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What The Hell Is A Boilermaker?

Aside from being the lamest team name of the noun-nominalized verb form in the Big Ten — shoutout to the Cornhuskers — the Boilermaker has an aura of mystery about it.

For one, what the hell is it?

According to Wikipedia, a boilermaker is “a trained tradesperson who fabricates steel, iron, or copper into boilers and other large containers intended to hold hot gas or liquid, as well as maintains and repairs boilers and boiler systems.”

The nickname is truly only intimidating if you are an employer dealing with the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, or the labor union which protects boilermakers in the US and Canada.

So how did Purdue land on the boilermaker as the nickname to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents?

According to local legend, it arose from a series of games against Wabash College in nearby Crawfordsville, Indiana. When Purdue beat Wabash 18-4 in 1889, opposing fans began shouting devastating insults at the players, calling them “a great big burly gang of corn-huskers,” “grangers,” “pumpkin-shuckers,” “rail-splitters,” “blacksmiths,” “cornfield sailors,” and “foundry hands.”

Two years later, Purdue molly-whopped Wabash 44-0, and the Crawfordsville Daily Argus News ran the headline: “Slaughter of Innocents: Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue.”

Not realizing this was an insult, Purdue officially adopted the nickname the following year in 1892.

Presumably, the press settled on this name out of jealousy over Purdue’s reputation for giving students hands-on education, such as working on a real-life locomotive, but just imagine what could have been if the Crawfordsville Daily Argus News printed one of the other insults instead. We were one editorial decision away from Penn State playing the Purdue Cornfield Sailors tomorrow.

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About the Author

Anthony Fiset

Anthony is a senior *gasp* majoring in Economics and a lifetime Costco Executive Member. If you are an employer, please hire him. Otherwise, direct all complaints to [email protected]


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