Views Into the Past: Results of an ebay Find, Part I

Not long ago I happened upon something of great interest to me as an RPI archivist – a photograph album documenting Rensselaer and its vicinity in the early twentieth century.  This is the story of how we acquired not one but seven photo albums compiled by Mr. Louis Blackmer Puffer, RPI Class of 1909.

The Institute Archives has a standing search in ebay for things related to Rensselaer.  Every day we receive email notifications about what’s new.  There’s usually a bunch of stuff we already own – old yearbooks, some Institute publications, a postcard or two, etc.  At the end of the list there’s a message that says “View all results.”  I rarely look there because it’s mostly stuff that’s been posted a thousand times and I’ve already determined we don’t need any of it.  But one day in September I followed the link, just to see how much additional material was available.  Was I in for a surprise! Continue reading

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Adventures in the Archives Part 1

Throughout October, archivists and archives across the nation honor American Archives Month by explaining who they are, what they do, and the successful impacts they (and their collections) have on communities. For this celebration we decided to share some projects with the Rensselaer community and shed some light on how the Institute Archives gets used and who we work with.

I’ll begin by sharing a project that the Vice Provost & Dean approached me with last March. Linda Schadler was eager to find answers to some key questions: “Who were the first female full professors in each department?” “When were women first hired, and how many?” “Who were the first female deans?” “When did Rensselaer build the first residence hall for women?” “What was the environment like for female students at a predominately all male technological institute?”  Linda (and I) decided in order to answer these questions (and many more), a student needed to spend the summer researching in the Archives, with a sole focus on placing women in the context of Rensselaer’s history. Thus the History of Women at Rensselaer project came to fruition.

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Troy’s Total Eclipse 1925

Total solar eclipse, Troy, New York, January 24, 1925.The last total solar eclipse to cross Upstate New York took place on the morning of January 24, 1925, reaching its peak at 9:11 a.m. This week’s eclipse prompted a researcher to send us a photograph of the event as viewed from Troy. (Note the figures standing on the roof tops in the left hand side of the image). The January 14, 1925 edition of the Rensselaer Polytechnic featured a front page article on the forthcoming event. Continue reading

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Commencement 1917

The Institute’s ninety-third commencement took place on Wednesday, June 13, 1917 in the ’87 Gymnasium. Eighty-nine students received bachelor’s degrees: 53 in Civil Engineering, 19 in Electrical Engineering, 12 in Mechanical Engineering, and 5 in Chemical Engineering. Three graduate degrees were awarded: a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, a Masters in Civil Engineering, and a Doctor of Philosophy (chemistry). The commencement address was delivered by Charles Whiting Baker editor of the Engineering News-Record.

Many members of the class left for military service immediately after graduation.

 

 

 

 

Read on for the Class of 1917 Senior History

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Rensselaer in the Great War

The first week of April 2017 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the United States entry into the Great War, or the First World War as it came to be called. On April 2, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. Wilson cited Germany’s violation of its pledge to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, as well as its attempts to entice Mexico into an alliance against the United States, as his reasons for declaring war. The U.S. Senate voted in support of the measure and the House concurred two days later. The United States later declared war on Germany’s ally Austria-Hungary on December 7. In May the Selective Service Act was passed requiring all males between the ages of 21 and 31 (later increased to 18 through 45) to register for potential call-up for military service (the draft).

The Great War had a significant impact on Rensselaer and American higher education in general. The value of higher education, especially technical education, to the nation’s war effort was recognized and taken seriously for the first time. At Rensselaer the pressure of voluntary enlistments (over 30 students enlisted and left the Institute by May of 1917) and the draft cut civilian student enrollment from 623 in 1917 to 190 in 1918 (mostly students who had deferments from the draft or were foreign nationals).

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