Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Charlie Smith AKA Rathbone DeBuys

In 1930, New Orleans architect Rathbone DeBuys (1874-1960) reminisced about his post-graduate training:

"It was after I had graduated from Tulane and Yale and was about ready to hang out my shingle as an architect. W.W. Bierce, Southern representative of the Illinois Steel company, and a friend, advised me to learn the steel business from the inside out so I'd be able better to understand its use in buildings. He gave me a letter of introduction to the company.

Up there, they thought it was a joke, but when I insisted that I wanted to work as a laborer, they gave me a job. They were interested in my name--its derivation and all that sort of thing, so I took the tip and changed it to Charlie Smith, and that's the alias I went under all the time.

My first job was in the rivet gang. I had the dirtiest job in the pit, and the pounding and fumes of lamp black and linseed oil gave me a splitting headache, but I got used to it in a couple of weeks. Men can get used to anything.


Well, I stayed with this steel work for two years, and I worked up through the shops into the designing department. I consider this experience one of the most valuable in my life. And the friends I made among those laborers--they don't come any finer, I'm here to tell you."

DeBuys graduated from Tulane University in 1896, and Yale University in 1897. He went on to design the International Trade Mart, Loyola University's Holy Name Church, various New Orleans subdivisions, the Texas Company Building, and Hecht Japanese Gardens. During the 1920's Florida building boom, Rathbone DeBuys established a Miami office.

Excerpt above from Rathbone DeBuys, "I Remember: When I was a Boy." 30 December 1930. Newspaper clipping, Rathbone DeBuys Biographical File, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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