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What About Thousand Dollars?, by Susanne Stalker

Blog Entry One     //      Blog Entry Two      //      Blog Entry Three
To view a working bibliography for this project, click here.

Blog Entry One, March 10th 2016
The Dog who Survived the Train Wreck

You might not expect a dog to be important when thinking about the history of Purdue University, but I have stumbled upon one that is. His name was “Thousand Dollars.” The dog is described in a little newspaper clipping collected by Purdue President Stone in 1903. He was a Scotch Collie, and the article reports, he “wears Purdue colors,” meaning “he is golden, black and white.” Thousand Dollars is my starting connection to the academic year of 1903 to 1904.


"Thousand Dollars" mascot safe. From the Winthrop E. Stone papers.

“Thousand Dollars” mascot safe. From the Winthrop E. Stone papers.

This article about the dog can be found in the Train Wreck scrapbook of the Winthrop E. Stone Papers box 12, UA 2.05 at the Purdue Archives. The clipping is a small article about Thousand Dollars, who went by many other names, including Mascot and Skillet. The scrapbook is large and filled with articles from newspapers about the train wreck. The train wreck occurred on October 31, 1903, while the train was going to a Purdue football game against Indiana University. The article was originally published in the Indianapolis Star Newspaper from Tuesday, November 3, 1903, only 3 days after the wreck. It reported that the puppy was found alive after the train wreck, while many of the other reports told about the injured and the dead.

Initial Thoughts

What about Thousand Dollars? I know nothing about him; the only thing I know is in the article. Actually, I know nothing about the mascots at Purdue University before they became the Boilermakers or Purdue Pete. Looking through Exponents, personal scrapbooks, and other items in the Purdue

Archives from 1903 to 1904, I found football-related items or train wreck-related items, but no special pictures about the mascot or anything related to it. According to the mascot was “in all the football pictures and attended every game,” and “all Purdue claims an interest in him,” but no picture of the dog accompanied the article. I went searching for some pictures and I found two pictures of the football team with a dog. In the 1904 Debris picture of the football team, a tiny puppy is sitting on one of the player’s lap.

The 1903 Purdue Football team. Image from the 1904 Debris Student Yearbook.

The 1903 Purdue Football team. Image from the 1904 Debris Student Yearbook.

The other picture is in a 1902 varsity football team picture and the dog is in the direct center of the picture. He is definitely not a puppy and does not look like a collie. Those two pictures definitely have two different dogs. In the 1905 Debris, no dog is in the picture at all. Why is there no dog?

Purdue Varsity team of 1902 with nameless dog.

Purdue Varsity team of 1902 with nameless dog. Purdue University Athletics Collection, Purdue University Archives.

Reportedly, he belonged to Harry Leslie, though reported after the train wreck as being “safe at the home of Fred Riebel.” Leslie is very important man in this dog’s life. From the 1904 Debris, I know Harry Leslie was a senior football player that season and was manager of the Athletic Association. He was known as Skillet, one of the names the dog went by, but who is Fred Riebel? Riebel was another senior on the varsity football team. Why did he have the dog? As it turns out, Leslie was horribly injured in the crash and couldn’t take care of the dog, and Riebel was in Indianapolis at the time of the crash, according to Indianapolis News on October 31, 1903. His family lived there, and he had permission from the coaches to be home the night before. He was never on the train, and wasn’t with the team when it crashed.

Personal Connection

When I first read the article, I was struck by a multitude of questions. For some of these I have answers, whereas others I do not. I came up with all of these questions when I looked and read this article over and over again, so many times that I am almost able to read it in my head. Those questions are a result of what Roland Barthes calls my “punctum”, or my attraction to the object. I am fascinated in the mystery of the dog and everything that comes with him. Not much information is out there about him, but enough is there to prove that he exists and was worth something to Purdue.


Through this article and this dog, I hope to find new perspective on the college athletics and the idea of being a team. The majority of the team was on that train, including Thousand Dollars. The effect of the tragedy was so large the team never finished the season. Whoever wrote this article wanted bring attention to the fact that their mascot survived the train wreck on that terrible October day. Could it have been to bring some hope and bring people together? I picked this article, because even if it is only one little part of the original paper, stored in the corner in the large scrapbook filled with what could be considered more important information about the history of the train wreck, this little piece could tell me more about the history of student interactions during the early 20th century.

Next Steps

As you can probably see, there are many things that I still want answers to. I want to know more about the football family, mostly the seniors, about their relationship with Thousand Dollars, and how the train wreck affected their lives. For example, Leslie was scheduled to graduate that spring, but he didn’t. Comparably the Exponent reports on June 2, 1903, Reibel did graduate on time in Electrical Engineering and moved to Pennsylvania to work at the Westinghouse Electric Company. As it turns out, Leslie dropped out of school in April of 1904 and was expected not to return according to the April 21, 1904 edition of the Exponent, but he did. After graduation, Leslie continued his education into law school, and came back to Purdue to coach for the football team. According an article from the National Governors Association, he even later became the Governor of the State of Indiana.

Through further research, I want to know more information about their lives after the crash. What happened to them? How did they cope with the tragedy of the wreck? I want to know what the players did with their lives. My research will start with finding out more about the players. Who was injured and who died? I want to know if they graduated or dropped out of the university. Then, I plan to research more into their lives a little further, maybe focusing on a few key players including Harry Leslie and Fred Riebel. I also want to have Thousand Dollars as one of the key players and find out where he went. I will research how the football team survived the wreck.

Blog Entry Two, April 8th 2016
A Thousand Words, A Thousand Dollars, and A Thousand Thoughts

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a dog worth? I last left you off with just a scraping of what I hope to know about the dog called Thousand Dollars, his owner, and the man who took care of him after the wreck. At that point I thought I knew my direction for the continuation of the research, but I learned soon that I had no idea where I was going to go. I had so many ideas in the beginning including Harry Leslie, how the football team coped with the tragedy of the event, the university band influence on athletics, the mascot’s influence on athletics, and the progression of university mascots. There were more topics as well, and they were all interesting. I had a thousand ideas running through my head and they wouldn’t disappear. Why did it have to be so hard to pick?

My first thought for research was to look into all the football players and discover how the team worked through the train wreck and where everyone went, but after a couple hours of research later and further discussion, this seemed unlikely for my final project. My second thought was to look into mental illness. It may seem farfetched to go from puppy to depression, but the dog came out of the train wreck, which was a huge disaster and many people had a long recovery ahead of them. From personal observations, I know that people have a hard time staying positive after a tragedy. I truly believed my whole project would follow mental illness. It was going to involve university tragedies and how they affected students involved. I was all set to work on it over Spring Break, but there were some issues with finding research. I reevaluated my whole research plan and started to think again. Then Neal Harmeyer, Purdue’s Digital Archivist, sent me information about Notre Dame’s dog mascots. That’s when I realized that I had gotten so caught up in the football and the wreck information that I had forgotten about the puppy that sparked my interest in the first place. As I asked before, what about Thousand Dollars?

I forgot about the dog. How could I do that? My mind kept thinking that I was going to run out of information about Thousand Dollars, but I can’t think like that. There has to be more information out there. Someone cared about this dog, or at least now I do. Thousand Dollars was a living creature and a mascot of a university and according to the original article, the student body cared for him. If a picture is worth a thousand dollars, a dog has to be worth so much more. He must have left a life for me to follow, and what about other dog mascots? They couldn’t have just left a thousand words. They must have had a lifetime as well.

From this realization, I started from the beginning again. I went back to the Exponents and searched for mascots. As it turns out, I found another dog. It is proof that I am on the right track now. I believe it may be a different dog then Thousand Dollars or even from the other dog from the earlier blog post. If you are counting, I currently have three Purdue football mascots from around the turn of the century. This dog, named “Purdue” popped out of an article in the Exponent from October 1894, but I wanted a picture. I searched for a picture in 1895 Debris. In the team football picture, there the dog was sitting on one of the players’ laps with his ears perked up.

Photo of 1894 football team from 1895 Debris

Photograph of the 1894 Football Team Picture from the 1895 Debris. Purdue can be seen on one of the player’s laps.

I still don’t know anything about the third dog I found between them. My opinion is that they are all different dogs, because each looks like a different breed. The interesting thing is that I have found two pictures of this nameless third dog (pictured just below and above in my first blog post). This dog does exist, but where did he come from and where did the dog named Purdue go?

Purdue football team with nameless dog.

Purdue football team with nameless dog. From John Miller’s Scrapbook in the Purdue University Archives.

When starting this research, I had a thousand thoughts running head and I got caught up with the glory of the football team, but not what my project is about. It’s about Thousand Dollars and all the other unknown mascots at Purdue and other universities. They all had lives and need to be known for themselves, not just the team that they supported. Purdue may have been the Boilermakers, but there mascot was these dogs on the sidelines of all the games cheering on their teammates. I leave you with this thought again: if a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a dog worth?

Blog Entry Three, May 7th 2016
When You Get to the Point of Doing Actual Research

From the title of the blog post you might be a little worried about what this blog may be about. Well, I am a little worried, too. This is not a bad thing. It means that I am aware of my surroundings. The end of the semester is closing in, and my research has gone from looking for puppy pictures while sitting in the really comfortable chairs in Purdue University Archives to looking in databases for secondary sources to back up all the thoughts that are going around my head.  Finding out about Thousand Dollars was only the first step in this project. In a couple of weeks, I will have to craft a full report to explain the whole purpose of finding all this information in the first place. To me this is really scary. One thing about me, though, is I am very persistent—or stubborn, which ever one you prefer. I don’t back down from a fight easily and am usually up for some kind of challenge. Needless to say, I won’t back down from this one.

After countless of hours looking for information about dog mascots at Purdue, I thought of the current mascot at Purdue. I have read so many articles from the Exponent, and don’t remember reading the word “Boilermaker.” Well, I was wrong. When I went back to recheck myself, I did a simple search for Boilermaker in the search box. I got 482 hits from the years 1890 to 1910. As it turns out, Purdue started to be called Boilermakers before Thousand Dollars was around. According the Purdue University History, in 1891 Boilermakers was attached to Purdue’s name, and the same year they bought a train to display on campus. Why did the students and the football team consider Thousand Dollars their mascot, when the university had wanted to be represented with a train? Might it’s because a little puppy is much cuter than a train; I think so. Not to say I don’t love being a Boilermaker, but puppies are really cute.

As you probably know, Purdue is not the only university to use dogs as athletic mascots. One of the most popular and most well-known live mascots today belongs to the University of Georgia Bulldogs. His name is Uga and according to their website, not all their mascots have been English Bulldogs: “Georgia’s mascot for its first football game against Auburn, February 22, 1892 in Atlanta, Ga., was a goat.” It goes on to state that “In 1894, Georgia’s mascot was a solid white female bull terrier owned by a student, Charles H. Black, Sr., of Atlanta. Trilby, named after a novel by George Du Maurier, served as the campus pet and mascot for the Chi Phi fraternity.” Also, according to the University of Notre Dame Archives, their university, which is known as the Fighting Irish, has had a history of having personal dogs as mascots as well. As stated earlier in this paper, the Exponent wrote about Iowa’s mascot being a full size black bear in a cage on the side of the football field.

Universities are not the only place to find an animal-mascot. Many times firehouses and military regiments have dogs as their mascot. They not be meant to represent them, but to allow for comfort for the men. Dewey and his companion Bob Evans are a prime example of this. They were stationed in the “51st Regiment and mustered at Camp McKinley, located at the state fair-grounds in Des Moines,” around the Spanish-American War. The pair seemed very helpful at this time: “As the men waited months for their orders, Dewey and Bob were in great demand. Dewey seemed especially attuned to the men who were feeling low.” This was a great benefit to the Regiment to keep the men from over stressing, similarly to why universities like Purdue would want to keep animals around. The men also had a pet in common and bonded to the animal.

Now, Professor Bross helped me to find the original article about Dewey from the online database America: History and Life. As I was looking through Exponents, I stumbled upon an article about Bob Evans and the man that Dewey is named after. Dewey, the man, had been a Purdue Alum and came back to visit with his trusty sidekick Bob Evans, the dog. Finding these two articles was the strangest thing, and I freaked out about it. My friends looked at me like I was crazy, but I didn’t care. This discovery, though it may not help all that much with my end research, made my week. It was so cool that they had some kind of connection to Purdue University.

Though that was interesting, that is not my main focus for my end paper. What else can I be looking for and what do I need to continue moving forward? That’s the biggest question I have been asking myself all semester. It is a toughie. It’s brutal and mean, but it’s kind of the whole point of doing all this research and putting in all the effort. I am at the big scary part. The other day I had the realization that it is April, and the semester officially ends the first week of May. I don’t know if I am excited for my first year of college to be done, or if I am wanting time to slow down and not have to finish this project. Honestly, this has been a great project to work on, but I am also at the point where I have to take it somewhere, and not just see where it takes me.  As I told you, I am at the scary part. I have to come up with an argument. This is just a taste of what I have come up with.

While animals don’t seem very likely to impact a large educational institution, live university mascots in the early 1900s demonstrated the increase of human and animal bonding throughout this time period and many benefits were developed by this bond.


To view a working bibliography for this project, click here.

About the Authors

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