Since its opening in 1869, Purdue University has carried on the legacy of being a world-renowned institution that inspires students to leave a positive mark on society. Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, Drew Brees, and several Purdue alumni are all proud to call themselves a ‘Boilermaker’. Yet, many people have no idea where this term comes from.

Before the term ‘Boilermaker’, sports teams that represented the university had been referred to as ‘corn huskers, ‘blacksmiths’, or ‘cornfield sailors’. The university was known for educating students studying agriculture and the mechanical arts, hence why the football team lacked exquisite talent and only consisted of eleven players. It was not until 1891 that Purdue University’s football team made a name for itself, after demolishing Wabash College 44-0. Wabash College was a powerhouse in college football at the time, so tensions were high after being swept by an underdeveloped team. The Daily Argus-News fired out the post-game article with the headline, “Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers From Purdue.” Following the buzz behind the term ‘Boiler Makers’, the institution took the term with open arms and allowed it to represent the university and its students.

Wabash Article

Several meanings have been acquired since this initial reference to the university. People made jokes that the athletes from Purdue were recruited from the rail yards and other comments related to working on the railways. All humor aside, Purdue University earned its place as the world leader in engineering research and development. The institution provided students with hands-on opportunities to foster knowledge and utilize high-end equipment. As the program was growing, Purdue purchased a fully operational steam locomotive, known as the Schenectady. Purdue University was widely-known for their possession of the locomotive, which coined their mascot as the Boilermaker Special.

The Boilermaker Special has been four decades in the making since the original model, which was a mini-locomotive mounted atop a vehicle frame and branded with the university’s logo. Currently, the Boilermaker Special VIII is acclaimed by Boilermakers as the “world’s largest, fastest, heaviest, and loudest collegiate mascot.” Our mascot can be spotted giving fans a ride around campus on game days, leading the team across the field, or at local festivities in the community. No matter the distance, the Boilermaker Special VIII is at every away football game, as it goes 75 MPH. The Boilermaker Special VIII is available for rent for on-campus or off-campus events. If you are interested in taking a ride through campus or renting our beloved mascot, please click on this link to contact the Purdue Reamer Club.

old/new boilermaker special     Old/New Pete

Original versus Current Versions of the Boilermaker Special and Purdue Pete

Another beloved mascot that represents the university is Purdue Pete! A recent article announced that Pete was voted the creepiest and second worst mascot in the NCAA, but Boilermaker fans strongly disagree! Purdue Pete has undergone five makeovers since his birth in 1940. California artist Art Evans was hired by the University Bookstore to craft a logo that represented a life-like boilermaker tradesman. This little figure was found on clothing items, Purdue memorabilia, and much more. On September 28, 1956 at a pep rally an ambitious mechanical engineering student took the liberty of dressing in foam rubber padding, football shoulder pads, long black pants, sweater with a P, and a papier-mâché head. The student had help from his fellow classmates to take Purdue Pete off the page and become a real human mascot. Over the years, the bulky 36 pound papier-mâché head has been traded in for a 10 pound head made of composite materials that allows Pete to cheer on the Boilermakers and rally the fans no matter the circumstance. Purdue Pete is an icon on Purdue University's campus greeting incoming students and their families, taking photos with fans at sporting events, and capturing the Boilermaker spirit!

Olivia with Friends

As I am nearing the end of my junior year and closing another chapter on my time here at Purdue University, I am proud to call myself a Boilermaker! Purdue University was my first choice when deciding to further my education and pursue a degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communications. My family consists of a long line of Boilermakers so I knew I wanted to carry on the tradition! The abundance of student organizations that I have been a part of has allowed me to implement the materials learned in the classroom into my everyday life and make a true difference in the community alongside my classmates and esteemed professors. Some of my favorite memories here at Purdue have been dressed in gold and black with my friends as we cheer on the football and basketball teams to Big 10 victories!

If you are not already a Purdue Boilermaker fan or just looking to continue carrying on the beloved traditions, check out some more of our blogs! 🖤💛🚂 #BoilerUp