Before the Nittany Lion, there was Old Coaly

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Before the Nittany Lion mascot, there was Old Coaly.

A black mule, Old Coaly came to Penn State from Kentucky in 1857 with his owner, Piersol Lytle, whose son Andy was among 200 workmen engaged in constructing Old Main.

Along with three other mules and two horses, Coaly hauled limestone blocks to the construction site from a quarry located on what is a part of the Old Main lawn, near the intersection of College Avenue and Pugh Street. A plaque now marks the quarry's location.

The five-story Old Main was completed in 1863, and Penn State then purchased Coaly for $190 -- a high price for that era, reflecting his reliability and great capacity for work. He spent the next 30 years handling many landscaping and farm chores on campus and the surrounding farms.

Although Penn State students never officially adopted Coaly as a mascot, they held him in high esteem nonetheless. "Old" Coaly figured in many colorful undergraduate tales and became so beloved by students that after his death in 1893, his skeleton was preserved as a relic of Penn State's past.

Old Coaly's skeleton has had numerous resting places, including a wildlife museum in the original Old Main, the basement of Watts Hall, the attic of the old Penn State veterinary hospital, the Agricultural Administration Building and the Agricultural Arena.

Since 2004 he has made his home in the HUB-Robeson Center, where visitors can see him in a display on the first floor, near the entrance to Freeman Auditorium.

Old Coaly display in the HUB at Penn State

Old Coaly's display includes artifacts and information about the mule who helped build the original Old Main.

Image: Laura Waldhier

 

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Last Updated October 28, 2015