Did You Know? Alma Mater Used To Be Gold

Postcard showing Alma Mater

Will Csaplar ’57, BUS’58 Postcard Collection, Columbia University Archives

Alma Mater has watched over campus from her perch on Low Steps for more than 100 years. Created by sculptor Daniel Chester French, she was a gift to Columbia from Harriette Goelet, the widow of Robert Goelet (Class of 1860). But Alma Mater looks different today than she did upon her installation in 1903, when the four-ton sculpture arrived with gold layered over her bronze. The exterior chipped off over the years, leaving behind the patina we see today. In 1962, Alma was briefly painted a gleaming bronze, but the color was so unpopular it was removed just four weeks later.