arms is Gules three open books proper inscribed VE, RI, and TAS (spelling out "veritas," Latin for "truth." The coat of arms first appears in a sketch in the records of a meeting of the college's Overseers in 1644. A version with a white chevron between the three books (now used as the arms of Harvard College as the undergraduate element of Harvard University) appears on the institution's 1650 charter from the Massachusetts Great and General Court (legislature). However, the arms fell out of use and were lost to memory thereafter until they were rediscovered and returned to use as a result of research in preparation for Harvard's bicentennial celebrations in 1836. For that event a white banner was made with the shield on it. Harvard now uses a banner of the arms for both daily flying and ceremonial use. In addition, the components of the university including Harvard College, specialized schools, and undergraduate residential houses have their own arms as well as flags that mostly consist of the escutcheon on a crimson or other solid field.
Joe McMillan, 11 March 2004

Institutional flag is essentially based on the shield of arms. An alternate version has shields and the name “Harvard.”

Harvard also has an extensive system of heraldry for his colleges and schools, which is often used on hanging banners, but not that I have seen, on flags.


Branding guide:
Dave Fowler, 21 February 2020

Other institutional flags

[Flag of Harvard University] image located by Paul Bassinson, 20 December 2023

[Flag of Harvard University] image located by Paul Bassinson, 20 December 2023


[Seal of Harvard University] image located by Paul Bassinson, 19 January 2017

Harvard Houses

Houses and colleges are the terms used by both universities for the residential arrangements for undergraduates. They were established at both universities in the first half of the 20th century in an attempt to replicate the environment of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, which are more or less federations of separately endowed and chartered colleges. The houses and colleges at Harvard and Yale differ from the dormitories at most other American universities in that they have faculty members affiliated with each house/college and (as Lewis Nowitz makes clear) are central to the student's identity during and after his/her student days.

Both Harvard and Yale, like most other American universities, are also divided into colleges and schools that are actual academic units rather than social/residential ones. At both places, these units also have their own coats of arms, flags, and banners.

Adams - Or five oak leaves palewise in saltire slipped and fructed gules.
Cabot - No information.
Currier - Gules an apple tree surrounded at its base by a bench or, in chief a bar engrailed sable fimbriated argent.
Dudley - Or a lion rampant vert armed and langued gules within a bordure of the same.
Dunster - Azure three stags heads caboshed or.
Eliot - Argent a fess gules between two pairs of barrulets gemels wavy azure.
Kirkland - Gules on a cross sable fimbriated three mullets in fess argent.
Leverett - Argent a chevron between three leverets [i.e., young hares] courant sable.
Lowell - Sable a dexter hand couped at the wrist clutching three arrows points in base all argent.
Mather - Ermine on a fess gules three lions passant or (? - conjecture based on partial view of banner of arms)
Pforzheimer - Per bend gules and sable four lozenges conjoined in bend counterchanged.
Quincy - Gules seven mascles conjoined, three, three, and one, or.
Winthrop - Argent three chevronels gules overall a lion rampant sable.

Joe McMillan, 12 March 2004


[Logo ] image located by Paul Bassinson, 28 August 2022

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, part of Harvard University, was formerly a separate college for women, Radcliffe College. Chartered in 1894 it always had a close association with Harvard University. Over the years the two institutions increased their cooperative efforts until finally merging completely in 1999. The flag of the Radcliffe Institute can be seen at

The flag is white, with narrow red stripes on the top and bottom top and bottom edges. On the white field two black engrailed diagonals run from upper hoist to lower fly. The flag is based on Radcliffe's arms, a shield argent, bordered gules, two bends engrailed sable- see Those arms may be based on actual arms of a Radcliffe family. I found several examples of such a coat of arms, minus the red border, on some commercial heraldry sites but have made no judgment on their reliability.
Ned Smith, 19 January 2006

Harvard University Police Department

[Flag of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts] image by Randy Young, 25 June 2015

The Harvard University Police Department flag can be seen online in a few photographs, including one at ( The flag features the Department's shoulder patch centered on a light blue field. The patch is in the form of a shield, similar to the University's coat of arms. The shield is dark blue on the flag (black on the actual patch) with a thin gold fimbriation between the shield and the field. There is an inescutcheon at the center of the shield bearing the Harvard University coat of arms. In the dark blue between the fimbriation and the inescutcheon are the gold words "HARVARD UNIVERSITY POLICE."
Randy Young, 25 June 2015

Binnacle Club of Harvard University

[Flag of Binnacle Club of Harvard University] image located by Peter Edwards, 8 April 2018

Estb: 1905. Location: Cambridge, MA.
Burgee: Pennant 4.5:6.5 (image). White field with a white letter B (centred 2.5 units from hoist) superimposed on a large red letter H touching both top and bottom fly edges.
Source: Lloyd's Register of American Yachts 1911.

"The Harvard Binnacle Club was founded in December 1905 for sailing enthusiasts at Harvard. It was organized as a social organization, not as a yacht club, and arranged for yacht owners and designers to give talks before the club. In 1907, the club changed its name to the Binnacle Club of Harvard University. Sometime around 1911, the Club disbanded, arranging a banquet to use up the surplus money in the treasury."

Peter Edwards, 8 April 2018

Supporters flags

[Supporters flag] image located by Paul Bassinson, 20 February 2020

[Supporters flag] image located by Paul Bassinson, 20 December 2023

[Supporters flag] image located by Paul Bassinson, 20 December 2023

[Supporters flag] image located by Paul Bassinson, 20 December 2023

[Supporters flag] image located by Paul Bassinson, 20 December 2023

[Supporters flag] image located by Paul Bassinson, 20 December 2023