Ninety years ago on 9 June 1924, Dr. A.J. Armstrong, founder of the ABL and chair of Baylor’s English department from 1912-1952, staged in the middle of Baylor University’s campus what the Waco Times-Herald called in an article on 1 June 1924 a “mammoth” pageant. The pageant was based on Robert Browning’s poem “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” and featured Baylor students as well as 400 Waco school children under the direction of Lillie Martin, professor of primary education at Baylor. Parents of the children who participated in this dramatic presentation of Browning’s poem were instructed to provide their children “with a costume for a rat, something on the order of the brownie costumes, one piece with rat ears, a tail which should be stuffed with cotton or excellsior and perhaps wired. The length of the tail,” the instructions continued, “should vary according to the age of the child.”
During the pageant, the children, dressed as white, gray, brown, and black rats, remained out of view of the crowd until they were lured by the sound of the Pied Piper’s flute from their hiding places in the doorways of buildings and the bushes around the Burleson Quadrangle. After scurrying through the crowd, the children once again disappeared as they followed the Pied Piper, played by Annie Lee Truett, later returning to join the crowd as “children” for the remainder of the event.
The pageant, which according to the Waco News Tribune on 10 June 1924 drew a crowd of several thousand from Waco and all over Texas, was one part of a larger program that featured the dedication of three stained-glass windows for the Browning Room in Carroll Library. Mrs. Moselle Alexander McLendon presented Baylor with a window based on Browning’s “Pied Piper” poem. Mrs. J.V. Brown on behalf of San Marcos Academy presented a window representing Browning’s “How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix.” And Mrs. E.D. Head, speaking for Mrs. Carrie C. Slaughter of Dallas, presented a window depicting Browning’s poem “The Guardian Angel.” The windows, designed by the Haskins Studio of Rochester, New York, were received by Baylor President Samuel Palmer Brooks.
The presentation was preceded by an operetta of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by R.H. Walthew and was sung by Baylor Professor W.N. Payne, Mrs. Royal C. Stiles, Mrs. Harold T. Dawson, and Mr. C.S. Cadwallader. Professor Robert Markham accompanied the performance on the piano. The crowd was invited to view the windows in the Browning Room at the conclusion of the program. The three windows presented to Baylor at the 1924 Pied Piper Pageant can now be seen in the Leddy-Jones Research Hall of the Armstrong Browning Library.