One of three chairs made by Jones with wood from the Class Day Elm.Photograph by Jim Harrison
When "Old Jones," the bellringer, retired in 1908, the faculty of arts and sciences gave him an armchair. A janitor hired in 1858, for 50 years he rang the bell in Harvard Hall to summon students to chapel and other exercises,
never missing a day (perhaps) and "giving an example of fidelity and punctuality to all members of the University," the faculty noted. Jones, it was said, knew by sight every living graduate of Harvard.
A.K. Jones near the time of his retirement. Before joining Harvard's staff, he had learned woodworking as a carriage maker.Courtesy Harvard University Archives
One of Jones's annual duties was to stand by the Class Day Elm near Holden Chapel and see that none but Harvard men participated in the manic shindig that occurred there during Commencement Week. Before assembled ladies, seniors raced wildly around the tree, leaping and scrambling to grab flowers from a garland placed high up around the trunk. The College put an end to "The Rush" in 1898--too disruptive. The elm died of leopard-moth blight in 1909, and, probably in the summer or fall of 1913, nostalgia gave way and the corpse came down.
Old Jones got out of his armchair. Before he died, at 88, in 1914, he
made three chairs with wood from the Class Day Elm. His granddaughter Grace Hadley gave the chairs to the Harvard Archives in 1977. Her son Edward and daughter Rosamond were members of the classes of 1944 and 1945, respectively. Jones's great-great-granddaughter Susan Hadley Williams '78 is a civil litigator in Boston.
Winslow Homer's take on the 1858 festivities appears on the program cover at today's inhibited Class Day observances.Courtesy Harvard University Archives
The faculty gave Austin Kingsley Jones not only an armchair but a scroll. It read, in part: "The Faculty congratulates Mr. Jones on his long service to the University, and bespeaks for him the happiness and satisfaction which the sense of having worked well and won many friends can bring."