Purdue Traditions

Information Provided by the Purdue Reamer Club


John Purdue’s Grave

John Purdue was born October 31, 1802, in Pennsylvania. Purdue came to Lafayette in 1839. He and Moses Fowler started a dry goods store in Lafayette, which soon was a success. In very little time, he became one of the leaders of his community in both charitable and governmental concerns. In 1869 John Purdue offered $150,000 and 100 Acres of land to the Indian State Senate. His wish was to establish a new state agricultural college at Battle Ground in Tippecanoe County, provided that it “by law have his surname identified with the name of the college.” After much debate, Purdue’s offer was accepted, making him the only man for whom a Big Ten school is named. He died of apoplexy on September 12, 1876, the first day of classes for the semester. In keeping with this wish, the university interred his remains in a grave just east of University Hall on Memorial Mall, where he lies today. The gravesite and fountain were later restored by the Class of 1946. There is a piece of folklore that says that Indiana University students and/or Purdue students dug him up and took him to an “Old Oaken Bucket” game.


The Boilermakers

In 1889 the two newly hired Purdue coaches were quite discouraged by the scrawny volunteers that turned out for the football team. Not to be outdone by anyone, the coaches hired several husky rail workers or “boilermakers” from the Monon Railroad shops and a few burly policemen as well. After enrolling these men in one university course, they set out to play football. This resulted in victory after victory. When the team beat Wabash College in the State Championship, the Crawfordsville newspapers became slightly incensed and wrote a few uncomplimentary articles. The following is an excerpt from one of those articles seen in a Crawfordsville paper: “Wabash was defeated, not in a game of football played with science, but by slugging, and as they do not profess to be sluggers, rail-splitters, hayseeds, and pumpkin shuckers, they give up with good grace.” The nickname of Purdue, “Boilermakers,” was derived from this and other similar comments. Purdue students fancied the name “Boilermakers” and have been proud to be known as the Boilermakers ever since.


The Boilermaker Special

Late in the spring semester of 1939, a letter to the editor appeared in the student daily Exponent advocating the construction of a symbolic mascot, perhaps in the form of mechanical man, for the university athletic teams. The author of the letter, then a sophomore, was Izzy H. Selkowitz, who worked with the Exponent. The idea took the form of a locomotive mascot to be mounted on an automobile chassis. The Purdue Reamer Club inaugurated a campaign to raise the necessary funds for building the mascot. The Boilermaker Special, the official Purdue mascot, was realized through the efforts of two members of the class of 1907, the Reamer Club, members of the classes of 1940 and 1941, and the contributions of loyal students and alumni of Purdue. The Special can be seen at all Purdue football games, both at home and away, as a representative of Purdue. The Special’s train horn can be heard every time Purdue crosses the goal line. The Boilermaker Special V is the current train operated by the Purdue Reamer Club.

The Boilermaker Special V has continued a tradition of performing a wake-up call to the campus of Purdue on mornings of home football games in order to increase campus spirit. The BMS V also travels to all away football games when possible, as well as other Purdue sporting events in and around Indiana. The BMS V currently averages approximately 10,500 miles per year and looks to travel throughout the nation for several more years helping to spread the Spirit of Purdue.


X-tra Special

The concept of Boilermaker Special IV, the “X-tra Special,” was brought to life by Robert L. Geiger (Class of 1978) through an article he authored in the April 1978 issue of the Purdue Alumnus Magazine. In response to that article the president of Perkinson Manufacturing in Chicago, a Purdue Alum, offered to donate the materials and labor necessary to make the “X-tra Special” a reality. It was presented to the university in 1979. Eventually the X-tra Special IV was disassembled to make way for X-tra Special VI which now runs at close to 15 mph.


Victory Bell

The Victory Bell, formerly known as the Purdue Bell, was purchased in 1877 from the Vandusen and Tift Company of Cincinnati. It originally rested on top of the old heating plant and was used as a rising bell and a class bell. The firemen rang the bell each morning at 6:30, 8:00, and five minutes before class during the day. It was also rung at 10:00 each night, at which time the students were supposed to retire.

When the old heating plant was torn down in 1903, the bell was placed in the locomotive lab and museum of the American Railroad Association. In 1904, when Purdue beat Indiana in football 27-0, the students dragged the bell out of the museum and took it with them on the traditional victory parade into Lafayette, leaving it on the courthouse steps. After this had occurred several times, the administration grew tired of retrieving the bell, and President Stone ordered it hidden. It was buried in a gravel pit about where Hovde Hall now stands, until the class of 1907 dug it up after a search of three weeks. The bell was cleaned, and a permanent frame was constructed by the students of the university shops.

In 1916, the Student Council spearheaded a campaign to provide housing for the historical bell. Plans were drawn and funds were obtained from students, alumni, and faculty. The cornerstone was laid on April 29, 1916, and the building was completed before June commencement of that year. The original Bell House was on the south end of Stuart Field, about 200' east of the Armory. In 1939, it was moved to it’s a location between Ross-Ade Stadium and Cary Quadrangle. The bell was originally taken to the home games, but, after two near stealings, it was decided not to bring it out until after the games. This went on for some time but now it is brought out by the Gimlet Club for all the home games. It is rung after every Big Ten home football game victory. Care of the bell is now the responsibility of the Gimlet Club.


The Old Pump

Back in the days of Ladies Hall (before1893), the female students were not allowed to have dates on weeknights, except for parties and skating. The old pump, located just southeast of Ladies Hall, was a historic meeting site for men and women. The resourceful coeds used the pretense of getting water to supplement their dating with “chance meetings” by the old pump. It is believed that the well was originally dug around 1870 for a farm family before the university was built. It is said to have worked until 1906, but eventually was forgotten when a water system was installed on campus. The old pump itself was an all wood and painted vivid green with yellow trimmings. After the university grew and the earlier dormitories were abandoned, the class of 1893 placed a stone well platform bearing the class numerals in place of the pump in order to keep sacred the old meeting place. Eventually the platform became almost covered with dirt. When Ladies Hall was torn down, President Elliott had this symbol of romance reconstructed south of University Hall. The first pump would have been west of University Hall. The Purdue Reamer Club Spring Pledge Class of 1958 was responsible for its resurrection at the southeast corner of then the new Home Ec Building, now known as Stone Hall.


Traveling Trophies

OLD OAKEN BUCKET One of the oldest and most prestigious football trophies in the nation, the Old Oaken Bucket is given annually to the winner of the Purdue-Indiana football game. Chicago alumni from Purdue and Indiana met in 1925 to discuss the adoption of a trophy to symbolize the rivalry between their alma maters. According to a spirit booklet published by Purdue years ago, the first bucket was neither old nor oaken. It was a shiny new model purchased from a Chicago mail-order firm. The actual bucket used today was found in disrepair and covered with moss and mold on the old Bruner Farm. Though legend claims that many different alumni were involved in the discovery of the Old Oaken Bucket, Harvey Wiley is the most probable. Dr. Wiley lived in Kent and used to walk back and forth between Hanover and Kent. He would always stop at the Bruner farm and have a drink from the old bucket before going on. The bucket was taken to Chicago and refurbished by a carpenter in time for the 1925 game at Bloomington.

The bucket is attached to a chain of “P”s and “I”s which symbolize the winner of their annual competition. All the letters in the chain are of solid bronze except for the 1929 “P,” which is made of gold. After whipping the Hoosiers 32-0 in Bloomington, students contributed money on the train ride back to Lafayette to purchase the link. Purdue also has a “P” with a diamond in the base representing Purdue’s 14-13 victories over Southern California in the 1966 Rose Bowl. Indiana also has a gold “I” with a diamond in its base for I.U.’s unsuccessful trip to Pasadena in 1968.


The Shillelagh

In 1957, the late Joe McLaughlin, a merchant seaman and an Irish fan, donated the Shillelagh, which he brought from Ireland to be a traveling trophy between Purdue and Notre Dame. After each football clash between the two schools, a miniature gold football engraved with the winner's initials, and the score is attached to the stand of the Shillelagh. The trophy is given to the victor until the next game between the schools.


The Cannon

It all started in 1905 when a group of Purdue students took a small cannon (origin unknown) to Champaign, Illinois, in anticipation of firing it to celebrate a Boiler victory after the Purdue-Illinois football game. Purdue won, but the students could not fire the cannon because Illinois supporters Quincey A. Hall and his fellow Delta Upsilon fraternity brothers had discovered its hiding and confiscated it before the Purdue students could start their "booming" celebration. The cannon remained in the fraternity house for a number of years. In 1943, Hall brought it out to be presented as a traveling trophy between the two schools. At one time, the Cannon was destroyed accidentally, and the pieces were given to Purdue. Both schools contributed to purchasing a new and smaller replica of the Cannon. When Purdue is in possession of the Cannon, The Tomahawk Leadership Honorary at Purdue maintain it, and while at Illinois, the Illini Pride shares the maintenance duty.


The Monon Spike

The Monon Spike was created in 1981 and symbolizes the rivalry between Indiana and Purdue. This traveling volleyball trophy was the brainchild of then-Purdue head coach Carol Dewey and her senior captain and co-captain at the time, Donna Hardesty and Anne McMenamy. The trophy consists of a portion of a railroad tie with a bronzed spike driven through it. From the spike hang bronze letters of the winning school. A "P" or an "I" link is added to the chain of letters annually, signifying the victor of the season's second match between Purdue and Indiana. The trophy is adorned with letters dating back to 1975, when the woman’s volleyball program at Purdue first became a varsity sport.


Senior Cords

In the fall of 1904, two seniors noticed a sample of corduroy in the window of Taylor and Steffen’s and decided to have a pair of trousers made out of it. Other seniors liked them so much that the next year they were adopted as the official garb of the senior class. Only the seniors were allowed to wear them, and they made sure that underclassmen did not take over this fashion. Along with the cords, the seniors also wore derbies and carried bamboo canes. Freshmen often tried to steal these items and if they succeeded they defaced them. The freshmen, however, did give them back to the seniors by the first football game, where the seniors marched with them in the senior parade. During the first game, the seniors would throw their derbies after the first touchdown or at the end of the game if no touchdowns were scored.

Senior Cords have come and gone over the years. Recently they have found their way back into the more common traditions of Purdue University. In the fall of 1999, approximately 12 student organizations have begun to bring back Senior Cords, which they wear to the home football games. As was tradition, cords are to be decorated with marker or paint. They are marked with the student’s major and graduation date as well as any student organizations one has been involved with. Many seniors use various patches to cover the cords and include depictions of their favorite Purdue icons.


Freshman Caps

Freshmen caps were introduced in the fall of 1907 by the freshman class. These caps were worn at all times on the back of the head. These caps, nicknamed postage stamps, were green with different colored buttons adorning the top. Orange buttons stood for agriculture, red for civil engineering, purple for chemistry, white for electrical engineering, blue for mechanics, and black for science. The class of 1915 introduced green toques that could be worn in the winter when the weather became cold. In 1916 the class of 1919 introduced the custom of cap burning. The freshmen would parade down State Street, across the Levee, and down Main Street to the Lafayette Family Theatre. On their marches they were showered with eggs thrown by upperclassmen that were hiding. Upperclassmen attempted to steal the sacred caps from the freshmen. After rushing to the theatre, the freshmen returned to Stuart Field, where songs and cheers were sung. Then the caps were burned. Before 1920 men only wore the caps, but after 1920 the women wore the green caps.


Lions Fountain

The ‘Stone Lions’ statue/fountain was a gift from the Class of 1903 to Purdue University. It is only believed that its current location, which is just off of the Oval Drive at the Southeast corner of Stanley Coulter Hall, is its original location. The fountain was completed and donated in 1904.

The ‘Stone Lions’ statue consists of a decorative stone top, a plain stone base, and a stone mid-section containing four stone lions’ faces, with each face pointing in each of the four navigational directions. Each face projects out of this mid-section, appearing as though the lions are beginning to leap out of the stone. Drinking water spouts from each of their mouths into a small basin below each lion face, thus it has commonly been referred to as merely the ‘Lions Fountain.’ At some point between 1923 and 1931 the fountain was turned off, drained, and the pipes were plugged. Although the fountain became waterless, it still held two folklore stories. The first story states that each time a virgin walks by the Stone Lions, they will roar. The second story said that if a man and woman were to first kiss under the bell tower of the old Heavilon Hall and to next walk past the Stone Lions, then the man and woman would marry each other one day. The Purdue Reamer Club is responsible for raising the money, and coordinating with the Department of Development the Stone Lions renovation project that took place in 2000. The projected cost at the time for this renovation project was $45,000. The Stone Lions were revived and once again operating as a drinking fountain in the summer of 2000. There was still no known reason why the 1903 class chose stone lions as their class gift, but whatever the reason, the lions have stood watch over Purdue for nearly 100 years thanks to the Class of 1903.


Ancient Order of Dormitory Devils

The Ancient Order of Dormitory Devils was an “organization” of upperclassmen that lived in Purdue Hall, the all-male dormitory erected in 1874. These upperclassmen used to “welcome” new residents of the dormitories. On the second night of the new student’s arrival, he would be roused by a knock on his door, doused with water, and forced to make a speech. The Devils also tore up beds, caused trouble, and, in short, raised hell. To bother those who were studious, one of their favorite pranks was “blowing gas.” The burner jet would be removed from the fixture and the gas blown through the piping back into the gas tank, the result being complete darkness. Water throwing was also another favorite trick. To evade a few classes, they would stack snowballs around the outside door and freeze them. That way, they could not get out and the janitor could not get in meaning that their class absences would be excused. The AODD once dunked President Smart under the Old Pump. To our knowledge, they were last active in the fall of 1963.


Crossing the Tracks

Purdue University created a new tradition in 2006, thanks to the hard work of the Alumni Association and Purdue Student Government. "Crossing the Tracks" signifies a Purdue student's transition into college as they walk south towards the Memorial Mall signifying their entrance into the Purdue community and then out into the world as they walk north towards the bell tower after graduation. The tracks, installed between Stanley Coulter and Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry, are in a slightly different location than where the original tracks used to supply coal to the north power plant. The project sponsors, the Purdue Student Government and Purdue Alumni Association, initiated the project, with leadership funding from Purdue Alumni, Jim and Janet Rush. The Rush family, which includes four generations of Purdue graduates, helped pave the way for this new tradition by dedicating the tracks. During the week of Boiler Gold Rush in the fall of 2006, 5,000 incoming freshmen, along with Purdue Pete, Reamer Club, and Purdue Cheerleaders "Crossed the Tracks" for the first time.


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