Indiana – Purdue: The Beginning of The Old Oaken Bucket

Replaced in 1960 by the Hoosiers’ current field, the dedication of Indiana’s first Memorial Stadium also witnessed the inauguration of one of football’s great historic rivalries – The Old Oaken Bucket.

Not that this was exactly the first game between the two Hoosier state schools. In fact, it was their 28th meeting in a series that began in 1891 in West Lafayette. But in the leadup to the opening of the new Bloomington stadium it was decided to add a little spice to the affair, and so a joint excursion of Purdue and Indiana alumni set forth to find a suitable trophy for the annual victor to hold.

After deciding that the most appropriate prize would be “an old oaken bucket as the most typical Hoosier form of trophy”, the chosen example was found on a farm in the southern part of the state, between the towns of Kent and Hanover. As all Indianans know, the winner of each year’s game is designated by adding either a bronze “I” or a “P” to a chain, with a joint “IP” to be added to the chain in the case of a tie.

And in fact, that “IP” was what was to be attached to that chain as its initial link, as the Hoosiers and the Boilermakers ground each other into the November dust in a daylong series of futile attempts to break a scoreless deadlock. Near the end of the game the Indiana captain Lawrence Marks broke through from a punt formation for what looked like a spectacular 90-yard touchdown run, only to have it brought back to midfield when the referee ruled he had stepped out of bounds at that point. A pair of missed field goals from inside the 30 were the only other close calls that day, and fans of both sides had to settle for half a loaf.

The inaugural game program’s cover featured an illustration that was used for all of IU’s home games that year, with a war scene superimposed above a depiction of the new stadium, described below as “Indiana’s Finest Athletic Plant”. Along with the impossibly rare 1891 issue, this striking souvenir from the initial Old Oaken Bucket and Stadium Dedication game remains the crown jewel in any IU program collection.

Click here to buy a poster of this program cover.

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