The Stories Behind the Swag

For the Bicentennial, we explored the College’s extensive archives for beautiful, interesting and fun designs. We hope you enjoy these reimagined items and the Amherst history that inspired them. Items are for sale at Swchemm’s Cafe.

Orra White Hitchcock Elephas primigenius T-Shirts

Orra White Hitchcock (1796–1863) was one of the first women in America to work as a botanical and scientific illustrator. She often collaborated with her husband and Amherst College’s third president, Edward Hitchcock, to create scientific illustrations for class lectures. One of her large-scale illustrations is of Elephas primigenius—a woolly mammoth. Here, Orra White Hitchcock’s work is reimagined for Amherst’s Bicentennial, along with a Latin translation of the College’s new rallying cry, “Tusks Up!”

A beige t-shirt with a mammoth skeleton on it


A purple t-shirt with a mammoth skeleton on it


A purple t-shirt with a mammoth skeleton on it


Left: A photograph of Orra White Hitchcock by John Lyman Lovell; Right, Orra White Hitchcock drawing of Elephas primigenius—a woolly mammoth.

Sunburst T-Shirt

The sunburst design is taken from the earliest Amherst College seal, used from 1825 to 1885. This is the only version of the seal that has a face within the sunburst. However, in all other versions, the sunburst remains. It is a visual design that appears time and again in the College’s archives.

A black t-shirt with a sunburst with a face in it

The Sunburst T-Shirt

A news clipping of the Amherst College seal

The Original College Seal

The Johnson Chapel Hoodie

A green sweatshirt and a pair of green doors with similar lettering

Johnson Chapel is one of the College’s earliest buildings and the location of many of its most cherished ceremonies, performances and lectures. This item is inspired by the hand-drawn letters on Johnson Chapel’s green doors.

College Publication Masthead Stickers

Newspaper headlines for The College Dial, The College Cucumber, the Ichnolite, The Amherst Muck-Rate and the Amherst Student

The College Dial

The College Dial was named after The Dial, a journal of Transcendentalist thought that ran from 1840 to 1844 and featured contributions from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller. Only two issues of The College Dial were ever published, both in 1847.

The College Cucumber

The College Cucumber was a humor and satire paper from the late 1840s poking fun at campus life. It existed only for a single issue. Pieces were submitted anonymously or under aliases.

The Ichnolite

Amherst College has long been famous for its world-class collection of ichnolites (fossil footprints). The Ichnolite ran from 1857 to 1861, then changed its name to simply The Amherst College Magazine.

The Amherst Muck-Rake

Just two issues of The Amherst Muck-Rake, a humor magazine, were published in 1908; it was revived as a web-only publication in 2012.

The Amherst Student

Before The Amherst Student first appeared in 1868, most student publications would last only a few years before disappearing. This newspaper is the longest-running student publication in the College’s history, with just a brief hiatus during World War II.

See full scans of The College Dial and The College Cucumber headlines

The Amherst Black Cats

In 1917, 24 Amherst students enlisted in the U.S. Army and signed up to drive ambulances for the French army. The recruits came from all four classes and together formed an ambulance corps known as the Black Cats, though their official name was the Section Sanitaire Unit 539. They drove Model T ambulances, each emblazoned with the Black Cat logo—an angry cat with arched back and upright tail, black against a white background—and throughout the war, they transported wounded soldiers and civilians to medical stations and hospitals.

Read more about the Black Cat in Amherst Magazine

Amherst Mauve T-Shirt

Commemorate 18 months of mauve! In 1866, Amherst students voted mauve and white to be the College’s official colors. In 1868, they voted to change the school colors to purple and white.

Learn more about Mauve on the Bicentennial timeline.

A pink t-shirt with an Amherst logo


A pink t-shirt that says "Amherst Mauve"


Amherst Tote Bags

Amherst has a rich literary tradition as “the writing college.” These tote bags represent a small selection of the cover designs of campus publications over the College’s 200-year history.

From left: Amherst Literary Magazine, November 1898; November 1900; Spring 1965; Spring 1970; Scrutiny Magazine, 1978

Amherst “A” Through the Ages

Two grey sweatshirts with purple As on them

There have been many versions of the Amherst A throughout the College’s long history. Before modern printing and mass garment production, clothing was handmade and therefore each Amherst A was unique. Many different styles are represented in the College’s archives ranging from a simple A to highly intricate and stylized versions.

While the College has one official A today, the Bicentennial provided an opportunity to look back through our archives for earlier versions.