Maxwell O. Reade, Ph.D. ’40

Through a sequence of events that began with a question about the history of the math department, I found myself bouncing around for most of yesterday through the late 1930s. It was a terrifically enjoyable ride, mostly due to the time I spent with the scrapbook of one Maxwell Reade, a graduate student in mathematics during those years. Like Joseph Davies, Reade took photographs in an unusually intelligent way. His collection is full of strange shots taken from odd perches that let us see Rice in ways that seem almost shockingly fresh. It’s as though his own vision is somehow more powerful than the images he’s capturing. Again, as with Davies, I felt a sense of immediate connection, as if he wanted me to see what he saw.

I’ve posted a picture he took once before, a picture that I find rather haunting. But as often happens, it took a second look to see what was there all along. He labeled everything, by the way, both on the back of each picture and on the page itself. I decided to leave the labels in the scans.


The gardens are nice indeed, but my attention is caught by the tantalizing curve of what looks to be a footpath or small drive leading away from the parking area visible between the Physics Building and the Chemistry Building.

Reade received his Ph.D. in 1940 and went on to a long career at the University of Michigan. I looked up his dissertation and of course it was unintelligible to me. Interestingly, it isn’t clear who his advisor was. The dissertation is here if anyone wants to take a look at it. If you have an educated guess about who he might have been working with I’d love to hear it.

I’ll have more of his photos to come, along with a sort of carnival of late ’30s campus culture to go with them .

Bonus: There’s a Maxwell O. Reade Collection of Early Jazz and Blues Recordings as part of the African American Music Collection at the University of Michigan. Take a look at the website. I really, really hope that’s a picture of him!

Extra Bonus: They’ve decided to carve the names onto some buildings on campus. What’s the big rush, I wonder? The building is only 50 years old.

Here’s the carver. Smart fellow and friendly too, not at all perturbed by an inquisitive photographer:


Here’s another piece of carving that’s already on the building. Note how the nice contrast allows you to actually read what it says, unlike the plaque on the Biology Lab:

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12 Responses to Maxwell O. Reade, Ph.D. ’40

  1. Pat Campbell says:

    In the landscaping picture, Willie looks lonely with the land off to the distance behind him.

  2. effegee says:

    Looks like George Rupp brought back the tall trees (Italian cedars?) to the quad along with commencement. Those weren’t there in the early ’70s. Wonder when they disappeared.

  3. Grungy says:

    Interesting stuff in that top photo, found while I was cleaning up my personal copy in Photoshop.
    At the top right corner a football goalpost is visible, and it appears to be next to the trees that lined Harris Gulley.
    And just above the tops of the trees on the left, there is the ghost of a crane and some columns – could they have been working on the old stadium or something just past it?
    Without searching, I have no idea when the first stadium was built.

  4. Barney L. McCoy says:

    I seem to remember those Italian cypresses being there in the 63-67 time period. Barney L. McCoy Hanszen 67

  5. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    It seems likely it is the same brick chimney appearing in the first and last photos. I also think the main quad landscaping looks odd without all the later buildings like Archi, Rayzor and Sewall.

  6. I can’t find Maxwell Reade’s advisor at the Mathematics Geneology Project:

    He came out of retirement to sit on Ted Kaczynski’s dissertation committee because no one else could understand the math (see Wikipedia on Ted Kaczynski). Given that, there is no shame in not understanding Reade’s thesis.

    A “Maxwell O Reade” was an advisor on this documentary about Porgy and Bess filed at U of Mich., which would support that photo being him.

  7. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    I found a picture in the 1981 Campanile taken right after they dug up the boxwood hedges in preparation for remodeling the main quad. the Italian cypresses are in that picture.

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  10. kelley says:

    I take care of mr reade he is a character

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