“the right kind of esprit de corps”: The History of the Rice University Archives, Part 1

Looking through some boxes of old library records, I found the earliest history of my archives. Their very first appearance is in a 1949 memo from Librarian William Dix to President Houston:

Archives memo 1949

It seems pretty persuasive to me and apparently Houston thought so as well.  A committee was quickly up and running and they wasted no time in getting a notice into the Sallyport, explaining what they were up to and how alumni could help:

Archives Sallyport July 1950

I’m especially charmed that they assumed any future historian who might be working on the history of the institution would be a man. As I think about it, I’m fairly sure that my sex is not the only thing about me that would have surprised them.

As I worked through the folder I was transfixed by these minutes, taken at a 1950 meeting of the committee. It’s just a list, but I can almost hear them talking as they try to figure out what records are where:

Archives meeting notes 1950

The records of the Rice estate trials are in the Fieldhouse, the architectural plans are in the attic of the Chemistry Building—this is exactly what I do today (or at least part of what I do today). It’s shocking how much stuff is still floating around both on and off campus.

So things seem to have gotten off to a good start. But it shouldn’t surprise any of us–at least any of us who work at universities–to find that they kind of got stuck here. I think they did go out and gather these materials, almost all of which we have, but then the committee just sort of petered out.

More to come.

I guess this is a cliffhanger.

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8 Responses to “the right kind of esprit de corps”: The History of the Rice University Archives, Part 1

  1. almadenmike says:

    What are the “Schleuter photograph(s?)”?

  2. Melissa Kean says:

    Frank J. Schleuter was a very active commercial photographer in Houston from around the turn of the century into, about the 1960’s, I think. He took many of the early photos of Rice, especially photos of special events. He was out go-to guy for a lot of years.

  3. ed summers, Baker, 1959 says:

    During the late 1950s, when I was an engineering student at Rice, Alice Dean, then about 80 years of age and still driving – “Aunt Allie” to me- came to her tiny office in the Fondren Library basement to work on the archives at least once a week. I visited her there, for an hour or two, when I could. She showed me many of the more exotic original documents in Rice’s history, especially those associated with Mr. Rice’s murder and the ensuing legal difficulties for his lawyer and will-forger Mr. Patrick and butler-murderer Mr. Jones (the latter still living in Pasadena at that time!). For example, I was able to compare for myself the actual and forced signatures of Mr. Rice. I admire and and grateful to those pioneers who worked through all those difficulties to create the Rice I attended.

  4. Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

    I believe the valet of Wm. Marsh Rice was named Jones.

    I know he lived in one of the 3 towns that consolidated to form BAYTOWN (“Pelly”, I think), sometime after about 1934-6, as I talked with Peggy Pollack (the widow of Joe Pollack, Rice Institute 1956) about Jones several times. Peggy had known and feared Jones when she was a girl in Pelly. She told me there were 2 streets in that area names “Jones” but she did NOT know whether they had anything to do with valet Jones.

  5. almadenmike says:

    Rice’s valet/murderer was Charles F. Jones (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=81873599), and was, indeed, a longtime resident of Pelly (http://ourbaytown.com/baytownfacts.htm).

  6. Pingback: The Beginning of the Archives | What's On-line @ Woodson Research Center

  7. Pingback: Harper Leiper Aerials, 1950 | Rice History Corner

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