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.
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."
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.
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.
Lovers of computers, lovers of history, please join us tonight from 5 – 7 PM on the first floor of W. W. Hagerty Library for a special event. Kicking off the opening of Access Everywhere: Computing at Drexel, 1984 – present, we'll have a conversation about the changing role of computers at Drexel. With faculty, students, staff and maybe even some alumns! Topics to be discussed will include email, internet, wireless access, and other computer advances that have brought Drexel to where it is today.
This event is free and open to the public.
The University Archives will be closed for Columbus Day on October 10. Please come see us during our normal hours (weekdays 1-5 p.m.) the rest of the week!
Today Drexel's Business Librarian, Emily Missner, and I were present at the opening of the recently discovered Matheson Hall time capsule, making sure that the contents of the capsule were appropriately preserved. Fortunately, contents were in excellent condition, preserved inside a sealed lead box.
In case you're wondering what was inside the time capsule, here's an inventory:
- Brochure: Answers to your questions about Drexel and the Drexel Plan of Cooperative Education
- Drexel Institute of Technology Bulletin: Undergraduate Curricula 1965-66
To lend some historical perspective to National Hazing Prevention Week, photographs and documents from the Drexel University Archives are on display at the Creese Student Center until Friday, September 30. The items demonstrate changing socialization rituals at Drexel and are drawn from our fall 2010 exhibition, "Greetings on Thee Little Guys: A History of Freshman at Drexel."
Thanks for your patience over the past two weeks as we've been closed for post-flood repairs. We still aren't back to normal, but we're close enough that we'll be open our regular hours this week and for the rest of the term. Come visit us any weekday afternoon (that is, Monday-Friday between 1-5 p.m.) The records of 120 years of Drexel history are waiting for you to discover them.
The University Archives will be closed for the start of the fall term as we clean up from last week's flood on the Lower Level of Hagerty Library. Drexel Facilities is hard at work restoring the Lower Level, but it will be a few days before the Archives is back in business. Until then, the best way to reach us is by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faculty, students and staff, we hope you enjoy the start of a new academic year!