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Abstract

At the southeast corner of Stone Hall on the campus of Purdue University stands the Old Pump, an oft-forgotten artifact of the University’s earliest days. As the pump fades further and further into obscurity, we lose the chance to construct a more full history of Purdue University and the lives of students and faculty long gone. Today, University tour guides and the Purdue Reamer Club memorialize this wooden facsimile of a water pump as a monument to “romance and friendship and the spirit of the Purdue Woman.” But what is the connection between women and the Old Pump, and is that really all that it represents? In my research, I used the pump as an anchor for investigation into the lesser-known narratives of Purdue University, from its founding in 1869 through the 1950s when the pump was reerected beside what was then the Home Economics building. Drawing almost exclusively from original materials housed in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center at Purdue University, I have discovered that, within that time frame, the Old Pump stood witness to both the romantic escapades of some of the University’s earliest female population and the activities of one of the most grotesque student organizations on campus, the Ancient Order of the Dormitory Devils. Thus, the chronicle of the Old Pump ties together two entirely separate but contemporary histories to provide the researcher with a more complete vision of Purdue University beyond the institutional narrative.

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