When I found the Maxwell Reade pictures (because, you’ll recall, of a simple question about the history of the Math Department) I got curious about the campus in the era he photographed. I knew that this was the heyday of the Owl humor magazine and so I just pulled a few issues and started leafing through them. Almost immediately I ran across this gag map in an issue from the fall of 1937. Zoom in on it and have a look–it’s chock full of weird stuff:
One hardly knows where to begin. Much of it seems completely mystifying. But here’s where a couple of decades in the archives comes in handy–I know where to look to figure some of it out. There’s a lot to explain in there, but I’m going to start with the thing I find the funniest.
If you’ve ever seen the rickety contraption they call an elevator in Lovett Hall, the idea of it flying through the roof Willie Wonka style is unbelievable and hilarious. (But maybe that’s why they limit its use to a few people with keys!) The thing seems so old and wheezy it had never crossed my mind that it had been a new addition at some point, but of course that’s exactly what happened. It was approved by the Board in May of 1937, purchased from the Otis Elevator Company, and installed late that summer after modifications were made to the building. It didn’t cost $14,000, as the map suggests, but less than half of that. Interestingly, there is no mention of the elevator in Lovett’s papers and not even a wisp of a hint of its construction in the Thresher. The only place it I’ve seen any reference to it is this goofy image in the map.
So where did I find out how much it cost, you ask? The near-magical Sundry Contracts file, which has been a source of so much joy for me. Here’s a letter from William Ward Watkin to Captain Baker laying out the project costs:
It actually came in $338 under budget.
Bonus 1938 Fact: I discovered today that we budgeted $788 dollars for feed for the mules in the 1937-38 school year.
Interesting that on the humor map, the stick figure asking where the girl’s dorm is, is standing just about where Brown College was later established. Amazing foresight!
Pingback: Rice Athletic Association | Rice History Corner