Architects in the Archives – Ralph Anderson, Jr. (1923-1990)

Ralph Anderson Jr. in Army uniform

Ralph Anderson, Jr. was a native Houstonian, and graduated in 1943 with a B. A. in Architecture and in 1947 with a B. S. in Architecture, both from the Rice Institute. While at Rice, he won The American Institute of Architecture Student Medal, and was the first architectural student at the university to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He began his practice early, designing several homes on the east side of Houston which were built before he achieved his first degree; you can see pictures of a couple of these homes here in the Rice History Corner.

After being inducted into the Army in 1943, he was sent to Harvard University. Upon completion of an Advanced Studies Program, he went to France where he served in the European Theatre of Operations. As a result of a head wound received at the Battle of the Bulge, he was awarded both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Like so many in his generation, his service in the war remained very important to him; six boxes of his collection are related to his service in World War II. Anderson later wrote a military history and designed spaces for military veterans, including a war memorial, a service men’s center, and a rest camp for veterans.

Drawings of proposed War Memorial (undated) and proposed School of Architecture at the Rice Institute (1947)

More about Anderson’s architectural practice, his many architectural awards, his activities as an artist, lecturer, and writer, can be found in the Ralph Anderson Jr. papers.


Memorabilia Monday: Bowling Trophy

Chinese American Citizens Alliance Bowling Trophy (men), ca. 1960’s

Much of the memorabilia in the Archives remains there, waiting for interested scholars and community members to revisit them in the Woodson. Not this bowling trophy! It began as a prize for the bowling champ of two Texas chapters of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, one in Houston and one in San Antonio, trading communities during the 1960’s as different players won the trophy. It finally landed with the Houston chapter for good, and came to the Woodson as a part of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance records (MS 606.) When my colleagues Anne Chao,  Amanda Focke and I attend events to talk about the Houston Asian American Archives here at Rice we like to bring along the trophy as a fun example of of items collected to document the communities and their activities.

We encourage families to donate memorabilia, photos, correspondence, business records, oral histories, and more to document the history of Asian American citizens in Houston.  Our goal is to collect materials that scholars will use to tell more of the stories of the community; please let us know if you want to contribute.

Architects in the Archives – Anderson Todd (b. 1921)

Anderson Todd sketching during a class, 1962

Anderson Todd earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Architecture from Princeton, serving in WWII between his degrees. He seemed to live at the center of 20th century American life: waving to Albert Einstein daily on campus at Princeton, challenging Frank Lloyd Wright at a lecture, and meeting Mies van der Rohe, the enormously influential modernist, who would serve as his architectural and philosophical mentor throughout his career.  William Ward Watkin, who had an exceptional eye for recruiting faculty, brought Todd to Rice in 1949, and by1969 Todd had assumed the duties of the Director of the School of Architecture and won the George R. Brown Award for Excellence in Teaching. More information about his creativity as an educator, his contributions to the MFAH, his many awards and accomplishments as an architect, and his partnership with Rice Professor William T. Cannady (whom we will talk about at a later date) can be found in the Anderson Todd Architectural Academic and Career papers.

One surprise in Todd’s materials were his doodles and sketches, which he apparently made wherever he went, on cards and scraps of paper. Here are a few examples:

doodles, pen and ink on paper

scallywag, pencil on paper

Hotel Porto, Torri del Benaco, Italy, pen and ink on paper

Thanksgiving Plans

Given that Rice Institute was such a small community in its early days, it makes sense that there is a list in the Rice Thresher detailing students’ Thanksgiving plans. If you read through the list, you’ll see other oddities like mass quantities of pecans being sold out of the Thresher office.



The Woodson will be closing early today at 2:00 and will re-open on Monday 11/27.

Memorabilia Monday: Cuba Libre Dress

Our university memorabilia collection is going through some changes. We’ve separated out all of the clothing items and created a new collection entitled the Rice Historic Clothing collection. This will free up some much needed room in our vault.


This amazing dress created for the Archi-Arts Ball on January 22, 1944 has been at the Library Service Center for many years. Because of all of the changes, it magically popped up in the vault.



In 1944, the theme for the ball was “Baccanale.” Women wore dresses based on alcoholic drinks. Dorothy Lottman wore Cuba Libre. Other dresses included the Mint Julep (Bettie Lou Johnson), Pink Lady (Margaret Morrison Mays), Manhattan Cocktail (Gertrude Levy), Old Fashioned (Ann Ridgeway), Champagne (Beth Hummel), and Purple Passion (Dorothy Jean Weghorst).

To read more about the ball, there is a great pre-event write-up from the Rice Thresher.

Architects in the Archives – James C. Morehead Jr. (1913-1999)

Morehead teaching class

Those of you who read Rice History Corner (all of you!) know James C. (Bud) Morehead, Jr. pretty well. He enjoyed photographing the changing views of the Rice campus during his long tenure here, and this interest resulted in his popular book, A Walking Tour of Rice University. (The digitized version of the book can be found online here.) This may be why William Ward Watkin offered Morehead his collection of glass plate negatives of the campus, taken from about 1912 through 1950.

Morehead, a Princeton graduate in Mathematics and a graduate in Architecture from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, accepted an offer from William Ward Watkin to teach Architecture at Rice University and moved to Houston in 1940. He earned the title of Professor Emeritus and served as registrar of the University from 1965 until his retirement in 1979, and was elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects in 1982. He was most active as an architect in the 1950s, when he designed homes for two Rice professors and for himself.

Bud Morehead had another avocation that he pursued his whole life; he loved music and singing, beginning as a boy soprano when he was only six. He was a passionate fan of Gilbert and Sullivan and one of the founding members of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society at the Rice Institute, singing in the first ever Rice faculty show in 1951: “Trial by Jury.” He continued to act in roles during at least the first eight years of the Society, receiving favorable reviews from the Thresher theater critic, who recalled Morehead’s “resonant voice filling Palmer gymnasium.” We would love to see more photos of the performances if you have any.

Architects in the Archives – Wylie Walker Vale, Sr. (1916-2013)

Wylie Walker Vale, Sr. 1939

Wylie Walker Vale, Sr. moved with his family from St. Louis, Missouri to Houston when he was in high school, graduating from San Jacinto High in 1934. At the Rice Institute he studied under Stanton Nunn and William Ward Watkin, and graduated in 1939 with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture. At Rice he met and married the former Alliene Crittenden Guinn, an interior designer who frequently worked with him on residential projects, and went to work for Moore and Lloyd as a draftsman.

After Pearl Harbor Vale enlisted in the Navy and was commissioned an Ensign in 1943 from the U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipman’s School at Notre Dame. While in San Francisco waiting for a ship to be repaired he walked the neighborhoods of the city, taking in the design of the new Ranch style homes. From that point he consciously began incorporating these modern style elements in his designs. Vale preferred natural materials with warm, earthen colors and textures, durable materials requiring minimal upkeep, such as stone and cypress wood.

When the war ended Vale worked for leading architects in Houston before starting his own firm, Wylie W. Vale & Associates, which built or designed a large portion of Memorial, Tanglewood and River Oaks. He was known for his unique approach he called “Contemporary Country,” designing over 450 residences for community leaders such as Roy Cullen, Gus Wortham, Fred Heyne, and George Lewis. The Woodson Research Center has a few of his residential drawings from the 1950s, which can be found here. He also designed 100 schools (including Spring Branch High School, the first public school with air-conditioning in Houston) and 50 churches, commercial, collegiate and institutional projects throughout the country. Vale considered his most important public building to be the Matagorda County Court House in Bay City, Texas. Set on a plinth, with a parking garage below grade, the two-story building is an excellent example of modern architecture of the period.

Matagorda County Courthouse

Vale’s work has been featured in the Houston Chronicle and Architectural Digest. Active until late in life, he designed his last house at the age of 86. He died in Austin in 2013 at the age of 96.

Memorabilia Monday: “Blithe Spirit”

In the back, there’s a cart that accumulates all of the little bits of flotsam and jetsam that float through the Woodson.

On top of the cart today was this, a ticket for Blithe Spirit.


Here’s an accompanying article in the Thresher dated Friday, September 21, 1951. Sadly, there were no clearly marked photographs in the Campanile.