The Colloid Lab, circa 1926

For a while now I’ve been trying to work out how the original Chemistry Building functioned. It’s undergone enough renovation at this point that much of its original sense has vanished. But a couple of things have turned up recently that provide great guidance. First, I came across the folder of photos that I talked about here. Then I found a copy of  the plan for the first floor while looking through a map drawer full of William Ward Watkin materials. (If we have a detailed set of drawings for the building, I’ve never found them.) The floor plan is a revelation:

New WWW Chemistry first floor plan

The very first thing I noticed was the huge stock room (more about this later) but then right next to it the Colloid Lab. I just happen to have a picture of the interior of that lab and its equipment, which looks quite impressive:

New Chem Harry Weiser lab colloids

I can also tell you who this lab belonged to: Harry Weiser, who was head of the Chemistry Department for over three decades as well as Dean for almost two:

Harry Weiser portrait mid1930s

Bonus: Back in the day those colloid chemists were pretty saucy fellows. I found this in his scrapbook.

New chem colloid program

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

William Ward Watkin and Friends at the Alhambra, c1920

You have to stay on your toes in the archives or you’ll miss the weird stuff. Today we have a bit of a Jack Sprat and his wife situation–we didn’t know something and they didn’t know something else but when you put it together it all makes sense.

It’s all about this striking image, one of several in the William Ward Watkin collection that document a trip to Spain in about 1920:

New WWW with Howards at Alhambra c20

It’s a great photo but we always wondered who on earth those other people could be. They clearly aren’t Watkin family members and there really aren’t any useful clues. They might be anyone, even people he simply met up with on his travels.

Then a little while ago we received a collection from the Howard family here in Houston. It included some scrapbooks, wherein we discovered another copy of the same image. It turns out they had no idea who that man sitting in the middle with their family was!


Fern 2015

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Homecoming 1961

I realize that it’s nowhere near Homecoming at all, but this picture makes me smile. I wish I could go there:

New Homecoming 1961 EBLS box 2

Bonus: This one also makes me smile.

Chef Charles 2015


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Claude Bracey at Soldier Field, 1928

This remarkable photograph has a misleading label on the back. It says “Claude Bracey, 1928 Amsterdam Olympics” and that’s almost right.

New Claude Bracey at Soldier Field 1928 NCAA

That is indeed Claude Bracey breaking the tape at the far left. Bracey was Rice’s first real track star and he did run in Amsterdam, the first Rice athlete to compete in the Olympics. But as someone who lived many years in Chicago I knew at a glance that the race we see above was run in Soldier Field. It turns out that it was the 1928 NCAA track championships and Bracey won both the 100 yard dash (9.6 seconds) and the 220 (20.9). Soldier Field itself was only a couple of years old.

Later this week I’ll explain where this image came from and show some more pictures from what is turning out to be a really wonderful new collection.

Bonus: I’m declaring Summer Hours. Don’t worry unless I’m gone for at least three days with no explanation.


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

My Favorite Thing About Commencement

I have no idea who these people are and I’m only guessing that it was the late ’70s but you can see the same scene every year:

new commencement family c late 70s

God speed, my friends.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 1978 ARA Distinguished Alumnus Winners

This nice photo caught my attention for a couple of reasons. I recognized Herbert Allen ‘29 on the left right away but I didn’t know who the other two characters were. A little bit of digging revealed that to my great delight the gentleman on the right is none other than my old friend Norman Hurd Ricker, whose student scrapbook has brought me much pleasure:

Ricker Allen Unidentified commencement cmid70s

The picture was taken to commemorate the 1978 Association of Rice Alumni award recipients. Here’s Ricker’s official bio:

Norman Hurd Ricker 1978 bio

And a rough draft of the award itself. I found it rather sweet that they kept it in the files:

Norman Hurd Ricker 1978 Distinguished Alumnus

I still don’t know, though, the identity of the lovely woman between Allen and Ricker. Here’s the puzzle: Allen and Ricker both received the Distinguished Alumnus award; the Meritorious Service Award did not yet exist; and the two Gold Medals that year went to Oveta Culp Hobby and Carl Illig, ’30. I’m pretty sure she’s not either one of them.

I know one of you knows.

Then there’s one other very interesting thing about the whole deal. The ARA awards had clearly been given as part of the commencement ceremonies. It’s hard to imagine that these days, when things have gotten so big and involved that we could never spare the time.

Bonus: From Rice videographer Brandon Martin.


Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Obsolete Technology: Reel to Reel

I came across a whole bunch of these recently:


I know there’s data on there but have absolutely no idea how this worked.

I started looking through old pictures of computers to see if I could figure out what machine they went with and, unsurprisingly, I’m stuck. My first guess was this:

New ICSA 1

But then I found this slide that shows the same kind of reels I have but with a very different keyboard than the one above:

New ICSA 4

There is no chance whatsoever that I will figure this out on my own so if you know what this is all about, I’d really appreciate your help. Thanks in advance!



Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments