The History of Purdue Pete

Purdue University was founded in 1869, and classes began just a few years later in 1874. In 1887, Old Gold and Black were adopted as Purdue’s official colors, and in 1891, and the name “Boilermakers” was adopted for its athletic teams (after it was accused of recruiting athletes from boiler shops).

Several decades later, Purdue adopted its official mascot. It’s a locomotive – yes, really – mounted on an automobile chassis. This mascot, called the Boilermaker Special, made its debut in 1940. Just a few years later, another mascot became entered into Purdue legend, and soon after, became a fixture at sporting events. This burly boilermaker is called “Pete” and still works the Purdue crowds with his giant head, a helmet, a big hammer, and smooth moves.

Let’s go back in time to see where Purdue Pete got his start and how he’s changed over the years.

Purdue Pete’s Origins

Pete’s humble origins began at the Purdue University bookstore when owners Doc Epple and Red Sammons hired artist Art Evans to create an advertising logo. The character didn’t get a name until four years later when the Purdue yearbook, “Debris,” wanted to use him on the cover. When the editors asked Epple for the character’s name, he blurted out “Pete!” for no reason at all, and the name stuck.

Pete has always been a big guy conveying strength, but his form has certainly taken many different shapes over the ensuing decades. He goes to a number of sporting events as well as other community appearances and is well-loved by students, fans, and alumni (despite not being an “official” mascot). Check out how Purdue Pete has changed over the years.

Paper Mache to Modern-Day Pete

Purdue Pete became a sideline mascot in 1956 with a large, heavy paper mache head. He had a square hat, large eyes, and a friendly smile.

In 1963, the head of Purdue Pete was transformed into something much larger. The eyes were wide-set and the smile, perhaps, was a little less sincere.

In 1980, Purdue fans were introduced to a frowny Pete who looked like he meant business. Instead of paper mache, the head was constructed of fiberglass. Pete had angry-looking eyebrows and a downturned smile. He still sported the square hat.

In 1983, a redesigned Pete hit the sidelines. This Pete no longer featured the square hat – instead, he now bore a construction helmet emblazoned with a capital “P.” His eyebrows were bushy and friendlier than the iteration that came before, and he had a more believable head of hair.

Pete, as he appears today, was designed in 1989. He boasts a chiseled face, more reasonable eyebrows, and a lightweight carbon fiber head created by the aviation technology lab on campus. He sports shoulder pads and still carries a hammer.


Whether you’re a fan of Purdue Pete and his sleek, modern design, or you yearn for the old days when he was nothing more than paper mache on chicken wire, Fanatics has everything you need to deck yourself out in Old Black and Gold for game day.




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