I really appreciate all the ideas and questions in the comments this week. Some puzzling things have certainly cropped up these past few days.
I’ll start with the football tucked under the fellow’s arm in this picture from Monday. A couple of people noted how odd it looks and wondered if it were used in some other game entirely. The answer is no, that’s what footballs looked like back then. Both the equipment and the game itself were evolving at a rapid rate in those days. Here you can get a good look at one of those balls in the team picture from 1916. (Try to ignore the horrifying owl and just look up at the guy holding the trophy. The ball is tucked between his legs.)
Next, on to the planter that’s visible in the photo of the procession from the 1920 commencement. That most definitely is a planter rather than leftover masonry, and a carefully chosen one at that. Rice actually bought two kinds of planters to add some interest to the early landscaping. You can see both if you zoom in on this picture of the first commencement ceremony in 1916. There are two plain square ones, the first near the Physics side of the Administration Building and the second towards the west end of Physics. Look closely through the cloisters and you can see a couple of the fancier ones on the east side of Physics by the auditorium.
They later acquired more of these planters and put them in the academic quad. This photo from commencement in 1921 gives a fabulous look at them:
Finally, I really like the suggestion that the “civilians” marching without robes in the 1920 procession might be staff. They can’t be trustees, as there were only seven, including Lovett. If I get a minute I’ll see if I can find anything that might otherwise explain it.
Oh, someone asked for a photo of the 1919 commencement procession. Here you go: