This has been comically difficult. Really, I’ve been laughing as I’ve gone along. Part of what makes it all so interesting is that the engineering quad has been photographed so much over the years that there are hundred of images of it in the file. It’s full of things that seem to fascinate photographers–the old Mech Lab, the big marble slabs of the sculpture, there are even dozens of pictures of the Mechanical Engineering Building going up. The Tau Beta Pi bent, however, is not one of those things. It’s always hidden behind something or tantalizingly just off the edge of the image. Combine this with one of humanity’s great weaknesses–the refusal to date pictures–and you have a convoluted situation.
Nonetheless, I persevere. Looking in the most obvious place first, I found this Thresher article from September 1968 (which happily matches the date on the bent):
Clearly, the bent was not then placed where it is now. Here’s an undated picture of it in its original home. This time instead of Paul Pfeiffer entering Abercrombie, in a nifty bookend we see Bill Wilson exiting:
At this point I can only make educated guesses about dates based on some random scraps that have turned up. Here’s a pretty image from a February 1979 Thresher:
This next one is more surprising to me. Zoom in as close as you can and you’ll see the old Sigma Tau pyramid still there in the back corner. It was obviously taken just after 45° 90° 180° was installed in 1984, which is later than I would have expected it to be there.
But I don’t think it stayed there much longer. Here, mirabile dictu, is a photo dated August 1987 that shows the bent in its current location, with the pool filled in and plants added:
I don’t know about you guys, but I think that’s close enough.