Origins of the Lincoln mascot


William Schoinas

An older cardinal mascot published in the 150 years of Lincoln Highschool book. The current cardinal is similar.

This article was written by a student in Intro to Mass Communications, the class that precedes The Cardinal Times. 

The cardinal has been Lincoln’s mascot for over a century, but how did the iconic red bird students know and love today become a symbol of Lincoln?

Dana Cress, the Lincoln archivist and a member of the Lincoln High School Alumni Association (LHSAA), said the use of the cardinal– both color and bird– was initially influenced by Stanford University.  

“Cardinal red is the Stanford color, where Lincoln’s principal [at the time] had graduated from,” Cress said. “Originally, [Lincoln just used] the color, but then the red bird was adopted too.”

 The cardinal has represented Lincoln’s school identity since the end of the 19th century, but the red bird was not always Lincoln’s mascot. According to retired teacher and former Cardinal Times adviser David Bailey, other mascots have been used in the past. 

“Through the early 1900s, Lincoln High School identified teams as Railsplitters,” he said.

When Lincoln became the Cardinals, the term “Cards” began being used to refer to Lincoln students. 

“The name came into use in 1897,” Bailey said. “The Student News, a hybrid monthly written by students from several schools in Portland, ended its run in 1895 and was supplanted by The Cardinal, produced by staffers from [Lincoln].” 

According to “150 years of Lincoln High School: Preserving the Past – Inspiring the Future,” a book published by the LHSAA, one of the earliest examples of the cardinal’s uses was during the Spanish-American War in 1898, when the cardinal was used to urge students to take four years of high school.

Over the years, the cardinal has come to represent Lincoln High School and is beloved by the student body. 

“I really like the cardinal mascot,” junior Jonah Byars said. “The colors are bright and really stand out. They’re really easy to wear at sports games too.”

While the iconic name and mascot have been a source of pride for Lincoln students, other schools have sometimes poked fun at it. 

“Rival schools have sometimes had fun with the nickname in spirit posters, like ‘Flip the Birds,’ and ‘Shuffle the Cards,’” Bailey said.

Lincoln students, however, emphatically associate the mascot with the school’s essence, as well as their own identities.

“The Lincoln Cardinal is definitely part of our school identity,” Byars said.“The bird and the colors are everywhere in our school. Even our new building has the colors as part of its design.”