Columbia University in the City of New York was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. Columbia is the fifth oldest university in America and the oldest living school in the State of New York. As a graduate of Columbia, you never tire of reaching back into history to pull out instances of living and of educational memeing and of the loving of a life that remains to haunt you today — because way back when is always more perceptive and pleasing than the now and again.
I was delightfully fortunate to be able to purchase a large cache of genuine Columbia University photographs. Columbia has a certain reputation in the history of America as being a seat of unrest, and a center of the human protest against the status quo, while also trailblazing educational concepts for teaching and learning.
We begin our photographic tour in 1930 with this caption:
COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
New York — General view of the commencement excercises at Columbia University, showing the great assemblage of students listening to the address of president Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia. There were 861 diplomas and 4,895 degrees awarded during the ceremony. More than 20,000 spectators witnessed the exercise. 6-3-30.
In you look closely, you can see a naked 115th Street from the Columbia green! There’s no Butler library yet — named for Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler mentioned in the caption — Butler Library would rise along the North side of 115th Street in 1931 and would be dedicated in 1934.
Here we are in 1931 for the proof of another fascinating image of a campus celebration:
COMMENCEMENT AT GREATEST U.S. UNIVERSITY
New York… Huge crowds attending the 177th annual commencement exercises of Columbia University, America’s greatest educational institution. Fully 4,936 degrees were conferred and 749 other awards of certificates and diplomas. Notables from the fields of literature, diplomacy and science were the recipients of honorary degrees. June 2, 1931.
Next, the year is 1933:
HIGHER EDUCATION GOES NUDIST
Columbia University’s annual flag rush between Frosh and Sophomores was a sad day for the Sophs, outnumbered as they were, five to one. The Freshman, secure in the safety of numbers, stripped the second yearmen of victory, and their last shred of respectable attire — down to the last BVD, as can be seen from the picture, which was taken at the height of the battle. 9/28/33.
In 1940, the world turned in more than one way — and I love the woman on the steps of Low Library judging it all from her perch:
1940 Varsity show “Life Begins in ’40’ costume rehearsal, is held at Columbia University, N.Y.C. Photoshows: 19- The cast celebrating Spring on the campus. Left-Right, George Romm, Odgen Beresford, Holcomb Jones, Joe Haimes and Bill Evers. 3.22.40
The year is 1943, and the war, and the world is alive on campus:
“ANTI-FASCIST” STUDENTS PICKET PENARANDA
New York, N.Y. — Four self-styled “anti-Fascist” students, representing left-wing campus organizations, as they picketed Low Memorial Library at Columbia University, today, as President Enrique Penaranda of Bolivia received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws during a special convocation in the rotunda of the library. Signs carried by the picketing students, denounce the Bolivian President as a “Fascist” and express resentment over the tribute paid him by Columbia. At extreme left, (in the photo), a New York City policeman keeps an eye on the pickets. 5-13-43.
1944 Reflections of the faces in the pools of water on the ground are a neat effect in this historic photograph:
THESE GUYS ARE GETTING AN EDUCATION
New York — Getting an education at Columbia University means more than books and studies. Freshmen and Sophomores must annually go through the rigors of the contests at South Field. And rigors they are as picture this push ball tussle going on. Sophs claim they won the event but Frosh say differently and so it goes at Columbia — a seat of high learning. 9/8/44
1946, and the Columbia campus appears to be getting smaller, not more expansive as this human illusion indicates during commencement:
COLUMBIA HOLDS 192ND COMMENCEMENT
New York — This is a general view of the 192nd commencement exercises of Columbia University June 4 as acting President Frank D. Fackenthal addressed the gathering. 6/4/46
There were darker years ahead for the Morningside campus college in New York — Columbia University was about to enter some of its darkest, more dire years, as riots and protests would overrun the campus in 1968.