Star Electric

Thinking about those early Rice students and the loyalty and friendship that endured among them I was reminded of a set of images that I probably should have talked about earlier. It starts with a picture that I’ve looked at countless times over the years, one taken at commencement in 1930:

1930 Commencement Cram at podium

This is a pretty neat picture. That’s the architect of our early buildings, Ralph Adams Cram, at the podium and you can see quite a few notable Rice faculty members and trustees sitting behind him, from Griffith Evans at left all the way over to Dr. Lovett at the right. There’s also a great view of the canvas backdrop covering the Sallyport that confused me in the early days of this blog (a full five years ago!)

None of that is what I’m interested in.

What I’m interested in are the speakers, emblazoned with “Star Electric & Engr. Co.” This seems to have been the first time the commencement program was amplified. (When you think about it, that must have been a huge relief.) It wasn’t until I noticed this ad from the 1923 Campanile, though, that I really got curious:

Star Electric 1923 Campanile

Surely everyone remembers my kodaking friend Carl Knapp ’16, and Edmund Dupree ’16 was of course the first student to enroll at the Institute. Here’s a picture of them in about 1915 in the bowels of the Mech Lab:


The real surprise came when I discovered we have a small collection, a single box, of things from Dupree. Out of that box emerged an image of the Star Electric shop at its original location on Capitol Street in downtown Houston. That’s Carl in the cap behind the counter and Ed Dupree right next to him:


By 1930 Knapp had left the enterprise to work for the River Oaks Corporation but Dupree was still there when Dr. Lovett decided that Rice could go ahead and install some amplification for commencement. Rice people stuck together.



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8 Responses to Star Electric

  1. loki_the_bubba says:

    That is a heck of a cap on Carl.

  2. Keith Cooper says:

    That’s an incredibly clear shot of the border on the covering of the Sallyport.

  3. Carlos says:

    Rather than a visual block, could the canvas have served some acoustical function — in that period before electronic sound amplification — by blocking or muffling sounds coming from Main Street?

  4. francis eugene 'gene' pratt says:

    Did y’all notice in the pic of the electric store/shop, that the telephone has no dialing mechanism (I think)?
    There’s an “operator plee-us” at the other end of that line.

    How many of y’all remember having to place long-distance calls through the operator and then stay at home for hours to days to have the call get through … if ever?

  5. Pingback: “On the occasion of the twenty-third annual homecoming,” 1941 | Rice History Corner

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