Captain Baker’s Scrapbook

A few weeks ago my colleagues in the Woodson were doing real librarian work–reorganizing some collections–as I stood around and watched. (It looked hard!) At various points I got interested and asked to see things, probably making a nuisance of myself. But I did find some completely new material. One example is, remarkably, Captain James A. Baker’s scrapbook.

Here’s the 1976 High Emprise article about the donation of the scrapbook by James A. Baker III:

 There are quite a few things in the book that I’ve never seen before. Here’s one of them, a clipping about the big shots in attendance at Rice’s 1940 football victory over Texas–that’s Baker in the middle of the bottom photo. (These old scrapbooks are not easy to deal with, by the way. Those rows of spots are some kind of mucilage type adhesive, supplemented here with tape. They make the pages wavy besides holding the clippings in with an iron grip.)

You can see in these two images above of Captain Baker that he had a very particular look, which I think could fairly be described as “stern.” I had always assumed that this look grew on him as he came to carry so many heavy responsibilities as an adult. But I was delighted to find in the scrapbook a much earlier picture of him as a military cadet, a handsome lad . . . with the exact same stern look on his face. I wish we had a baby picture so we could see if he was born with it.


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“I am an Aggie but I’ve learned to love Rice,” 1946

Not really, though. This was clearly a coerced confession.

From 72 years ago:


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NSF Scholarship Winners, 1954

I found this clipping in one of those old scrapbooks that the alumni association used to keep. These are a treasure trove of otherwise undiscoverable information because the ladies assembled them with no apparent filter or method. Any article that mentioned Rice or any Rice alumnus or any Rice student or faculty member on any topic whatsoever, including hundreds of wedding announcements, was cut out and pasted into these big books. Every page is a riot of unrelated material. This clipping drew my attention because I instantly saw my friend Bob Curl, completely recognizable even 64 years ago:

A little digging turned up the encouraging result that all these young men went on to have significant scholarly careers. Jack Esslinger stayed on at Rice for a Ph.D. in parasitology, which he then taught for many years at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. William Agosta earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Harvard and taught at Rockefeller University, also serving as head of their Laboratory of Organic Chemistry until his retirement in 1998. Jerry Marion stayed at Rice for his doctorate in physics. Following brief appointments at the University of Rochester and Los Alamos, in 1957 he joined the University of Maryland Department of Physics and Astronomy, where he was co-director of experimental nuclear physics at the University’s Van de Graaff laboratory and a principal investigator at the cyclotron laboratory. Charles Reich too earned a doctorate in physics from Rice, then spent most of his career at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho (now called the Idaho National Laboratory).

Young Mr. Curl, of course, went off to Berkeley to complete his studies in chemistry. But he came back.

Bonus: Bob Curl, no date, on a scratched up contact sheet.

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“Rice Welcomes Jess Neely,” March 1940

As hard as it is to believe, it turns out that Jess Neely was once a baby.

I ran across this while perusing the March 1940 issue of the Rice Owl:

Bonus:  I can’t recall where I was when I took this. Keck Hall maybe?

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Homecoming Follies: Outhouse, 1953

I have a strong aversion to almost all “group fun” so the idea of a big pep rally and bonfire before the Homecoming game is enough to send me running for cover. But I have to admit this is clever. Great kodachrome slide too:


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“Rice Builds,” Homecoming 1947

The post-World War II years saw an explosion of growth and change at Rice. New buildings went up, new curricula were instituted, new entrance requirements were adopted. After decades of stagnation, it all happened very fast. As soon as 1947 Homecoming had become what it is now–a time to explain all that change to returning alumni:

Bonus: And yet the comfort of tradition remains.

This one seems to have just given up and laid down. (Thanks to several alert readers who sent pictures of this most recent carnage!)

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Halloween, circa late 1960s

This is an inspired getup:

It’s the only one I’ve ever seen that rivals my all-time favorite Rice Halloween costume, the great Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut:


You expect these kinds of shenanigans from the maniacs over in Circulation but now the front desk has gotten in on it too.

Extra Bonus: Also circa late ’60s.

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