The History of and Story Behind the Purdue Logo

Purdue University

Purdue University has a unique logo history. The institution has gone through a series of branding images with an evolving seal and logo that has undergone significant changes since first introduced. A logo for the sports team is also added to the mix with an evolving logo for the mascot. Here is the history of and story behind the diverse Purdue logo.

History of the Purdue logo

We must first look at the history of the institution to fully understand the meaning of its logos. According to the Purdue University website, Purdue has a long and storied history. The vote was made by the Indiana General Assembly to establish the school in 1985. The group purchased land in the Lafayette area with a gift from John Purdue of $150,000 in 1969. Groundbreaking took place in 1871 with the first buildings completed in 1974 including the Ladies Hall, Purdue Hall, the Military Hall, the Boiler, and Gas House. Richard Owen, the first President of Purdue was elected and began serving in 1972. Classes began in 1874 with 39 students and 6 instructors. John Bradford Harper was the first graduate of Purdue University in 1875. The first university band was established in 1886 with the official colors of Old gold and black introduced in 1887.

History of Purdue’s official branding

Bruce Rogers created the first seal for Purdue in 1890. His work was never officially recognized by the institution. The name Boilermakers was adopted for the school’s athletic teams in 1891, along with the purchase of a locomotive engine. This action ushered in acceptance of a new official seal designed by Purdue’s art department head Abby Phelps Lytle. In 1895, Lytle integrated three elements with special meaning into the institution’s official seal. They included the shield, the griffin, and the uncial typeface. The Boilermaker Special became the official Purdue mascot in 1940, with Boilermaker Pete introduced as the official mascot in 1944.

Meaning of the Purdue Logo

According to 1000 Logos, the wordmark of the Purdue logo was subject to approved alteration by the administrative and academic departments until 2018. It was at this time the school determined that alteration of the official logo was detrimental to the integrity of the symbol. No further alterations were allowed.

The symbol and the seal of Purdue

The emblem of Purdue is the word Purdue printed in black with the word University below in gold. A gold horizontal line separates the two words in capital letters in a serif typeface. The seal was officially introduced in 1969 at the 100th-anniversary celebration of the institution. It was a new design that incorporated the three elements designed by Lytle in 1895. The griffin stands for strength, hailing back to the medieval heraldry to honor its history. It is a sign of strength. The shield is made of three parts with individual meanings that stand for education, research, and service.

Evolution of the Purdue Seal

The Purdue University seal began with Lytle’s artistic calligraphic design in 1895. According to the Purdue website, the official seal adopted in 1969 was designed by Al Gowan the year prior. This rendering is the official seal that is currently in use for official university documents and communications to the present. The first seal design was created by undergraduate Bruce Rogers in 1890 but was not officially recognized. He drew a second seal in 1894 following the original concept. He incorporated several more elements that made it too busy. The third design is the Lytle version in the form of a slanted shield, winged griffin, and uncial lettering, in 1894, used for 15 years. A fourth design, drawn in 1905 by engineering students in a bronze casting, was only used for a few years. In 1909 a fifth design emerged, designed by the dean of engineering Charles H. Benjamin. It featured a smaller shield and three symbols with the griffin holding a Roman lamp of learning. This design as in use for 60 years.

A sixth design emerged in 1924 featuring a winged griffin on top of the 3-symbol shield and a banner at the bottom. In 1947 the seventh design drawn by Bruce Rogers appeared, but the seal did not receive official approval. A simplification of the Rogers submission, commissioned by Robert W. Babcock, was briefly used. The ninth design made by Al Gowan featured the words Purdue University in a semi-circle surrounding an image of the winged Griffin in a more simplistic easy to reproduce format. This image is still used today.

The athletic logo for Purdue

1000 Logos reveals that the Purdue Boilermakers logo embraces the image of a train. Several versions of the logo have emerged. Older versions of the Purdue boilermakers logo feature a black train with a gold rhombus introduced in 1983. the logo evolved into a modified train that was missing the rhombus in 1996. An alternate version of the modified train logo included the face of Boilermaker Pete at the front of the engine. The image changed further in 2003 with the intricate emblems done away with and a minimalist P design implemented.

Changes and consistencies

Although there have been several different logos created for Purdue sports teams, the primary colors have remained consistent. The old gold and black. The colors of the logo and seal represent the traditional hammer and anvil strength of Boilermakers and blacksmiths. Various fonts emerged throughout the history of Purdue’s logos. There have also been several changes in the wordmarks until 2018. The administration decided to move to the minimalist P and standardize the official logos.

According to Sports Logos, there are four versions of the official team mascot Boilermaker Pete that are in use today. Each rendition of the mascot features a unique design to represent the various official sports teams. One version shows him holding a basketball, another, a baseball bat, a football, and an anvil.



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