The official mascot of the Boilermakers is a replica of a Victorian-era locomotive. Conceived by a Purdue student in the 1930s to exemplify the engineering and agrarian heritage of the university, the first Special was provided by a group of alumni working in executive positions in the rail and automotive industries. Boilermaker Special I made its debut on the first day of classes in 1940. Then-president Edward Elliott assigned an existing spirit group, the Reamer Club, to maintain and operate the Special.
Alumni, students, faculty and staff have raised funds throughout the years to replace the Special as it has worn out - in 1953, 1960, 1993 and, most recently, in 2011. Boilermaker Special V was unveiled Sept. 25, 1993, and serviced the University and the surrounding community until March 1, 2011, when it underwent an overhaul to replace the engine, transmission and chassis. The Special returned to campus in July of 2011 as Boilermaker Special VII. Lafayette semi-trailer manufacturer Wabash National took the lead in providing materials and labor to update the Special. The "VII" is appropriate because Special IV, known as the Xtra Special, and its current second version, Xtra Special VI, were actually the fourth and sixth faux locomotives produced.
Even though there have been five versions of the Special, elements of VII came from I, including the bell, light and whistle. The superstructure of VII is the same as that of V, albeit with a few modifications to fit the new chassis. Built to be roadworthy in each of its five incarnations, the Special appears at all games in Ross-Ade Stadium, travels to away football games and is a favorite at events ranging from parades to birthday parties. The Special accompanied the Boilermakers to the 2001 Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California) and the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl (Santa Clara, California), although it was shipped - the only times it has not driven to an event.
With its fresh updates, Boilermaker Special VII will serve Purdue as the official mascot of the Boilermakers well into the future.
BOILERMAKER XTRA SPECIAL
Built on a golf cart chassis, the Boilermaker Xtra Special is a smaller version of the Boilermaker Special and makes appearances at many Purdue Athletics events. The Boilermaker Xtra Special VIII was dedicated Oct. 7, 2017.
The Purdue Reamer Club is responsible for the care of the Boilermaker Special and Boilermaker Xtra Special. The Reamer Club was founded in 1923 and is dedicated to fostering the observance of school traditions, supporting all sporting events and aiding in the development of proper school spirit. For more information, click here.
A boilermaker if ever there was one, Purdue Pete first took the field to cheer on the Old Gold and Black in 1956.
Initially, students with tumbling ability were chosen to portray Pete. In those days, Pete had a paper-mâché head and a bit of padding but was expected to tumble along with the cheerleaders.
Today, Pete's head is made out of a carbon fiber material and is crafted in the same aviation technology lab that produced the locomotive body of the Xtra Special. In addition to the head, the students who portray Pete wear shoulder pads and carry a hammer.
Pete got his start in 1940 as an advertising icon for University Bookstore, and he continues in that role. He first appeared outside bookstore ads in 1944, when editors of the "Debris" yearbook put an adapted Pete on each page. For instance, in the home economics section, Pete had a bucket and mop.
Purdue Pete lore is filled with tales of wrestling matches against opposing mascots and muggings by opposing fans. Once, on the way back from Iowa, Pete's head flew out of the back of the Boilermaker Special. It was never found.
Pete has changed with the times, boasting more than five makeovers while rooting on the Boilermakers.
Purdue Pete stays very busy during the year attending many local, state and national level events. To request an appearance, click here.