I am very interested in some of the pictures from my oldest Glomerata, the 1898, the second one they ever published. Here are a few notes about one of the pictures.
On page 86-87 you find this image and the heading “Best Auburn Records,” which we’ll get to eventually below.
These guys were a bit hard to dig up, but meet F. W. Van Ness, H. E. Harvey and W. B. Stokes. This is what we know about them after a few hasty minutes of online searching.
Franklin Waters Van Ness, was born in Pensacola. The 1870 census said there were 7,817 people in Escambia County. Ten years later there were more than 12,000 there. He studied at The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tenn., before enrolling at Auburn for mechanical engineering. In the first track meet in the South, held at Vanderbilt, he ran the half-mile in 2:06.
He’d go into automobiles and had a mention in Motor Age in 1916. He designed cars, vacuum cleaners, and more.
He’d later return to the south to run a cotton mill in North Carolina. He died in 1955, but the Internet doesn’t know where he (or his wife) is buried. They had three daughters. One worked in hotels and is buried in North Carolina. The second daughter died in South Carolina, but is buried in Kansas. Her first husband was an ambassador. Her second was an admiral in the navy. The youngest died in North Carolina. She apparently had a lifetime of health problems.
Henry Everett Harvey died on Oct. 14, 1942. He’s buried just two blocks off campus, at Pine Hill. As a young man he ran the mile in 4:48. That’s all I can find out about him so far.
William Bee Stokes was born in Mississippi, but his family moved to Marion County when he was 14. There were about 11,000 people in Marion at the time. When he moved to Auburn he found himself in a county of almost 30,000.
He was captain on the football team. He played in the first game held on campus, against Georgia Tech in 1896 and scored the first offensive touchdown on campus, a 7-yard run as Auburn was on the way to a 45-0 win. He stayed on at the university for at least two decade, teaching as an instructor and ultimately an associate professor of mathematics. He was making $750 in 1905, about $18,000 today.
In 1920 he took a job running the math department at Southwestern Louisiana Institute in LaFayette. During WWII he worked in the Navy’s V-12 program and taught thermonuclear physics, atomic arithmetic and aerial navigation.
He knew Gen. George Washington Goethals who was the chief engineer when the Panama Canal was finally completed. He worked with former President Herbert Hoover. He retired to Guin, Ala., which was his wife’s hometown and near his own. He was buried there in 1960. His wife died in 1971.
The records: Auburn, which has boasted 38 Olympians and 35 national champions and a few hundred All-Americans over the years, has a fairly strong program, and it really dates back to these guys. Let’s compare their stats to the current school records. People ran a bit slower in the 19th century, but you really see the difference in the field events. Remember, the modern races are measured in meters, which are a bit longer, and the timers are more precise these days:
||11.03 sec (100m) (2006)
||9.98 sec (2000)
||12.93 sec (100m) (2000)
||13.25 sec (110m) (2008)
||50.11 (400m) (1993)
||44.45 (400m) (2000)
Better equipment, dedicated training, diets, and so on. Anyone that’s watched any Olympics appreciates the progression of athleticism when they see old records fall. But consider that first number. The old 100-yard-dash number, if legitimate, is internationally impressive. The world record was set at 10.0 in 1877, 1878, 1880 and again in 1886. It wouldn’t fall to 9.8 until 1890.