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To mark the Libraries' new exhibition, Inventing the Page: Student Literary Magazines at Drexel, the Archives' blog will feature a series of essays about past literary magazines by Drexel alumna and Archives volunteer, Martha Cornog. The new exhibition opens Wednesday, April 18, with a reception from 5-7 p.m. at Hagerty Library.

Echo of Things to Come: Drexel's First Literary Magazine

by Martha Cornog

"We propose to entertain and be entertained," wrote The Drexel Echo's fledgling editors, "to encourage and be encouraged, to be instructed, and, if possible, to instruct."

Drexel's first campus publication with literary content, Echo blossomed from the student body in 1907, a mere sixteen years after the institution was founded. By then, college literary magazines had become academic standbys. The Columbia Review claims to have been the first in the nation as of 1815, but then Columbia University itself was founded in 1754. The much older Harvard, first U.S. academic body as of 1636, dates its own Harvard Advocate magazine to 1866. So while ever so much younger, Drexel's Echo was certainly faster off the mark.

Actually, the monthly Echo resembles more an all-purpose campus magazine than a literary journal. While a handful of creative efforts—prose and poetry—open each issue, a "School Notes" section of news items follows with brief notes about class officers, faculty changes, news of the Library School, and the perennial sports updates. Reports on goings-on among student organizations and a jokes section close out the first issue. And on the back cover linger four paid advertisements: for a meat market, two photographers, and a sporting goods store.

Cover of the first issue of the Drexel Echo, 1907Cover of the first issue of the Drexel Echo, 1907

Let us compare with the last issue of Echo, five years later. In addition to the original components appear an editorial, an Alumni Notes feature, a full athletics section, several more pages of ads, and quite a few attractive, posed photos of student groups.

Still, at the moment we are looking at Echo mainly for its literary content. Though many pieces remain unsigned or credited only to initials, we get a sense of what Drexel students were writing about over a hundred years ago. A tall-tale from an innkeeper about a nearby precipice where a deranged hermit met his accidental doom reveals an expected fascination with adventure lurking just at the edge of normal life . A Dickens-like drama about street waifs scrambling for pennies flung by the well-fed audience of a sports match gives a glimpse of social consciousness directed to the have-nots lurking around the familiar ritual of college football.

A number of stories capture the mating dance in myriad forms, with an amused sense of too-much-experience. In one story recalling the sort of flirtatious verbal fencing perfected by Jane Austen, a study clique of gal-pals conspires for pseudonymous revenge upon a particularly offensive young alumnus, with his "eleven-foot-three of conceit, vanity and devilishness." Of course, the alumnus and the most outraged among the gal-pals find each other irresistible by the end.

Cover of the Drexel Echo, 1910Cover of the Drexel Echo, 1910

Throughout, a lively comedic sense permeates both prose and poetry. One junior engineer, for example, published a satiric poem about a water meter, compelled to confound its human keepers when unusual matter enters the water supply:

When it happens that a carcass of an infant alligator
Plays the mischief with my vitals in its efforts to get through,
I record the strange occurrence on my brass-bound indicator
By the fraudulent addition of a hundred feet or two.

How marvelous to turn up that persistent urban legend about alligators in the sewers within a 1908 Drexel literary magazine!

Each year the Archives prioritizes one or two areas of Drexel history to strengthen and develop our collections.  In 2012, those priorities are Athletics and Greek Life.  For that reason, we were especially delighted to receive a donation from alumnus Bernard Kurek that included the unusual Sigma Pi sleeping cap and ROTC drill team beret (both pictured below).  The Archives is working with other alumns to better preserve the history of fraternity and sorority life at Drexel, and objects like this are among the items that further that goal.  Do you have interesting items from your time at Drexel that you'd like to donate to the Archives so that we can preserve them for future generations?  Please contact us!


Sigma Pi cap and ROTC beretSigma Pi cap and ROTC beret

Ever since learning about the dink while working on our Fall 2010 exhibition, "Greetings on Thee, Little Guys: A History of Freshmen at Drexel," Archives staff have wished for one of these blue and gold beanies to add to the Archives' collections. That wish has finally come true.  Just this month we received not one, but two dinks, donated by two different alumni. Paula Milmon Hutt '55 mailed hers from Denver, Colorado. George Piper '57 dropped his off. George also donated his game ball from the penultimate game of the 1955 season.  

1955 game ball, 2 dinks

Stop by Hagerty Library to check out our current exhibit Dragons on the Gridiron on display until March 30th. Don't miss your chance to see more items from the Archives' collections!

It's National Engineers Week—here’s a look at three innovators in the field who were honored by Drexel with the Science and Engineering Award: Portia Isaacson, a female pioneer in the computer industry; Jacques Piccard, a Swiss oceanographer whose father Auguste Piccard was the inventor of the first bathyscaph FNRS-2; and Wernher von Braun, a NASA aerospace engineer who helped to land the first man on the moon with Apollo 11!

If you didn't have the chance to read Martha Cornog's blog posts 2 years ago, then you'll want to check out these amazing individuals who have helped to impact our world with their revolutionary contributions.

Celebrating Engineers: Drexel’s Egg-ceptional Golden Anniversary

Portia Isaacson:
Engineers Week in history: the first personal computer store in Texas

Jacques Piccard:
Engineers Week continues: Celestial Space and Eternal Darkness

Wernher von Braun:
Engineers week concludes with a bang

Newspaper article announcing Wernher von Braun's visit to Drexel"The Triangle" - December 07, 1962

The strange and wonderful Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), called by some the most beautiful book of the Italian Renaissance, is the subject of a seminar at Penn Libraries tomorrow. Architectures of the Text: An Inquiry Into the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili will feature Penn professors and librarians, as well as Drexel's own Shushi Yoshinaga, assistant professor of graphic design at Westphal College, in an exploration of "the beauty, meaning, and mysteries contained within the book's text and images."

If you can't make it to the event or can't get enough of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, come on down to Drexel University Archives and take a look at our facsimile reproduction of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Here's a sample:

Two pages from the 1904 facsimile of the 1499 first edition of the Hypnerotomachia PoliphiliTwo pages from the 1904 facsimile of the 1499 first edition of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Learn about the history of the football program at Drexel in the Archives' new exhibition, Dragons on the Gridiron, which chronicles the program from beginning to end, on and off the field. The exhibition includes items selected and contributed by Drexel football alumni.

Harry Purnell is tackled by a Coast Guard player, 1963Harry Purnell is tackled by a Coast Guard player, 1963
Tonight's opening reception (4-6 p.m. at W. W. Hagerty Library) will be a Coffee and Conversation event, a format you may remember from last September's "Access Everywhere" opening night. Dr. Eric Zillmer will lead a discussion of the role of athletics in the University, past, present and future. Special Guests will include alumni who played on the Drexel football teams of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Cheerleaders in the Homecoming paradeCheerleaders in the Homecoming parade

This is the second in an occasional series of stories from the collections of the University Archives. Today Brian Stewart tells a tale he uncovered while researching the former home of Sarah Drexel Van Rensselaer. Every college student knows that residence halls are named after important people, but how many can say why that person was important? Sometimes, as is the case with Van Rensselaer Hall, the name seems to come from nowhere. Why name a building after a family who founded a different school? The fact is that there were Van Rensselaers in the Drexel family, and they were important not just to the University, but to the city of Philadelphia. The following is a brief history of those Drexel family members; their lives, times, homes, and contributions. Sarah Drexel Van Rensselaer (1860-1929), called 'Sallie,' was the fourth Child of Anthony J. Drexel and Ellen Rozet. Considered by some to have been the most confident and forceful of Tony's children, Sarah would become an active philanthropist and one of Philadelphia’s premier socialites. In 1879 she married John Ruckman Fell, a director of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and later member of the Board of Managers of the Drexel Institute. The couple had five children; Amanda, Ellen, Mae, Francis, and John; and together purchased a significant track of land in Fort Washington. John R. Fell died of a stroke on November 12, 1895, leaving Sarah in possession of their home, Camp Hill Hall, and the financial resources of both the Fell and Drexel families. In 1897, Sarah proposed the construction of a second home in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia, and announced her engagement to Alexander Van Rensselaer (1850-1933) following a cruise aboard the May, her yacht. Sarah Drexel Fell became Sarah Drexel Van Rensselaer on January 27, 1898.


Sarah Drexel Fell Van RensselaerSarah Drexel Fell Van Rensselaer
Alex Van Rensselaer was both wealthy and well-known in the Philadelphia area, and was the latest in a Pennsylvania line descending from Kilian Van Rensselaer, who had helped to found the Dutch East India Company. Kilian had sent Stephen, Alex's grandfather, to purchase a large tract of land near Albany, in New York. Stephen would later found Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, shortly before Alexander’s birth. In his youth, Alexander was educated at Princeton, from which he graduated in 1871 after excelling in both athletics and academics. Both Alex and Sarah were independently wealthy, and it was never necessary for them to work for gain. However, they both directed their wealth towards local causes and organizations, and also became important figures in Philadelphia Society. Sarah is known to have donated significantly to the Drexel Institute, contributing both funds and counsel to the school that was her father's legacy. Her contributions made possible the construction of Curtis Hall, and she worked closely with the school's Department of Physical Training to encourage classes for women and children in the Philadelphia area. In memory of her contribution and charity work, the Institute constructed the Sarah Drexel Van Rensselaer Dormitory for Women in 1935. Alex was a consummate supporter of the arts, and was the President of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association from the time of its inception in 1901 until his retirement shortly before his death. Both he and Sarah were enthusiastic yachtsman, but converted the family yacht May into a hospital ship following the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. The family received a commendation from President McKinley for that service. Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, Alex was appointed Chairman of the Pennsylvania division of the Navy League, and helped to found training camps for Navy reservists. He was also Commodore of the Corinthian Yacht Club, President of the Seaman's Institute and a life trustee of Princeton University, in addition to having severed as Director of the Drexel Institute in 1897, and the President of the Board of Directors in 1908. Upon his death, a portion of his wealth was left to Drexel . The couple was also extremely active in Philadelphia high society, and hosted – and was hosted by – many influential persons. When they took a cruise around the world in 1901, the Van Rensselaers were guests of the Japanese imperial family, the Court of St. James, the Viceroy of India and the Rajah of Singapore. Events at home were no less exciting. During the height of the social season, Sarah would hold court at the couple's townhouse at 1801 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The 1897 housewarming party for this well-known Philadelphia building attracted such a wealthy crowd that, according to a contemporary newspaper account, they wore upwards of $10 million in jewelry. The townhouse saw visits by dignitaries, including the Marquis and Marquise Don Carlos el Pedroso of Spain. During this visit, Sarah sought to please the Marquis with a gift – an artifact taken from a Spanish warship sunk during the Spanish-American War. Her offer had the opposite effect, angering the Spaniard so much that he nearly demanded a duel with her husband.  The townhouse itself continued to be newsworthy, even after the couple’s death. In 1939, the Philadelphia Public Ledger ran a front-page story concerning local uproar, caused by rumors about the house's supposed sale to a 5-and-10 cent store chain. The property was eventually sold to the Penn Athletic Club in 1942, and was occupied by that organization until 1964. The building appears on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, and appears in the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey collection. The interior of the townhouse was gutted and rebuilt in 1975, but you can visit it even now - while you shop! The building is currently the flagship location of Anthropologie, a designer clothing boutique. This story is just one of the many tales of interest to be found amongst the historical materials in the Drexel University Archives! Experience or discover them for yourselves by investigating our collections, which cover 120 years of fascinating Drexel history! The sources of information used for this post include the Drexel family collection, 1826 -1991, volumes from our Drexel history print collection and books on the Drexel family.

This is the first post in an occasional series of stories from the collections of the University Archives. Today Brian Stewart tells a tale he uncovered while researching Jessie Smith. Howard Pyle (1853 – 1911), author and illustrator of children’s books and a member of the Drexel faculty (1894-1900) is perhaps best known for The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, first published in 1883. The Merry Adventures was one of the first modern interpretations of the story of this now-famous outlaw, and featured a new standard in detailed illustration and a storyline that greatly appealed to children. The book is often credited as being the foundation for the character’s popularity, which continues to this day. Another of Pyle’s works, the novel Men of Iron, was later adapted into the 1954 film The Black Shield of Falworth. Pyle was also a much sought-after instructor in the art of illustration, and both established and directed the Drexel Institute Department of Fine Arts’ School of Illustration in 1894. Though Pyle retired from the Institute in 1900, he went on to found his own school; the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art. The distinctive style that characterized the work of Pyle and many of his students would become known as "the Brandywine School."

Among the students who sought Pyle’s instruction were Violet Oakley (1874 – 1961) and Jessie Willcox Smith (1863 – 1935). Violet Oakley is most well known for her mural works, and is responsible for a series of 43 murals that decorate the walls of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg. Jessie Willcox Smith is most well-known for her work illustrating poetry, novels, and for publications such as Harper’s, Scribners,, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping. Another of Pyle’s students was Elizabeth Shippen Green (1871 - 1954). Green, like Smith, was a prolific illustrator of books and publications, and worked as an illustrator for Harper’s Monthy for over 20 years. These names will likely be familiar to any student of illustration, as all three women would go on to be known by the name that Pyle himself gave them: The Red Rose Girls, after the Red Rose Inn that became their home. They later lived together in Cogslea, in Mount Airy in Philadelphia. In addition, all three are among the only women inducted into the Society of Illustration’s Hall of Fame.

Page from "Catalogue of the First Exhibition of the School of Illustration"
  Did you know, however, that the three formed their close friendship while at Drexel? While all three women attended classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, they were also among the first of Howard Pyle’s students when he formed the School of Illustration at the Drexel Institute. During the first classes, Pyle selected Violet Oakley and Jessie Willcox Smith to collaborate on a major project, which was later featured at the First Exhibition of the School of Illustration, held from May 29 to June 5, 1897. The drawings, titled Evangeline, Father Felician, The Departure of the Acadians, and The Spirit of the Wind, were intended to illustrate a new edition of the epic poem Evangeline, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On the subject of their project, Pyle wrote a special introduction in the First Exhibition’s catalogue; “It may be interesting to mention that Miss Longfellow, the poet’s daughter, was so pleased with these illustrations that she purposes writing an especial preface for this edition of the poem.” The poet’s daughter was more than simply pleased, and commissioned Smith and Oakley to illustrate the whole publication. That edition of Evangeline would become Smith and Oakley’s first book commission. While not involved in the same project, Elizabeth Shippen Green was featured prominently in this same exhibition. Her work for the Class in Illustration, The Same (unfinished), also received a special notation from Howard Pyle: “This drawing, made in the Night Class, has been selected for exhibition as illustrating the method of the class work. The above subject has been accepted by Messrs. Harper & Bros. as available for an illustration for Harper’s Weekly.” Pyle was undoubtedly pleased and impressed with the success of all three women, and it no surprise that the three became fast friends. For the next 14 years, the three artists would live together, each becoming individually successful in their chosen areas of specialty. In 1911, Elizabeth Shippen Green wed Huger Ellliot and moved away from their communal home of Cogslea. This event marked an amiable end to what some consider to be the finest concentration of female illustrative talent to ever live beneath a single roof – a gathering that began right here, at the Drexel Institute.       This story is just one of the many tales of interest to be found amongst the historical materials in the Drexel University Archives! Experience or discover them for yourselves by investigating our collections, which cover 120 years of fascinating Drexel history!    

Do you find inspiration in a library?  Astronaut Paul Richards did.  At today's "Dragons of the Space Shuttle Era" event, Paul Richards '89 explained that he prepared himself to become an astronaut while at Drexel not just by studying mechanical engineering but also reading biographies of astronauts on microfiche here in Hagerty Library.  Mr. Richards fulfilled the dream he first had while watching the Apollo 14 launch in kindergarten in May 2001 when he become the 400th human in space.  Richards and fellow astronaut Chris Ferguson '83 shared these and other stories today in Drexel's Mitchell Auditorium.  The astronauts answered questions from moderator Terry Ruggles and from the audience, including these highlights: Asked if piloting the Space Shuttle was like flying a brick, Ferguson answered, "You can make a brick fly if you put a big enough engine on it. That's what we've done with the space shuttle." Asked about his spacewalk, Richards answered, "It's a misnomer to say you walk. You move with your fingertips and your hands. If your feet are moving, you're probably kicking something that shouldn't be kicked." Asked about the future of the space program, Richards answered that the moon should be our next target. He dismissed the "been there, done that" attitude, explaining that the moon landing in 1969 was comparable to Columbus's 1492 landing in the new world; whereas a permanent base on the moon would be like the 1620 settlement at Jamestown -- wholly different. Chris Ferguson shared his enthusiasm for the upcoming launch of the Mars Science Laboratory and encouraged attendees to watch the video simulation of the MSL's landing on the surface of Mars, which is scheduled for August 2012. Perhaps a whole new generation of Drexel students will be inspired by explorations of Mars and the moon, as Ferguson and Richards were in the 1980s.

Last evening Drexel faculty, students and staff gathered at Hagerty Library to mark the opening of the University Archives' newest exhibition, Access Everywhere: Computing at Drexel, 1984 – present. The exhibition, which runs until December 10, begins with Drexel's Microcomputing Project and the distribution of Macintosh computers to Drexel students and faculty in March 1984. Two professors at last night's conversation were there for the distribution: Tom Hewett and Ray Brebach shared their memories of that dramatic era in Drexel's history. Professor Jeremy Johnson added the perspective of a computer scientist as we discussed the impact of several key information technologies on Drexel over the last few decades. The speakers agreed that while the introduction of the Macintosh was the most dramatic change, the technology with most pervasive impact, that has changed education at Drexel the most, was wireless computing. Tom Hewett remembered the moment when a colleague first demonstrated how the Apple base station could connect everyone in a room to the internet, without cables. The conversation ranged from Drexel's role as an innovator in computing to the complex relationship between books and hypertext to and the future of input devices beyond the mouse and keyboard. Missed this discussion? You'll have another chance to discuss these and more topics with Drexel faculty, students and alumni at 6 p.m. on November 10 at the Library Learning Terrace, when we screen Going National, followed by another panel discussion. We hope to see you then.

Faculty and students examine the new exhibition, "Access Everywhere," before the conversation

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