Happy π Day

Time to celebrate the mathematical constant π, on, as the NYT says, a holy holiday for the mathematically inclined.

Lately it’s become a tradition to enjoy pie on Pi Day, so I leave you with this delightful recipe from the Rice University Cookbook of 1993, courtesy of Professor Emeritus Chandler Davidson:





Memorabilia Monday: Senior Canes


An original walking stick from 1916

The first graduating class walked with canes, drawing from Ivy League school tradition. While the practice died out around 1924, Tom Karsten revived the tradition in 1993. Walking Cane Company, owned by Paul Sellers, made the walking sticks and sold them wholesale to the students at $59. Karsten organized a senior cane ceremony that coincided with a student picnic celebrating William Marsh Rice.


This bares the initial of Ervin Frederick Kalb.


With the graduation of Karsten, the walking stick revival came to an end. Based on some cursory research, senior societies at Dartmouth University still use ceremonial canes at commencement. Does anyone know of other universities that still adhere to this tradition?




To read more on the original canes and the 1993 revival, you can peruse these Rice Thresher articles.

Oveta Culp Hobby (1905-1995)

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by discussing one of my favorite collections on the life of Oveta Culp Hobby.

Mrs. Hobby lived an extraordinary life during tumultuous times; among other duties, she was a news editor and publisher, the first Director of the Women’s Army Corp during WW II, and the first Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (now Health and Human Services) under President Eisenhower.

Swearing in ceremony

The Association of the United States Army awarded her the George Catlett Marshall Medal in 1978.  In her award, given with great admiration and respect for her past and enduring service, she is described as:

Newspaper woman, soldier, public servant, and philanthropist.

Every call to service has been answered with dedication, courage, and integrity.

You can find out more about Mrs. Hobby in her papers at the Woodson Research Center and in the Rice History Corner.

News editor and publisher

Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1955


Architects in the Archives – Arthur E. Jones (1923-2014)

Arthur E. Jones graduated in Architecture from the Rice Institute in 1947, becoming a designer for Lloyd & Morgan, and a partner in the firm in 1962. The very collaborative firm became one of the most influential advocates of modern design in Houston, and was responsible for the Astrodome, the American General building on Allen Parkway, and Four Allen Center (the Enron Building.)


Four Allen Center (Enron Building)

In 2007 Jones was interviewed for Cite Magazine ; he discussed some of his favorite buildings, formally restrained modern designs that Jones compared to “a lady’s little black dress.” The guide to Jones’ architectural records in the Woodson can be found here.


Memorabilia Monday: Basketball Trophy


In 1935, the Rice Owls basketball team turned their season around to tie for the Southwest Athletic Conference title. Above is the team’s large, but surprisingly light trophy.


One thing that made this trophy stand out was the stitching. Because a stitched ball did not dribble well and would not keep its shape, the molded basketball appeared in 1942. Here is a video of basketball play in the 1930s. There seems to be much more passing than dribbling.

Sources used: http://hooptactics.com/Basketball_Basics_History and https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth230324/m1/2/?q=southwest+conference+tie+basketball

Ruth Young McGonigle (1902-1984)

Ruth Young McGonigle, 1923

Ruth Young McGonigle was the first woman to practice architecture in the lower Rio Grande valley. In order to take art classes she studied architecture at the Rice Institute, and became the first woman to graduate from Rice with a B.S. in Architecture, in 1924. She worked for her former professor, William Ward Watkin, until her marriage to George McGonigle, Jr the next year. The family moved to Brownsville, TX and she began her own practice there.

Interestingly, when the state of Texas instituted the licensing of architects in 1937 McGonigle never sought to be licensed, nor did she call herself an architect. Her independent practice mostly consisted of designing single-family houses which referenced the 19th century Creole building traditions of the border lands; she also designed public buildings in Brownsville. The Ruth Young McGonigle architectural papers were donated to the Woodson by her estate.

House Plan; May 15, 1983

Memorabilia Monday: Embroidered Bell Bottoms


Donated by Bruce Bryant, Satsiri Yodi Sumler embroidered these jeans in the 1970s. They are one of the few items of hippie clothing that we have in our collection.


Bryant moved to Houston in the 1960s and worked for KPRC, directing The Larry Kane Show in 1971. In the 1970s, he created The Little Ol’ Show That Comes on After Monty Python, as well as co-owned The Sweetheart of Texas Concert Hall and Saloon. He went on to direct various music specials, telethons, the documentary, For the Sake of the Song: The Story of Anderson Fair, and now opera simulcasts.

Below are some close-up shots of Sumler’s handiwork.




Underside of embroidery

Cleveland Sewall house architectural drawings (1923-1926, 1940)

Blanche Harding Sewall (class of 1917) at groundbreaking of Sewall Hall, 1969




Lately the WRC archivists have been considering all that’s required in building a home, and that brought to mind the Cleveland Sewall house, and the related architectural drawings.

Cleveland Sewall and his wife, Blanche Harding Sewall, built one of the early homes in River Oaks. Blanche, who went to Rice, was delighted and inspired by the Mediterranean design of Rice’s architecture, and determined to commission Ralph Adams Cram to design her own home. She provided sketches for the home and travelled to Spain to acquire appropriate artifacts and furniture as well. The Woodson has close to 180 blueprints, floor plans, and structural and mechanical details for the house, garage, stable, and landscaping. Here is a link to an article including more recent images of the home. We would love to have additional photos of the home for the collection.

Mrs. Sewall, artist, philanthropist, and patron of the arts, helped found the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She was also an active member of the Garden Club of America, traveling to Japan with the club in 1935. A woman of many gifts, she assumed management of her husband’s wholesale grocery company at his death in 1942, and later donated funds to Rice for the construction of Sewall Hall. She was posthumously awarded the highest award presented by the Association of Rice Alumni, the Gold Medal.


Sunrise Is Coming After While


Our Limited Editions Club copy of Sunrise Is Coming After While consists of poems by Langston Hughes selected by Maya Angelou with silkscreens by collage artist Phoebe Beasley. It is an excellent example of the beautiful rare books created by that company.




With Hughes’ famous “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Beasley’s silkscreens both comment and add to the poem.




This amazing copy is 82/300 and signed by Beasley and Angelou.