In 1921, Paul ‘Spotts’ Emrick decided that the “All-American” Marching Band needed something to set them apart from other bands. Emrick’s idea called for a bass drum larger than any other. The idea for a big bass drum had previously been imagined, and there were already drums four feet in diameter. Emrick wanted one at least twice that size – a “drum larger than the man playing it.” This sparked the idea to create the World’s Largest Drum.

The shell of the Drum consists of three layers of maple wood pressed together in the same style as a traditional bass drum. The lugs are larger than a standard bass drum’s and are designed to be tuned by hand rather than with a drum key. In 2020, leading up to its 100th birthday, the Drum returned to the original design of an “old gold” shell with black diamonds.

The Drum is transported on a steel-frame carriage. A bar attached to the front of the carriage and two handles fixed to the back of the Drum allows for a crew of 4 to easily maneuver it. In the 1920s, the carriage was equipped with standard bicycle wheels, however these were quickly replaced with Model A Ford racing tires, due to the Drum’s immense size and weight. These are the same wheels it rides on today. The Drum itself weighs 315 pounds while the carriage weighs 250 pounds, totaling 565 pounds.

Purdue’s Drum Crew operates much differently from other ‘large bass drums’ across the country. It is involved in every practice, parade, pre-game, halftime, and post-game show of the “All-American” Marching Band. The Drum and the Crew have their own routines during each performance, which includes running up and down the football field and performing tricks. Pictures with the Drum are always free, and are encouraged from fans and the press. Members of the Crew also allow others to hit the drum occasionally, including young fans, military personnel, first responders, honored Purdue officials, various celebrities, and distinguished alumni. In a students final year in the marching band, they are honored by getting to hit the drum in a special Senior Recognition Halftime Show.