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Purdue's Pots

  • A Tomahawk pot, circa 1965. Folder 5, Purdue University Booster Hats (3), n.d. Box 41, Miscellaneous Items. Fredrick L. Hovde papers, 1908-1983. (photo by Patrick Whalen) A Tomahawk pot, circa 1965. Folder 5, Purdue University Booster Hats (3), n.d. Box 41, Miscellaneous Items. Fredrick L. Hovde papers, 1908-1983. (photo by Patrick Whalen) Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
  • A Gimlets pot, circa 1965. Folder 5, Purdue University Booster Hats (3), n.d. Box 41, Miscellaneous Items.  Fredrick L. Hovde papers, 1908-1983. (photo by Patrick Whalen) A Gimlets pot, circa 1965. Folder 5, Purdue University Booster Hats (3), n.d. Box 41, Miscellaneous Items. Fredrick L. Hovde papers, 1908-1983. (photo by Patrick Whalen) Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
  • Golden Pepper pot, circa 1965. Folder 7, Artifacts, 1960s. Box 1, Susan Bulkeley Butler papers, 1959-2006. (photo by Patrick Whalen) Golden Pepper pot, circa 1965. Folder 7, Artifacts, 1960s. Box 1, Susan Bulkeley Butler papers, 1959-2006. (photo by Patrick Whalen) Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
  • Freshman cap with a white button signifying that the wearer was in Electrical Engineering, circa 1928. Box 1, Leslie L. and Ruth G. Vaught papers, circa 1928-1932. (photo by Patrick Whalen Freshman cap with a white button signifying that the wearer was in Electrical Engineering, circa 1928. Box 1, Leslie L. and Ruth G. Vaught papers, circa 1928-1932. (photo by Patrick Whalen) Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
  • Three of the prominent booster clubs on the Purdue University campus.  From left to right; the Tomahawks, the Reamer Club, and the Golden Peppers seated on the Boilermaker Special in 1959. “We’ll remember the spirit in Purdue traditions.” Debris (West Lafayette: Purdue University, 1959):6. Three of the prominent booster clubs on the Purdue University campus. From left to right; the Tomahawks, the Reamer Club, and the Golden Peppers seated on the Boilermaker Special in 1959. “We’ll remember the spirit in Purdue traditions.” Debris (West Lafayette: Purdue University, 1959):6. Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

 

Various items of clothing were markers that identified students as belonging to a specific community on the Purdue University campus, beginning in 1905. For the seniors the markers were distinctive yellow corduroy pants, known as “cords,” black bowler hats, black sack coats, and canes. Female students began wearing cord skirts a few years later. For the juniors it was the junior hats that were chosen at the first class meeting of the year. The colors and styles varied from year to year. The junior hats disappeared during the Great Depression.1

In the fall of 1907 a large cohort of freshmen arrived on the Purdue campus. Their “greenness” was so apparent to the upper classmen that the juniors and seniors deemed it necessary to introduce a distinguishing marker that solidly identified these newcomers as not being upper classmen. The green-colored, Eton-style cap symbolizing a freshman’s greenness became the first piece of headgear that at Purdue were known as “pots.” For many years the color of the button at the top of the cap could vary from student to student, depending on a freshman's major. For example, the agriculture caps had orange buttons and the civil engineering caps had red buttons. The caps were worn from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day when they were burned with great ceremony.2

As time wore on, more pots were introduced. Many fraternities and sororities had their own pots, as did dorms, honor societies, and booster clubs. The Green Guard Honorary, a female counseling program, wore green-and-white pots, the Tomahawks wore maroon-and-gold pots, the Skull and Crescents used gold and black, the Golden Peppers wore gold with a gold and black pepper patch on the top, and the WRX student radio staff wore green pots with a white-and-green WRX logo on the side.3

Some of the pots took on the look of sailor caps: The Gimlets, an upper-class booster club of Greeks, wore a gold cap with a black “G,” and the Reamer Club, a booster club of upper-class independent students, wore billed snap caps of black or gray with a gold “R” on one side. Although the styles of caps and the traditions associated with them varied through the years, it was a generally accepted practice, and mentioned in the Purdue student handbooks, that pots were not worn in class, in the Music Hall, other indoor venues, or any other occasion where hats were typically removed.

For the most part, the tradition died out in the late 1960s and early 1970s, although the Reamers still retain their billed caps. 4 As for hats generally referred to as beanies, the last known group to wear that style of head gear was the Cary Quadrangle dorms, which discontinued the wearing of the green-and-white pots in 1972.5

David M. Hovde


1 “Legends and Customs.” Debris Lafayette: Purdue University, 1914): 344.
2 Ibid.
3 Susan Hathaway, “Pots Mark Traditions, Honors, and Achievements.” The Purdue Exponent (5 October 1965): 3.
4 “Purdue Etiquette.” Purdue Handbook 1953-54 (Lafayette: Purdue University,1953): 37.
5 Roger Strater, a member of the last class to wear the Cary Quadrangle pots. Personal Communication, March 5, 2013.

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