Ivory Soap will rise from the ranks of household commodities to play its annual role in national politics for the last time today. After the 9 a. m. class in New Lecture Hall, Government 1b students will relinquish to history the 25-year-old lecture on how political partics, and Ivory Soap, influence public opinion.
Arthur N. Holcombe '06, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, has used the popular slogan, '99 and 44-100 percent pure--it floats," since the '20's to illustrate how irrationally people think. "After all," he argues, "no one knows what the other 56-100ths percent is. It may be ground glass."
But Holcombe stops teaching Gov. 1b this spring after 30 years, and the lecture leaves the list of unusual talks given annually by professors in the College. These lectures, ranging in subject from glass-enclosed Victorian halls to hunting sea otters, are often remembered by students when the rest of the course is just a dim recollection.
In Gov 1b, Holcombo concedes that part of the Ivory Soap slogan is true. "It floats," he says, "Is a perfectly reasonable claim, the truth of which anyone can find out by putting a bar in water. But the question of its purity is never answered."
Selling A Candidate
The same method, Holcombe continues, may be used to sell a candidate to the public.
In addition, he takes another common example. In baseball, Holcombe says, there is a difference between a curve ball thrown across the plate, and one thrown at a man's head. The former is a rational action, the latter an instinctive one. A voter is subject to the same reactions, Holcombe concludes.
Using a less emphatic style, David E. Owen, professor of History, has also seen one of his annual lectures achieve local fame--the "Crystal Palace" talk.
Owen has given it in History 142b for over ten years to illustrate English Victorian tastes during the mid-19th Century. In 1851, England gave an exhibition of furniture and interior decoration, and housed it in an enormous hall made entirely of steel ribs and plates of glass.
Manufacturers at that time, according to Owen, catered to the "elegant tastes of the middle class," and developed what he calls the "horticultural school" of ornament. "Art was modernized until every common article took on the air of a tortured gas-pipe."
Paper Mache Chairs
A will to better his fellow producer in making anything out of any material, caused the craftsmen to turn out objects such as paper mache chairs and pianos.
Along with this movement, Owen says, came exaggerated Victorian design in which "dead fish, partridges, cupids, and rapes of Sabine women paraded across an otherwise innocuous table, trying to look as natural as possible."
"Victorian maids," Owens comments, "must have been expert navigators to be able to pass by a sideboard without knocking the horse out of a hunting scene."
Results of this marriage of nature and technology, he concludes, could be seen in every drawing room in England, "where leaves and snakes spewed out gas light."