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There was a time when Harvard College boasted an endowment of $5,190,000 and a telephone. That was on August 30, 1886 when John L. Taylor was given a position as junior clerk in the Wadsworth House Bursar's office. Today, 50 years afterward, as Auditor, he deals with an endowment of $128,800,000, transacts his business through one of the University's 6000 phone extensions.
Yet with the anniversary of a half century of fiscal service in Harvard only a few months off, Mr. Taylor is still a vigorous and highly active member of the Lehman Hall staff. Asked about incidents of his career, he replied: "It is difficult to remember much about the past, I have lived almost completely in the present."
Meritorious and Useful
Mr. Taylor climbed the first rung of University hierarchy in 1888, an advancement which he owes to a theft and subsequent hurried trip to Canada on the part of one Mr. Olmstead, his immediate superior. Approving his appointment in a letter now kept in the Auditor's desk, President Eliot described him as a "meritorious and useful assistant."
Another epistle cherished by Taylor is one he received from President-emeritus Lowell following his resignation; and, to make the dynastic documents complete, he has one signed by President Conant thanking him for congratulations on his appointment.
One of the chief responsibilities of the Auditor is the Annual Treasurer's Report, bound copies of which occupy three shelves in his office. An interesting statistical detail pointed out by Taylor is the almost exact mathematical proportion that has been maintained between the student's tuition and professor's salaries.
"The" Harvard Telephone
When Mr. Taylor first came to the University, "the" telephone was installed in an empty office in the basement of University Hall, carefully kept under lock and little used key to safeguard against idle curiosity. A chosen few were permitted access to the contraption, but even they could find little use for it except in ordering supplies from the more progressive Boston firms then connected. With more use, the locality of the phone was changed to a closet upstairs, accompanied by its lock and key. Finally, is science marched on, the University had three instruments installed on the party line system, one for the Dean, the Bursar, and the News Office.
Students haven't changed much during the last half century, according to Mr. Taylor, except that they used to take a good deal more care about their clothes. Those who could afford good clothes wore them, and would have scorned the grey flannel, checkered coat with patched sleeves, and decayed shoes seen about the Square today.
But even in those days of well curried whiskers and dapper costumes, Max Keezer had his predecessor, one "Poco" Bennet. "Max is a nicer fellow than Poco, though," reminisced Mr. Taylor, "Poco never used to crack a smile."
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