Since the 1890s, the term ‘Boilermaker’ has been synonymous with Purdue.
The name has been applied to Purdue organizations (athletic and otherwise), institutions, and individuals alike, and has come to
be the official nickname for all things Purdue.The name that has become such a big part of the identity of the university has its origins in the words of a nineteenth century sportswriter. In 1891, the Purdue football team was first referred to as
the "Boiler Makers" by a Crawfordsville, Indiana
reporter who wrote about the team’s 44-0 victory over local rival Wabash College. The reason that the football team was referred to as the "Boilermakers" was because the head
football coach at the time recruited several workers from the train factory in Lafayette, hoping thier strength would end a long
run of Wabash College victories over Purdue. Soon afterward, Lafayette newspapers were using the name, and in 1892 the student newspaper announced its approval of the 'boilermaker'. Before the widespread
adoption of ‘Boilermaker,’ Purdue was also sometimes referred to as the home of the "haymakers," the
"rail-splitters," the "sluggers," or the "cornfield sailors."
Mascots, logos, and colors
In the more than 130 years since the founding of the university, several mascots have emerged in support of the Boilermaker
athletic teams, including: The Boilermaker Special, Purdue
Pete, and more recently, Rowdy.The Boilermaker Special, a locomotive, has been the official mascot of
Purdue athletics since the 1930s. The latest generation of the mascot, the Boilermaker
Special V, was dedicated during the halftime show of the 1993 football game versus Notre Dame at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium.Though not the official mascot, Purdue Pete is one of the most recognized symbols of Purdue University. Pete was originally
developed in 1940 as an advertising logo for the University Bookstore. Eventually, the
popularity of the image grew among the Purdue community, and the advertisement evolved into a full character, complete with
costume and mallet. By 1956 Purdue Pete was at the center of activity at Boilermaker
athletic events, as entertainer and energizer. As a matter of tradition, the modern mallet-wielding Boilermaker character always
appears in a #1 jersey. Purdue's newest symbol, Rowdy, was introducted in 1997 duing the
first home football game of the season. The inflatable mascot, made of parachute material, stands nearly 10 feet (3 meters) tall,
and represents a young boy who hopes to become a Purdue Boilermaker.In 1969 the Purdue University Board of Trustees approved the official seal of Purdue as
part of the university’s centennial celebration. The seal, designed by
Purdue professor Al Gowan, replaced one that had been used informally for more than 70 years. The seal features a stylized
griffin, which in medieval heraldry symbolizes strength. The words 'Purdue University' are set in Uncial typeface above the griffin, and below the three-part shield represents the three stated
aims of the university: education, research, and service. The seal is generally reserved for more formal usage than the logos of
the Boilermaker Special, or Purdue Pete.Purdue University adopted its school colors, Old Gold and Black, in the fall of 1887.
The distinctive colors were inspired by those of Princeton
University, at the time the leader in college football, whose colors were black and orange.
The official fight song of Purdue University, “Hail Purdue!”, was composed in 1912 by alumni Edward Wotawa (music) and James Morrison (lyrics) as the "Purdue War Song." "Hail Purdue" was
copyrighted in 1913 and dedicated to the Varsity Glee Club. The lyrics are as follows:Hail, hail to old Purdue!All hail to our old gold and black!Hail, hail to old Purdue!Our friendship may she never lack,Ever grateful ever true,Thus we raise our song anew,Of the days we've spent with you,All hail our own Purdue.
In 1993 the Purdue Board of Trustees approved the "Purdue Hymn" as the official alma mater of the university. The lyrics and music were written by Alfred Kirchhoff in
1941. The University Choir first performed the hymn in 1943, during convocation in the Edward C. Elliot Hall of Music. The lyrics are as follows:Close by the Wabash in famed Hoosier landStands old Purdue, serene and grand.Cherished in memory by allHer sons and daughters true,Fair alma mater,All hail Purdue! Fairest in all the land,Our own Purdue!Fairest in all the land, our own Purdue!
Like many institutions with long and rich histories, Purdue University is steeped in legend. Many of these legends are so
outlandish, it is difficult to believe they are still in circulation. Below is a selection of the most popular legends.
- A legend connected with benefactor John Purdue asserts that his donation carried the stipulation that all permanent
university buildings must be built of brick or his entire gift reverts to Purdue's heirs. Although this claim cannot be
substantiated, it is apparently contradicted by two university buildings. Though both Krannert and Rawls halls on the West
Lafayette campus are limestone buildings, both halls had brick included in their
foundations in keeping with the 'red brick' tradition.
- One of the more bizarre, yet most commonly heard, legends on campus concerns the integrity of the Purdue Bell Tower. The
legend claims that when construction of the tower was completed in 1995 it was discovered
that the tower was structurally flawed, and as a result the bells could not ring without risking collapse. Project leaders
supposedly had a speaker system installed to imitate the sound of ringing bells. However, the bells in the modern tower are in
fact fully functional, and chime regularly thanks to computer-controlled mallets.
- There are also a number of legends that periodically circulate on campus that involve benefactor John Purdue’s grave,
which is located on campus per his final requests. The legends range from silly to macabre and many involve students from rival
Indiana University participating in grave robbing and other
acts of desecration. These, of course, are also untrue.
- Another legend purports to offer an explanation of the Boilermaker moniker. The legend tells of two Purdue football coaches
that would not accept the scrawny volunteers that came out for the team. According to the legend, the coaches gathered a number
of boilermakers from the Monon
Railroad Shops, enrolled them in one class each, and added them to the team. Though this story cannot be corroborated, it has
been a favorite folk legend among some of the administration.