“This is a very important meeting!”, 1950

File this one under “Life before email.” Here we have notice of a drama club meeting:

And here’s how it was sent:

Note the postmark date. For quite some time mail was delivered a couple of times a day. I’ll bet this would have arrived the morning of the 24th.

Bonus: I did not move far enough south.



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Snow Day, undated

We’re having a snow/sleet/freezing rain day today but this lovely photograph was taken on a true snowy day:

The label on the back indicates that it was given to the archives by long time bursar John T. McCants, who I’ve written about here and here.

When was it taken? It’s very hard to tell. About all I can say is that the Chemistry Building was finished in 1926 and the trees look fairly small. If pressed I’d guess with trepidation mid-1930s.

Bonus: At least this one doesn’t deny that it’s a door.

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“the old problem of radio versus records is scarcely with us,” 1934

Remember the Great Faculty Club Victrola Poll of October 1930?

I fear this issue might not have been finally laid to rest until 1934.

Which is only too easy to imagine.

Bonus: These two look like they’re about to drop this year’s hottest album.

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Friday Follies: Fashion Bookends

At first I was interested mainly in this guy’s pipe but then I noticed that he’s wearing the skinniest tie I’ve ever laid eyes on:

This amused me because I happen to have scanned several years ago a picture of the widest tie I’ve ever seen, sported here by Chemistry Professor Ed Billups:

Bonus: Not merely closed–it’s actually locked!

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Gotta light?

Back in the day, it seemed that nearly everyone on campus smoked. In dozens of photographs there are ashtrays on tables and credenzas. These, ironically, sit next to the experimental artificial heart pieces that David Hellums was showing King Baudouin in 1969:

In buildings where smoking might be dangerous special rooms were set up where one could relax without fear of blowing something up. This, for example, was the smoking lounge in the Chemistry Building (now Valhalla):

You could even smoke inside the library for a long time, although when I first arrived it had been banned. One of the most characteristic sights of my early years here was people pacing around in front of the building smoking cigarettes. (They still pace, but now they’re holding cell phones.)

But nobody could smoke like those architects! They didn’t just smoke; they smoked with verve. Several of the images from the lecturer scrapbook show people smoking or even better, gesturing stylishly with their cigarettes. This one is the best–and he was a shopping center expert on top of it! This just could not be any better:



Bonus: This is not a door. I know it looks like one, but it isn’t.

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Three Lecturers and a Photographer

Once I got over my surprise that the scrapbook of architecture lecturers was full of original photographs I began to notice just how good those photos are. Every one of them is interesting and somehow conveys something real. They just aren’t run of the mill. Here are a few:

By pressing down on the back of one of the pages I could just make out the name of the photographer: Maurice Miller. I managed to find his 2005 Houston Chronicle obituary and I post it here in its entirety rather than just link to it because his life was remarkable and I really want you to read this.

MAURICE MILLER, photojournalist and commercial photographer, died Thursday, December 13, 2004 at the age of 84. Born in San Francisco on July 1, 1920, he lived and worked in Houston, Texas, most of his life. He died in Austin, where had lived for many years with his daughter. His work reflects a lifelong photographic exploration of humanity and includes images of many historic events of our time. Mr. Miller served with the U.S. Army 84th Infantry in WWII as a photographer, documenting the Allied advance, including the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Jewish concentration camps. He flew on reconnaissance photography missions over enemy lines to provide intelligence and to document the progress of the Allies. After the war, he was a photojournalist on the Houston Post for eight years, five of which were as chief photographer. He won numerous awards for spot news and feature photos from the Associated Press, as well as awards from People Magazine, the Grolier Society and the National Press Photographer’s Association, and others. He was a stringer for Time and Life magazines and Black Star photo agency and a contributor to the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, Business Week, Architectural Forum, Arts and Architecture and Parade Magazine and many other publications. He studied at the University of Houston while working full-time and raising two children. In the 1960s, he was a staff photographer in the architecture department of Rice University and for the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Houston Contemporary Arts Museum and the University of St. Thomas. He later opened a freelance commercial business. He is survived by his son, Mark Miller and grandson Matt Miller of Gardiner, Montana, and his daughter, Marsha Miller, of Austin, Texas. Burial in Golden Gate National Cemetery in California.

If anyone knows anything more about him or his time at Rice please let me know. I’m still not finished with this material, by the way.


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“The People’s Architects,” 1962

I was reshelving a book in the back of the Woodson recently and I couldn’t resist a smile when I caught a glimpse one of the blandest, most unhelpful titles I’ve ever seen in all my years in the library: “Lecturers.”  I picked it up with, of course, no expectations at all.

And it turned out to be great! It’s a volume about visiting lecturers who came to the architecture department in the early 1960s, begun apparently as part of the academic side of the Semi-centennial celebration in 1962:

There are actually several years worth of lecturers bound into one volume, ending with 1965. Included are short bios but the best thing here are the pictures. They are the original photographs, not reproduced images, which means this is actually a very unusual kind of scrapbook. Many of the photos are straight head shots like this one of a man who knew a couple of things about the construction of buildings at Rice:

Many others, though, are a kind of “action shot” that may be unique to architects–a room full of people gazing intently at something:

The whole thing is just delightful–those architects are so stylish!–and I’m not finished talking about this yet. More to come.

Bonus: Pretty bleak day today.

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