Former Club and Curious Artifact

Posted by John Dojka on June 12, 2009 in

This topic combines two of my archival curiosities -- RPI artifacts and former RPI clubs.  The artifact is a molded plastic triangle with circuit symbols in relief and a black inset triangle with the gold letters L/R/C.  The former club is LCR.

This is a description of LCR found in the 1948 Transit:

LCR was founded in 1922 to promote better fellowship among the student Electrical Engineers at Rensselaer and to effect a closer understanding between the students and faculty of the department. For the benefit of those persons unfamiliar with electrical notations, the letters "LCR" stand for inductance, capacitance, and resistance. During the week of initiation candidates are required to wear a sign bearing these letters around campus and to carry with them a crystal set in various stages of assembly. At the end of the initiation week the sets are supposed to be completed - and it's said that some of them actually work. Members of LCR may be identified by their charms, which are in the shape of a triangle, with the letters LCR set in a background of black. Twice each year new members are selected from those men having a good scholastic standing, active in extracurricular activities, and who will promote the interests of the club.

The initiation rite amuses me. :-) LCR became inactive around 1967 -- this is when it was last listed in the student handbook. Some club records and the object pictured above were transferred to the Archives in 1984.  The object is basically an enlarged replica of the LCR charm.  I can't show you the charm because, well, we don't have one.  (Donations of such items are always welcome and you know where to find me. ;-))

I plan to write more blog posts about dormant RPI clubs in the future. Stay tuned!


Walter R. Beam
Sat, 02/13/2010 - 12:12 Permalink

I headed the EE department at RPI in the early 1960s. The students who said they were members of LCR (they identified to me no other faculty members who were) elected me to the club and - most importantly - entrusted me with the knowledge of what those letters LCR REALLY represented. It was NOT inductance, capacitance and resistance. This identity was represented to me as secre and not to be revealed to any outside the membership.

(I am NOT making this up.)

I retain my example of the gold charm, for years now mounted on my father's gold watch chain (he died in 1947). Though I am not prepared to break up my set of honorary keys, which includes Tau Beta Pi, HKN and ODK among others. I will be be pleased to send a photo of the LCR charm for your records. FYI, the triangular gold ornament is 5/8" on a side. My guess is that Balfour probably made it, and still has the mold, though there is
no indication of the source. The back, which for such "keys" was usually engraved with the owner's name, has no marking at all.

Since I have no records whatever - never did - about the club, I would enjoy having a copy of the initiation, since I cannot recall that I went through any formal initiation - perhaps the students did. I recall (somewhat vaguely) that Professor Fred Norvik later told me he was LCR's faculty advisor, though I may very well be wrong about that.

I left RPI in 1964 for IBM Research and many years of later adventures, some of which may be learned by Googling "Walter R. Beam".

If Prof. Joe Smith is still around town (he was my assistant back in the 1960s but no doubt retired some time ago), you may learn more from him. I presently live in Chester, VA, near my son the dentist and will be 82 years old in August.

The only items I have of possible archival value to RPI are three hard-bound copies of its Catalog, for years 59-60,60-61 and 61-62.

Walt Beam

In reply to by egglel

Wed, 02/17/2010 - 13:11 Permalink

This information makes the artifact even more curious! Thanks for sharing.

Tue, 06/22/2010 - 10:57 Permalink

In the April 22, 1937 edition of The Polytechnic, it was reported that LCR inductees had to wear a lamp bulb, half amphere battery, and a small flashlight bulb. On the last day, the neophytes appeared in shorts, spats, jackets/sweaters and carried canes or umbrellas.

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