In 1905, several Purdue students, anticipating a Boilermaker victory, took a small cannon with them when they traveled to the Purdue-Illinois football game in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. They placed the cannon in what they believed to be a safe place near the University of Illinois’ football field.
This safe place, however, was not as safe as they would have liked, for several members of Illinois’ Delta Upsilon fraternity, including Quincy A. Hall, found the cannon in its hiding place. “Confiscating” the cannon, they took it back to their fraternity house. When Mr. Hall graduated, he took the cannon with him to his home in Milford, Illinois. In 1942 after the cannon had survived a house fire and years of collecting dust, Mr. Hall proposed that the cannon become a trophy representing the rivalry between Purdue and Illinois. This proposal was accepted, and in 1943 the first Cannon game was played.
The current cannon is actually the second cannon, with the first cannon having been destroyed in a firing mishap. The pieces of the original cannon were returned to Purdue, and their current location is unknown. The cannon itself was last fired on October 24, 1983 during halftime in Champaign-Urbana.
The Illinois Cannon is currently in the possession of Purdue University, with Purdue having won the last meeting between Purdue and Illinois by the score of 38-27 in 2014.
The Cannon is maintained by two student organizations: Tomahawk at Purdue, and Illini Pride at Illinois. At Purdue, Tomahawk has the distinction of being the only student organization to officially maintain a football trophy. While at Purdue, the Cannon is kept in a trophy case at Mollenkopf Athletic Center, along with all other football trophies.