We are counting down to the start of the college football season which kicks off in 99 days! Each day until then, we are listing something that makes college football great. Our 99 things will include mascots, stadiums, college towns, traditions, uniforms, rivalries and much more. We are starting with mascots A-Z (yesterday was the Aztecs of San Diego State).
So what’s in a name?
The Badgers and the Buckeyes, the Beavers and the Ducks. The Longhorns and the Jayhawks and the Hokies and the Hurricanes. One of the great things about college football is the wide variety of team names, and the great stories that often are behind the names. Most team names convey images of strength and power, represent something indigenous to the area, or both. But not all do team names started out that way. You may have heard the phrase, “if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” There are team names that started as terms of derision, and for some reason caught on, including one of our favorites.
P is for Pumpkin-Shuckers
Over the years, Purdue teams have been called grangers, pumpkin-shuckers, railsplitters, cornfield sailors, blacksmiths, foundry hands and, finally, boilermakers. The boilermaker nickname stems from the nature of a Purdue education. As a land-grant institution, the college, since its founding in 1869, had schooled the sons and daughters of the working class for occupations that were considered beneath the high-born who attended liberal arts colleges such as Wabash.
In the 1890’s, hometown newspapers were more protective of the home teams than they are today. After a 44-0 Purdue drubbing of Wabash, one Crawfordsville newspaper lashed out, calling the game, “Slaughter of Innocents.” The paper told of the injustice visited upon the “light though plucky” Wabash squad. According to a reporter for the Lafayette Sunday Times, the only recourse they have is to claim that we beat their ‘scientific’ men by brute force. Purdue players are characterized as ‘coal heavers,’ ‘boiler makers’ and ‘stevedores.” For some reason, the middle one stuck and in 1891, the Purdue “eleven,” had a new nickname — Boilermakers. That same fall of 1891, Purdue had acquired a working railroad engine to mount in a newly established locomotive laboratory, and a steam locomotive known as the Boilermaker Special would eventually become the mascot of the Purdue Athletics.