Atropos

The opening of the new Rice Institute got a lot of press coverage. It’s all pretty interesting but by far my favorite piece is this one from the October 6, 1912 New York Herald. (You can read it all if you click on it a couple of times.) Some of the details are a little dubious, but that illustration is spectacular.

The first time I saw this I was so captivated by the white-robed figure with the shears that I didn’t notice anything else. Early speculation in the Woodson was that it was the ghost of William Marsh Rice cutting the ribbon at the opening, as if this were a discount tire store. I refuse to believe that, though. It has to be Atropos, one of the Greek Fates, the Apportioners who spin, measure and cut our lives, as the Herald ever so subtly makes the point that William Marsh Rice had to die for the university to live.

It seems pedantic to point out that the building is wrong, but I can’t help it. Note the wings on the north and south sides, design elements that were dropped quite early on. I’m not even going to mention the preposterous size of the Italian cypresses.

Bonus: Odd items are beginning to roll into the Woodson. This afternoon Cindy Lindsay and Steve Sheafor brought this. We’re not totally certain what it is, although it seems to be floor mat of some kind—with the seal of the Rice Institute on it. He salvaged it from the basement of the RMC back in the day. Bring me something during the Centennial and I’ll take your picture too! This is your big chance.

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4 Responses to Atropos

  1. Dan Mittleman says:

    Melissa, which details did you find dubious? Just curious…

  2. Of course it’s about William Marsh Rice. Otherwise it would be Atropos of nothing!

  3. Andy Arenson says:

    I visited for the Centennial and while walking through the square between the Baker Institute and the Jones school happened upon a woman taking a picture of another women, who was in a wheelchair, in front of the fountain there.

    After they took me up on my offer to take a picture of both of them together, my companion and I learned that the two women were Dorothy Bowman from the class of 1938 and her daughter. After I encouraged Dorothy to visit the Woodson, she explained that she’d had a visit a little while ago from someone at Rice, so I imagine that you all have already had a chance to get her story.

    I didn’t bother her for very long, but did take the opportunity to ask her what lead her to choose Rice. She explained that it was the Depression and Rice didn’t charge tuition, so it seemed like a good idea.

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