As the Columbia community prepares for the installation of President Minouche Shafik on Wednesday, October 4, we can look back to see and hear her predecessors’ ceremonies. The Columbia University Libraries’ Time-Based Media Initiative focused on converting to digital those at-risk, unique audio and moving image content on analog media. From the Columbia University historical recordings, here we feature video from Nicholas Murray Butler’s installation in 1902 and audio from Andrew W. Cordier’s investiture in 1969.
Sight: Nicholas Murray Butler, 1902
In 1953, the Library of Congress reached out to Columbia. They had a paper print of a motion picture taken during Nicholas Murray Butler’s presidential installation in April 1902. Motion pictures were invented in 1894, and even though they were not initially eligible for copyright protection, filmmakers would deposit contact paper copies with registration information at the Library of Congress. (The copyright law was amended to protect motion pictures in 1912.) In this case, there were 60 feet of paper film, mostly in good condition, which could be converted to a more stable format (16 mm celluloid) by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. Columbia paid for the conversion of the film, which was done by Primrose Productions.
The footage features the procession going from the Library (now Low Library), around the west side of the building, heading north to the entrance of the gymnasium in University Hall (now Uris Hall) for the installation ceremony. The video is about 4 minutes long, has no audio, and it includes multiple pauses or freezes. You can see the formally attired Squadron A soldiers who escorted former Columbia Law student and sitting US President Theodore Roosevelt. The academic procession continues with the Barnard College students in full academic costume and then jumps to the distinguished guests. These include Nicholas Murray Butler walking with former University President, then Mayor of New York City Seth Low (2:24); Columbia College Dean J. Howard van Amringe with alumni speaker R. Fulton Cutting (2:41); Chair of the Trustees William C. Schermerhorn and President Theodore Roosevelt (2:44), and other guests.
Sound: Andrew W. Cordier, 1969
On December 19, 1969, there was a small, almost private, investiture ceremony for Andrew W. Cordier. It was held during winter break, with few people on campus, in the Low Library Rotunda. The Reverend Doctor M. Moran Weston, D.D., Ph.D., Rector of St. Philip’s Church, delivered the invocation. This Columbia College Class of 1930 graduate and PhD recipient in 1954 had just recently become a Trustee of the University in 1968. For the occasion, Weston chose the words of a poet “whose native land was the United States of America, but whose whole life experience was to live as a stranger there.” That poet was Columbia School of Engineering alumnus Langston Hughes, Class of 1925. According to Weston, “a wry smile” would light Langston’s face if he were alive to hear his words on this occasion. You can listen to Weston’s opening remarks at the 2:15 mark and his moving reading of “I Dream A World” at 6:03.