I was looking through a box from the Campus Photographer Collection, one near the end that was full of relatively recent material. Then I noticed a folder labeled “Harper Leiper Order Book.” I was surprised because Harper Leiper was a fairly prolific commercial photographer in Houston in an earlier era: most of the things that I’ve seen have been roughly from the ’50s to the ’70s.
When I opened the folder and saw this binder my heart skipped a beat:
Well,unfortunately there wasn’t a lot in there. The three aerials it did contain, though, are just beautiful. They were taken in late 1950 and they are sharp and clear and very, very interesting. Zoom in and take a close look–all of them are worth some time. In particular, the first two have really nice views of the old stadium, which would soon be demolished. The second one also features my favorite Rice geographical feature, the gaping maw of the unenclosed gully in the stadium parking lot.
But the most surprising thing in the folder wasn’t one of these images. Rather, it was a list–a very short one, perhaps (or perhaps not) the first page of a longer inventory–of photos held in the archives in the summer of 1954:
I’m sure everyone remembers this discussion of the efforts to start the archives in 1950, but this painful memo from a dozen years later suggests that things hadn’t progressed in a wholly satisfactory manner:
So it may well be that by 1954 the library held a pretty paltry collection of photographs. But they were out there, hiding in drawers and file cabinets and attics and people kept bringing them in until there are now more than I can ever give due attention to.