In and About the Missouri School of Mines

The Photography of George E. Ladd//Director of MSM 1897-1907

A hundred years ago the so-called Missouri School of Mines was on the verge of extinction. Instead of being a real School of Mines, it was not much more than the Phelps County Finishing School. The university in Columbia was actively scheming to absorb what programs there were in Rolla, when along came George--George E. Ladd, the new "director," as chancellors were called then. He had a Ph.D. in Geology from Harvard, had climbed the Alps, and knew mining from the bottom up. He was a bold educator, who was not above planting flowers around campus or fixing the plumbing on occasion. A practiced billiards player, he fraternized with students while still running a tight ship. Between 1897 and 1907 under Ladd's direction, the moribund school was reborn as a bona-fide School of Mines, with an internationalized student body, a professional faculty, and a renovated campus with several new buildings including stately Norwood Hall.

Part of Ladd's plan to promote MSM included a slick publication to advertise the campus around the state. In and About the Missouri School of Mines, which was published around 1900, contained 34 photographs taken by Ladd with the assistance of Professors Timmerman and Forsythe. Ladd's own liberal education shines through his choice of captions from Shakespeare, the Bible, Pope, Emerson, Hazlitt, Carlyle, Juvenal, and others. He sent the booklet out to students, legislators, and newspaper editors in and beyond Missouri to inform the world of the school's renewed purpose and to elicit their support. It worked.
The Photographs picture a critical era of MSM-Missouri S&T's history in a surprisingly aesthetic manner, which is why the Campus Art Committee decided to mount an exhibition in the Leach Theatre Lobby for the academic year of 2000-20001. Beyond their historical and documentary interest, the photographs are of exceptional quality. Ladd was a talented photographer. The composition, the textures, the handling of light and dark are of abiding interest. One student "bucking ore" looks like a monumental figure out of Giotto. The belts and wheels of the stamp mill are framed to show a complexity worthy of Piranesi. In and About the Missouri School of Mines reminds us of the beauty always to be found on campus for those with an attentive eye.Included in the facsimile of the booklet is Missouri S&T history professor Larry Gragg's essay, "'Hell, I Saved the School': George E. Ladd and the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, 1897-1907." The study details the turmoil that resulted from Ladd's Herculean labors to put the school on a firm foundation with high caliber training and modern facilities.If you would like to discover more about the Ladd years, consult the Missouri S&T Archives website ( where you will find: A virtual exhibition of the photographs; "An Interview with Dr. George E. Ladd" conducted by MSM Professor Clair Mann in 1938; and Ladd's "My Administration as Director of the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy 1897-1907." This 1939  reads like a cross between Mark Twain'smemoir Roughing It and Cardinal Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Thanks are due to Chancellor Emeritus John Park; Vice Chancellor Wendell Ogrosky; Ruth Bardy and the Leach Theatre staff; Melody Lloyd, Perry Hoffman, and Jason Williams of the Missouri S&T Archives; Jean Eisenman, director of the Curtis Law Wilson Library; Performing Arts secretary Shelly Plank and Alumni Association educational assistant Brian Matt; and the Campus Art Committee. Special thanks to the Donnelly family of the Picture This photography shop in Rolla for the first class job of making the prints and mounting them for the exhibition.May the artistic spirit of George Ladd guide the Missouri University of Science and Technology into the 21st century!

-James J. Bogan Co-Chair Missouri S&T Campus Art Committee

On to MSM Pictures