Why is Purdue called the Boilermakers? Mascot name explained

Purdue is home to the Boilermakers, a one-of-a-kind nickname, as well as a frightening mascot.

Purdue Pete, Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue Pete, Purdue Boilermakers / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

If you can look Purdue Pete in the eyes and tell him that you have no earthly idea what a Boilermaker is, you are a braver man than me, sir. Purdue University competes in the Big Ten in all sports. While it has great tradition on the football field, it has consistently had one of the better men's basketball teams in recent years under Matt Painter. He is great at his job, until March, where he simply runs out of gas.

So as you get ready to get ready for some March Madness, let me explain to you what in tarnation is a dang Boilermaker. I know it is something you can order over the bar to get you feeling right late at night, but there is more to this one-of-a-kind nickname that this heavy combo of a cocktail concoction. Basically, the nickname comes from an old football rivalry that doesn't exist anymore.

Purdue used to play Wabash College a lot back in the late 1890s. In one such game, Purdue drubbed Wabash 18-4 and started to earn unofficial nicknames such as "a great big burly gang of corn-huskers", "grangers, "pumpkin-shuckers", "railsplitters", "blacksmiths," "cornfield sailors", and "foundry hands". Essentially, it has everything to do with tough, blue-collar guys making things.

Then in 1891, Purdue annihilated poor Wabash again, this time to the tune of 44-0. Wabash, located in Crawfordsville, Indiana, saw its local newspaper refer to the Purdue players with this glorious headline in the Crawfordsville Daily Argus New on October 26, 1891:

"Slaughter of Innocents: Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue"

The next year, Purdue sports teams were officially known as the Boilermakers. How about that?!

Why Purdue University's teams are called the Boilermakers?

I mean, if you wanted to split the word Boilermaker in half you have "boiler" and you have "maker". I did the math, and I think it checks out a Boilermaker makes boilers. Who would have thunk it? It is a point of pride for Purdue University, which has its roots at being a very hands-on learning university. If you wanted to know how trains worked, that is where you went if you grew up in Indiana as a Hoosier.

With the colorful combination of black and gold, and the most terrifying mascot this side of Penn State's Nittany Lions, Purdue Pete leads the charge out onto the field, onto the court, or wherever Purdue plays sports. His eyes have seen some things. We remember a lot of terrible football being played in West Lafayette between the Joe Tiller and Jeff Brohm eras of Purdue football anyway.

Regardless, you always have to appreciate the wacky, weird and wonderful nature of college athletics teams' nicknames. For every Bulldog, Eagle, Tiger or Wildcat, you have a Boilermaker, a Buckeye, a Sooner or a Volunteer. But if we were to kick this out from football to basketball, there are even weirder ones such as the Anteaters, the Billikens, the Gauchos, the Salukis and even the Shockers.

Now that you know what a Boilermaker is, be sure to keep a close eye on Purdue Pete at all times.

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