Columbia takes over patents coming from discoveries on campus, to protect the inventor and allow the University to share in profits, as reported in the March 18, 1925 Spectator. This has a major impact on how Columbia and the Engineering School operate and grow for many years.
1926—The School of Mines, Engineering, and Chemistry is renamed The School of Engineering. Later, in 1961, it becomes The School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), and, in 1997, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Shown: a Mines lecture room during this period.
1927—The first modern Broadway musical, Showboat, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, opens.
1928—Thomas J. Watson, Sr. donates and installs IBM punch card tabulators and sorters in Hamilton Hall, enabling sophisticated computation across disciplines. This is first used for sorting examination papers in 1928, for test scores in 1929, and for astronomy research starting in 1929. Shown: the Columbia University Statistical Bureau, 1928-33 (left) and typical tabulating machine installation at Columbia (right).
On May 25, 1928, the Spectator publishes Professional Guide: Electrical Engineering by Prof. Walter I. Slichter, as “the eighth of a series of articles written by members of the Faculty aiming to assist students in selecting a profession.” It addresses questions such as “What are the qualities which go to make a successful electrical engineer?” It uses the Encyclopedia Britannica as the authority for noting "The last great new branch of engineering is electrical engineering, which touches on the older branches at so many points that it has been said that all engineers must be electricians."
During Prohibition (1920-1933) there are an estimated 20,000 to 100,000 speakeasies in New York City. Shown: Opening night at Evelyn Nesbit Thaw's new speakeasy, c. 1930 (left); beer being dumped by authorities in lower Manhattan (top right); celebration as prohibition ends, with the 21st Amendment, with a goodbye to the 18th Amendment (bottom right).
Ads in the Spectator, May 25, 1928, reflecting student life.
New York is often portrayed as being under attack in science fiction. Shown: the Woolworth Building (the tallest in the world from 1913 to 1930) is allegedly being destroyed in January 1929 by a glacier (left) and in November 1929 by a tentacled flying saucer (right).
The stock market crash begins on October 24, 1929.
Marginal Street, looking east from 125th St. on November 20, 1929, with road construction in the foreground. This is very near the site of the new Manhattanville campus.
On Jan. 20, 1930, the Spectator reports that Dean George Pegram has announced plans for an advanced materials testing laboratory in a fourteen-floor structure at the corner of 120th St. and Amsterdam Ave. The new testing machine would be able to test specimens that are are thirty-five feet long and six feet wide, and be able to break them in tension and compression. The University could not be involved in recent large-scale projects due to the limitations of existing facilities.
A “Hooverville” in Brooklyn, c. 1930-1932, in what is now known as Red Hook Park.
1930—The Empire State Building under construction. 1931—It opens officially.
The April 22, 1930 Spectator reports that Prof. Thomas Read thinks the public need not worry about potential automobile fuel shortages. Wells will be drilled deeper. Fuels other than gasoline are possible, such as from the hydrogenation of coal.
The George Washington Bridge is dedicated on October 24, 1931, and opened to traffic the following day. Groundbreaking began in October 1927. When it opened it had the longest main span in the world, at 3,500 feet, nearly doubling the previous record. It is later honored in the postage stamp on the right.
1931—Columbia campus, 116th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. In 1953 this section of 116th St. is closed to public traffic, becoming College Walk.
Radio City Music Hall opens on December 27, 1932, near the site of the earlier Columbia campus. This photo was taken in 1934 by the Wurts Brothers. The Sixth Avenue “El” seen in this photo was closed on December 4, 1938 and razed during 1939. It was replaced by the underground IND Sixth Avenue Line, which opened between 1936 and 1940.
1933—The Empire State Building, which had opened in 1931, becomes even more famous with the release of the movie King Kong, which premiers on March 2 at the newly opened Radio City Music Hall and the RKO Roxy across the street. Shown: a promotion for the movie.
1933—Prof. Edwin Howard Armstrong BS’13 invents wideband frequency modulation (FM) radio, a development that also paves the way for television. This invention is later commemorated in a U.S. postage stamp (1983).
The Marcellus Hartley Laboratory in the basement of Philosophy Hall, where most of Prof. Edwin Howard Armstrong’s work occurs during this period.
1933—Subway executives inspect a new subway car (that was first introduced in 1932). Blowers that ventilate with the windows closed are a breakthrough. These cars, with straw cane (wicker) seats, last until c. the 1960s.
Surveying equipment used by undergraduates during the summer at Camp Columbia, near Litchfield, Conn. c. 1930s. Camp Columbia ran in Connecticut from 1885 to 1966 to instruct students on surveying and other skills during the summer.
The Rose Bowl on January 1, 1934. The big upset: Columbia 7, Stanford 0
1934—The High Line elevated rail line (left), running along Manhattan’s West Side in and out of factories and warehouses, opens. This eliminates many street-level railroad crossings and adds 32 acres to Riverside Park. It is later converted into an elevated grassy, pedestrian-packed park, with construction beginning in 2006, shown on the right.
In November 1934, New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia flies home on TWA from Chicago and lands in the only major municipal airport in the NY metropolitan area, in Newark. He refuses to leave the plane, and makes his famous declaration, shown here. He is flown to Floyd Bennett Field, a little-used municipal airport (and later a naval air station) in Brooklyn, and deplanes. Under his guidance, in 1937 the City begins the transformation of the smaller North Beach Airport into a major airport, which opens in 1939. This first major municipal airport in New York City is commonly is called LaGuardia Field, and officially becomes LaGuardia Airport in 1947.
Holiday deals at Finlay Straus, a now-defunct department store. This Depression-era ad ran in the New York Daily News on December 19, 1934.