The “Original” Mascot

At our most recent Student Town Hall event one of our polls tested your Penn State mascot knowledge. While some of you had obviously brushed up on your Penn State history, others didn’t seem too sure about the University’s first mascot—and no, we’re not talking the Lion.

For most alumni and students, a Penn State without the Nittany Lion is probably unimaginable. However, long before the introduction of the majestic Lion there was a mascot that helped build the University from the ground up.

Coaly with his owner, Piersol Lytle.
Coaly with his owner, Piersol Lytle. This photo dates back to the 1800s. Image courtesy of Penn State Office of University Relations.

Who Was Old Coaly?

Old Coaly was a mule born in Kentucky in 1855, the same year Penn State was founded, and came to Pennsylvania in 1857. Coaly made the trip with his owner, whose son was one of the 200 men involved with the construction of Old Main.

Old Coaly hauled limestone from the Old Quarry, near the intersection of College Avenue and Pugh Street, to the construction site of Old Main. The construction of Old Main was completed in 1863 after which Penn State purchased Coaly for $198 (about $3,000 today).

                                        Coaly the Beloved

Coaly's remains
Coaly's remains on display at the HUB-Robeson Center. Photo courtesy of Penn State University.

In the years following the completion of Old Main, Coaly spent his time carrying out various tasks on the Penn State campus, such as mowing the Old Main lawn and assisting on the Penn State farms. He was so popular among students that they appointed him the informal mascot of the University.

Penn State’s affection towards Coaly was so great that after his death on January 1, 1893, his remains were preserved. Coaly has had numerous resting places on the Penn State campus, but today his remains can be found on display on the first floor of the HUB-Robeson Center where they have been preserved so that new generations of Penn State students can visit the celebrated “first” mascot of the University.