The UT Tower Turns 80!

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Above: The cover of the March 1938 issue of the Texas Ranger, a UT student magazine. The drawing incorrectly labels the Tower as a WPA project. A grant from the Public Works Administration (PWA), a New Deal program during the Great Depression, provided the funding for the construction of the UT Tower.  

Officially dedicated on February 27, 1937, next Monday, the University of Texas Tower will become an octogenarian!

To celebrate, the Alexander Architectural Archives is sponsoring an exhibit of original drawings of the Main Building and Tower in the reading room of Battle Hall. The exhibit will run until August, but the opening event is Monday, February 27th at 5:30 p.m.

Come celebrate the UT Tower’s 80th birthday. There’ll be cake!

For all the details, CLICK HERE.

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650,000 Thank Yous

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Above: The Texas Mountain Laurel are in full bloom on campus, and the bees are loving it.

Spring has come to the Forty Acres, and so has another milestone for the UT History Corner, which just passed the 650,000 visitor mark since it opened in May 2012. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by, and I hope you found something worthwhile!

Jim

“Coats on in the Library!”

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Above: Before 1917, coats and ties were the customary dress in the University Library, regardless of the weather.

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It was a fine day for a rebellion.

Friday afternoon, May 25, 1917, was bright, sunny, warm, and humid. The kind of late spring day that usually precedes a long, steamy summer.

For University of Texas students, the academic year was coming to a close. Term projects were due, along with one last round of quizzes, before final exams and then commencement ceremonies in mid-June.

The University Library – today’s Battle Hall (photo above left) – was a popular place this time of year.  Opened in 1911 and partly inspired by the Boston Public Library, its spacious
reading room was a great improvement over the too-crowded previous quarters in the old Main Building.  At a time before the invention of air conditioning, architect Cass Gilbert 1914-university-library-entrance-screen-doorsdeliberately positioned the library just to the west of Old Main, near the top of the slope in the middle of the Forty Acres. Facing east and with the reading room on the second floor, the tall, arched windows could be opened to catch the southeastern breezes from the Gulf of Mexico, and help to mitigate the heat in the warmer months. To further help with air circulation, customized screen doors were created and fixed to the front entryway. (Photo above right.)

On this particular Friday afternoon, a small group of male UT students arrived for some late day studying, but looked decidedly different from their fellows. While there was a firm classroom dress code of suits and ties for men and dresses for women, the library wasn’t a classroom, and on this warm day, the students decided to leave their jackets at their west campus boarding house and visit the library in shirt sleeves.

After just a few minutes, Wilson Williams, officially the library’s Supervisor of Gifts and Exchanges, but better known on campus as the “silence restorer” of the reading room, swooped down upon the group with the peremptory command, “Coats on!”

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Above: Architect Cass Gilbert placed the library just west of the old Main Building.

As the students had left their jackets at home and couldn’t comply, they attempted a parley. Williams explained they had violated a well-established guideline of dress. The students asked whether the rule might be overlooked this one time, saving them the trouble of having to trudge home just to don jackets on a hot day.

Unmoved, Williams insisted, but the students persisted, and finally demanded to see the written rules that governed library dress and conduct. Williams reluctantly admitted that there was no formal regulation that required jackets be worn, but it had been a longstanding custom since the University opened in 1883.

To the students, though, practicality outweighed an unnecessary tradition. The group, confident in their victory over the library administration, remained at their seats in shirt sleeve comfort. Within a few minutes, a dozen other UT compatriots had peeled off their jackets, and before the library closed for the day, every male student had joined in the uprising. For the hapless Mr. Williams, a longstanding custom was no more. But for the students, a new tradition was born. Coats and hot days were not to meet in the library again.

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Above: After 1917, UT students in the library studied in their shirt sleeves on warm days. Click on an image for a larger view.

The Big Enormous Building

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Above: The original west entrance to the Business-Economics Building.

For the business school, it was a dream come true. On February 2, 1962, the swanky new Business-Economics Building, the largest teaching facility yet on the Forty Acres, hosted its first classes. Business Dean John White was elated with the new digs. So were the students, who promptly dubbed the edifice the “Big Enormous Building.” Though much of it has been renovated over the past half century, the original “BEB” was, in many ways, a modern marvel and campus trend-setter.

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spurgeon-bellAt the University of Texas, business classes made their debut in 1912, when UT alumnus Spurgeon Bell (photo at left) was hired to found a “business studies” department within the College of Arts and Sciences. The facilities, though, weren’t ideal. As UT’s growth outpaced its funding, resources to construct new buildings simply weren’t available. Temporary pinewood shacks were built instead. Crude and without proper foundations, UT President Sidney Mezes purposely left them unpainted in the forlorn hope that the state would be so embarrassed by their appearance and replace the shacks with adequate buildings.

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Above: In 1912,”G” Hall for business studies stood in front of today’s Gebauer Building.

The business studies department was assigned to “G” Hall, located in front of today’s Gebauer Building. Poorly heated by pot belly stoves, Bell had to arrive early on cold days to stoke the coals left by the custodian overnight, and then gather more firewood from a stack behind the building. Despite the primitive conditions, the business department grew, matured, and was made a separate school in 1922.

Waggener Hall.1930sA year later, the 1923 discovery of oil on University-owned West Texas land offered the promise of better quarters in the future, but it wasn’t until 1931 that Waggener Hall was opened along the west side of Speedway Street. Named to honor Leslie Waggener, UT’s first president, the hall was intended for business administration, a message made clear though the building’s ornamentation. Twenty-six terra-cotta medallions placed just below the eaves portrayed some of the exports of Texas at the time: cotton, oil, pecans, maize, wheat, cattle, and lumber, among others. However, with space on the campus at a premium, business initially had to share the building with the math, English, and public speaking departments, along with an anthropology museum that filled the top floor.

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Above: A typing class in the late 1930s. Ceiling fans regularly hummed in the un-air conditioned classrooms.

The new quarters were a boon for the business school, but as its classes grew more popular with UT students, Waggener Hall was short on space within a decade, and then almost unmanageable after World War II, as thousands of returning veterans enrolled in the University under the G. I. Bill. It became something of an annual tradition for the business deans to lobby the UT administration for a new facility.

ut-75th-logo-1958In  1958, the University observed its 75th anniversary. Along with the many campus celebrations, a Diamond Jubilee Commission was created to “chart the University’s next 25 years.”  Appointed by UT President Logan Wilson, the commission tackled issues ranging from academic programs, enrollment, research, and student life, and created a series of recommendations intended to bring UT up to the top tier of the nation’s universities. In response, President Wilson formally launched a “Ten Year Plan,” intended to overhaul degree programs and improve facilities. A new headquarters for the College of Business Administration was among the priorities, and the Board of Regents approved the $4 million for construction.

Ground was broken in July 1959 and the building was ready for use by spring 1962. At the time, UT’s academic year opened in late September, with fall semester finals scheduled in January, just after the holiday break. With a brief, ten-day intersession, the spring semester began in February. For the business school, the 1962 intersession was a great scramble, as all of the filing cabinets, office desks, teaching materials, and library books had to be moved from Waggener Hall to the new building in time for the spring semester start on February 2nd. A winter ice storm that pelted Austin mid-week only added to the chaos.

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Above: The invitation to the Business-Economics Building dedication.

Formally dedicated at the end of March, the Business-Economics Building – the “BEB” – was touted by some as the largest business learning facility in the Southwest. The faculty initially requested a contemporary structure, both in appearance and design, but the University administration felt that some adherence to the Mediterranean Renaissance style found on the rest of the Forty Acres was preferable. While the building was definitely modern, its limestone, brick, and use of Spanish red tile still identified it as part of the campus.

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Above: The main entrance to the BEB faced west, toward the Forty Acres.

The BEB was organized into three distinct components, each designed around specific functions. On the south end was a five-story, rectangular classroom building constructed 1968-class-in-beb-room-150around a central court from the second to fifth levels; the first level of the court was occupied by a 400-seat auditorium (photo at left). Functionally, the court provided a light well for the classrooms along the inside, but also boasted two fountains with reflecting pools, landscaping, and benches.

Along with the main auditorium, the first floor held four other theater-style classrooms for 100 to 150 students each. All were outfitted with modern sound and projection equipment, and some had mounted television monitors, a medium that had become popular less than a decade before.

beb-libraryElsewhere in the building were circular seminar rooms with tiered seating – the first on the campus – along with accounting, statistics, management, and marketing labs, study halls, interview practice rooms, and a 10,000 volume business library (right) with room for 270 students.  A series of large exhibit cases fronted with plate glass simulated store front windows to show off retail marketing class projects.

Extensive use of mosaic tile was used as wainscoting along the hallways of the classroom building, with different geometric patterns – diamonds, stars, and cubes –  in blue, brown, and yellow hues on each floor.  A solar screen of  Spanish red tile in a quatrefoil design covered the outside windows along the top floor, and while the roof was flat, its broad eaves with coffered soffits were similar to those found elsewhere on campus.

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The basement of the classroom building was reserved for student recreation, with lounges, games, student organization offices, and a myriad of vending machines (photo above) that served coffee, candy, ice cream, pastries, sandwiches, cold drinks, warm soups, and cigarettes. “It’s not that the soup and coffee served by electronic magic and a few well-placed nickels and quarters taste much different from a meal at home,” explained Anita Brewer from the Austin Statesman, “It’s just the nerve-wracking uncertainty of a machine trying to be smart.” When ordering coffee, “A cup appears first. Then the coffee starts filling the cup, and for an agonizing moment, you wonder if it will shut off in time and what you will do if it doesn’t.” Along with the vending curiosities, The Daily Texan took great interest in the new automatic bill-changer that “scans paper currency and issues coins when the proffered bill passes its critical-eye examination.”

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The north end of the BEB was a seven-story office building which housed the faculty and dean, and at the time was the second tallest structure on the campus, next to the Tower. Each level was reserved for a specific department. Starting from the first floor: finance, dean and career placement offices, accounting, economics, management, business services, and marketing. For a short time, the Institute of Latin American Studies shared the seventh floor until more appropriate quarters could be found.

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In a nod to the medallions on Waggener Hall, UT art professor Paul Hatgil designed a series of fifty ceramic panels (image above) that were placed above the top row of windows around the office unit. Their blues, browns, and yellows echoed the colors used for the mosaic tiles in the classroom building. His whimsical creations not only added color to an otherwise all-brick facade, their stylistic rows of small, raised circles were meant to be reminiscent of buttons, as the many inventions of the 1950s – from computers to vending machines – had transformed the modern world into what was then called a “push button society.”

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beb-escalatorAbove: A single bank of “up only” BEB escalators on the second floor of the crossover. The main west entry to the building is seen on the right. 

A protected crossover linked the classroom and office units. It functioned both as a corridor and housed the University’s first escalator. The high-speed moving staircase, austin-statesman-headline-1962-01-18-escalatorthough, only went up; there was no down escalator. While the BEB was furnished with elevators and stairs, a persistent joke was that students and faculty would all wind up on the top floor at the end of the day.

Similar to the top floor windows on the classroom building, the mostly glass crossover was sheathed in a solar screen, this one a perforated concrete wall, to block some of the heat from the Texas sun. So, too, was the front entrance of the BEB, found on the west side of the crossover. The glass doors were covered in a deep blue diamond pattern made from steel.

Because of the sloping terrain, visitors entered at the second level. Just behind the crossover, on the east side along Speedway Street, a walled patio provided space for faculty and alumni gatherings. An alumni lounge, next to the dean’s office in the office building, was equipped with a kitchenette,  along with doors that led out to the patio.

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Above: Behind the crossover, on the east side along Speedway Street, an enclosed patio served as a space for faculty and alumni events. In the 1980s, the area was enclosed and made the McCombs School’s Hall of Honor, though alumni events are still held here.

“The Family,” a sculpture by art professor Charles Umlauf, was placed at the main west entrance, in front of the crossover. A heroic-size bronze more than fifteen feet tall and weighing over two tons, Umlauf created the piece in Milan, Italy. Its mother, father, and child symbolically represented the basic economic unit. The sculpture was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Houston, and then carefully transported to Austin, but didn’t arrive in time for the BEB’s formal dedication. Instead, a prankish student attached a placard to the front of the statue’s empty granite base that read, “Tomb of the Unknown BBA Student.”

Above: Charles Umlauf’s “The Family” guarded the main entrance to the BEB. 

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1962-ibm-comuterThe opening of the BEB galvanized the business school. As part of the University’s Ten Year plan, the undergraduate and graduate programs were reviewed, revised, and strengthened. A Business Honors Program was founded. Typing classes were discontinued (though still offered through University Extension) in favor of courses in mathematical analysis, leadership development, and the use of technology. While the BEB was under construction, Business Dean John White invested a sizable $75,000 to purchase an IBM 1620 Data Processing System (above left), a room-exciter-newsletterssize computer that could perform over 1,500 calculations per second. It was installed in time for the BEB dedication, and was a highlight of the building tour. “In preparation of the computer world of the Seventies and Eighties, all students in the College of Business explored the mysteries of this fantastic machine,” explained the 1965 Cactus yearbook.

Along with academics, the business school used the BEB to initiate an outreach program. In 1960, an Advisory Council was created to both help with fundraising and “provide an avenue of direct liaison between the faculty and the business community.” The school’s first alumni newsletter, The Ex-Citer, was published three times a year, and special events, including an annual homecoming during football season, were held on the alumni patio.

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There have been several renovations to the BEB over the years. In 1975, the Graduate School of Business Building was added to the west side, which eliminated the crossover entry and moved the main entrance to the south side of the building. By the early 1980s, business school enrollment topped 10,000 students, the largest in the nation and nearly a quarter of the entire University. The University
Teaching Center was built across the street to the south in 1982 to ease overcrowded classrooms, and a pedestrian bridge added to connect it to the rest of the business 1985-business-school-renovation-hall-of-honorschool.  A few years later, the BEB underwent a significant renovation. The central courtyard was covered to create an atrium (top left), classrooms were retooled and upgraded, the original decorative tile along the hallways was removed, and the alumni patio enclosed in favor of a “Hall of Honor.” (photo at right) The complex was renamed the George Kozmetsky Center for Business Education and formally dedicated in 1986. A later, minor renovation was completed in 2008. Citing problems with pigeons nesting among the tiles, the solar screen along the top row of windows of the classroom building was removed.

Above: Business Dean Robert Witt (left) inspects the progress of the 1980s renovation to the Business-Economics Building. The mosaic tile on the wall – a different pattern for each floor – was removed. 

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Above: A then and now look at the Business-Economics Building from the UT Tower observation deck. The image on top was taken in 1968, while the Jester Center residence hall was under construction. “The Family” statue can be seen in front of the west entry into the BEB crossover. The old Law Building (1908) was then home to the anthropology department. The photo above was taken in 2012. The Graduate School of Business Building was connected to the BEB in 1975, and later renovations enclosed the courtyard of the classroom building. Click on an image for a larger view.

The Main Building Seals

The seals of a dozen universities are on the Main Building. Why?

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“In a large group of buildings, be it a city, a world fair, or a university, there is always a certain part of the whole which provides the image carried in our memory when we think of the place.” – architect Paul Cret, 1933 University of Texas Campus Master Plan

ut-tower-aerialFormally dedicated eighty years ago – on February 27, 1937 – the University’s Main Building was designed to serve a variety of purposes. Functionally, it was meant to house the central library. Its grand reading halls and special collection rooms were assembled around a massive tower, which held the book stacks. To accommodate future growth, the library was intentionally planned to be larger than needed, which prompted the Board of Regents to reserve a portion of the building for UT administration.

Stylistically, architect Paul Cret blended the needs of his clients with his own desires. The limestone exterior, red-tile roofs, Spanish-themed reliefs, and a spacious, seven-arched loggia all expressed the Mediterranean Renaissance idiom first seen in Cass Gilbert’s 1911 Library (now Battle Hall), a style which the Board of Regents deemed appropriate for Texas and its historical connections to Spain and Mexico. But Cret added Classical elements as well. Simple Doric columns enclosed the two front extensions along with the belfry at the top of the Tower, while the south facade was decorated with a row of dentils, and pilasters with Ionic capitals. Cret felt strongly that, as America was a modern democracy, its public buildings should evoke some sense of those democratic origins in Ancient Greece, and dubbed the style a “New Classicism.”

main-building-south-facadeRight: A line of dentils – those square “teeth” along the top of the image – along with an Ionic capital atop a pilaster, are among the Classical decorations on the Main Building’s south façade, all carved in place during construction. Click on an image for a larger view.

Symbolically, Cret intended his monumental Tower to be that iconic image “carried in our memory when we think of the place,” and sought to give it an “appropriate architectural treatment for a depository of human knowledge.” The ornamentation on the building spoke to its purpose as a library as well as to the mission and aspirations of the University. Names of literary giants were carved in limestone under the tall windows along the east and west sides. Displayed in gold leaf on the north side of the Tower were letters (or cartouches) from five dialects that contributed to the development of English language: Egyptian, Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The biblical quote inscribed above the south entrance, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” was selected by the Faculty Building Committee as suitable for
those who came to use the library. “The injunction to seek truth as a means to freedom is main-building-athenaas splendid a call to youth as we can make,” explained committee chair William Battle. (See “The Inscription”)

Placed alongside the literary images were familiar Classical symbols. The lamp of learning, the face of Athena as the goddess of wisdom (photo above), and rows of scallop shells – associated with Venus as the goddess of truth and beauty – were all added to the south façade, carved in place by Italian stone masons. Learning, wisdom, truth, and beauty: values long associated with the purpose of higher education.

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Above: Along the east side of the Main Building are six university seals.

The most colorful ornamentation was placed along the east and west sides of the building, just below the broad eaves, where artful representations of a dozen university seals were meant to convey a history of higher education, as well as proclaim UT’s own aspirations to be a “University of the first class.”

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Above: The west side of the nearly-completed Main Building in 1936.

The seal project began in the spring of 1932, as the initial phase of the Main Building was under construction.  Cret’s design allowed for something to be placed under the eaves, but left it to the University to determine the specifics. The idea to display university seals originated with the Faculty Building Committee and its chair, Dr. William Battle.

Which universities would be included? Battle consulted with Professor Frederick Eby, then the campus authority on the history of higher education. Eby provided a list of fifteen candidates: Bologna, Paris, Salamanca, Prague, Vienna, Heidelberg, Oxford, Cambridge, Geneva, Leiden, Edinburgh, Harvard, Yale, Virginia, and Michigan.

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The roster was heavy on European schools and, in part, charted a genealogical line. Bologna in Italy, founded in 1088, is widely regarded as the first degree-granting modern university, followed closely by the University of Paris. Oxford developed in the mid-12th century after King Henry II prevented English students from traveling to France. A dispute in 1209 between the town of Oxford and its university caused some of the local scholars to leave in protest and begin a new school in Cambridge. Four centuries later, among the Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in North America, a group of Cambridge alumni created what would become Harvard. Located in the tiny hamlet of Newtowne, the group changed the name of the village to Cambridge in honor of their Alma Mater.

Two state universities were also included. Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia had been a role model for many colleges in the South, though Eby told Battle, “The influence of Michigan on state universities has been greater than that of any other in my judgement.”

earnest-w-winkler-ut-librarianThe Faculty Building Committee considered Professor Eby’s suggestions. After some discussion, Yale, Leiden, and Vienna were eliminated to trim the list to twelve. Additional input came from Ernest Winkler, the UT librarian (photo at right). “Should not the seal of the University of Mexico, the ancient university, be used also?” said Winkler. “It was created by decree of Charles V in 1551, as was put in operation in 1553. Printing was introduced into Mexico ten years earlier. These cultural forces appeared in New Spain (Mexico) much earlier than they did in any of the other Spanish possessions in America. These are facts which may be pointed to with pride. It seems to me we ought to include the University of Mexico seal.”

The committee readily agreed. Mexico’s university predated Harvard, was the oldest in North America, and its connection to the history of Texas made it an obvious and appropriate choice. Mexico was substituted for Geneva.

The Board of Regents gave its approval at their meeting on June 17, 1932, but allowed the committee to make minor changes if needed. In early July, John Calhoun, the University Comptroller and a member of the committee, suggested that a female college be added to recognize the inclusion of women in higher education. As a final change, Vassar College replaced the University of Prague.

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Above: From left, the seals of Salamanca, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna on the west side.

With the list finalized, Battle set out to acquire printed copies of the seals or coats of arms. Some were found in books in the UT library, others obtained through correspondence.  “I wonder if you can help me out in securing a copy of the arms of the University of Bologna,” Battle asked the secretary of the Italy America Society in New York. “What I am looking for is a black and white print or Photostat of one from which our designer can evolve the form appropriate to the space at his disposal.”

While Battle required a black and white image to start, he also needed the correct colors. “The only place on which our seal appears in color,” said Frank Robbins, the assistant to the president of the University of Michigan, “is the flag which is annually carried at the head of the Commencement procession.” Robbins sent a copy of the 1931 graduation program, with an image of the UM seal printed on the front, and in pencil drew arrows to the various parts and listed the colors he saw on the flag.

Vassar College proved to be the most challenging, as it didn’t yet have a printed version of its seal to send. Instead, Battle received two imprints of the seal embossed on a single sheet of white stationery. “This is our only emblazoning and it is not used with colors,” explained a brief note from the president’s office. “Unofficially, the colors of the college are rose and gray.” A pair of short clippings of rose and gray ribbon was attached with a paper clip.

edinburgh“How do we best proceed to get them made?” Battle asked Paul Cret. The ornamentation was to be in the form of oval-shaped cartouches, not circular, formal reproductions of the seals, so there would be some artistic license in the finished product. “I am not easy in my mind by heraldic designs made by Texas artists. They do not know even the first principles of the art.”

The highly regarded Atlantic Terra Cotta Company in Perth Amboy, New Jersey was chosen. Headquartered just southwest of New York City, it was only 75 miles from Cret’s firm in Philadelphia, and Battle wanted Cret to oversee the design. The cost to produce the twelve cartouches was just under $1,400.

Above right: A terra cotta rendering of the University of Edinburgh seal.

Through the fall of 1932, sketches of the cartouches were prepared in Philadelphia, and then sent to Perth Amboy to be fashioned in terra cotta. They were installed in early March, 1933.

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Above: The process. From a drawing of the University of Virginia seal in Paul Cret’s office, to a rendering by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, to finished cartouche. 

“The university shields are now in place and as a whole have excited general admiration,” Battle wrote to Cret. “They give very attractive spots of color, and the designs in most cases can be made out well enough to understand them.” Unfortunately, the Salamanca, Virginia, and Vassar cartouches, “being all in one color, and that a dull one, can hardly be made out at all from the ground.” While not entirely colorless, most of the renderings for these three were a natural light grey, which made it difficult to see details. An oil-based paint was applied to brighten the hues and provide additional contrast.

On the Main Building, the university seals are arranged in order of the years they were founded.

Along the west side, from south to north:

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bolognaBologna (1088): The original seal of the University of Bologna (left) was pressed into hot wax to authenticate official documents, and its design was purposely intricate to discourage forgery. As it was too complicated to be easily understood as a cartouche, Cret and Battle opted to use the city of Bologna’s coat of arms instead.

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Paris (1200): Along with Bologna, Paris is one of Europe’s oldest universities. Here, the design was simplified. The flour-de-lis designs were eliminated to feature the “hand of God” delivering knowledge and wisdom from the heavens. Though the present University’s seal is blue and gold, Cret, a native Frenchman, used blue and red, the national colors of France.
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Oxford (1167): The Latin motto on the Oxford University seal on the open book is Dominus Illuminatio Mea – “The Lord is my light.” But look closely. The top left line reads “Domi,” and the second line “nus.” A slight error in the making of the cartouche has the top line “Dom” and the second “inus.”

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Salamanca (1230): In medieval Europe, the University of Salamanca, Spain was best known as a law school. The cartouche on the Main Building was the only attempt to stay true to the intricate design of the original university seal. Officially black and white, university colors were selectively applied to highlight the many details.

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Cambridge (1281): The Cambridge University coat of arms was granted in 1573 and consists of a red background and a cross of ermine fur between four gold lions. A book, placed horizontally with the spine at the top, is in the center.

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Heidelberg (1385): As with the University of Bologna, Heidelberg’s cartouche is a representation of the city’s coat of arms.

Along the east side, from north to south:

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Mexico (1553): The oldest in North America, the University of Mexico’s seal features the castle and lion, symbolic of the Spanish crown when Mexico was part of New Spain. It’s also seen on the Salamanca cartouche.

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Edinburgh (1583): The coat of arms for the University of Edinburgh features the blue, St. Andrew’s cross of Scotland with an open book of learning at the center, an image of Edinburgh Castle at the bottom, the thistle – the national flower of Scotland – at the top.

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Harvard (1636): The oldest university in the United States, Harvard’s motto – Veritas, or “Truth” – dates to 1643. At a New England regatta in 1858, Harvard crew members Benjamin Crownshield and Charles Elliot hurriedly supplied crimson bandanas to their teammates so that spectators could easily distinguish them in a race. Elliot was named Harvard’s 21st president in 1869, and served in that capacity for four distinguished decades. In 1910, the year after he retired, crimson was officially named the University’s color and added to the seal.

virgnia-seal-cartouche

Virginia (1819): Founded by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia’s seal features an image of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, standing in front of the original mall and buildings of the campus, which Jefferson termed an “academical village.” As the seal was colorless, Cret’s office had to artistically add UVA’s orange and blue to the design.

michigan-seal-cartouche

Michigan (1817): The University was founded in Detroit two decades before Michigan became a state, and its seal has been through several revisions. Currently all blue and maize, the description Battle received in 1932 included a red shield in the center. The design was simplified for artistic reasons – the sun and rays were eliminated – and the red shield became the predominant hue, though blue is still seen on the motto, Artes, Scientia, Veritas – Art, Science, Truth.

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Vassar (1861): Now co-educational, Vassar was founded as one of the first women’s colleges in the United States. The seal wasn’t approved by its Board of trustees until 1931, only a year before Battle requested a copy for use on the Main Building. The design features an image of Athena as the “patron of learning,” holding an olive branch as a symbol of civilization, and with a view of the Ancient Greek Parthenon in the distance. As with the Virginia seal, there were no colors yet assigned to it, though the College’s colors were unofficially rose and grey. Cret’s office had to make artistic decisions, and oil-based paint was used to color the cartouche.

Autumn on the Forty Acres

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Autumn has crushed her vintage from the wine-press of the year. December has arrived, a month for family reunions, frantic shoppers, Christmas sweater parties, and the Trail of Lights. On the Forty Acres, final exams have ended and the students have fled. The deserted walks have been temporarily ceded to the campus squirrels.

Just before the end of the semester, fall color made a brief but dazzling appearance. A balmy October and November kept the trees mostly green until the last minute, when a Thanksgiving chill prompted the leaves to turn all at once. The show peaked mid-way through finals – almost too late for most of the students to enjoy it – and lasted just over a week until a Texas Norther carried much of the color away.

While sunny skies and warm temperatures are often the rule, it’s good to know that the UT campus does indeed experience seasons.

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Above: Battle Hall is a fine sight any time of year. (Click on an image for a larger view.)

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Rusty-brown cypress and the deep green of live oak provide a great contrast to frame”the Family” statue in front of the McCombs School of Business.goldsmith-hall

The University of Texas seal is part of a decorative pediment on the north side of Goldsmith Hall, home to the School of Architecture.

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For a short time, the east entrance to Rainey Hall, on the South Mall, was full of color.

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Autumn made a singular statement in front of the Perry-Castaneda Library.

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Ranks of windows and balconies along the north side of Sutton Hall. Opened in 1918 as the Education Building, construction began a century ago, in January 1917.

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More fall color in front of the Moore-Hill residence hall, next to the stadium.

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Framing the UT Tower among the fall color was easy. Either floating in a sea of gold…

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… or bordered by red and orange. (Click on an image for a larger view.)

Pearl Harbor, and the Rose Bowl that was (almost) in Austin

coach-dana-bible-and-texas-longhornsWhen he was hired in 1937, UT head football coach Dana X. Bible (photo at left) claimed the Texas Longhorns would be a “winner of a football team” in five years. As the 1941 season loomed, the coach’s predictions seemed likely to come true.

Since its inaugural season in 1893, the University of Texas football program boasted a lengthy list of regional successes – including an undefeated squad in 1900 – but had yet to earn respect as a national power. By the 1930s the team was lackluster and inconsistent. The 1932 squad posted a respectable 8-2 record, but had slid to 2-6-1 by 1936.

Bible was recruited to change that. Having produced a series of highly respected teams at Mississippi College, LSU, Texas A&M and the University of Nebraska, Bible’s reputation was solid. His arrival in Austin was hailed as the start of a new era for Longhorn football, though it wasn’t without some controversy. The new coach was awarded a 10-year contract at the unheard of salary of $15,000 per year. (In comparison, the average UT professor made $3,750, while President Harry Benedict earned $8,000.)

The first two years at Texas were rough. Bible’s 1938 team posted only a single win before the program began to improve. But as the 1941 season approached, hopes and expectations were high among the Longhorn faithful.

life-magazine-cover-nov-17-1941The schedule opened with a 34-6 victory over the University of Colorado, and continued with decisive wins over LSU, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Rice. When Texas blanked Southern Methodist University 34-0, the Longhorns were routinely outscoring their opponents by more than 30 points. For the first time in UT’s history, the Associated Press (AP) ranked the Longhorns as the best in the country. Life magazine elected to make the team its cover story for the November 17th issue (photo at right), which was to be released just in time for the upcoming Baylor game.

The victory over SMU, though, exacted a price. Four key players were injured and would be unable to participate the next week. And Baylor, playing at home in Waco, was understandably motivated at the prospect of hosting the No. 1 team in the nation. The Bears fought hard to earn a 7-7 tie with Texas, and as there was no overtime, the score ended UT’s perfect record.

torchlight-parade-and-football-rally-1941That evening, a devastated Texas football squad arrived at the Austin train station at Third Street and Congress Avenue. They were met by thousands of supportive fans who escorted the team to campus with a torchlight parade, though the mood was tainted and somber. In recognition of the tie score, the Tower was floodlit half orange and half white, but when the next AP poll was released, Texas had fallen to No. 2, behind the University of Minnesota.

Texas Christian University was next on the schedule, and while the Longhorns tried to shrug off their disappointment in Waco, the “curse” of the Life magazine cover lingered. For most of the game, the score was again tied 7-7, but with eight seconds left in the final period, TCU’s Emory Nix completed a 19-yard pass to Van Hall in the end zone to give the Horned Frogs a 14-7 victory. Hapless Texas saw its ranking drop eight positions to 10th.

On Thanksgiving Day, UT was to travel to College Station to take on the Texas Aggies. Texas A&M was having a banner season. Undefeated and ranked second in the nation by the AP, the Aggies had already won the Southwest Conference Championship. They also had a jinx on the Longhorns.

red-candlesSince 1923 -for 18 years – the Longhorns had been unable to win a game at Kyle Field. Desperate to break the College Station spell, UT students consulted Madam Augusta Hipple, a local fortune teller. She instructed the students to burn red candles the week before the game as a way of “hexing” the Aggies.

Through the week of Thanksgiving, Austin shops found it difficult to keep red candles in stock. Candles were burned in store windows along the Drag, in the fraternity and sorority houses of west campus, in the lounges of university residence halls, and in the windows of Austin’s neighborhoods. Madam Hipple knew what she was doing. By uniting the football team and its fans with such a visible show of support, how could the Longhorns fail?

They didn’t. Texas went to College Station, defeated the Aggies 23-0, ended the 18-year jinx and restored their pride as the AP’s final poll listed Texas as No. 4.

The season wasn’t quite over though. Texas was to host the University of Oregon on December 6th, but the major bowls were already extending invitations. Many of the sports media predicted the Longhorns would travel to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl to play Pacific Champion Oregon State, but bowl officials were nervous about UT’s upcoming game with the Oregon Ducks. Earlier in the season, Oregon State had eked out a 12-7 win over their cross-state rivals. Suppose Texas was invited to Rose Bowl, but then lost their final regular game to Oregon, a team Oregon State had already defeated? To play it safe, the Rose Bowl invited Duke (then ranked No. 2) instead.

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Furious at being snubbed, Coach Bible announced that Texas wouldn’t accept invitations to any bowl games, and was eager to show the Rose Bowl officials what they might have had in Pasadena. In front of 30,000 fans, Texas overwhelmed ill-fated Oregon 71-7. There was no mistaking in Bible’s message. As a final curtain call with just a few minutes left in the game, the coach sent in his first string players to a standing ovation. Three plays later, as the crowd sang “The Eyes of Texas,” the Longhorns scored their tenth touchdown of the day.

paramount-theater-sargent-york-listing-december-7-1942Austin was still celebrating on the morning of December 7th. “Boy-o-boy!” exclaimed The Daily Texan, “Where is the Rose Bowl, and who cares?” After early church services, many students walked through downtown Austin in search of lunch. A few went to the Paramount Theater and paid the 40 cent admission to see the noontime showing of Sargent York, starring Gary Cooper. The top-grossing film of the year, it related the experiences of Alvin York, among the most-decorated American soldiers of the First World War. When the movie began, the audience knew that, despite what they saw on the screen, the world outside was still at peace. But as they left the theater, it was soon clear that everything had changed.

education-for-victory-pamphlet-ww-iiNews of the attack on Pearl Harbor reached Austin by 12:30 that afternoon, and shattered the joy of the football victory the day before. Most people huddled in groups around radios and listened for the latest reports. Evening events were cancelled, and Austinites with family stationed in Hawaii worried about the fate of their loved ones. “What do we do now?” was the question of the day. By Monday morning, military recruiting stations in town were busy, as were the offices of the Red Cross. Before the end of the week, UT President Homer Rainey had outlined a plan for the University to participate in the national war effort.

Fearing an air raid along the west coast, the U.S. Government prohibited all large public events for the duration of the war, including the Rose Bowl. Instead, the game was moved to the visiting team’s stadium, in this case, to the Duke University campus in Durham, North Carolina. Oregon State managed a 20-16 upset over the second-ranked Blue Devils, but if the bowl officials had invited Texas as was expected, the 1942 Rose Bowl would have been held at Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin.

Several of the images used in this post are courtesy of the Life magazine photo archives.

The Big Yell! Recording old UT Cheers

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Click here: listen to some of the first UT cheers, recorded at “The BigYell” in 2007.

Before Bevo, before Texas teams were known as “Longhorns,” before orange and white were named the official university colors, what did UT students yell?

1911-yell-bookIn the 1890s, when intercollegiate sports was new to the Forty Acres, groups of dedicated rooters – known as “rootatorial committees” – often created yells and songs for upcoming games. (History of the first UT yell is here.) Most of these didn’t last, but the printed sheets of the yells, as well as old yell books, are still preserved in the UT Archives. Occasionally I stumbled across them and made copies, or acquired them on EBay or at local book and paper shows. At some point, I wondered if it might be possible to record, save, and post some of the old yells online for others to hear. Certainly, it would require a group of UT students to do the yelling. And, well, probably pizza . . .

Above left: The 1910-11 UT song and yell book. Printed from 1899 through  the 1930s, the books were particularly useful for freshmen, who would bring them to football rallies. 

big-yell-poster-2007On October 23, 2007, the UT Heritage Society and the student-led Spirit and Traditions Council, both then sponsored by the Texas Exes, hosted the “Big Yell” in the banquet hall of the alumni center. More than 225 alumni and students arrived for a pre-Yell pizza party, downed a staggering 75 pizzas, and then gathered to rehearse and record a series of old University yells created from the 1890s through the 1900s that hadn’t been heard on the campus in more than 80 years.

Along the way, the group heard some UT history, shared fun facts, won door prizes, and listened to special guest Harley Clark, the former head cheerleader who introduced the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign at a 1955 football rally in Gregory Gym. Yell books, similar to those published in the 1900s, were distributed to everyone.

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Above: The 2007 Big Yell held was held in the alumni center. 

And what of the Big Yell? Everyone had so much fun, another program was held the following year. Since the north end of Darrell K Royal – Texas memorial Stadium was being rebuilt, the 2008 Big Yell took on old Clark Field – UT’s first athletic field – as a theme. Bleachers were brought in to the banquet hall and the crowd learned about early football plays, the story of Bevo, and other football-related traditions. The 2009 and 2010 Big Yells were similar to the first year, but instead of recording, an emphasis was placed on teaching new students UT history and traditions. Attendance continued to grow.

2011-big-yell-student-activities-centerIn 2011, at the suggestion of the students, the event was moved to the ballroom of the new Student Activities Center (photo at right) and scheduled to be on the afternoon of the first day of class. It was standing-room-only and was featured on the front page of The Daily Texan the next day. The following year, UT’s athletics department volunteered its support, and the program was moved to the stadium to handle the crowd.

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Above: the 2012 Big Yell moved to the football stadium.

Today, the Big Yell has evolved into the “Texas Kick-off Rally,” and includes the Longhorn Band, cheerleaders, APO’s Texas Flag, Bevo, the Texas Cowboys’ Ol’ Smokey cannon, and the head football coach, and features a post-rally group photo of the freshman class.

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Above: The freshman class of 2020 poses for a group photo on the football field after the 2016 “Texas Kick-off Rally.”

Listen to the 2007 “Big Yell” recordings here.

Or look under the “Audio” menu of the UT History Corner.

Happy yelling!

Jim

1954: The Cactus in Sound

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Above: The Cactus in Sound for 1953 – 1954. Listen here.

In 1953, the Cactus yearbook staff decided to try an experiment. Instead of documenting the academic year only through photographs, what if the Cactus created a sound archive as well? The staff recruited Richard “Cactus” Pryor, then a UT alumnus and well-known humorist and radio personality, to serve as narrator, and promptly set out to record some of the highlights of the school year.

A formal album – an “audio yearbook” –  was produced and sold for $6.00, but the recording wasn’t as popular as the staff had hoped. The 1954 edition was the only one. Today, though, it provides us with a few precious glimpses of campus life at UT over sixty years ago.

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Above: An unofficial football rally staged at Martin’s “Kumback” burger restaurant.

Included on the recording:

  • The first football rally of the 1953-54 school year, held in Gregory Gym. Some of the yells here are no longer heard on the campus.
  • The inauguration speech of Logan Wilson, installed as President of the University of Texas on October 29, 1953.
  • Selections from “Time Staggers On,” an annual musical spoof on campus life that was a popular 25-year UT tradition.
  • Highlights from the annual Round Up weekend, originally a spring homecoming with parties, dances, performances, an elaborate parade through downtown Austin, and the announcement of the UT Sweetheart.
  • The UT Tower chimes play “Home on the Range” and “The Eyes of Texas” before marking the hour at 1 p.m.

Listen to the 1954 Cactus in Sound here!

You can also find it under the “Audio” menu on the UT History Corner.

Happy listening!

Jim

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Above: The Main Building and Tower in 1954 as viewed from Mary Gearing Hall. 

Race for the Turkey

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For Berry Whitaker, the new Director of Intramural Sports for Men, it was to be the start of a new University tradition. A century ago, November 28, 1916, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Whitaker organized a special cross-country style two-mile race that started at the men’s gymnasium, went north of campus for a mile along Speedway Street, then doubled back to the finish. The race was open to any boarding house or fraternity that could muster a four-man team, though only the top three finishers would be counted in the overall results.

Instead of medals or trophies, though, the prizes awarded were appropriate for the upcoming holiday. The first place team would receive a Thanksgiving turkey, second place finishers given a chicken, and the third place team was to be awarded a duck. And just to clarify, the prizes weren’t coupons to be redeemed at the local grocery store for pre-processed, smartly packaged frozen fowl. The winning teams would receive live animals to take home and do with as they wished.

berry-whitakerWhitaker was hired the previous June to be an Instructor of Physical Training and to launch an Intramural Sports program, the third – behind Ohio State and Michigan – on a university campus. For a starting salary of $1,500, he was charged with providing a formal organization and direction to the recreation activities that were mushrooming on the Forty Acres. The inaugural meeting of the student-led Intramural Council on October 6, 1916 is considered the birth of the program, and this year, the Division of Recreational Sports celebrates the centennial.

Above right; Berry Whitaker, the founder of UT’s Intramural Sports program for men. The Whitaker Sports Complex – the intramural fields and tennis courts about 2 1/2 miles north of campus – is named for him.

While the fledgling intramural program included the traditional sports of football, basketball, tennis, and baseball, Whitaker looked for opportunities to involve more students. A turkey race just before Thanksgiving provided something novel, and he hoped it would become an annual event.

dt-1916-11-28-turkeyrace-headlineThe race was announced in The Daily Texan and entries were taken through the Saturday beforehand. In all, eight teams vied for the prized gobbler, including the boarding houses of Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Walker, and Mrs. Hopkins, along with the Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Chi, Acacia, and Delta Tau Delta fraternities.

On Tuesday afternoon, under partly cloudy skies and with light northern breezes, Whitaker started the race with a starters pistol. University student Roy Henderson volunteered to drive his Model T Ford in front of the runners to clear any traffic. In less than 15 minutes, the heavily favored Mrs. Walker’s boarding house claimed first place, as half of its runners were also on the UT Track Team. Who won the duck and the chicken wasn’t mentioned in the Texan, which by Wednesday was full of stories about the Thanksgiving Homecoming celebrations, the football game against the A&M College, and the upcoming presentation of a steer that would later be named Bevo.

As for the turkey race, the 1916 version was the only one. The United States entered the First World War the following April, and most campus activities were directed toward the war effort. Whitaker, along with UT Athletic Director Theo Bellmont, enlisted in the U. S. Army. When peace was achieved in November 1918, Whitaker returned to Austin only to be drafted as an assistant football coach in 1919, and then promoted to UT head football coach the following year, all while still managing the Intramural Sports program. Whitaker retired from coaching in 1922 (with an admirable three-year 22-3-1 record), but never tried to revive the Thanksgiving turkey race.

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Above: The UT campus in 1916, with the old Main Building, as seen from the Texas Capitol dome.