Morning wear in America: Harvard 1961 Commencement from LIFE Magazine

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by voxsartoria, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. Albern

    Albern Senior member

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    Vox what's up with your avatar pic? I just noticed that it changes once every 30 seconds or so to another pic very briefly; never noticed that before.

    I wish I had an upcoming event where I could wear a top hat.
     
  2. Wrenkin

    Wrenkin Senior member

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    Vox what's up with your avatar pic? I just noticed that it changes once every 30 seconds or so to another pic very briefly; never noticed that before.

    I wish I had an upcoming event where I could wear a top hat.


    See here.
     
  3. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    Just to be clear, even in 1961([​IMG]), regular attendees at commencement did not wear morning clothes.

    The ones in the photographs above are two groups. One consists of the president of Harvard and Corporation members, Commonwealth and Middlesex county officials, a few, well, important people, and so on. The other are what are called aides and class marshalls.

    If you look at the first four photographs, those are taken within University Hall, a Bullfinch designed building (1815) that is the formal meeting place for most high level university meetings. Note all the guys have their hats off. These are the officials of the college and Commonwealth.

    The remaining photographs are taken in Widener (1915), Harvard's great library designed by Trombauer, built as a memorial to an alumnus who perished on the Titanic. This is more of a gathering of the aids and marshalls...most have their hats on.

    - B
     
  4. M. Charles

    M. Charles Senior member

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    It's because they started letting "others" in.

    I kid, I kid.

    But it does make you think. How many people can afford clothing like this nowadays?


    If there were a demand for it, there would be rental shops offering morning wear just as evening wear. In my opinion class shouldn't be given as a justification for dispensing with such things, especially in a culture where the working class buy $5 cups of coffee as a matter of course.
     
  5. M. Charles

    M. Charles Senior member

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    Just to be clear, even in 1961([​IMG]), regular attendees at commencement did not wear morning clothes.

    The ones in the photographs above are two groups. One consists of the president of Harvard (that's Conant standing on the table), and Corporation members, Commonwealth and Middlesex county officials, a few, well, important people, and so on. The other are what are called aides and class marshalls.

    If you look at the first four photographs, those are taken within University Hall, a Bullfinch designed building (1815) that is the formal meeting place for most high level university meetings. Note all the guys have their hats off. These are the officials of the college and Commonwealth.

    The remaining photographs are taken in Widener (1915), Harvard's great library designed by Trombauer, built as a memorial to an alumnus who perished on the Titanic. This is more of a gathering of the aids and marshalls...most have their hats on.

    - B


    I was under the impression that at least at some point in the 20th century morning dress was in fact worn for certain parts of commencement by all of the graduating men. Perhaps this was the case in the 30s? I know Yale had butlers for students then. It was a very different place. There's an article in the alumni magazine this month about Yale during the depression and how students lived in a kind of paradise almost entirely isolated from it.
     
  6. moddey

    moddey Well-Known Member

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    The passing of the age is sad in a strange way. I don't yearn to live in that world, but the present is a slight bit tawdry in comparison. It seems on par with the loss of biodiversity.

    +1

    harvard looked nothing like this when I was there...

    an interesting point. along with the loss of biodiversity goes heavyweight cloth, skilled tailoring, languages, literacy, so many artisanal skills...
     
  7. M. Charles

    M. Charles Senior member

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    For those interested, by Gaddis Smith, famous but now retired Yale history professor:

    http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/is...ssion3645.html

    Life at Yale for wealthy undergraduates resembled escapist movies about the rich and carefree. They enjoyed their automobiles, weekends in New York, country club summers, sailing on Martha's Vineyard, and trips to Europe. Spectator yachts lined the Thames when Yale rowed against Harvard at New London in June.

    When the residential colleges opened in September 1933, undergraduates selected by the college masters (there was not room for all) lived in luxurious suites, ordered meals from printed menus and were served by uniformed waitresses, and after eating perhaps repaired to the squash courts for exercise fitting their station in life. Faculty fellows of the colleges delighted in weekly dinners followed by port, conversation, and sometimes bridge or poker. The residential faculty fellows (bachelors only) had large apartments. The masters lived with their families in mansions worthy of bank presidents before the fall.

    Yearbook histories chronicled football victories, dances, the membership lists of fraternities and senior societies, with only a few passing comments on increased undergraduate interest in finding part-time employment or the difficulty the Yale Record was having with the cost of its new building. One cartoon showed a man with an empty basket; the caption asked, "Who's got those six billions Irving Fisher told us Prohibition had saved?"

    Varsity football prospered. Games filled the Yale Bowl with cheering students and alumni. Gate receipts held up so well during the Depression that in 1931, the chair of President Herbert Hoover's committee for unemployment relief asked Yale to hold a postseason benefit game with other elite schools. In 1937, Yale raised the salary of one part-time assistant football coach, law student Gerald R. Ford '41LLB, from $3,000 to $3,500, more than that of an entering junior faculty instructor with a PhD.

    Some alumni recalled afterwards that they were oblivious to conditions outside of Yale. Hear Senator William Proxmire '38: "We lived in a kind of disembodied cocoon, a deliberate isolation from what we could see and smell and hear when we left the New Haven Campus. . . . Most of my classmates were wholly preoccupied with sports and girls and grades, and bull sessions about sports and girls and grades -- in that order. If you wanted to be happy, it was a great time to be a Yalie. If you wanted to be serious -- you had to wait."

    Or novelist and lawyer Louis Auchincloss '39, who confessed that "ultimately there was not, even for me, any keeping of the world (or FDR) out of Yale. Hitler barked on the newsreels. The King of England abdicated for love. Richard Whitney's embezzlement shook my father's world. On weekends at home my mother deplored my ivory tower. 'The world is going to pieces,' she complained at a lunch party, 'and Louis is writing his term paper on the Medici popes.' Bless Medici popes!"
     
  8. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    an interesting point. along with the loss of biodiversity goes heavyweight cloth, skilled tailoring, languages, literacy, so many artisanal skills...

    Yes, but there has been a marked rise in eBay, Facebook, texting, and StyleForvm skillz unknown in 1961.

    Plus, we have Splenda.


    - B
     
  9. Albern

    Albern Senior member

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    See here.

    Thanks!!
     
  10. AlanC

    AlanC Minister of Trad

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    Those pictures make me want to cry.
     
  11. mafoofan

    mafoofan THE FOO Dubiously Honored

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    Brown, Commencement 2009:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Five FooPoints to the first person who spots RJman.
     
  12. robin

    robin Senior member

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    Way to ruin this thread foo. WTF are they doing in that last one? RJ, care to help?
     
  13. Bird's One View

    Bird's One View Senior member

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    Sometimes I regret my early and unceremonial departure from Brown. This is not one of those times.
     
  14. rob

    rob Senior member

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    I love the poor fellow walking with the crutch.

    rob
     
  15. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    My great-grandfather attended Harvard back in the '20s.

    Alas, no photographs remain due to the Cultural Revolution.
     

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