Sometimes it’s the mundane things that prove to be the most mysterious. One of the things that we never stop to think about is the campus mail–you put it in one of those envelopes and someone takes it where you need it to go, later on someone drops those envelopes off in your box. But when you stop to question how we reached this pleasant state of affairs things get very murky. Over the years I’ve come upon only a few hints at how campus mail worked in the past, here and here, but recently I stumbled upon a turning point in the system.
This memo from the bursar’s office was in the papers of the Committee on University Welfare, a standing committee of some real power that dealt more or less with whatever needed fixing, both large and small. The handwriting at the top looks to be Pitzer’s and the message looks like the genesis of those envelopes:
And there’s more–a schedule of morning and afternoon service, with all material deviation to be reported!
The timing of the adoption of this more structured system makes a lot of sense. The 1960s at Rice were a time of rapid modernization and a growing sophistication of which regularized mail service is just one tiny aspect. More important changes, like the institution of tenure, happened at about the same time.
Bonus: It was picture perfect on campus late this morning but there were very few people around to see it.