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Photos courtesy University Archives

Histories & Herstories

Peek inside a new photo book depicting life, scholarship and technological advances in 150 years of Ohio State.

When University Archivist Tamar Chute began selecting 300 photos for the new coffee-table book Time and Change: 150 Years of The Ohio State University , she knew they’d be grouped thematically. “We wanted to tie past and present together,” she said in a recent conversation with Director Tony Sanfilippo of The Ohio State University Press, which published the book. Consider this group of students lounging on the Oval, captured in a 1904 image that leads off our sampler. The more things change …


Five Ohio State University students sit together on the Oval in the early 20th century

Photos courtesy of University Archives

Innovations of another age

People look at a biplane that has landed on the Oval at Ohio State University
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In 1927 — the year Charles Lindbergh completed his solo flight across the Atlantic — Weaver Aircraft Co. of Ohio flew a plane to the heart of campus. “For years there have been rumors of planes landing on the Oval,” Chute says. “This picture says, ‘Well, yes, as a matter of fact.’” Note the small child watching, someone chatting with the pilot, another photographer chronicling the event and the propeller spinning. Chute guesses it was a publicity stunt that still makes us look twice.

Student mechanics pose on and around an automobile chassis at Ohio State University in 1918
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These student mechanics in a School of Military Aeronautics class in 1918 are an early example of Ohio State’s commitment to research, which began in earnest during World War I as part of the war effort, Chute says. The mechanical arts, which evolved into engineering, also were a pillar of the land-grant mission. Sanfilippo was drawn to the thinker in the center, chin in hand. “When I think about transmissions,” he says, “I don’t meditate on them quite as intensely.”

Cutting-edge instruction


Doctors work on a surgical patient as students look on from the operating theater at Ohio State University in 1917

This operating room scene dates to 1917, just three years after the College of Medicine was established. The openness of the room, the public nature of an operation-in-progress, the lack of a sterile field — all of these startle us, but the tradition of hands-on learning connects the scene to the present. Chute and Sanfilippo appreciate that the surgeon, just left of the patient, appears to be in mid-lecture. Among the somber onlookers, the woman at right and the African American man at left are not out of place: Ohio State graduated its first woman doctor in 1915 and was open to all regardless of race or ethnicity from the beginning.

Building strength and school spirit

Female students at Ohio State University perform calisthenics in a wide-open armory room
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The Armory, was built in 1897 to house the military training required of male students at land-grant institutions. Some alumni may remember it as the place where physical education classes were held, though women’s classes like the one pictured here in 1903 moved to Pomerene Hall when it opened in 1922. The Armory burned in 1958, but today’s Wexner Center for the Arts — which stands in its place — pays tribute with contemporary echoes of its grand brick turrets.

Ohio State University students aim bows and arrows during archery practice outside Ohio Stadium
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Chute and Sanfilippo chose to begin the “Athletics and Sports” section with the undated photo of an archery class because they wanted to represent the breadth of athletic life at Ohio State, including its rich intramural and physical education offerings. They also like how it shows the many (some long-forgotten) uses of the grounds around the stadium. The crisp line of shadows and summer clothes convey a beautiful day in front of an open Horseshoe, before construction of the south stands closed it off.

Football players clash on the field as spectators look on during a game played at Ohio State University in 1909

This action shot from 1909 was taken at Ohio Field, near the intersection of Woodruff Avenue and High Street. The fellow being tackled appears to have lost his helmet, which back then would have offered minimal protection anyway, and the referee is recognizable by his familiar dash along the sideline. Speaking of headgear, take a look at the fans, with women in dress hats and men sporting top hats. “It was a formal activity,” Chute says. There were still some 13 years to go before the game would move to the ’Shoe.

Campus antics

A man perched on a street sign, shooting film as he looks over a crowded Oval at The Ohio State University in 1955
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The photos here are black and white, but student life was enduringly colorful. At left, a photographer documents 1955’s May Week festivities from an uncomfortable perch. For decades, May Week was a spring counterpart to Homecoming, with its own parades and court. Many alumni will remember the bed races, two of which are pictured in Time and Change. The tradition waned in the 1990s, and the semester schedule now makes a comeback unlikely. But May Week hung on long enough that the baby at bottom center could have experienced it as a student.

1940s-era Ohio State University students wave pennants, hold a chunk of a football field goalpost and cheer
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Breaking down the wooden goalposts after a football win — as seen here in the 1940s — was a common ritual. In fact, there’s a piece of one in University Archives, Chute reports, musing, “It must have been expensive for the school to keep replacing them.” Adds Sanfilippo, “There’s so much joy in their faces. That’s another commonality with the present — the delight and happiness that, after a big victory, everybody shares.“

Turn back time

Enjoy the full photographic retrospective of your alma mater in Time and Change: 150 Years of The Ohio State University.

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The cover of Time and Change: 150 Years of The Ohio State University

About the author

Samara Rafert

Samara Rafert ’12 MFA is the publicist and exhibits manager for The Ohio State University Press.