“Splendid Helpfulness in the Upbuilding of Texas,” 1912

In preparation for Rice’s formal opening in 1912, invitations were delivered to institutions of higher learning all over the world. Some of these schools sent representatives, others regretted their inability to attend but offered their best wishes and congratulations with elaborate certificates. There’s a big box of these in the Woodson and after watching it sit quietly on the shelf for the last thirty years I finally decided to open it up and see what’s in there.

There are a lot of them, from places far and near:

They aren’t really all that interesting, as there isn’t any variety in the messages. The best thing about them is how they look, which is varied and sometimes pretty cool. Here’s one from the Royal Academy of Sciences in Bologna–I was taken by the seal at the top, which you need to zoom in on to get a good look at. When I first saw it I thought it was a doorknob, but it’s not. “Mens agitat, ” I believe, means the mind moves:

Closer to home, the University of Texas sent their greetings on a simple and beautiful hand lettered piece of vellum:

The thing that caught my eye, though, came from an institution I’d never heard of, the Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning:

Dropsie College was itself a new institution, chartered in 1907 , and opening, like Rice, in 1912. Dedicated to graduate study and research in Jewish studies and related areas, it was not a theological school. It attracted quite a distinguished faculty and after a series of administrative changes it survives today as the Katz Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Bonus: Leave it to the French to send their congratulations in a silk lined leather case.

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I Could Have Saved Myself A Lot of Trouble

I’m actually out of town on a ski trip–just got some sweet new cross country gear–but apparently I should have just stayed home:

Many thanks to loyal reader and intrepid photographer Owlcop for this morning’s pictures of a cold, snowy campus. My favorite is this one of Reckling Field, which looked so gloriously spring-like just last week:

Bonus: Here’s Anne Marie Smith ’38, sporting after a big snowfall that spring. She was Phi Beta Kappa, by the way, and graduated with Honors in History.

Also notice that they didn’t cancel classes.

 

 

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“Looking N.W. From Main Ent. 2-10-13”

I’ve been browsing through some old images this morning and noticed that this photograph was taken precisely 108 years ago:

This was the state of affairs four months after the formal opening. Yikes. And it looks to have been exactly the same kind of sodden day as it is today.

Bonus: It was beautiful, though, last week when I came in to campus for my covid test. (It was negative.) I had to go out to the Roost to get it done and Reckling looked just immaculate. There’s always something heartening about a baseball field.

 

 

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R Formation, 1927

With the Woodson closed I’ve been digging around in my laptop quite a bit and I keep being surprised by what’s in there. This image of the band, dated 1927, stopped me in my tracks just now:

Those uniforms were really spectacular and I bet they allowed a relatively small band make a big impression, as here on a visit up to A&M:

But what caught my attention was something else altogether. See where they are? It’s here, just to the left of this little rarely photographed spot I was worrying about last summer. Where they’re standing is just out of this frame to the left:

Yeah, I know it’s not much but it kind of made my afternoon. Go here for the original post about what else we can see across Main Street in this 1918 image right above.

Bonus: What was I doing on February 1, 2017? It appears I was nosing around in Abercrombie, checking on some renovations. I don’t remember this but it certainly seems right.

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Scouting Report, 1929

So I’m idly leafing through someone’s scrapbook, thusly:

And suddenly here appears a guy, ninety-one years ago, just hanging out with his boys, relaxing with a little with a nice game of leap frog and the next thing you know he’s grabbed by the track coach and dragooned into competition:

It doesn’t look like it stuck for long, though. Manuel isn’t listed as a member of the track team after this but he was a pretty big deal in other ways. He belonged to the Rally Club (which might explain the leapfrog) and was president of the band and a saxophonist in Lee’s Owls. I think he’s fourth from left:

Lee’s Owl Band, popular dance band started by Lee Chatham, Rice Institute

He also turns up in this image from Homecoming in 1951, where he organized a Lee’s Owls reunion:

Lee’s Owls performing during Homecoming sign-up, Rice Institute 1951

Bonus: Here’s the sharp-eyed and sharp dressed Coach Hjertberg, circa 1929.

Coach Ernie Hjertberg, Rice Institute

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Glee Club, 1954

I can’t remember where I first came across this 1954 photograph of Rice’s Glee club but I certainly do recall why I bothered to scan it–those wonky light fixtures instantly caught my eye. So before I thought about who is in the picture I was wondering where it was taken, something I’m still not sure about:

The picture would have been taken just after Arthur Hall (at the piano) arrived on campus to inaugurate a school of music. He set right to work, teaching a class in music appreciation and starting glee clubs for both girls and boys. Hall also took over direction of the annual faculty Gilbert and Sullivan production, which was a pretty big undertaking. Rather than have me recite Hall’s accomplishments, take a look at this article written at the time of his retirement from Rice in 1974. He sounds like a wonderful man, and I can’t help but notice that he somehow seems younger in 1974 than he did in 1954, which I suspect says something very positive about his character:

I’ve mentioned Hall here before, in connection with the organ in the chapel, but I didn’t realize until today the we have his papers in the Woodson. They look awfully interesting and I pledge to investigate as soon as we open up for business again.

Bonus: Anybody know where that top picture was taken? It has to be somewhere they kept  a piano lying around, maybe the basement of Fondren?

Extra Bonus: I was just now leafing through the 1954 Campanile for clues to that room location and I stopped to look at the page for the Rice Hillel chapter. Here are the officers:

I mention this because I happen to know one thing about Morton Rudberg off the top of my head: he had the measles in 1951. Check out this 2018 post for the explanation. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve completely wasted my life.

 

 

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Radiant Enclosure, 1961

Another mystery solved, once again by a valued colleague. On December 24th I  posted this image of George and Alice Pratt Brown on Christmas Eve, 1976:

I’ve looked wistfully at this photograph for many years, wishing I could see the entire painting over Mr. Brown’s shoulder. Apparently I should have mentioned this sooner because David Bynog, head of acquisitions at Fondren, knew exactly what he was looking at:

Please find attached scans of the Hans Hofmann painting that is hanging behind the Browns in your Rice History post of December 24, 2020 (both an image of only the painting as well as fuller details from his Catalogue Raisonne in the PDF). Enjoy!

I was frankly dazzled that David was able to identify the painting from just that piece of the corner so I asked him how he did it. The simple, matter-of-fact response speaks to both a deeply serious and thoughtful love of art and what I have observed over the years as his genuine desire to help people:

I could tell it was a Hofmann painting from the visible corner. A google search on the artist did not turn up any matches, so I went to see what books on the artist we had. Fortunately we had a Catalogue Raisonne for him (which should include all of his known paintings), so it was just a matter of flipping through the books to find a match.

I’m so very grateful to David and I hope he enjoyed tracking this down as much as I’ve enjoyed learning about it. I can’t help but wonder where the painting is right now.

Bonus: Still thinking about trees.

 

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I’ve Been Looking For A Fitting Way To Start 2021

So how about a picture of some architects trying to teach a puppy to smoke?

I’ll concede that’s probably not what they’re doing but if you’ve spent any time with architecture students you know it’s not impossible either.

No date (I’m guessing late ’60s) and I don’t know who they are.

Bonus: Steve Baker mentioned in the comments to the post about the trees outside Cohen House that in 1963 you could still see the tower of Palmer Church above the trees. Here’s what you see now.

 

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View From Cohen House, 1940 Plus Some Thoughts On Those Big Trees

It’s pretty quiet around here right now and with time on my hands I somehow found myself leafing through the 1940 Campanile, hoping for a photograph of Cohen House around the time our predecessors acquired the radio/phonograph they inaugurated at the 1940 Christmas party. I didn’t really expect to find one and I didn’t but unexpectedly came upon a nice image taken from the back patio towards Hermann Hospital:

Then I remembered that I had taken a picture from roughly the same spot just a few weeks ago, which seemed to be an easy opportunity for a marginally interesting blog post:

But as I looked more carefully at this picture I began to think about those big oaks out the window. And specifically I recalled something I’d noticed in one of the pictures of the Rice aviation field that Story Sloane graciously allowed me to use a few weeks ago. In the open field left of the Administration Building you can see two clusters of small trees that I’d never noticed before. Might the group closest to the left edge be what we see out the back windows?

I think it is. This next image shows the area after Cohen House was built. It’s dated 1931 and you can get a good look at the orientation of those two clusters, with one just off the back corner of the hedge:

It’s even clearer in this 1956 aerial, but with the addition of what looks to be a double line on oaks along the side of Cohen House where there used to be a small driveway and parking area:

One more, post-Cohen House addition, circa 1967:

So now that I’m convinced I can’t help but wonder how long those trees have been there. The Story Sloane picture looks to be from 1924, but could they have been on campus from the beginning?

Nope. This was taken in 1920 and they’re not there:

Bonus: Improbably, both clusters survive. The other one is now wedged in between Allen Center and the parking garage/Cambridge Building.

Extra Bonus: This is what’s left of that double line of oaks along the west side of Cohen House, which has been largely squeezed out by the loading dock addition on one side and Allen Center on the other.

 

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“The owner is always proud to demonstrate his Farnsworth,” Christmas 1940

December, 1940 was a busy time at Cohen House and the Christmas dance marked the arrival of some long awaited and wonderful now-obsolete technology:

I knew exactly what would happen if I googled “Farnsworth radio and phonograph.” It would turn out that there’s a rabbit warren of websites run by victrola enthusiasts and radio geeks and I would get lost in it and never actually be able to figure out precisely what piece of equipment they had bought for Cohen House in 1940 because I can’t understand the technical specs collected in those websites.

I was right about that. But I do understand advertising and I found this great ad in a 1946 issue of Radio and Television Retailing magazine:

Bonus: This photo is labeled “George and Alice Pratt Brown, Christmas Eve, 1976.” It is worth some close examination. I deeply regret that I can’t see the rest of the painting.

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