Semper Fidelis, date unknown

Looking through my collection of Rice library bookplates this morning I noticed this unusual one:

I don’t remember scanning this and in fact it looks more like I hastily snapped a picture of it with my cell phone. Where I found it I can no longer say. I’ve certainly never seen another like it. And of course I’d also never heard of the Semper Fidelis Club. The only mention of it in the Thresher is this article from October 16, 1959:

The club also appears in the 1960 and 1961 Campaniles. But I find this impossible to square with the bookplate. First, Stockton Axson died in 1935 and second, as soon as Fondren was built the library was called Fondren Library rather than the Rice Institute Library. So I suppose there must have been a much earlier iteration of the Semper Fidelis Club about which I still know nothing. So we’ve apparently gotten nowhere today. Maybe tomorrow, though, as I now seem to have all the time in the world to track down this kind of thing. Also, on Axson here’s a pretty good post I wrote about him way back in 2011 and of course this more recent classic about his platonic lover’s contribution to the library.

Bonus: This is from the same issue of the Thresher as the Semper Fi story. At first, of course, I was interested in the dateless boys but it turns out the real star of this piece is the totally inexplicable “dead party.” I can’t see at all why this would be fun. Once I get back in the Woodson I’ll see if there’s anything about this in the EBLS scrapbooks.

Extra Bonus: Many thanks to Ellen Rein Pierce ’91 for the hot tip that led me to this great ebay score. I’m taking tomorrow off, by the way. I clearly need a break.

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7 Responses to Semper Fidelis, date unknown

  1. There may have been a Rice Institute Library before Fondren was built. I wonder if the Semper Fidelis Club might have been a Secret Society before it achieved mention in the Thresher.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Yes, the library was originally called the Rice Institute Library. I hadn’t thought of a secret society but I know that there were quite a few around for a long time.
      That’s not a bad guess.

  2. mike says:

    There’s an entry for the Semper Fidelis Club in E.O. Lovett’s papers (President’s Office Records, Subseries A (General): Box 31, folder 9)

  3. Galloway Hudson. Wiess '60 says:

    Kids. I see the names of several of my classmates in the “dead party” story. I can assure you that, almost 61 years later, the theme is not nearly so humorous as it might have seemed to them in 1959. Plus, a classmate’s name also appears in the “Semper Fi” article. I agree that it has nothing to do with the older Semper Fi bookplate you found.

  4. Dale Spence says:

    It seems evident that Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful) reference to the Rice University Library is not related to the USMC but could connote faithful service to the Rice Institute community of scholars.

    Semper Fidelis to Marines, imbued in the culture, is a code of conduct that is absolute: Absolute loyalty to each other, corps, and nation.

    During my undergraduate days at Rice (1952-1956), the Marine Corps was high profile, both among NROTC students and those who joined the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class, which attracted many scholarship athletes. The group of Rice Graduates in the class of 1956 who were commissioned and entered the Marine Corps Basic Officers School was about 20. Although we did not organize a social network of support for Marine Corps events during our time, we hung out together and later served together for a variable number of years.
    Dale Spence, Colonel, USMCR(Ret)

  5. Ellen May says:

    Horrors, I was president of EBLS 1959-1960 and don’t remember a thing about the Dead Party. I talked to my good friend, Wanda Phears Waters, who was also an EB and she doesn’t remember it either but said if she wrote about it, it must have happened. Being so close to Halloween maybe we thought we were being “clever”
    Ellen Cartwright May

  6. marmer01 says:

    In looking in Chron and Post archives, I first see mentions of a Semper Fidelis Club listed in 1936. The members were mostly women, and the connection to Professor Axson doesn’t really show up until mentions of a memorial portrait of Professor Axson in 1939 and a collection of Elizabethan literature presented as a memorial to Dr. Axson, both given to The Rice Institute. They don’t appear to be a Rice organization and it’s not clear what their connection to Rice is except that they were “friends of Professor Axson.” Early officers were Mrs. Clint Hollady, Mrs. Robert Sparkman (there’s a Joseph Sparkman who graduated from Rice in 1942), Mrs. E.J. Cherrault, Mrs. H.H. Ueckert, Mrs. Robert Ring, Mrs. Eugene Harris, and Mrs. P.W. Griffith. The last mention of them was of a postponed book review in 1940.

    From the Houston Post, February 15, 1939:

    Library Fund is Established by Club Group
    The establishment of a library
    fund at Rice Institute for the purchase
    of Elizabethan books as a permanent
    memorial to Dr. Stockton
    Axson has been completed by the
    Semper Fidells club, Mrs. Robert
    Ring, president, said Tuesday.
    “This memorial was the objective
    of the club when it was organized
    three years ago. A beginning has
    been made and addltlonal contrlbu-
    tlons wlll be added to the fund each
    year, “, Mrs. Ring said.
    The club recently presented a
    portrait of Dr. Axson to Rice Insti-
    tute. Mrs. Robert Sparkman is
    chairman of the memorial commilttee.
    Mrs. E. J. Cherrault will be
    hostess for the regular meeting of
    the Semper Fidelis club at 10 a. m.
    Friday at her home, 1408 Sul Ross.
    Mrs.. W. S. Athey will direct the program.

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