A Bit of Rice Prehistory, 1966

I opened a file folder labeled “Rice Land” and was astounded to discover this correspondence from a man whose ancestors had owned a piece of what became our campus. It begins rather oddly, inspired as it was by an article about cutting cedar trees in Texas. Honestly, it occurs to me that the entire letter might be considered odd. There are some assumptions buried in there that seem a bit dubious. But still, it’s awesome. Stick with it!

The sketches that the author describes were also in the folder, with detailed captions firmly glued thereto. I folded them back a bit and scanned them separately so everyone can see the full drawings:


I did some digging and discovered that the gentleman who produced this missive, Edwin Bonewitz, is a compelling story himself. Here is the biographical note that accompanies the finding aid for his collection which is housed downtown at the Houston Metropolitan Research Collection:

Edwin Bonewitz was a lay historian interested in the history of Texas and especially Houston during the Republic and early statehood periods. Ed Bonewitz spent countless hours in the Harris County Court Records and in the Houston Public Library researching various topics with all the intensity of a perfectionist. Although he was an antiquarian concerned with esoteric subjects and completely caught up in detail, the results of his research are impressive.

It’s hard to argue with that.

Bonus: As I read the letter and the captions I worried that no one at Rice would have cared much about this. I was wrong, though. I’ve always liked Hardin Craig and this makes me like him even more.

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This Has Always Puzzled Me Too, 1962

It’s not just foreign students who ask the big questions.

Bonus: I found this at the bottom of one of my old purses.

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Sodden, no date

It’s been raining here for about a week, which is long enough for me to break out something from my stash of “Rain at Rice” pictures. This one turns out to be actually interesting. Among other things note the benches  (four of them! I have no memory of these!) and what I think are five pots left over from the Economic Summit in front of the library:

It’s not dated but it does have some labeling on the back: “February rain” and “T Lavergne.” Maybe Tommy can remember when he took it but I wouldn’t count on it.

Bonus: If you can, go visit this exhibit at the African American Library at the Gregory School. It’s lovely.

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Friday Follies: Coors Van, no date

I’m not crazy about Coors but this looks like fun:

Bonus: This clearly means that I should just skip the library today.

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The New Plan, 1947

During Edgar Odell Lovett’s long tenure the Rice curriculum remained, apart from some minor tweaks, essentially unchanged. After Dr. Houston took office in 1946, a significant revision modernized the entire enterprise. I found this 1949 document in a clippings file. I’m sure you’ll notice that it isn’t a clipping, but I believe it was written (most likely by English professor J.D. Thomas–and don’t ask me how I know that) as a press release. It is the most concise description of the New Plan I’ve ever seen. There’s quite a bit of interest here but note especially the origin of the 5-year engineering curriculum:

Bonus: Exactly one tile from the original Cohen House fountain survives in the Woodson. It looks great. I didn’t expect the purple.


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Cohen House Fountain, 1960

I also got a bunch of emails asking about last Friday’s bonus picture and the origin of the Cohen House fountain. (I’m not sure why people have suddenly become so inquisitive but I like it. Ask away, folks. I might even know the answer to your question. Maybe not, though. Always remember the motto of the Rice History Corner: “Keep expectations low, as usual, and no one will be too disappointed.”)

In any event, this one I can definitely answer. I happen to already have images of the construction of that fountain, which took place after the 1958 addition to the back of the faculty club radically changed the grounds. Mr. Cohen took his usual interest in every aspect of the construction of the new garden and commissioned the glass fountain from French artist Max Ingrand. It was installed in 1960:

Here’s Mr. Cohen with the finished product on a cold day in January, 1961:

Bonus: An earlier fountain was lost in the renovation. I might like this one better. 1938.

Extra Bonus: Thanks, guys.

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“a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jackson Wray,” 1961

Last Friday’s photo of this serious lounging activity unexpectedly brought forth several emails asking about the bench they’re on:

Here’s an image that let’s you get a better view of the location:

I notice that when I scanned this picture I had some reason (which is no longer apparent to me) to call it circa 1974. My best guess is it was the trees–note the oaks on either side of the sallyport and the non-Italian cypresses on the side–and I’m willing to believe mid-1970s. But I still don’t know when the bench was removed or why.

One thing I do know is when it first made an appearance. According to this February, 1961 Thresher article it seems to have been installed sometime early that year:

(I’ll have more to say about that post-war long range improvement plan soon, by the way.)

Bonus: This sign just came in to the Woodson today but it had been posted for a very long time. So long, in fact, that it had become completely wrong. These days the West Lot is the Greenbriar Lot, the North Lot is a playing field, the East Lot is the West Lot, and the South Lot is the South Stadium Lot. Got it? (Many thanks to the always alert RUPD!)

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