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As Purdue University marks its sesquicentennial on May 6, 2019, we share the history of the University — stories both historic and modern — as told through 150 objects.

Compiled by Kat Braz (LA’01) and Joel Meredith


How did we get here?

More than once over the past few months, I’ve exclaimed to any colleagues within earshot at the alumni association office: “This may be the worst idea I have ever had!” The problem is, 150 somehow manages to be a vastly numerous yet hopelessly inadequate number at the same time. Distilling a sesquicentennial into a collection of 150 miscellaneous objects is a formidable and time-consuming task — to say nothing of the intriguing rabbit holes that can hijack entire afternoons and led me to basements and attics and closets and boxes that held all sorts of wondrous things.

The winnowed compilation presented on these pages is by no means exhaustive. Nor is it meant to be a comprehensive account of the University’s history. Rather, it’s an assemblage of artifacts that struck me as interesting, whether they commemorate a significant occurrence or influential personage in Purdue’s history or merely invoked my curiosity. The list leans toward my proclivities as editor, which encompass both the nostalgic and the obscure.

It’s been fascinating to sift through collections public and private in search of meaningful and compelling items to feature. Thank you to everyone who made suggestions, sent along images, or started me off on wild goose chases (one of which led to a peacock!). There are a few individuals to whom I am especially indebted.

I am grateful to my stalwart copywriter, Joel Meredith, who spent his first few months on the job painstakingly researching and culling an enormous catalog of possibilities. Thanks also to author John Norberg, the quintessential Purdue storyteller, and to collector Pete Bill (A’75, DVM’80, PhD V’90), whose knowledge of enthralling university tidbits is matched only by his enthusiasm for sharing them.

Lastly, my earnest appreciation for Adriana Harmeyer, archivist for university history at Purdue’s Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center and possibly the most amiable person in the world. She answered heaps of questions, imparted expert insight, and facilitated access to some of the University’s most treasured artifacts. Adriana exudes joy in preserving history and educating others about the past. I would not have completed this gargantuan endeavor without her assistance. Any errors are my own.

This process has been both engrossing and educational. It is my sincere hope that Purdue Alumnus readers find the end result as rewarding as I do. —KAT BRAZ (LA’01)

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150 Objects

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

1889 Walking Stick

Handcrafted by the class of 1889, the walking stick was accompanied by documentation that read, “Inscribed hereon are the names of the graduates, as well as the words and music to the class song. Class song was composed by the music and words by one John McCutcheon. ‘For the child was a genius, a ferrent (sic) worshiped at the shrine of music.’ —A.M. Fifth Reader.” McCutcheon’s (S’89, HDR LA’26) lyrics read:

O, the flower of the college is the class of eighty-nine.

Purdue has not another class that is one half so fine.

So fill up your beakers with nectar pure as wine

and drink ’ere to the health of the class of eighty-nine.

1889 Walking Stick is on display in the Spurgeon Hall of Spirit at Dauch Alumni Center.

CATEGORIES: Famous FiguresPublic Sites
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

1893 Plat Map

By 1893, campus was growing. It no longer appeared as buildings stuck in the middle of a cornfield but had landscape and topography emulating the ambiance of more mature universities. This plat map of buildings and grounds was created in 1893 by C.B. Peterson (CE’1891), an instructor in mechanical drawing in the Department of Practical Mechanics and Drawing. Almost all students were required to take mechanical drawing courses as part of the University’s mission to provide education in technology, science, and agriculture. This plat map might have been used as a demonstration for students in Peterson’s mechanical drawing laboratory class or by university planners for further development of the campus environs.

CATEGORIES: Oddities
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

1910 Cups

It was a tradition for some Purdue graduating classes to produce drinking cups, mugs, or glasses. The class of 1910 distinguished itself by the production of a series of tin cups for its 15-, 25-, 30-, 40-, 45-, and 50-year reunions. The cups displayed symbols and images of presumed importance and understanding to members of the class of 1910, including the Tank Scrap tank with the class of 1910 numbers on it. Unlike previous cups, the 50th anniversary cup had four names written in script in the bottom. Research revealed that the names were saloon owners and establishments in 1910 Lafayette that the class of most likely frequented.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

1940 Commencement Program

Early commencement ceremonies were held in Military Hall or outdoors on the Oval under a circus tent. In 1903, the ceremony was moved to the newly completed Eliza Fowler Hall. In the early 1930s, commencement exercises were relocated to the Memorial Gymnasium, now known as Haas Hall, to accommodate growing class sizes. Limited space for guest seating soon necessitated another move to the Armory until the Hall of Music was dedicated in 1940; it’s been held there ever since. This leather-bound program with gold-foil embellishment is from the University’s 66th commencement exercises — the first in the Hall of Music — held June 9, 1940.

Commencement exercises are held in Elliott Hall of Music.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeHistoric Events
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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

1999 Women’s Basketball Championship Trophy

While the final score — 62–45 — looks comfortable, Purdue’s victory over Duke in the 1999 NCAA women’s basketball championship was far from a sure thing. During the first half of the game, co-captain and tournament Most Outstanding Player Ukari Figgs struggled to score. Duke led by five at the half. Then, four minutes to the buzzer, co-captain Stephanie White was injured and had to leave the game. Now up by five, the team rallied under Figgs’s leadership, scoring the next 13 points and taking home the championship.

See the championship trophy in Mackey Arena’s Ring of Honor.

CATEGORIES: AthleticsHistoric EventsPublic SitesWomen
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

’67 Rose Bowl Goal Post Shard

Purdue bested University of Southern California 14–13 in its first Rose Bowl appearance on January 2, 1967, but it was not an easy victory. The game was a defensive struggle. With two minutes left to play, USC scored a touchdown, bringing the Trojans within one point of the Boilermakers. USC’s attempt at a two-point conversion was intercepted by George Catavolos (HHS’67, MS HHS’69) to secure the win for Purdue. Fans stormed the field and toppled the goal posts. This shard was donated by Pat Barry.

Relive the 1967 Rose Bowl Victory.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Agriculture Vault

In the early 20th century, all business transactions for the agricultural school were conducted in Agricultural Hall (now Pfendler Hall), built in 1901. The door-sized vault stored cash in the days when the University operated a dairy selling butter, milk, and cream in addition to holding agriculture student records before such files were centralized and digitized.

See the old agriculture vault in Pfendler Hall.

CATEGORIES: OdditiesPublic Sites
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

‘AK-AK’ Rat Rock

During Avanelle Kirksey’s (HDR HHS’97) years at Purdue, her young nephew and nieces were fascinated by the white rats used in her groundbreaking research on vitamin B6 from the 1970s to 1990s in what was then the Department of Foods and Nutrition in the School of Consumer and Family Sciences. Kirksey was a Meredith Distinguished Professor. “I always suspected that their delight in visiting their Aunt Nell sprang more from their desire to visit the rat lab than to visit me,” Kirksey said. “Their preoccupation with the rats, however, had some unexpected fringe benefits for me — a prized rat collection.” Kirksey’s nephew and nieces gave her rats for birthday and Christmas gifts. Her rat collection included rodents made from Tiffany silver, Boehm porcelain, and Steuben crystal. She owned a Mickey Mouse telephone. In the lab, Kirksey had a rock painted with likeness of a rat named Ak-Ak. The name was a play on Kirksey’s initials and the sound one might make if a rat were underfoot. Rats were a theme for Kirksey’s lab Christmas tree. Before students and staff left campus for holiday break, each was invited to choose a rat ornament as a memento. The “Ak-Ak” rat rock is preserved with Kirksey’s papers in the Purdue Archives.

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Purdue Archives

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra

Impressed by her dynamism, President Edward Elliott (HDR E’47) invited Amelia Earhart to join the faculty in 1935 as a counselor to women students and aviation advisor, much to the vexation of Dean A.A. Potter who disavowed her because she lacked a degree. When Earhart attempted her daring around-the-world flight two years later, the Purdue Research Foundation helped secure more than $40,000 for her Lockheed Electra — including money for repairs after an initial attempt failed in the Hawaiian islands.

Visit the Amelia Earhart Statue in front of Earhart Hall.

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Purdue University

Apollo 1 Capsule

A replica of the Apollo 1 capsule, on loan from the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas, hangs in the atrium of Armstrong Hall of Engineering. On January 27, 1967, tragedy struck the Apollo program when a flash fire occurred in command module 012 during a launchpad test of the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle being prepared for the first piloted flight, the AS-204 mission. Two of the three astronauts killed in the training exercise were Purdue graduates — Virgil “Gus” Grissom (ME’50) and Roger Chaffee (AAE’57).

Gaze up at the Apollo 1 capsule in the atrium of Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering.

CATEGORIES: Historic EventsPublic SitesSpace/Flight
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Purdue Archives

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Apollo 11 Flight Suit

This Apollo 11 flight suit worn by Neil Armstrong (AAE’55, HDR E’70) is part of the Neil A. Armstrong papers, donated to the Purdue Archives over a number of years by Armstrong and his wife, Carol. The blue cloth training suit was common to Apollo and shuttle-era astronauts.

Follow in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong in front of Armstrong Hall of Engineering.

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CATEGORIES: Famous FiguresFrom the ArchivesHistoric EventsSpace/Flight
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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Armstrong’s Slide Rule

Does this look familiar? If so, you might’ve attended Purdue before calculators made slide rules obsolete in the 1970s. James Alleman, professor of civil engineering, spent nearly 20 years collecting slide rules that had belonged to famous alumni, including six Purdue astronauts: Neil Armstrong (AAE’55, HDR E’70), Roy Bridges (MS AAE’66, HDR AAE’01), Eugene Cernan (ECE’56, HDR E’70), Richard Covey (MS AAE’69), Guy Gardner (MS AAE’70), and Jerry Ross (ME’70, MS ME’72, HDR’00).

Purdue Archives presents “Apollo in the Archives: Selections from the Neil A. Armstrong papers” through August 16, 2019.

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CATEGORIES: AcademicsFamous FiguresFrom the ArchivesSpace/Flight
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Chris Bucher

Ash Cart

Selected artifacts salvaged from the 1924 power plant are now on display in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center, opened in 2017. An old ash cart used to haul cinders from the boilers and soot from the iconic smokestack pay tribute to the site’s history.

See the ash cart and other relics from the power plant at Wilmeth Active Learning Center.

CATEGORIES: Public Sites
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Auto Club Plate

Everyone who had a hot car in the 1950s wanted to be part of an auto club. Clubs would design and manufacture their own distinctive plates and prominently display them on the car to announce their affiliation. The Purdue Auto Club was organized in 1951 to provide a place for club members to work on their cars and to promote “an awareness of safety on streets and roads.” Unlike some auto clubs that had a reputation as a bunch of hooligan hot-rodders who held illegal drag races, the Purdue Auto Club held an annual auto show to showcase members’ vehicles in the Armory, sports car rallies, and “carefully supervised” drag races on rural roads. The Purdue Auto Club provided the support that launched the initial running of what would become the Purdue Grand Prix. The Greatest Spectacle in College Racing can be traced back to men and women of the Purdue Auto Club who proudly displayed these kinds of plates on their automobiles.

CATEGORIES: Student OrganizationsTraditions
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Purdue University

BGR Beacon

Each August, Purdue welcomes incoming freshmen for Boiler Gold Rush. With a record-setting 8,357 freshmen in 2018, student leaders have their work cut out for them making sure that new students don’t get lost. BGR leaders craft personalized beacons reflecting everything from pop culture to campus landmarks to carry throughout the week to help participants stay with their group.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeStudent Organizations
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Big Bertha

Brought out for the annual Homecoming game, Big Bertha is an enormous sousaphone that weighs in at well over 50 pounds. Because it’s so cumbersome, it’s at the player’s discretion whether to stand for each song. Leading up to Homecoming, each senior in the tuba section is given a chance to march with Big Bertha during one rehearsal. The largest member of the section has the honor of marching with her for the game. Big Bertha’s been around since the 1940s and is stored in a steamer trunk dubbed the coffin.

Watch the “All-American” Marching Band practice on Hull Field.

CATEGORIES: Student OrganizationsTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Binnie Bell

A bell on the 14th fairway of Ackerman-Allen Golf Course memorializes Carl A. Binnie, professor of audiology. Mounted on a brick pedestal at a blind spot in the fairway, the 18-inch Binnie Bell is rung by golfers when it’s clear for the players behind them to play. A plaque describes Binnie as “teacher, scholar, gentleman, and lover of golf.”

Ring the Binnie Bell on Ackerman-Allen Golf Course.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

The Boilermaker

This painting by Derek Fordjour hangs in the Black Cultural Center and pays tribute to Purdue’s black students, faculty, and staff — in particular in relation to the campus protest of 1968. The painting depicts a boilermaker and his hammer, but in lieu of tools, he carries a brick in his tool belt, representing the protest. The mortar on the brick represents Purdue and its decision to build up the University and make it more inclusive. The boilermaker’s hand is reaching out to symbolize the efforts of the University’s black alumni, faculty, and staff who are committed to encouraging students to attend Purdue.

See the Boilermaker painting at the Black Cultural Center.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifePublic SitesStudent Organizations
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Brick Mold

Constructed of metal with a wood tray, bricklayer Phillip Miller manufactured this brick mold under the instructions of John Purdue. The mold was used as a template to shape bricks used in the first two buildings on campus — Purdue Hall, a dormitory for men, and the Science Building, later known as the Pharmacy Building.

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CATEGORIES: From the ArchivesOddities
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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Broken Oar

The Purdue Crew student athletic club was established in 1949. Many students who participate in crew have never rowed before joining. This 43 inches of broken oar is displayed in the Levee Boathouse alongside a bevy of trophies. Larry Long (LA’64) recalls an early season practice on March 5, 1983 — “The Wabash at about 20 feet over flood stage, about a mile across including corn fields.” Long encountered resistance with his stroke when the oar snapped. Much to his dismay, a very large pig popped up behind the coxswain. Long’s CliffNotes version: “300 lb. pig loses battle with #4 oar on heavyweight 8 at 20-foot flood stage.”

The broken oar is stored in the Levee Boathouse.

CATEGORIES: AthleticsStudent Organizations
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Michael Dick

Campus Model

A fixture in the Great Hall of the Purdue Memorial Union since 1957, the campus model has become a meeting place for students, a starting point for tours, and a favorite stop for alumni visiting campus. The cost of upkeep on the elaborate diorama put a pause on updates for about a decade, and in 2015, the University considered replacing it with an interactive digital display. The alumni uproar was undeniable. The icon has since been updated and reinstated in the Great Hall.

Gaze upon the campus model in the Great Hall of Purdue Memorial Union.

CATEGORIES: Public SitesTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Cary Knight

No one can pinpoint the exact origins of the Cary Knight mascot, but he’s been hanging around the halls of the Quad for decades. Tales abound of how the three-foot-tall knight was a favorite target for kidnappers from other dorms. As part of the renovation and expansion of the Cary Knight Spot Grill in 2006, the Cary Knight earned a permanent place, enclosed and protected in a glass case.

Grab a bite next to the knight at the Cary Knight Spot Grill.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifePublic SitesTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Cary Risk Table

Dave Vrbanich (MS M’73) constructed the Cary Risk table while he lived at the Quad as a counselor. He built the table in his room, tracing a world map on carbon paper and then transferring the outline to the tabletop before painting the continents. The table was refinished by students in 2004 and continues to reside in the fourth-floor lounge of Cary Southwest.

Request a tour of Cary Quad at the University Residences Alumni and Guest Center.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeOddities
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Cary Senior Table

The Cary Knight Spot Grill, located in the lower level of Cary Southeast, features a collection of a dozen or so wood tables immortalizing the graduating classes of Cary Quad men. Dozens more are in storage. The tables are rotated out periodically. Each tabletop includes etchings and art from that year’s senior class, an honor reserved for students who spent all of their undergraduate years living at Cary Quadrangle.

Eat your dinner at a Cary Senior Table in the Cary Knight Spot Grill.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifePublic Sites
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Charm Bracelet

Students have always found ways to wear readily visible symbols of their campus affiliations or status. For women in the 1950s and early ’60s, the charm bracelet made a personal statement about the wearer’s interests and social standing. Generally, the more charms on the bracelet, the more connected the individual and the stronger the indication that she was active with campus clubs and organizations.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeFrom the ArchivesTraditionsWomen
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Class Ring

Howard Eastburn Smith of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, graduated from Purdue in 1906 with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. His 1906 class ring is embellished with College of Science and Purdue University insignias.

Order Your Official Class Ring.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Columbian Medallion

The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition — also known as the Chicago World’s Fair — celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. Virginia Claypool Meredith, who would later become the first woman on the Purdue Board of Trustees and a frequent speaker at the University’s outreaches to farmers, served on the World’s Fair Board of Lady Managers. Writer George Ade (S’1887, HDR LA’26) and illustrator John T. McCutcheon (S’89, HDR LA’26), who met while students at Purdue and were Sigma Chi fraternity brothers, worked as writer-artist team for the Chicago Record, filing a daily story titled “All Roads Led to the World’s Fair.” The exposition’s awe-inspiring cultural and industrial displays had a profound effect on architecture, the arts, and American industry at a time when the United States was moving into a period of industrial expansion and innovation. Souvenir medallions were customized for participants or contributors to the exposition. It is fitting that Purdue, with its emphasis on advancement in technology, science, and agriculture, would be linked to this monumental event.

CATEGORIES: Historic Events
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Comfort Pillow

Purdue played an important role in World War II, not only with the men and women who enlisted but also for the critical training that took place on campus, including naval support services. This silk sweetheart pillow was meant to be sent from a sailor or soldier to a loved one as a comfort for the time spent apart. The design of this pillow clearly shows the connection between the University and the United States Navy, and the presence of the pillow is a reminder of how tough life was for families and friends when a loved one went off to fight, perhaps never to return.

CATEGORIES: Historic Events
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Convocation Songs Pamphlet

Early classes attended mandatory chapel each morning. Students gathered in the chapel on the third floor of University Hall until Eliza Fowler Hall opened in 1903. Convocations were also held regularly, bringing the entire student body together. This pamphlet, circa 1915, contains songs both sacred and secular. The signatures on the cover charts its ownership from Oran Mansfield (A’1919) to Lucian Hitchcock (CERT A’1917) to his son Vernon Hitchcock (A’40).

CATEGORIES: Campus Life
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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Copper Horn

This horn was blown at the Purdue vs. University of Chicago football game held November 19, 1892, at Stuart Field, now the site of Elliott Hall of Music. The Boilermakers were undefeated that year and won the game 38–0. It was the first meeting of the now defunct Chicago–Purdue football rivalry. Purdue played its final game against the Chicago Maroons in 1936. Chicago won the series with a record of 28–13–1.

The copper horn is on display in the Rudolph Room at Dauch Alumni Center.

CATEGORIES: Athletics
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Andrew Jessop (MS ME’09, PhD ME’13)

Cupola

In 1919, after the end of the Great War, a new barn was opened to house horses used to tend the field west of Purdue’s campus. The Purdue Agriculturalist reported, “University authorities are confident that the horse will not be eliminated from the farm by [the] tractor.” By the 1950s, however, modern needs presented themselves, and the Herrick Laboratories — run by Mechanical Engineering — were opened to study heating, cooling, and refrigeration. Although horses have long been absent, the cupola from the original barn has been included in the building’s design in tribute to the site’s heritage.

See the cupola perched atop Herrick Laboratories.

CATEGORIES: AcademicsPublic Sites
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Deac’s Matchbook

Horace Reisner (CE’1903) operated Deac’s, a student book and supply store located at 325 State Street in part of the building now occupied by Von’s. Deac’s was the major campus bookstore of the early to mid-20th century. This matchbook was discovered during the renovations of Pappy’s Sweet Shop in 2004. Reisner was the class yell leader in his senior year. He later established the H.G. Reisner Cup, awarded to the winner of an all-campus literary competition.

Deac’s was located in the Stinespring- Murdock Building, which now houses Von’s.

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Jack Klink (LA'15)

Deans’ Bible

When Carolyn Shoemaker (S’1888, MS S’1889), the first part-time dean of women, passed away unexpectedly in 1933, she left a Holy Bible in her desk. Her successor, Dorothy Stratton (HDR E’58), discovered the tome in a drawer and kept it there. When Helen Schleman was named the next dean of women, Stratton pulled the Bible from the drawer, signed her name, and added her favorite Bible passage and date in the front. The Bible was similarly passed to three more successive deans — Beverley Stone (HDR LA’86), Barbara Cook (PhD EDU’67, HDR LA’96), and Betty Nelson — before it was donated to Purdue Archives 100 years after Shoemaker’s appointment as the first dean of women.

Read more about the Deans’ Bible.

CATEGORIES: From the ArchivesWomen
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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

The Debris

Purdue’s official yearbook, the Debris, was first issued in 1889 and featured early works by John T. McCutcheon (S’89, HDR LA’26), who became known as the Dean of American Cartoonists. His political cartoons earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1932. McCutcheon named the yearbook Debris on the erroneous belief that “debris” was French for “a collection of works.” The final edition was published in 2008.

Thumb through copies of the Debris yearbook in Morse Library at the Dauch Alumni Center.

Explore digital copies of the Debris yearbook in the e-Archives.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifePublic Sites
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Dignified Step

President Martin Jischke presided over his first commencement ceremony in 2000. His wife, Patty Fowler Jischke, watched from the audience, dismayed by the laughter that resulted when the graduate school dean accidentally knocked a doctoral recipient’s tam askew during the ceremonial hooding. It seemed incongruent to Mrs. Jischke that one of the most significant moments of a student’s collegiate experience would be interrupted by snickering. A carpeted stand used with lecterns at Westwood was brought in for a few ceremonies before master carpenter Skip Eads built a custom art deco-accented platform inspired by the architecture in Elliott Hall. Dubbed the dignified step by commencement staff, it enables faculty to hood degree recipients without affecting their headwear.

CATEGORIES: AcademicsOddities
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Dining Hall Tray

Few things showcase student creativity and ingenuity more than Slayter Hill after a big snowfall. Students careen down the slope on all manner of objects — couches, mattresses, and cardboard covered with trash bags. But the old standby was always cafeteria trays swiped from campus dining halls. Today’s students must fend for themselves; the dining halls went trayless in 2010 to reduce waste and improve sustainability.

Sled down Slayter Hill.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Diversity Tree

Located outside the Class of 1950 Lecture Hall, the Diversity Tree celebrates the National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council and is often painted with the letters of those member organizations. Its inspiration comes from gathering spaces called plots found on historically black college and university campuses, where student organizations assemble and promote their events. Plots differ by size and shape from campus to campus and may be designated by bricks, benches, painted trees, marble stones, or memorial gardens.

See the Diversity Tree outside Class of 1950 Lecture Hall.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifePublic SitesStudent OrganizationsTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Drew Brees’s Football

On October 18, 2018, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (M’01) became the most prolific passer in NFL history. His record-breaking pass completed a 62-yard touchdown to Tre’Quan Smith. The 39-year-old signal caller was honored with a brief break in play and a standing ovation from players and fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Brees ended the game with 72,103 career passing yards. The record-breaking ball is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He sent ball 4/51 from that game to Orlando Itin, owner of Bruno’s Pizza in West Lafayette. Itin has amassed a collection of thousands of items related to Purdue Athletics, many of which are on display at the restaurant in Big O’s Sports Room, but calls this ball his most prized possession.

See this historic pigskin and lots more Purdue Athletic memorabilia in Big O’s Sports Room at Bruno’s.

CATEGORIES: AthleticsFamous FiguresHistoric EventsPublic Sites
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John Terhune/Journal and Courier

Duane Purvis Burger

At one time, more than 100 Triple XXX Thirst Stations were spread across the United States and Canada. The West Lafayette diner, opened in 1929, is the only official Triple XXX remaining. On the menu: the Duane Purvis All American, a steakburger served with peanut butter and cheese. Peanut butter on a burger? It sounds strange until you try it, washed down with a frosty mug of root beer. Purvis (HHS’35), a halfback and fullback who earned All-American honors in 1933 and 1934, frequented the Triple XXX and was apparently a fan of peanut butter.

Sink your teeth into a Duane Purvis Burger at Triple XXX.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeFamous FiguresPublic SitesTraditions
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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Earhart’s Leather Helmet

Worn by Amelia Earhart on her 1932 solo Atlantic flight, this leather helmet is part of the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Earhart Papers at the Purdue Archives. Purdue is home to the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of Earhart-related papers, memorabilia, and artifacts.

Visit the Amelia Earhart Statue in front of Earhart Hall.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Edward Harper’s Drawing Tools

Any engineering student of the 19th century would own a set of drawing tools for mechanical drafting. This set belonged to Edward R. Harper of Goshen, Indiana, a member of the class of 1892. As a student, he was literary editor for the Exponent, art editor for the Debris, and president of the Irving Literary Society. The first student organization on campus, the society was devoted to the intellectual pursuit of literature and debate. Harper died of tuberculosis 16 days before graduation.

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Purdue University

Embraer Phenom

In a single day, professional flight technology majors fly this twin-engine jet from campus to St. Louis, on to Dallas, and all the way back to West Lafayette! Student pilots log about 40 minutes in a simulator before flying the jet. The Phenom is also used to support university administration and their travel needs. Faculty, coaches, and other campus leaders use the plane to attend conferences or meetings, tour a company, or occasionally bring a guest to campus. Students who have completed the Phenom courses may fly as first officers alongside professional captains on these flights. Students have logged nearly 3,700 hours and 5,800 landings in the Phenom, cruising along in their classroom at 41,000 feet and 440 mph.

Watch the planes take off at the Purdue University Airport.

CATEGORIES: Academics
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

‘Exponent’ Train Wreck Memorial Issue

On October 31, 1903, a misplaced message from a telegraph operator resulted in one of Purdue’s greatest tragedies. A train carrying the football team to a matchup against Indiana University collided with a coal train. Seventeen people died in the accident, including 11 players. The November 11, 1903, edition of the Exponent described how local alumni began fundraising for a memorial gymnasium in honor of the dead. “Every heart is bowed in sorrow and yet no life that witnessed the disaster will remain the same as before and we cannot but believe that all must be truer and better in consequence of the memory of those whose lives were sacrificed.” Now known as Felix Haas Hall, the building has 11 steps, a landing, and six more steps representing those who perished.

The railroad tracks have been removed from the site of the 1903 train wreck.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

First Beer After Prohibition

Andrew Kolar (ME’35) was believed to be the first person legally served a bottle of beer in Lafayette following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. He saved the label and later donated it to Purdue Archives. Kolar ordered the beer at Hook’s Drug Store in Lafayette. The law required that beer be served with food. Hook’s, like many drugstores at the time, kept an inventory of sandwiches at the ready. Once the beer was consumed, the uneaten sandwich would be removed and served again and again throughout the day.

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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Flyer Kiosk

Campus life brims with activity. Just ask the wooden kiosks that have been blanketed with flyers for decades. After the various club and organization events conclude, the leaflets are removed, but the staples remain.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Foundry Class Book End

As a land-grant institution, Purdue was charged with creating a practical education in science, technology, and agriculture — as shown on the University seal on this bookend, circa 1910. The foundry-related skill of pouring liquid metal into molds was considered to be one of the fundamental, pragmatic skills required of graduates well equipped to enter the late 19th-century and early 20th-century workforce. Early students created bookends, paperweights, and other cast-iron objects. A project of this quality and complexity would have been the work of an upperclassman.

A foundry class book end is on display in the Rudolph Room at Dauch Alumni Center.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Four-Leaf Clover

Virginia Claypool Meredith spotted this four-leaf clover on June 13, 1922, just before the groundbreaking ceremonies of the Purdue Memorial Union; she served as chairwoman of the event. She was the first woman appointed to the board of trustees. A nationally known woman farmer, Meredith was dubbed Queen of American Agriculture and firmly believed that farming is a vocation suited for women, stating, “A cow makes as many — or more — pounds of butter when owned by a woman, as when owned by a man.”

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Fowler Courts Mailbox

Generations of Boilermakers accessed mailboxes like this while they lived in the residence halls. When Fowler Courts was demolished in 1993, its mailboxes were saved and repurposed into collectible coin banks.

The site where Fowler Courts once stood is now occupied by First Street Towers.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Game Bibs

A relatively recent addition to the collegian wardrobe, game-day bib overalls made their splash on campus when the Reamers began wearing them en masse during athletic events. Their popularity continues to increase, with more and more students donning striped bibs every home football game. Although the bibs are manufactured in a variety of school color combinations, the attire seems especially appropriate for an engineering school with a train mascot, hearkening back to the conductor overalls of yesteryear.

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

George Ade’s Table

This round oak table housed in Wood Hall reportedly came from Hazeldon, the home of George Ade (S’1887, HDR LA’26). Ade, at one time one of the most famous writers in the country, often focused on current events in his sharp, satirical humor.

George Ade’s table is housed in Wood Residence Hall.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Gimlet Sweater

For decades, the Gimlet Leadership Honorary was synonymous with Boilermaker spirit and athletic pride, including the group’s most visible role as caretaker of the Victory Bell on the sidelines at home football games for nearly 90 years. When the organization was founded in 1922 as an honorary for fraternity men, the Gimlets would attend football practices and serve the team hot meals afterward. During the 1930s, the Gimlets helped raise money for varsity athletic teams the University couldn’t afford to fund. The Gimlet sweater became a classic look for members, often worn on Fridays and at athletic events.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Glee Club Jazz Band Photo

In the 1920s, when the United States was experiencing the Jazz Age, the Purdue Varsity Glee Club developed its own Jazz Band. The 1922 Debris describes the Jazz Band as a novelty, but the prominence of the Jazz Band and the separate Saxophone Sextette at Glee Club performances showed the University’s connection to one of the iconic components of the Roaring ’20s culture.

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Glee Club Pete Mug

The symbol originated as a joke in 1954, when the Glee Club performed for the Rotary Club of North Manchester, Indiana. One of the men of the Rotary Club by the name of Slim Warren made a few modifications to the traditional Purdue Pete logo. Warren fashioned a four-foot replica of Pete wearing a top hat and tuxedo similar to the Glee Club uniform and positioned him at the side of the stage. Director Al Stewart (-S’31) and the Glee Club liked the modified version so much that they adopted Glee Club Pete as their official mascot.

See more Purdue Varsity Glee Club memorabilia at Bailey Hall.

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Courtesy of Purdue Physical Facilities

Goddess of War

Dedicated in 1904, Eliza Fowler Hall was a 1,300-seat auditorium that hosted many events, including commencement ceremonies and the first of Al Stewart’s legendary Christmas shows. The building was demolished in the 1950s to make way for Memorial Center. When it was torn down, a sizable sculpture of the goddess of war that appeared over the building’s entryway was discarded just north of campus in Happy Hollow Park, where it laid until it was discovered by the West Lafayette School Corporation and eventually returned to the University. To honor Eliza Fowler, the first woman to make a gift to the University and the largest gift since John Purdue, and to honor her wish that her donation be used for an auditorium, a 388-seat Fowler Hall was included in what became Stewart Center.

Eliza Fowler Hall was located on the site now occupied by Stewart Center.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Gold and Black Cross

The Purdue Memorial Union was built as a permanent memorial to the 4,080 Boilermakers who served in World War I. Construction was largely funded through student and alumni donations. The gold and black cross on the floor of the Great Hall honors the 67 Purdue men who gave their lives for their country in the Great War. It has since been extended to honor all Purdue faithful who lost their lives in service to the United States of America.

Pay tribute to Purdue’s servicemen and women in the Great Hall of Purdue Memorial Union.

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Gold Pepper

At the encouragement of the Gimlet Club, the men’s athletic booster group, the Purdue Mortar Board organized a junior and senior women’s athletic booster club called the Gold Peppers in 1925. The women wore gold felt beanies on their heads. They attended football and basketball games, where they sold candy and led the crowds in cheers. In the early years, a newly elected pledge wore a black pot, one gold and one black sock, and a black and gold armband. She carried a cigar box filled with candy and, dangling from a ribbon, a real green pepper gilded in gold leaf. The pledge carried the pepper for days, and often it would rot.

The gold pepper is on display in the Rudolph Room at Dauch Alumni Center.

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Purdue Archives

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Grand Prix Helmet

William Smith (T’66) of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity used this helmet when he competed in the Grand Prix in 1966. Smith built his kart, which won a best engineering award for its front-wheel-drive design.

Attend the Greatest Spectacle in College Racing.

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Purdue University

Grateful Dead Poster

The Grateful Dead made its Indiana debut on April 18, 1969, with a boycott benefit show in the Purdue Memorial Union ballrooms. Students had begun boycotting the Purdue Memorial Union services on April 14, in response to an announced fee increase. Peace Union, the organization sponsoring the already scheduled concert, announced that proceeds would fund food and legal aid for protesting students camped out on the Memorial Mall. The power cut out during the middle of the first song “Hard to Handle.” When electricity was restored about 40 minutes later, the band returned to the stage and took it from the top. Keyboard player and vocalist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan — pictured on the poster — died three years later at age 27.

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Green Beanie

Freshman caps were a common sight on many American college campuses into the early 1970s. The Purdue tradition began with the class of 1911. The story goes that this particular class, when it arrived in 1907, was distinctive enough that upperclassmen feared the newcomers would be mistaken for juniors or seniors. The “green” fledglings were forced to wear green beanies signifying their freshman status. Earlier versions of the caps had different colors of buttons to identify the wearer’s program of study. This later version is adorned with “CC” for Cary Club.

This green beanie is on display in the Rudolph Room at Dauch Alumni Center.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Griffin Hatpin

This hatpin, dating from 1895, features the University’s third seal and the first to use a winged griffin, slanted shield, and uncial lettering — elements used in each successive redesign. According to the Purdue Crest by Michael Horoho (LA’93), the design was created by Abby Phelps Lytle, then head of the art department. The aesthetically pleasing design was difficult to reproduce clearly and was retired after 15 years.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Hail Purdue Sheet Music

The University’s official fight song dates to 1912. James Morrison wrote the lyrics to a piece he originally dubbed “Purdue War Song.” Morrison wrote to alumnus Edward Wotawa, who had directed the Men’s Glee Club before graduating earlier that year, and asked him to set it to music.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Harlequin Doll

From the collection of Claudia (Williams) Mournout (HHS’70, MS HHS’71), professor emerita of speech, language, and hearing sciences. Likely made in the 1950s, the doll was given to Mournout by a relative when she was admitted to Purdue as an undergraduate in 1966. Mournout doesn’t know much about the doll’s history but says she enjoyed having it by her side during her Purdue journey.

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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Heavilon Bells

The four bells in the Bell Tower date to 1895, when they were installed in the newly rebuilt Heavilon Hall tower. The original building was destroyed in a terrible fire just four days after its dedication in 1894. President James Smart declared that Heavilon would be rebuilt “one brick higher.” The tower’s clock and four bells were new features in the gleaming engineering structure, which was actually nine bricks higher. Cast in Troy, New York, the bells weigh 1,200, 600, 300, and 200 pounds. They were a gift from the Ladies’ Matinee Musicale in Lafayette, according to inscriptions on the bells. After the second Heavilon was razed in 1956 to make way for a third, the bells were put in storage until the Bell Tower was constructed in 1995. The tower, which stands 160 feet tall and is made of red brick trimmed with limestone, is a modern architectural interpretation of the old Heavilon Hall tower.

Hear the Bell Tower chime.

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Purdue University

Heavilon Clock

After 55 years in storage, the clock that once adorned the second Heavilon Hall, then home to Purdue engineering, was restored and installed in the atrium of the Mechanical Engineering Building’s Gatewood Wing in 2011. The clock is displayed in full working condition with its original nine-foot pendulum.

Learn about the restoration of the clock

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Ice Cream Mold

The Purdue Creamery, housed in Smith Hall from 1910 to 1969, served up ice cream cones and frozen treats in all manner of shapes formed with pewter molds. This custom Purdue Pete ice cream mold was used for special functions at the president’s home. The hole in the center allows the ice cream to be easily removed from the mold.

Taste original recipe Purdue Creamery ice cream at Pappy’s Sweet Shop.

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April Holajter (LA'01)

Ice Polisher

Affectionately dubbed ice polishers by students, utility vehicles equipped with snow brooms are a common sight in winter months. Crews take to the sidewalks between midnight and 4:00 a.m. to begin clearing snow before students trudge to 7:30 a.m. classes across campus.

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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

John Purdue’s Death Mask

John Purdue died of an apparent stroke on September 12, 1876, the first day of classes of the University’s third academic year. University trustees paid local dentist Anderson M. Moore $25 to cast a death mask of Purdue from plaster to be referenced in the creation of a statue, stating, “a handsome monument will ere long mark Mr. Purdue’s grave on the university grounds.” The mask was stored in a First National Bank vault. A statue of Purdue was not erected on campus until 2013.

Sit beside John Purdue’s statue on the Memorial Mall

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

John Purdue’s Summer Trousers

One of the wealthiest businessmen in the state, John Purdue typically wore a black bow tie and white shirt paired with a black vest, suit coat, and pants, though during the summer he would “occasionally” sport white linen trousers purchased in New York City. The waist of the pants is 42 inches and the inseam 30 inches. These trousers, part of the permanent collection at the Tippecanoe County Historical Association, were referenced during the creation of a life-size statue of Purdue to estimate a more accurate depiction of his body size.

Sit beside John Purdue’s statue on the Memorial Mall.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

John Purdue’s Top Hat

John Purdue was born into poverty on October 31, 1802, in a 360-square-foot log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, where he lived with his parents and nine sisters, one of whom died in infancy. No one could have predicted what lay ahead for him. That one day he would become one of the most successful businessmen in the state of Indiana, sporting this gray felt hat he bought in New York. That he would use his wealth to establish Indiana’s land-grant university. That the name Purdue would be one of eminence, forever synonymous with innovation and progress. For John Purdue, education was the flame that lit the world.

John Purdue’s top hat is part of the permanent collection at the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

Sit beside John Purdue’s statue on the Memorial Mall.

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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

John Purdue’s Watch

John Purdue carried this gold pocket watch, which has his initials engraved on the back. It was purchased at an auction on December 30, 1876 — three months after Purdue’s death — by Fred H. Proper. It was later purchased in an Indiana pawn shop by Harry C. Guthrie and donated to the University by Lillian Dalman in 1995. Although few photos exist of John Purdue, most of them show him wearing a pocket watch.

Sit beside John Purdue’s statue on the Memorial Mall

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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

John Wooden’s Jersey

Considered by many to be the greatest NCAA basketball coach of all time, John Robert Wooden (HHS’32, HDR HHS’75) achieved phenomenal success as head coach of UCLA, leading the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships. The Wizard of Westwood grew up playing a rudimentary version of basketball with his three brothers using a homemade basketball and a tomato basket as a hoop in a barn. After leading Martinsville High School to the Indiana State championship in 1927, Wooden studied English at Purdue, where he played guard and was named the national collegiate basketball player of the year in 1932. That award now bears his name. Somehow, college friend Frank Neff (T’30, MS T’37) ended up with a jersey Wooden wore his senior year — lucky 13. It remained stored in a box in the closet and passed down to Neff’s grandson, who put it up for auction in 2018. The 1930s jersey is believed to be the only one of its kind in existence. Its once white wool fabric has yellowed slightly with age, but authentication of the rare artifact caused quite a stir. It was purchased by Drew Brees (M’01) for $264,000 and loaned in permanence to Purdue Athletics, where it’s on display in Mackey Arena on the concourse’s Ring of Honor.

See John Wooden’s jersey at Mackey Arena’s Ring of Honor.

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

La Fayette Cup

According to the 1895 Debris yearbook, “Foot-ball is the favorite sport at Purdue. So successful have the elevens been that the game has drawn forth the ardor and enthusiasm of the student body. By holding the State championship for three successive seasons, the celebrated La Fayette Cup becomes a trophy for Purdue, of which she may always be proud.” The sterling cup was a traveling prize for the football champion among Indiana colleges in the early 1890s. It was permanently awarded to Purdue in 1894 after the Boilermakers won the crown three consecutive years. Under Coach D.M. Balliett, the 1894 squad outscored opponents by a collective score of 177 to 42.

The La Fayette Cup is on display in Spurgeon Hall of Spirit at Dauch Alumni Center.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Laundry Mailer Box

Tom Wilhite (CE’50) arrived in West Lafayette in July 1945 from Ferguson, Missouri, on the Wabash Railroad, carrying all his worldly goods in this brown fiber laundry mailer box. Every two weeks, he carried the box — filled with soiled laundry — one block down Andrew Place from the Kappa Sigma house to the post office in the center of the Village. Back home, his mother washed the clothes in an old-fashioned wringer machine with two separate tubs for rinsing, then hung the wet clothes in the basement to dry overnight. After ironing in the morning, she repacked the box, adding a letter and cookies or cake and hand carried the full box to the post office on her way to work — more than a mile from home. Wilhite continued this biweekly ritual his entire undergraduate career. His mother purchased a modern washer and dryer after his graduation in 1950.

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Letter Sweater

Student-athletes who met specified levels of participation or performance were awarded a varsity letter chenille patch to be displayed on their letter sweater. The stripes designate the number of letters earned. This letter sweater belonged to Joe Rudolph (LA’48), longtime director of the Purdue Alumni Association. Rudolph was a senior football manager as a student; thus, his patch bears the MGR insignia.

Joe Rudolph’s letter sweater is on display in Spurgeon Hall of Spirit at Dauch Alumni Center.

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Jacob Cole

LGBTQ Center Quilt

This patchwork of quilt blocks displayed in the LGBTQ Center was created by students, staff, faculty, and community members in 2016. Individuals sewed nine-inch square panels that were later quilted together. Panels impart messages of love and support, famous quotes, and LGBTQ+ symbols. Quilt circles are a historic tradition that speaks to sharing a legacy, maintaining community, telling stories, encoding messages, and, of course, knowing and understanding one’s family. For LGBTQ+ communities, coming together with friends and allies on campus to create this community quilt is a powerful reminder of history and an inspiring message of empowerment for future generations.

See the quilt in person at the LGBTQ Center in Schleman Hall.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Li’l Big Drum

In 2009, the Purdue Alumni Band joined the “All-American” Marching Band in the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade and race day performance. Alumni who were part of the Big Bass Drum crew introduced a little cousin to the “World’s Largest Drum” — the Li’l Big Drum, a modified concert bass drum. It makes an appearance every other year when the alumni band appears in the halftime show at Homecoming.

Watch the Alumni Band perform

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Skip Eads

Light Box

More than 245 productions were staged in the Experimental Theater in the basement of Stewart Center, where light boxes still point the way to the defunct performance space. Thousands of acting and technical theater students honed their craft on plays ranging from the theater’s inaugural performance, Northern Lights, in 1958 to its final curtain call, Marisol, in 2005.

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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Lincoln’s Nose

Along with the busts of university presidents in Purdue Memorial Union, there’s also a bust of Abraham Lincoln, honored for his role in helping create Purdue University by signing the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. The bust was a gift from the class of 1904 on the occasion of its 25-year anniversary. It’s long been tradition for students to rub his now well-worn nose before exams for luck.

Rub Lincoln’s Nose in the West Great Hall in Purdue Memorial Union.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Little Reamer

Students who want to join the Reamer Club must carry around a Little Reamer during the pledge process. Hefty metal cutting tools designed to enlarge the size of a previously formed hole such as this became known as Little Reamers. Today’s pledges still carry around a Little Reamer, albeit a considerably lighter wood version. The formation of the Reamer Club dates back to the 1920s. Created as the nonGreek counterpart to the Gimlets, the founders claimed that Reamers would “smooth out the holes the Gimlets made.”

Watch a Tuesday Tour with Reamer students

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Mackey Tickets

Senior guard Dennis Gamauf (A’73) wasn’t known for being a high scorer, but he had perhaps his best offensive game of his collegiate career on February 10, 1973. Gamauf scored 22 points on 9 of 13 from the field to lead the Boilermakers past fourth-ranked Indiana University 72–69. The victory marked the eighth time in a row the Boilermakers defeated the Hoosiers in Mackey Arena.

Visit Mackey Arena.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Mandolin Club Photo

Although Purdue is not considered a music school, its students and musical organizations have always had a strong tradition of performing popular music. During the 1880s and 1890s, being able to play the mandolin or Spanish guitar was a strong indicator of one’s sophistication, and being a member of the Mandolin or Guitar Club raised one’s status as a “sophisticated gentleman” on campus.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Med School Pennant

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, medical education in Indiana was largely delivered by private medical colleges or surgeons colleges. In 1903, the struggling Medical College of Indiana approached Indiana University about forming a college under IU’s control. Negotiations between IU and the Medical College failed and were abandoned a year later. In 1905, the Medical College approached Purdue, and in September of that year, the board of trustees accepted the offer, forming the Indiana Medical College, School of Medicine of Purdue University. In May 1906, 122 students received their medical degrees from Purdue University. In the spring of 1907, 68 men and four women graduated, including Areth C. Arnett (MD’1907), who would found the Arnett Clinic in Lafayette. Indiana University began to formally petition the Indiana State Legislature to become the sole state-supported medical college, setting off a ferocious political debate at the Indiana Statehouse. It became so rancorous that President Winthrop E. Stone closed the School of Medicine of Purdue University in 1909, transferring the entity, and the responsibility for Indiana’s state-supported medical school, to Indiana University.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Milk Can

George Byers (A’52) ran a dairy business that delivered fresh milk from his Tippecanoe County farm and other farms in surrounding counties to the Purdue Creamery and dining facilities on campus. The Byersland Farm remains in the family. Of the many milk cans left by Byers, this is the only one stamped Purdue Memorial Union.

The Purdue Creamery was located in Smith Hall from 1913 to 1969.

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Purdue Archives

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Miniature Mannequins

In the 1930s, students enrolled in Applied Design, a costume design and illustration course in the School of Home Economics, created miniature mannequins that they dressed in fashions they designed. The 18-inch dolls were made of heavy cardboard with wigs made from human hair, spun glass angel hair, or gold kitchen cleanser brushes. Faces were painted on with expressions to match the costumes — sweet, coy, blasé, or sophisticated. An Indianapolis Star story from May 1938 featured a photo of three women with their miniature mannequins. The caption described the dolls as having “real hair, paper eyelashes, and a saucy expression.”

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Vincent Walter

Moon Rock

Martha Chaffee (-S’59), widow of astronaut Roger Chaffee (AAE’57), donated a two-gram lunar sample through NASA’s Ambassadors of Exploration program. The program allows each astronaut or his survivor — from the Gemini, Apollo, and Mercury programs — the right to donate to the educational institution of his or her choice a piece of the 842 pounds of moon rocks and soil collected during six lunar missions.

The moon rock is on display in Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Nail from Ladies Hall

Ladies Hall was built around 1871 and was one of three original buildings on campus. Its design — modeled after a building on the Amherst College campus in Massachusetts — was ornate and quite different from any building on Purdue’s campus then or today. Originally known as Boarding Hall, it housed faculty and their families. When women were admitted to Purdue in 1875, the building became the women’s dormitory, and its name was changed to Ladies Hall. It was razed in 1927; today, Stone Hall stands on its location.

Ladies Hall was located near the present-day site of Stone Hall.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Nameplates

Students who live in the residence halls their entire undergraduate career have a nameplate as a permanent fixture on their room’s door. In Cary Quad, where renovations removed some older rooms throughout the years, the nameplates are preserved on plaques in student lounges.

Request a tour of Cary Quad at the University Residences Alumni and Guest Center.

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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Old Oaken Bucket

Purdue’s first football matchup against in-state rival Indiana University was in 1891 when the Boilermakers trounced the Hoosiers 60–0. The concept of a traveling trophy was introduced by the Chicago chapters of the respective institutions’ alumni associations in 1925. An old oaken bucket was decided upon as the most typical Indiana form of trophy. When it’s shuttled between schools, the bucket is protected by this custom case — although it doesn’t do a whole lot of traveling. Purdue leads the series 74–41–6.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Old Pump

The antique pump that sits southeast of Stone Hall commemorates a tradition of friendship and romance — and recalls a custom of youthful pranks — stretching back to the University’s earliest days. The Old Pump actually predates Purdue itself. It is estimated that the well connected to the original pump was dug in the 1860s for a local farm family. The pump sat outside the now-demolished Ladies Hall. Students used the pretense of fetching water from the Old Pump to have a planned meeting with a sweetheart. The pump was also central to the pranks of the Dorm Devils, an early 19th-century group of male students who lived in Purdue Hall. One of the pranksters’ favorite tricks involved hiding in the bushes, grabbing unsuspecting passersby and dousing them under the Old Pump. On one occasion, students accidentally drenched President James Smart. Remarkably, no one was punished, although the students were certain Smart knew their identities. After several construction projects, the pump was nearly lost but was saved thanks to the efforts of students and faculty.

Visit the Old Pump.

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

‘Our Vanishing Wild Life’

Thomas Hoekstra (A’64, PhD A’72) recently donated a diverse collection of wildlife texts from his professional library to the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. One of the volumes, Our Vanishing Wild Life by William Hornaday, is a rare 1913 first edition considered to be a culturally important work in natural resources. The collection is housed in an area called Durward’s Den, named for Durward Allen (HDR A’85), professor emeritus, who was a mentor to Hoekstra.

Thumb through wildlife texts in Durward’s Den on the first floor of the Forestry Building.

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Courtesy of David Wesley

Phoenix Sundial

The sculptural sundial created by David Wesley (AAE’72) while he was an undergraduate was installed on the Memorial Mall in 1972. Wesley enrolled in independent art classes and began working on a model for a sundial in the shape of a bird’s wing. An art professor saw the model and encouraged Wesley to pursue creation of the sundial. He connected Paul Lykoudis (MS ME’54, PhD ME’56), director of the Aerospace Sciences Laboratory, who spearheaded its manufacturing in the wind tunnel shop. The project was funded by the College of Astronautical and Aeronautical Engineering. Sadly, the sweeping wing has been missing for decades, and the sundial no longer functions, although Wesley says he hopes to see it restored.

See the Phoenix Sundial on the Memorial Mall.

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Pink Mitten

In 1982, Ruth Krauch, an information clerk at the Purdue Memorial Union, was giving a holiday tour to a school group when one of them spotted a pink mitten hanging from a high branch in the Christmas tree. Krauch was inspired to write a story about the origins of the mitten, which she read to visiting children until her retirement. Today, the mitten is still hung in the same spot it was first discovered.

Visit the Christmas tree in the Great Hall of Purdue Memorial Union.

CATEGORIES: Public SitesTraditionsWomen
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

PMU Fireplace

For generations, the Purdue Memorial Union has been the University’s living room — a place to relax, gather, and socialize outside of the classroom. And nowhere else besides the fireplace feels quite as much like a home away from home. When the building first opened, Room 118 was the Men’s Lounge, a space designed for reading, writing, and quiet conversation. Restored in 2011, the fireplace in Room 118 remains a popular destination for students, particularly during the cold winter months.

Warm yourself in front of the Purdue Memorial Union fireplace in Room 118.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifePublic Sites
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

PMU Sugar Bowl

Well into the 1990s, it was standard protocol at the Purdue Memorial Union that a silverplate service be used during every reception where coffee was served. It was used almost every week and was polished regularly.

Relax with a cup of coffee in the Purdue Memorial Union.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

PMU Window

At its dedication ceremonies, architect Irving Pond declared the Purdue Memorial Union an expression of “poise and physical and spiritual strength and firmness shot through and modified by spiritual aspiration.” This ideal is exemplified through the building’s signature windows, with upswept arches that symbolize the youth and spirit of the Union and multicolored stained glass that represents the mixing of students of all races and creeds within its walls.

Gaze out the window at the Purdue Memorial Union.

CATEGORIES: Historic EventsPublic Sites
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Prescription

Oliver Perkins Terry (S’1903) obtained his medical degree from the University of St. Louis and in 1912 joined the Purdue faculty as an instructor in biology. His appointment as the University’s first physician occurred in 1918 at the time of the deadly influenza pandemic, commonly referred to as the Spanish Flu. Terry organized the first Student Health Service in 1924, the precursor to the Purdue University Student Hospital (PUSH). In the late 1950s, Gable Courts, located where Discovery Park is today, were renamed to OP Terry Courts in his honor.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeOddities
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

President’s Office Scrapbook

This scrapbook from the 1890s contains all manner of correspondence sent to the president’s office pertaining to student life, such as notes about students’ grades or pass/fail status, changes to course of study, and letters of recommendation. Pasted within is this request from John S. Reid: “To the Faculty; Please allow me to change from the electrical course to the agricultural course for special reasons.” There is no record of Reid graduating.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Printing Block

For decades, John T. McCutcheon’s (S’1889, HDR LA’26) 1907 Injun Summer cartoon appeared every autumn on the front page of the Chicago Tribune accompanied by a folksy poem. This wood block was used to print the popular drawing, which was syndicated around the country. Its era ended on October 25, 1992, when it appeared for the last time. Douglas Kneeland, the Tribune’s public editor at the time, said, “‘Injun Summer’ is out of joint with its times. It is literally a museum piece, a relic of another age. The farther we get from 1907, the less meaning it has for the current generation.”

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Punch Cards

David A. Studebaker (ME’65) was one of the first students of computer science at Purdue, taking a noncredit Fortran II class in late 1962, around the time the Department of Computer Science was established. It was the first of its kind in the country. Studebaker saved these punch cards from his time as a student worker in the Purdue Computing Center from 1963 to 1965. This particular set prints out an image of Alfred E. Neuman, mascot for Mad Magazine.

The Department of Computer Science is now housed in Lawson.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Purdue Arena Program

The first game ever played in Purdue Arena saw the Boilermakers take on John Wooden (HHS’32, HDR HHS’75) and his top-ranked UCLA team in a classic contest. The Boilermakers came up just short, 73–71, in front of a standing-room-only crowd of more than 14,400 in the debut of the legendary Rick “The Rocket” Mount (-LA’70). The circular concrete and steel structure with a domed roof was hailed as “the first of its kind among collegiate sports facilities.”

Visit Mackey Arena.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Purdue Circus Program

The first Purdue Circus was held on Stuart Field in May 1913. Forty organizations made floats and marched through the streets of Lafayette before the evening performance; about 300 students performed. Because the circus was a big success, it was continued on a larger scale in 1914. The circus continued with success in 1915 and 1916, but the entry of the United States into World War I stopped the circus until 1921, when it made a brief reappearance before discontinuation in 1923.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeHistoric EventsTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Purdue Circus Trophy

This cup was presented to the Dames Club for best float at the Purdue Circus in 1922. The tradition of university dames clubs began at Harvard in 1896. The club was devoted to creating a sense of community among the wives of students as well as a source of social and intellectual development and philanthropic endeavors. The women could elect to participate in special-interest groups organized through the Dames, such as bridge, sports, and child development. The Purdue Dames were well-known for their annual fashion show and craft bazaar. Dean Carolyn Shoemaker (S’1888, MS S’1889) was a founding member and sponsor of the Dames from their inception in 1918. Shoemaker remained a strong supporter of and advocate for University Dames until her death in 1933.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeTraditions
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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

‘Purdue Exponent’ First Edition

The original student newspaper of the 1870s, the Purdue, had a short life but was revived in the fall of 1882, a combined effort of the Irving, Philalethean, and Carlyle literary societies. The content involved short literary, scientific, and engineering pieces; poems; and campus news. The publication continued until the spring of 1888, when tensions between the faculty and student staff led to its demise. The Purdue Exponent followed in December 1889 as a monthly publication with A. Eugenia Vater (S’81), editor-in-chief. The issue included an entry on soup that opened, “Soup is generally considered as a great luxury. There is nothing so appropriate with which to begin a meal. Mrs. Ewing, formerly instructor in Domestic Economy, said that it would be well if every meal was begun with soup, as it takes off the sharp edge of the appetite.”

This first edition of the Purdue Exponent is on display in Spurgeon Hall of Spirit at Dauch Alumni Center.

CATEGORIES: From the ArchivesHistoric EventsPublic SitesStudent Organizations
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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Purdue Pete Head

Purdue Pete’s look has changed a lot since the school’s first human mascot, Larry Burmbaugh (ME’57), ran onto the field during a pep rally on September 28, 1956. This bulky fiberglass rendition with the jaunty square cap, described as more harness than head, existed in some form from 1963 to 1980. Former Petes claim the cumbersome getup, designed more for image than comfort, limited movement and weighed anywhere from 47 to 65 pounds.

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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Purdue Pete’s Hammer

Purdue Pete’s hammer, reminiscent of the type of large mallets used to mold steel, is meant to represent the strength, power, and determination required to be a Boilermaker.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Purdue Recipe File

Amy Irene Bloye came to Purdue as a home economics instructor in 1918 and was later made head of the Department of Foods and Nutrition, today the Department of Nutrition Science, holding that position until 1953. Bloye established the first dietetics program in Indiana at Purdue in 1923. Bloye also created the famous Purdue Recipe File, an oak box with a hinged lid and intricate joinery that housed the collection of 400 recipes used by students in the School of Home Economics. The recipes were printed on four-by-six-inch cards and divided among 24 subjects from breads to vegetables. The file was copyrighted by Bloye in 1927 and revised in 1936. The Purdue Recipe File could be purchased at Southworth’s Bookstore in West Lafayette.

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Purdue Archives

Quonset Hut

Intended to be temporary structures for classes after the post-World War II boom in attendance, Quonset huts became a familiar sight for generations of Purdue students. The Exponent poked fun at the tiny structures as far back as 1946:

“In each petite hut the classrooms two,

Resemble the monkey house at the Columbian Park Zoo…

Classes in the Quonset huts are open to all,

Provided you are not over five feet tall.”

Although the last true Quonset hut — a sort of small-scale airplane hangar with arching roof — on central campus was demolished in 1969, the term was adopted to describe all similar stopgap buildings dating from that time. The last cluster of temporary barracks from the era remained on campus until 2004 when four structures — then housing art, design, and theater classes — were razed to make way for the Armstrong Hall of Engineering at Stadium and Northwestern Avenues.

The last of the WWII temporary buildings were demolished in 2004.

CATEGORIES: AcademicsFrom the Archives
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

R.B. Stewart’s Briefcase

When R.B. Stewart arrived on campus as controller in 1925, enrollment was 3,000 students; the physical plant was worth $3 million; and the endowment totaled $340,000. Upon his retirement as vice president and treasurer in 1961, enrollment had grown to 22,000; the physical plant was valued at $160 million; and yields from the $25 million endowment were producing funds for research, scholarships, and grants. One of the University’s most influential administrators, Stewart had a domineering and formidable personality. A colleague once said, “He was an interesting person to work for, but it was much better if your ideas and his coincided.”

Stewart Center is named for R.B. Stewart.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Railroad Spike

Students from 1894 to 1980 were all familiar with the locomotive and its coal car that trudged from south campus by Smith Hall and crossed State Street by the Home Economics Building (Matthews Hall) on its way to the power plant. This vital lifeline kept the boilers that supported campus buildings functioning every day — in rain, snow, or wind. There is likely no student who attended Purdue during that time who wasn’t temporarily halted walking to class or blocked driving along State Street by the locomotive and its coal car. With the shifting of the University’s power source to the south campus facilities, the central power plant was shut down, and the need for the coal, coal car, and railroad track ended. This spike commemorates the decades of service — and occasional inconvenience — these tracks represented.

Rush Crossing pays homage to the railroad tracks that once cut through campus.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeFrom the Archives
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

The Rat Stuff

Astronauts Gregory Harbaugh (AAE’78) and John Casper (MS AAE’67) were among the crew members testing how mechanical toys reacted to the weightlessness of space during a shuttle experiment on STS-54. A mechanical mouse showed unearthly energy in orbit, flipping over rapidly and often in the virtual absence of gravity. The astronauts nicknamed it the Rat Stuff, which led to mass production of a pop-over mouse marketed as the first mechanical toy in space.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Reagan Robot

A huge crowd greeted President Ronald Reagan when he landed at the Purdue Airport on April 9, 1987. Administrators escorted the president on a tour of science and technology facilities on campus, specifically the recently completed Knoy Hall. After manipulating a robot control panel, Reagan was asked how it felt to push the button. “I wonder if I could replace Congress,” the president quipped. Reagan addressed a large and enthusiastic crowd at Mackey Arena, where Purdue Bands welcomed him with a rendition of “Hail to the Chief,” and he was presented with a Purdue robot in honor of his visit.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Reamer Paddle

Mirroring the Greek system, new Reamers are given paddles with their names and majors engraved. Paddles have long been associated with pledge initiations, symbolizing loyalty, dedication, and lifelong membership in the organization.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeStudent OrganizationsTraditions
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THGPhotography

Reamer Pot

For many years, the Reamer Club appointed a designated buttons chairperson who designed and created new buttons almost weekly. The designs were usually themed around an upcoming game, and the bigger the rivalry, the more creative the button’s design. Although the Reamer Club no longer sells buttons as a fundraising tool, club members still sport black-billed pots decked out with buttons accumulated during their time at Purdue.

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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Records of Discipline Book

Every incident of truancy or intoxication that was reported to the University Faculty Senate between 1902 and 1911 is cataloged in this weighty tome.

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Purdue Archives

Ride Board

Before chat rooms, before cell phones, before Reddit, there was the ride board. A service of the Purdue Student Union Board, the ride board hung in the lower level of the Purdue Memorial Union and served as an easy means of connecting students traveling in the same direction. Riders found an inexpensive means of transportation, and drivers received some money to help cover gas. Although the physical ride board was dismantled in the mid-2000s, it lives on virtually in social media, where students still connect for rides.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeFrom the Archives
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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Roger Chaffee’s Flight Log

When Roger Chaffee (AAE’57) was a student in the 1950s, the future astronaut recorded each hour of flight training in a logbook that was graded by his instructors. Chaffee, selected for astronaut training in 1963, was killed in an Apollo training accident with Gus Grissom (ME’50) and Ed White in 1967.

Roger Chafee’s flight log is on display in Spurgeon Hall of Spirit at Dauch Alumni Center.

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Michael Dick

Sample Thief

This device, called a sample thief, was used to take samples of pharmaceutical powders from the bottom of large drums. The three-foot-long thief consists of two concentric brass cylinders, each with openings on the sides. To take a sample, the thief was first inserted into the drum of powder. The inner cylinder was then rotated using the knob at the top, aligning the openings and allowing the powder to flow inside. The knob was twisted again to close the openings and extract the sample. This thief belonged to Garnet Peck (MS P’59, PhD P’62), who retired as professor emeritus and director. The thief is displayed in a protective case outside the industrial pharmacy laboratory where Peck taught for 36 years.

CATEGORIES: AcademicsOddities
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Senior Cords

The senior cord tradition at Purdue dates back to 1904, when two seniors spotted corduroy in a Lafayette shop and decided to have trousers made from the fabric. The fashion statement caught on, and soon the senior class decided that cords should be a senior privilege. Their popularity grew as students began personalizing their cords to reflect Greek or organization affiliations. The tradition is believed to have lasted until at least the early 1970s. Senior cords saw a resurgence on campus around 2000, when several student groups, most notably Mortar Board and Reamers, sported decorated cords to home football games once again.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Sidewalk Closed Sign

Campus folklore states that John Purdue included a number of edicts in his will, among them the fact that some part of campus must be under construction at all times. Problem is, Purdue didn’t have a will. Nevertheless, whether by car or by foot, detours have become a part of daily life on campus and around town. From a new small-format Target and high-rise apartments on Chauncey Hill to redirected roads to make way for new academic buildings, campus is changing fast. Don’t blink!

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Skull & Crescent Paddle

Steve Epner (S’71, MS T’07) was inducted into Skull & Crescent sophomore honorary society in 1968. As part of his pledge period, he had to visit the local butcher shop to retrieve a bone and then clean, bleach, and decorate it. He carried the bone around campus asking sorority members to sign. Each signature was then coated in clear nail polish so it would not rub off.

Steve Epner’s Skull & Crescent paddle is on display in the Rudolph Room at Dauch Alumni Center.

CATEGORIES: OdditiesStudent OrganizationsTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Smart Window

The stained-glass window in the southwest entrance of the Purdue Memorial Union is dedicated to the memory of James H. Smart, the University’s fourth president. The four panels depict Mother Earth, Sister Water, Brother Fire, and Brother Wind. The 12 figures at the bottom represent Purdue’s fields of study. Inscribed along the top panels are the words: “Our poor spirit is so weak that it is only through the use of materials that it can rise to the truth.”

See the Smart Window in the west staircase of Purdue Memorial Union.

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Mark Simons

Smokestack

The 1924 power plant with its 250-foot-high smokestack was a technological marvel at the time it was built. The building — which later acquired the name Heating and Power Plant-North — was the sole generator of heat and power on campus. The looming tower was a visible marker on a campus closely surrounded by farm fields in all directions. After the power plant was decommissioned in the 1980s, the smokestack took on the nostalgic role of a historic landmark. The smokestack was disassembled in 1992, but the power plant sat mostly unused for another 25 years. This image was taken just before the power plant was demolished in 2014.

See this image of the smokestack and other historic images from the power plant in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Smoking Fence

The smoking fence got its name from 19th-century students skirting a rule that forbade smoking on campus. An iron-rail fence encircled much of the main campus, keeping cattle from nearby pastures from roaming the grounds. Students would congregate along the fence for a smoke, leaning over the fence to be technically off campus.

Lean over the smoking fence.

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Dave Mason

Sousa Trophy

The John Philip Sousa Foundation began awarding the Sudler Trophy in 1982 to the college or university marching band that has demonstrated the highest of musical standards and innovative marching routines. The “All-American” Marching Band was awarded the Sudler Trophy in 1995, 55 years after Purdue’s band was first recognized by Sousa. This three-foot silver trophy was presented to the Purdue Military Band by Mr. Stars and Stripes Forever himself in 1927. The military band was linked with the ROTC program until the mid-1960s. Freshmen and sophomore men with musical talents could meet their ROTC requirement by participating in the band instead of regular ROTC training.

Watch the “All-American” Marching Band perform

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Patrick Whalen (LA'88)

The Spirit of the Land Grant College

Nothing on campus celebrates Purdue’s founding quite like Eugene Francis Savage’s The Spirit of the Land Grant College, a massive mural above the entryway to the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education Library. On the left side sits President Lincoln, signing the Morrill Land Grant Act, giving birth to Purdue and land-grant universities across the entire country. The goal of the bill was to make higher education more accessible to people across the United States, not just coastal elites. Today, Purdue carries on the spirit of this bill by making education accessible to working adults through Purdue Global and the ongoing tuition freeze, helping more students afford and attend university.

Learn the meaning of the Spirit of the Land Grant College mural.

CATEGORIES: Historic EventsPublic Sites
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Squirrel

Despite (or maybe because of) the aptly named Squirrel Park in Purdue Village, at times it seems as though the entire campus is the domain of the lively rodents. Fascination with the creature spawned a PurdueSquirrels Twitter account, and in 2013, an Exponent headline proclaimed, “Purdue is a campus obsessed with squirrels.”

Visit Squirrel Park

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Student Notebook

Edward C. Martin (ME’1908) used this pad to jot down notes from his heating and ventilating course in fall 1907. Upon graduation, Martin became an instructor at the Ohio Mechanics Institute, now known as the University of Cincinnati College of Applied Science.

Martin’s notebook is on display in the Rudolph Room at Dauch Alumni Center.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Stuffed Peacock

PSUB (Purdue Student Union Board) debuted its first madrigal dinner in 1979. The comedic Renaissance-themed dinner theater featured a feast of several courses, each heralded with a traditional song. Roving costumed actors entertained guests throughout the evening. This peacock, stuffed by Larry’s Taxidermy in Wingate, Indiana, served as a prop for a dinner in the late ’80s. The events were phased out by the mid-’90s.

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Purdue University

Supercomputers

When it was installed in 1967, Purdue’s first supercomputer, the CDC 6500, was considered one of the world’s most powerful computers. Although revolutionary for the time and despite the impressive name, the CDC 6500 could barely power a smartphone today. Since 2008, ITaP has built a supercomputing system annually, including three built during 24-hour “install day” events. Traditionally, the supercomputers are named after computing pioneers in the University’s history. Rice, installed in one day in 2015, is named for John R. Rice, one of the earliest faculty members in Purdue’s first-in-the-nation computer science program.

The University’s supercomputers are housed in the mathematical sciences building.

CATEGORIES: AcademicsHistoric Events
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Sweet Shop Coke Cup

When the Purdue Memorial Union opened in 1924, its dining facilities consisted of a cafeteria with a soda fountain and banquet service, all operating as one unit. The first true Sweet Shop appeared in its own separate space in 1927 and was expanded to its present size in 1957. Many Sweet Shop Coke dates developed into romances under the happy guidance of Frank “Pappy” Fox, manager of the Sweet Shop from 1927 to 1959. Pappy claimed that in 1938, the Sweet Shop was the largest independent dispenser of Coca-Cola in the United States. This vintage cup was discovered during the shop’s most recent renovation in 2004.

Sip a Coke at Pappy’s Sweet Shop in Purdue Memorial Union.

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CATEGORIES: Campus LifeFrom the ArchivesPublic SitesTraditions
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Dave Mason

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Tank Scrap Chain and Padlock

In one of the University’s most raucous and violent rituals, the early freshmen and sophomore classes battled one another for the right to paint their class years on the water tank located on the southern edge of Grand View Cemetery on North Salisbury Street. The brawls averaged 30 minutes and attracted crowds of up to 15,000, with enterprising locals even setting up refreshment stands. The scuffles could be quite brutal, resulting in multiple injuries each year. Whichever class won the scrap would use chains and padlocks to shackle the losing participants and parade them through downtown Lafayette to the courthouse. The fights were discontinued in 1913 after sophomore Francis Walter Obenchain died from a broken neck.

The water tower still stands along the southern edge of Grandview Cemetery.

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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

Tau Beta Pi Bent

Tau Beta Pi, the second-oldest national engineering honor society in the United States, is the only honor society that represents the entire engineering profession. Purdue’s chapter, founded in 1893, is the third-oldest in the country. The association’s symbol, the Bent, is a watch key in the shape of the bent of a trestle — the load-bearing part of a bridge. Watch keys were common among railroad workers who were dependent upon their pocket watches to ensure trains ran on schedule. Chapter members are tasked with polishing the 18-inch Bent monument, located near the Electrical Engineering Building, and electees are given their own five-inch rough-cast brass Bent to polish prior to initiation. The process takes eight to 10 hours using sandpaper and Brasso.

Go see the Bent.

CATEGORIES: AcademicsPublic SitesStudent OrganizationsTraditions
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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Tech Phone

Elliott Hall of Music seats 6,005 people. It’s one of the largest proscenium theaters in the country. The ceiling soars 57 feet above the auditorium, and it’s a climb up 100 steps to get there from the stage floor. Theater technicians adjusting lighting instruments in the ceiling used this phone to call down and communicate with the technical director, office, and other Hall of Music staff.

CATEGORIES: Oddities
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Tribute to David Ross Book

In 1938, the Purdue Alumni Association commissioned a book to honor David Ross (ME’1893), one of the University’s most influential benefactors. The book was a convergence of Purdue legends. It was designed by acclaimed book designer and typographer Bruce Rogers (S’1890, HDR LA’32) and included a frontispiece by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist John McCutcheon (S’1889, HDR LA’26). Rogers and McCutcheon worked together on the Debris yearbook as students. In the illustration, Ross is depicted seated at a desk with portraits of John Purdue, Edward Elliott (HDR E’47), and Amelia Earhart in the background.

David Ross is buried at the top of Slayter Hill.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Trustee Table

The table from the original trustee room in Hovde Hall is now located in the Wabash Dining Room in the Sagamore Restaurant on the second floor of the Purdue Memorial Union. The table is available for reservation for small dining parties. Evidence of the table’s former life can be found in the drawers that line its edge, complete with inkwell holders.

Dine in the Wabash Dining Room in Sagamore Restaurant at the Purdue Memorial Union.

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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Tyler Trent Game Piece

Few things have united Purdue University like #TylerStrong. From being named honorary captain of the football team in 2017 to gaining a national platform after predicting Purdue’s stunning upset of Ohio State University 49–20, Tyler Trent (AS T’18) exhibited strength, resilience, and humility in a way that touched not only West Lafayette but also the nation. Trent died of osteosarcoma on January 1, 2019, at age 20. Thousands attended his funeral in Carmel, Indiana, where wooden game pieces were distributed with a note: “Let this wooden game piece remind you of Tyler, whose love of board games reflects his determination and unwavering hope.” Trent used the moniker T2, even using it as the signature on his driver’s license, because he shared initials with his father, Tony Trent.

Support the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment

CATEGORIES: Famous FiguresHistoric Events
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Underground Newspaper

During the 1950s and ’60s, Purdue didn’t have a reputation for a culture of student satire or protest more typically found in Ivy League or West Coast colleges and universities. However, campus publications like the Exponent and Rivet quite often poked fun at the sedate West Lafayette campus and university administration in a way that rivaled the more widely known Harvard Lampoon. The Exponent had its own parody as the Purdue Exposer. This 1969 issue of Bauls, an underground newspaper that emerged for a short period in the late 1960s, depicts President Fred Hovde (HDR E’75) rolling over the heads of other university leaders.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeOddities
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Union Club Hotel Key Tag

The first wing of the Union Club Hotel opened in 1929 with 60 rooms. Additional phases were constructed through 1953. Room keys were attached to these brass key tags. The hotel will close in June for a $35 million renovation funded primarily by former trustee Bruce White (M’75), chairman and CEO of White Lodging.

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LifeTouch

University Mace

The mace has an ancient history as a symbol of authority. In the Middle Ages, maces were weapons — giant clubs with spiked iron heads capable of breaking armor. Over time, maces assumed more ceremonial functions, losing their warlike appearance. As a symbol of order and authority, the grand marshal (chair of the University Senate) carries the mace while leading the president and other dignitaries during the commencement procession. The mace was designed and crafted in the 1980s by David Peterson, then a professor of art and design who taught jewelry and metalsmithing.

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Purdue Archives

Victory Bell

The Victory Bell is nearly as old as the University itself. Dating back to the 1870s, the bell was originally used to signal class periods from its perch on top of the power plant called the Boiler and Gas House. When that structure was torn down in 1903, the bell remained on campus, housed in the locomotive lab. The tradition of ringing what became known as the Victory Bell began in 1904 after Purdue routed Indiana University 27-0. Students paraded the bell across the river to downtown Lafayette. President Winthrop E. Stone eventually grew tired of retrieving the bell from the steps of the Lafayette courthouse and had it buried in a gravel pit where Hovde Hall now stands. It’s a testament to Purdue students’ resourcefulness and determination that it only took three weeks to unearth. The Victory Bell is still wheeled to Ross-Ade Stadium and rung after football victories.

CATEGORIES: AthleticsPublic Sites
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Victory Bell Gravy Boat

At one time, each residence hall had a custom china set used for special occasions. One set was purchased by John Purdue in New York City as a gift for a friend’s wedding. The family later donated the set to the University.

CATEGORIES: Campus LifeFamous Figures
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Paul Sadler

W Flag

It was lifelong Chicago Cubs fan Dale Samuels (HHS’63) who suggested Purdue take a page from the Wrigley Field playbook and begin hoisting a W flag after home wins. A member of the Cradle of Quarterbacks, Samuels recalls the first time the W flag was raised over Ross-Ade Stadium after the Boilermakers pummeled nationally ranked California 41–14 in the home opener in 1992. The W flag has flown over Ross-Ade next to the American flag and Purdue flag after every home victory since.

The W flag flies above Ross-Ade Stadium after every home football victory.

CATEGORIES: AthleticsPublic SitesTraditions
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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

The Wall at Harry’s

Harry Marack (-A’23) opened Harry’s Chocolate Shop as a soda fountain in 1919 on the corner of State and Pierce Streets, where it stands today. Harry’s started serving beer in the 1930s and remained in the Marack family until it was sold to current owners Herschel and Mary Cook in 1977. The bar’s slogan, Go Ugly Early, is reported to be a play on the antonyms for “come pretty late.” Although it’s rumored that Harry’s was a speakeasy during prohibition, that claim has never been substantiated. No doubt the iconic campus bar has seen questionable activities over the past century. Its walls, covered with patrons’ colorful scrawls, serve as part registry and part diary. If only those walls could talk.

Go Ugly Early at Harry’s Chocolate Shop

CATEGORIES: Campus LifePublic SitesTraditions
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Warm-Up Suit

On September 12, 1936, tragedy struck Purdue’s football team when a locker room explosion took the lives of two players: veteran guard Carl Dahlbeck, 25, and halfback Tommy McGannon, 20. The blast and subsequent fire started when a thin layer of gasoline accumulating on top of rising water in the shower room reached a small heating stove, thanks to a clogged shower drain. At that time, it was common practice for players to use gasoline to dissolve the adhesive left behind by athletic tape on their bodies. Lowell Decker (S’38) and several others suffered severe burns when they fell in the fiery water during the scramble to escape. Somehow, the injured managed to jump into the Ross Camp pool adjacent to the shower facility. This astoundingly mustard warm-up suit belonged to Decker, who recovered from his injuries and returned to the lineup the following season.

It is part of the permanent collection of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

CATEGORIES: AthleticsHistoric EventsOddities
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Warner Poem

Clyde Warner wrote a poem for his son, Cecil F. Warner (ME’39, PhD ME’45), on letterhead of the lumber company where the elder Warner worked as yard manager and bookkeeper. It includes the stanza: “Lots of days are not sunny; And some are quite bad, But it’s been worth the living; For to be just your dad.” A poignant sentiment from a father who worked 11-hour days, six days a week to support his family and send his son to college. Cecil Warner retired in 1981 after nearly 40 years as a professor of mechanical engineering. He was instrumental in developing the Purdue Jet Propulsion Laboratory and pioneered research in liquid-fueled rocket engines.

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CATEGORIES: Campus LifeFrom the Archives
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Charles Jischke (MBA'08)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Warranty Deed

In bidding for the state of Indiana to build its land-grant university in Tippecanoe County, John Purdue sweetened the deal with a promise of 100 acres of land for the new college, in addition to his financial gift of $150,000. He did not specify it would be his land — it was not — and he did not specify he alone would purchase it. The land was acquired by an unknown group of individuals who had a financial interest in the school being located on the west bank of the Wabash River. With this document, signed August 22, 1876, Purdue, who died without a will, finally deeded that land, which he had personally held for seven years, to the state. Purdue died three weeks later on September 12, and it’s possible he had not yet even given the warranty deed to the university board of trustees. The morning after Purdue’s death, administrators and business leaders scurried to the courthouse to make the deed official. There might have been concern that Purdue’s surviving relatives would claim the land as theirs.

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CATEGORIES: From the ArchivesHistoric Events
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Kat Braz (LA'01)

Watch Fob

Pocket watches were often attached to fobs — straps of leather that made an object easier to handle — and carried in the front fob pocket of a vest or waistcoat. Toward the end of the 19th century, the free end of a leather watch fob was often decorated with a metallic medallion or seal and allowed to hang out of the fob pocket as a display of status or group affiliation. In many formal photographs from the later 1800s through World War I, when wristwatches began to replace pocket watches, the watch fob is prominently displayed in the photo. A Purdue man was not fully dressed unless he had his watch fob displayed to show his level of sophistication and his affiliation with his class year or fraternal organization.

CATEGORIES: Campus Life
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Cameron Allen

Water Tower

For decades, the campus water tower was the scourge of the West Lafayette skyline. At 142 feet tall, the tower was originally painted red and white to comply with FAA regulations. Finally, in 2001, the FAA made an exception, granting the University permission to repaint the water tower with the school’s logo and colors.

See the Purdue Water Tower for yourself.

CATEGORIES: Public Sites
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Michael Fairchild (LA'13)

WBAA Microphone

WBAA, the oldest continuously operating radio station in Indiana, was licensed in 1922. Its first broadcast covered Arbor Day and aired at 9:00 p.m. on April 21, 1922. Then housed in the Electrical Engineering Building, the station moved to studios in the newly opened Hall of Music in 1940.

This microphone is on display in the Spurgeon Hall of Spirit at Dauch Alumni Center.

CATEGORIES: Historic EventsPublic Sites
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Rebecca Wilcox (LA'16)

Courtesy of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries

Women’s Athletic Association Patch

From the collection of Rosemary Anne Murphy (S’29), one of Purdue’s first prominent women athletes. During her undergraduate years, she played soccer, basketball, and baseball and participated in coed track meets, although women had no intercollegiate competition at that time. In 1927, Murphy became the president of the Women’s Athletic Association. She traveled to New York to represent the University at the Athletic Conference of American College Women.

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CATEGORIES: AthleticsFrom the ArchivesStudent OrganizationsWomen
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