After I wrote this post last week about the power plant I got several emails asking about the short volume written by the first bursar, J.T. McCants, about the very early days of Rice. He seems to have written it gradually, completing it in 1955, just a few years after this picture was taken in 1951:
It’s not really a narrative, although there are all kinds of snippets of stories embedded in it. It’s more like a compilation of data: biographical data about the first trustees, details of the purchase of the campus site and the development of the General Plan, construction minutia, explanations of some iconography and so forth. In 1971 it was typed up as a single-spaced monograph and 75 copies were printed. I don’t know how they were distributed but we wound up with several in the Woodson. My favorite thing about these is a mistake. When they were bound, they were bound both upside down and backwards. Even better, no one bothered to correct this. Here’s the cover:
And here’s what you see when you open it up:
I like it better this way–I find it touching and very, very human. I also feel just so slightly discombobulated every time I open it, which has to be a good thing in general.
Of all that was in his notebook, I most loved his descriptions and explanations of the frieze carvings on the Chemistry building cloisters.
Probably would have been crazy expensive to re-do them, so they just left them.
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