From the 1890s on, Oklahoma A&M sports teams had been referred to as the Agriculturists or Aggies, the Farmers, and officially but unpopularly, the Tigers. But by 1924 Charles Saulsberry, sports editor of the Oklahoma City Times, and other writers who regularly covered college events had begun to refer to Stillwater's teams as the A&M Cowboys. The Athletic Council authorized Athletic Director Edward C. Gallagher to have 2,000 balloons printed, "Oklahoma Aggies - Ride 'Em Cowboy" for sale at football games in 1926.
The nickname was quickly adopted, yielding a genuine identity that had long been lacking on campus and around the community. Around 1923, an early U.S. deputy marshal, Frank B. "Pistol Pete" Eaton, headed Stillwater's Armistice Day Parade. At the parade's end, the search for a replacement for the Tigers was over.
The spirited image of a tough, proud, self-reliant cowboy triggered by Eaton became a cartoon drawing. The new mascot was easily woven into campus life, but it was not until 1984 that official sanction would be given to the emblem and its "Pistol Pete" moniker. By then, the Cowboys had already been settled into 60 years of vocabularies and print, spilling over into the general references to the student body, alumni, faculty and fans.
For thirty-five years, the crusty old cowboy was a living symbol of OSU, representing the colorful past of the area. As such, he would attend OSU athletic events, building dedications, etc., and sign autographs, pose for photographs and reminisce about the Old West with anyone who would listen.
Each year, 10 to 15 OSU students try out for Pistol Pete. A panel of former "Petes" judge the tryouts and select the two best candidates based on an interview, a mime, and posing as mascot in different "game situations". The two who are selected split the approximately 500 appearances annually, including all athletic events, pep rallies, business openings, weddings, birthday parties, and public school events.
Though Pistol Pete has been OSU's mascot since 1923, only since 1958 has someone worn the current garb and "head".
The former Pistol Petes and the years they served are as follows: