Interior Woodwork and Fine Furniture, 1912

I was looking for something in the Land Deeds and Sundry Contracts collection this afternoon and look what turned up–the bill for President Lovett’s office furniture, including the table that’s now in the Woodson. We paid $195 for it and I think we got our money’s worth:

I went back and looked at the picture of his office and sure enough you can see most of the things on that list. And by the way, the shades on the window were green linen. I found the bill for those also:

Dr. Edgar Odell Lovett’s presidential office in Lovett Hall (Administration Building), Rice Institute

Bonus: The carving on the desk is even more ornate than that on the Woodson’s table. If I recall correctly this desk is now in President Leebron’s office in Allen Center.



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Faculty Wives Club, 1920-21

I’ve been cleaning some stuff out of my office at home and I came across this photocopy that I made some time in the late 1990s. I vividly remember why I did this. I had come across a file copy of a letter that was significant for the research I was doing at the time. There was just one problem: I knew who wrote the letter (it was in his files) but there was nothing to indicate who he wrote it to. The only clue came at the sign off. The writer sent Christmas greetings to the recipient and his wife, who he referred to by her first name. After a bit it dawned on me that we have the records of the Faculty Wives Club and I could probably figure it out by going to their membership lists.

This was a great idea with one small flaw. Zoom in and take a look:

The reason I copied it was to take it around to some older Rice folks (now mostly dead) who helped me begin filling in some of the first names. After roughly 25 years I know most of these women in varying degrees of intimacy and can say all their names myself. I’m not sure if anyone else will be able to after I’m gone.

The funny thing is that what strikes me looking at this today is something I didn’t even notice the first time around. Why did they need a gallon of kerosene? What the heck were they doing? Probably not Molotov cocktails but who knows.

Bonus: This is what a tea party is supposed to look like. That’s Miss Sarah Lane ’19 at right and I think this may have been around the time of her retirement in 1962. No kerosene in sight.


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Friday Follies: Quarantine Tennis, no date


Not only do I have no date for this (maybe ’70s?), I’m also not quite certain where the room was. I spent a lot of time in the gym before the big renovation but I can’t get a handle on this.

Bonus: At least the flowers are pretty.

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“One of the most scandalous outrages of the current year,” circa 1933

I’m fairly sure lots of people drank beer off campus but these guys got busted:

I haven’t been able to find out whether they were allowed back in the dorms but I’d bet you  they weren’t. It sounds crazy to us these days but with some gradual loosening over time this kind of rigid regulation went on for decades.

I don’t know about you guys but to me Lauterbach looks old enough to be trusted with a beer:

Bonus: I can’t resist pointing out that the Dean at the time would have been Harry Weiser, last seen here at the Colloid Chemists Convention in Chicago, 1946.

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“Rice Center,” no date

I was rifling through some 8x10s yesterday and this one caught my attention:

It was the ties, of course, which are substantial and which suggest early to mid 1980s, that I found so enchanting. But once you get past the ties the legitimate question of interest is this: the only label on the back is “Rice Center” but I have no idea what center that might be. I think I see a couple of architects in there–that looks like David Crane and (I think) a young Jack Mitchell. John Margrave from Chemistry is on the left, although he may have been here as VP of Advanced Studies and Research. I don’t quite recognize the fellow just left of Norman. So once again I’m looking for some help here. Thoughts?

Note: Thanks a million for all the suggestions about the shorthand translation. I found someone who will give it a shot. We shall see . . .

Bonus: I was surprised to see this yesterday while standing on the library’s loading dock. Over the years I’ve stood there hundreds of time and never noticed it. I have no idea what (if anything) happens if you push it.


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Can Anybody Out There Read Shorthand?

Or tell me where to find someone who can?

We’re getting the Rice Charter Change Trial records ready to send out out to be digitized and are confronted with a mystery. There are several stenographer’s notebooks in the collection filled with some variety of shorthand. I first ran across these over twenty years ago and tried with no luck to find someone who could read them. That was like prehistoric times though, back in the days when you had to actually go around and ask people. Now we have the internet and I wouldn’t be surprised to find some sort of Shorthand Devotees Group somewhere out there who could clear this right up.

Here’s what the notebooks look like:

And here’s an example of the shorthand:

Judging by the bits and pieces I can read—this looks like a page from the testimony of Logan Wilson, who had been president of the University of Texas and Dean of Newcomb College at Tulane, called by Rice as an expert witness about the state of American higher education—I feel fairly sure that this was a contemporaneous record of the trial, done to provide a quicker way for the Rice administrators who weren’t in the courtroom every day to know what was happening. If that’s so then we don’t need to worry about translating it all into readable English because we have the transcript that was published later.

Any thoughts?

Bonus: Not a single soul to be found.

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A Small Peek Into the Autrey Scrapbook, 1912

Last week I wrote about the images in the Autrey’s scrapbook that were taken at Girard College in Philadelphia, the only plausible Rice connection I could think of. Today I unapologetically offer just a wee taste of other wonders contained on those pages that have nothing at all to do with Rice history. The scrapbook documents a 1912 family trip to the cities of the northeast. Someone brought along a pretty good camera and put it to good use, photographing many places and scenes that are still well known today. The combination of familiarity and strangeness is arresting and my reaction to seeing them the first time was something like shock.

The Atlantic City boardwalk:

Boston Garden:

The Hotel Astor, Times Square area. I don’t know what’s there now, but I do know this is long gone:

It looks like the Autreys left the northeast by ship, sailing down to Key West (I somehow neglected to scan any images taken there) and from there to Cuba before heading home to Galveston. There are several pages of pictures taken in Havana, mostly unlabeled. This looks to be Havana Cathedral:

This is my favorite of the whole bunch –the first game of the 1912 World Series at the Polo Grounds! If I recall correctly this would have been a brand new stadium, the earlier iteration having burned in, I think, 1911. It was a great series, maybe one of the greatest. This looks like the ceremonial first pitch–but there’s someone in the batter’s box:

Bonus: Signs of life.

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Friday Follies: “To Hell With It,” 1964

Zoom in on his button. That’s right about where I am these days, minus the beer but with much, much cuter shoes.


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Back to the Future, 2020

As I’ve said before if you hang around here long enough you’ll see everything twice. Today’s exhibit: The Woodson Research Center, circa 1990. Note please the plexiglass shield in front of the front desk:

And the Woodson Research Center, June 10, 2020:

At least the ghastly yellow carpet is gone, until someone hopefully far in the future gets the genius idea that yellow carpet would be just the thing to brighten the place up.

Bonus: Main lobby, Fondren. I have two things. First, there’s no one here to use these computers. Second, is this device doing something by itself??


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New Furniture, 2020

The excitement in the Woodson yesterday mostly (but not completely) centered around the arrival of new chairs for our conference table. And very handsome chairs they are too:

What’s actually important, of course, is not the chairs, lovely and comfortable as they are, but the table itself. It’s an antique, made of beautiful heavy oak and ornately carved at the posts:

It was original equipment in Dr. Lovett’s office. It’s easy to imagine him sitting there, doing big business:

Dr. Edgar Odell Lovett’s presidential office in Lovett Hall (Administration Building), Rice Institute

We were lucky enough to get this table when in the course of shifting people around for various inscrutable purposes some folks were given space in Lovett Hall and had no need for it. I don’t know what they were thinking but I’m glad that it has found a home where it will be used and loved. The new chairs really work with it too. We’re so cool in the archives I can hardly stand it.

Bonus: Excuse the finger!




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