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What’s a Boilermaker, and What Does It Have to Do With Purdue?

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Eric Francis, Getty Images

Have you even been watching a University of Purdue football or basketball game and found yourself wondering what their nickname, the Boilermakers, means?

According to legend, the nickname dates back to the late-19th century when the school perennially routed nearby Wabash College at football, and Wabash supporters wound up hurling derogatory names at their competition. The town began calling the Purdue team things like “a great big burly gang of corn-huskers,” “rail-splitters,” “foundry molders” and “log-haulers.”

It wasn’t just fueled by those with sour grapes, either. In 1891 a Daily Argus article about the latest blowout proclaimed, “Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue.”

The Purdue community embraced the moniker. What’s funny is that the term made a great deal of sense for the Indiana residents who would build railroad shops in the local area in the years that followed. Guess sometimes a small-town newspaper can really be ahead of the game.

[boilermakers.org]

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