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: