“Please weigh.”

Here’s another story from the big envelope where I found Sammy’s eyes.

That envelope was so full of oddball stuff that I took it all out and laid it on a table to see if there was a coherent story anywhere. The thing that caught my attention first was another envelope, just a regular mailing one, that had something rather peculiar written on it:

Envelope 1

I happen to recognize the handwriting so I know that Mr. McCants, the bursar, was asking a couple of chemistry professors to weigh something that I can only guess was once contained in the envelope. It probably went to Harry Weiser, a senior member of the department, who must have passed it on to William Moore Craig, a very junior colleague who taught at Rice from 1923 until 1925. Whatever it was, it weighed 6.0076 grams.

Sorting through the rest of the things I was instantly struck by an even smaller envelope–tiny, really–labeled “6.0076 grams.” Like the first, this envelope was empty. It looked like a dead end, but it seemed, like the eyes, weird and unsettling. Why would anyone take the trouble to save these things?

It all snapped together when I picked up the first, big envelope to begin putting things back. I had thought it was empty but I felt something in the bottom. When I reached in, I found stuck in the corner a very small, very old coin. It’s worn and dirty but if you squint you can see the owl of Athena. Here it is, sitting on the tiny envelope:


There was now only one possible course of action. I scooted right out the back door and over to George R. Brown, where I asked a friend in Biosciences if he could weigh this little thing for me. He graciously dropped what he was doing and carefully laid it on a small scale. Do you think it weighed 6 grams? It did.

And another piece made sense now too. Here’s a note in another hand, this time Miss Dean’s:

Coin 4 050

Hendrix Davis, ’26 gave the coin to McCants. Where did he get it? That’s a great question and as far as I can tell unanswerable. The other thing that kind of nags at me is why did Mr. McCants want them to weigh it in the first place. What the hell?

Believe it or not, I haven’t exhausted this topic yet. More tomorrow.

Bonus: Thanks to a very kind colleague in the History Department, we joyfully celebrated the arrival of some desperately needed obsolete technology for our digital curation lab.


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4 Responses to “Please weigh.”

  1. joni says:

    Just a thought – old coin, valuable or identifiable metal, certain weight allows identification or value?

  2. marmer01 says:

    Almost certainly that. This could be an Ancient Greek coin. Or not.

  3. Barney L. McCoy says:

    Is there a helmeted Athena on the reverse side? Is the coin silver? If so, it could either be a silver Drachma (4.3 grams) or a silver Stater (8.6 grams). The weight is wrong for the artwork. The Greek islands used a drachma of 6.1 grams, but the artwork tended to be peculiar to the individual place. Maybe there was some Aegean island 500-400 BCE that used its weighing system but Athens’ design.( see worldcoincatalogue.com/AC/C2/Greece/AG/CS/CSG/Athens; and Ancient Greek Coinage- Wikipedia)) I’m sure there is someone on the Rice faculty who can tell us.
    Barney L. McCoy, Hanszen 67

  4. loki_the_bubba says:

    I will assume that is an IBM compatible 5 1/4″ drive. That will read most thing you have. Back in 1982 I worked for Victor Microcomputer. Their floppy worked a little different. IBM compatible drives ran at a constant velocity. The ones in the Victor ran at variable velocity. As the head approached the outer edge of the disk it would slow down so that the information was written at constant density. This allowed more information to be stored in the same form factor. Unfortunately that also kept you from moving data from a Victor to an IBM compatible machine. That contributed to the downfall of the company. Sometimes it pays to be the most common technology instead of the best technology.

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