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To mark the Libraries' current exhibition, Inventing the Page: Student Literary Magazines at Drexel, the Archives' blog continues its series of essays about past literary magazines by Drexel alumna and Archives volunteer, Martha Cornog. Inventing the Page is on display at W. W. Hagerty Library until June 11.

All's Unfair in Love and War: The Roaring Twenties, the Depression, and World War II in Drexerd

by Martha Cornog

A wonderfully fetching and fashionable young flapper decorates the cover of the second issue of Drexerd, a Drexel literary magazine running from 1921 through 1942. Enthusiastically serving up mostly humorous material at first, a majority of the longer stories in the earlier years give glimpses of romantic rivalries and conquests with a lighthearted touch. The Great War was over at last, and frivolity as well as coquetry rushed in to soothe the hangovers of battle, if only aggravate the hangovers from Prohibition's bootleg booze.
Lexerd cover, 1924

In one early story, a wily young woman discourages her parents' choice of a rich swain by burning his dinner, sneaking out afterwards to marry her more modestly employed beloved. In another, a shy but talented basketball player finds himself the brunt of a more aggressive player's bullying until the shyer student does a chivalrous favor for the bully's sister – and attracts the affections of the sister herself. The numerous short selections include this perky comparison between boyfriends:

An awful bore is Felix Rice.

I really think he's made of ice.

For when he calls on me at nights

He sits away from me

Like              this,

He talks of golf, Baby Ruth, and fights.

 

While I adore young Phil McCoy;

He fills my heart with heavenly joy,

For when with me he has a date

He cuddles up quite close

Likethis,

And though I'm dying for a kiss

And tho' his words may be remiss

I'll say he sure can osculate.

But by 1931, the cover shows a well-dressed man buying a wormy apple from a bedraggled apple-seller. Frivolity foundered when the stock market crashed in 1929, and now even lighthearted stories include allusions to the Depression. A rich coffee baron reminisces about how he made his fortune as an impoverished college student, running a chain of community coffee shops to make money on the side. By chance, a staggeringly drunk couple stops in on their way to get married. Thinking the match possibly a rash mistake, the future baron and his partner sober them up with their strongest brew, and one of them calls the girl's father. The coffee works, and soon the couple erupts in boisterous argument, capped by the arrival of the father. Cursing her would-be fiancé, the young woman flings herself with melodramatic tears into father's arms. The father is so appreciative afterwards that he approves a match between his daughter and the baron's partner as well as backing the pair financially for expansion of their coffee business.
Drexerd cover with dragon
At least a one engineering student must have joined the contributors to pen "An Engineer Speaks on Paul Revere," an amusing take-off on Paul Revere's ride in stand-up comic style. Another engineering student must have created the inventive retake on Beowulf, which establishes that Grendel and his mother were man-eating robots, commissioned by Beowulf himself as sham enemies to propel the supposed "hero" to fame and fortune. Could this be one of the earliest mentions of robotics in a Drexel student publication?

Science continues as a theme in the 1935 piece: "Elementary, My Dear Watson." Not about Sherlock Holmes, the very clever short sketch about the tempestuous marriage of Mae Bunsen and Sam Erlenmeyer puns on the names of numerous elements of the Periodic Table, with only the abbreviations appearing in the text, like this:

"It's S the best, I suppose,' he said, when one day during one of their quarrels he Pb with his right after she tried to Fe him out with one of the dining room chairs." (See translation at the bottom of the page.)

By now, the magazine included "Blue Notes," a column on noteworthy jazz and pop music recordings, and articles relating to Philadelphia theatre productions. A faculty member contributed an essay about the political apathy of too many U.S. youth, but that was due to change very soon and not for happy reasons. War was brewing across the oceans.

The April 1938 issue of Drexerd is in fact dedicated to war, that "age-old scourge of mankind, the third topic of every fraternity bull-session (the first and second being sex and religion, respectively)." The magazine's editors issued a call for opinions about the conflict and, potentially, American participation and published many responses. The editors did not hide their own reactions:

"We can see nothing to war but a very fancy form of madness…. To us the world 'war' does not mean a trained army, nor a country fighting for a great cause, nor a glorious death on a battlefield. It signifies a devastated land, a legalized mass murder, and bodies rotting on a battlefield; bodies of men whose last thoughts were not of happiness or beauty but probably a feeling of wonder at the joke fate had played by causing them to be born."

While many of Drexel's young men responded with duty-minded generalities about national security, the young women let loose with heart-breaking predictions:

"Boys – the boys that you and I go to school with—will go out and get shot down because we have men like Hitler who are mad for power. It is our generation that will suffer…. What good will our degrees do us then?"

"And to have the horrible feeling that they were killed by someone who didn't know them; mostly likely didn't want to kill them; covered his eyes when he aimed but unfortunately didn't miss."

Fiction and poetry in the issue picked up on the war theme as well.

By 1942, the Pearl Harbor bombing had brought the U.S. into the war, and a military leitmotif underlies the entire content, but with more of a "let's buck up and get on with it" air. A cartoon shows two ugly women luring a hunky male air raid warden into their home by purposely leaving all the lights blazing in the window during an air raid drill. (All residential lighting was supposed to be turned off during an air raid, so that enemy planes would not see lights on the ground to help them aim their bombs.)

But although the battle in Europe escalated, the battle of the sexes did not thereupon cease. Indeed, mention of male-female matters took on a sexier tinge, perhaps due to a last-chance mentality. In one humorous piece, Mama, Papa, and Baby Stork are comparing notes on how their day went. When it comes to his turn, Baby Stork says, "I've been across town scaring hell out of some of these high school kids." More of the gags revolve around intoxicants or sex or both, such as the exchange, presumably at a campus party or similar:

"What's your name?"

"I don't know, but I'm beautiful!"

Thus, it was Drexerd that saw and reflected how Drexel changed with the rest of the world into a community that feels almost contemporary, even though 1942 was seventy years ago. Before the first World War, an electric optimism pervaded the United States and its universities, caught up in the accomplishments of fast-developing industries and technology but without the full social understanding of what might come of these. Postwar industrial and banking success fueled the Roaring Twenties, but prosperity collapsed with the Great Depression. Technologies, science, and education turned war into a different, more global, and more dangerous experience, as played out in both World Wars, than had been the case before the twentieth century. Education, technology, commerce, and the calculus of desperation common in wartime changed the dance between men and women, heralding the so-called sexual revolution to come. Industrialization in the nineteenth century had led to vulcanized rubber, and the rubber condom. Latex was invented in 1920, with latex condoms soon to follow.

So what with love and war, both newly supported by the kinds of technology that led Anthony Drexel to found a university, everything about the world changed—and Drexerd saw it all. Slow to change, however, were race relations; and a very un-modern note is struck by the occasional "Rastus"-type jokes and stories, reflecting supposedly comic takes on African Americans. A revolution was coming in social acceptance of minorities, including Jews affected by the Holocaust, Native Americans, and immigrants of multiple ethnicities. And none too soon.

_______________

Translation:

"'It's sulfur (all for) the best, I suppose,' he said, when one day during one of their quarrels he lead with his right after she tried to iron him out with one of the dining room chairs." The names of the loving couple derive from chemistry laboratory stand-bys: the Bunsen burner and the Erlenmeyer flask.


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.


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