“Mr. Rice died 8 O’Clock last night”

I’m back on campus and hard at it again, although it’s a bit less gleeful than I was hoping for. I have lots of catching up to do. This morning I was trying to trace the progress (if that’s the right word) of William Marsh Rice’s ashes from a New York City mortuary to the base of his statue on campus. This was indeed a long strange trip and it’s possible to follow it fairly well by picking through ancient board minutes and many, many folders of receipts.

Anyway, as I looked through some of these folders I found something else I’d never seen before. (Well, I have to confess that I might have seen it at some point–I’ve spent quite a bit of time on this collection–but it somehow never really registered until today.) It’s the telegram, the one signed “C.F. Jones” that arrived in Captain Baker’s hands and kicked off the whole long saga of the Rice litigation:

Rice Death telegram 1900

Once again I’m struck by the simple physical presence of something. So many things live mostly as parts of stories, a sort of disembodied existence, so it’s startling to see it right there in front of me. It’s a real thing, not just a plot device.

I just realized as I was typing this that I didn’t look for the other telegram, the one from Swenson and Sons bank that let Baker know that the circumstances of the death were suspicious. There are several Swenson folders and I’ll bet it’s in there somewhere.

Bonus: I don’t know what’s going on here.



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11 Responses to “Mr. Rice died 8 O’Clock last night”

  1. James Medford says:

    C. F. Jones didn’t own a dictionary, apparently.

  2. Melissa Kean says:

    Yes, that much seems clear.

  3. Leoguy says:

    “X” marks the spot. Looks like the foundation for an art installation.

  4. Tothwolf says:

    The X could be a reference marker for an aerial surveying/photography project.

    • Deborah Gronke Bennett (BSEE Hanszen 1982) says:

      Survey markers are generally painted. This one is a poured concrete structure. Melissa posted a picture of it in progress last week. I agree that is the base for something heavy.

  5. marmer01 says:

    Maybe it’s some kind of new addition…

  6. Jeff Ross says:

    John Boles briefly discusses the ashes in his book, University Builder, on Page 186. Perhaps, he knows more than he wrote or the editor left in the text.

  7. marmer01 says:

    Whatever it is, it will be a real plus for the campus…

  8. Deborah Gronke Bennett (BSEE Hanszen 1982) says:

    Google Books has a title called “The Death of Old Man Rice” by Friedland and Wilson. It talks all about the death and the trial and is a fascinating (if long) read. I didn’t find any details about the cremation though, only the funeral where the body was held afterwards for the autopsy.

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