“D.M. Potter, Instructor in History”

I’m not finished yet with the materials from the late 1930s. I was looking through the images taken by Maxwell O. Reade again (I recently discovered that the “O.” stands for Ossian) when I came upon something of particular interest to me:

I’m sure the two fellows on the ends have their own worthwhile stories, but it’s the one in the middle that I care about. That’s David Morris Potter, who became a great American historian, probably best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the run-up to the Civil War, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861. He stayed at Rice as an instructor for four years, living in the faculty tower the whole time from what I can tell. His salary hovered around $2,500 a year, just a bit higher than average. He left here for a long and distinguished career at Yale and then Stanford. Here is a memorial resolution written by his Stanford colleagues at his death in 1971. Its authors are themselves very distinguished scholars–Fehrenbacher in fact completed and edited The Impending Crisis, which Potter had nearly finished when he died.

I think he has quite a jaunty look in this photo, with the bow tie and the grin. I also managed to dig up an “interview” that the Thresher did with him shortly after he arrived on campus in 1938. It confirms that he had the ability to act a little goofy:

I assume the spinach reference is to this cartoon, which created a long-lived sensation when it was first published in the New Yorker in 1928:

Bonus: You might think that this would be the most interesting development in the Italian cypress department over break:

This has been dead for quite some time.

It’s not, though. Here’s something more unusual. For a long time this tree was listing over towards Anderson Hall. Then they came in, set it right and added some more straps to hold it up. Now it’s listing over towards Rayzor!


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1 Response to “D.M. Potter, Instructor in History”

  1. Pingback: “thank you for the pleasing inscription in the fly-leaf,” 1942 | Rice History Corner

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