Lions (And Pots) By Lassig (Now with Correction)

I spent a completely unjustifiable amount of time this afternoon digging through piles of bids, contracts, specs and change orders for the construction of the Mech Lab and power plant in 1910-11. I was down so far in the weeds I needed a machete to get out. Pointless? Probably. But life is short and I was enjoying myself. I’d only ever glanced at this material in the past and this time it made a lot more sense.

This was the find of the day:

Oswald Lassig order for cement vases


At first I was stumped by “tree vases” then I realized that these are the pots that I love so much. The square ones, like the one visible right next to the Physics Building, must have been just regular old tree vases:

1917 commencement section 2


And the fancy ones that people liked to pose with have to be the special tree vases:

1920 commencement pot

Two things about the order were arresting. First, Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson went to the trouble to design tree vases for the campus—that’s a pretty small detail but they went so far as to design a Rice automobile pennant, so probably not so surprising. Second, the contractor charged with executing the design was Oswald Lassig, the stone carver responsible for the decoration of the early buildings. (I realized today that I’ve never written about him here. I’ll remedy that as soon as I can.)

It reminded me of another photograph I scanned quite some time ago but never found a use for. This is the front of Wiess House, undated. On the back it says only “Lions by Lassig.” I wonder what happened to them.

Wiess House with lions by Lassig nd


Bonus: I don’t know what this is.


Corrections Are Issued: Thanks to the estimable Stephen Fox, I now know that that is not in fact Wiess House but rather the estate of Commodore Perry in Austin. (The lions are still by Lassig.) The Rice History Corner regrets, but is not particularly surprised by, the error.

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10 Responses to Lions (And Pots) By Lassig (Now with Correction)

  1. Whit Matteson says:

    Looks like one of these: Is there something on top that looks like it could be a camera? These are designed for traffic study. Maybe it was taking a picture of you while you were taking a picture of it!

  2. effegee says:

    Maybe the one in the picture is watching for the ghost of a medical center icon speeding from his house on Cherokee to his office at Baylor.

  3. Keith Cooper says:

    Did you find the drawings as well, or just the bill? The quad could use a couple modern copies …

  4. almadenmike says:

    It looks like Lassig’s lions are still at the Perry Estate:×310.jpg

  5. For those who don’t know, a commodore is the commanding officer of a small group of vessels. In US Navy usage, sometimes it has been used to refer to the one-star flag rank and sometimes that rank has been called “Rear Admiral, Lower Half.” It is also common for the commander of a squadron to hold the rank of Captain but the title of Commodore. In today’s navy it’s more of a command or posting than an actual rank. Just as the captain of a ship is called Captain, regardless of actual rank, the Commodore may be called that even if his/her rank is lower. Unless they are an admiral, and then they are called Admiral.

    • Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

      Actually Commodore was traditionally the one-star rank of the USN/USCG. It was an obsolete rank until WWII when it was resurrected (Arleigh Burke held that rank functioning as CofStaff during WWII). Until then there was no one star rank in the USN. You were promoted to RADM (LH) and eventually became RADM(UH) but, except for the paycheck, there was no way to differentiate. Thus a CAPT, junior to all of Army, Air Force and Marine one stars would be promoted to RADM and rank all of them. In 1982 the USN created the rank of Commodore Admiral and changed it to Commodore in 1983 then returned to RADM (LH) but this time gave it a 1 star insignia

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