The Archivist’s Nook: African American History? You’re Standing On It

The Middleton House was the main house on the CUA property when it was a slave run plantation. Sold to the U.S. Catholic Bishops after the Civil War, the house served several purposes for the University until it was demolished in 1970.
The Middleton House was the main house on the CUA property when it was a slave run plantation. Sold to the U.S. Catholic Bishops after the Civil War, the house served several purposes for the University until it was demolished in 1970.

It’s African American History Month, and we’ve got all kinds of  African-American history here at The Catholic University of America.

In fact, you’re standing on it.  The original 65 acres purchased by the U.S. Catholic Bishops to found the University is rife with African American history.  It didn’t start out that way.  Initially, the first house built on the current CUA campus was built by Samuel Harrison Smith and Margaret Bayard Smith.  The Smiths were invited to settle in the young capital city in 1803 by President Thomas Jefferson and found the District’s first newspaper.  Later, the house passed on to James Middleton and his son Erasmus Middleton.  The Middleton family held it as a slave-run plantation, until the Emancipation Act of 1862 (the first emancipation act in the nation, by the way) liberated the slaves of Washington, D.C.  The house eventually became part of the CUA campus and was demolished in 1970.

During the Civil War, Fort Slemmer was established on the perimeter of campus.  One of 68 fortifications protecting the city during the war, the fort never saw action, but it did play its part in the Civil War. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: African American History? You’re Standing On It”

The Archivist’s Nook: T.V. Powderly-Nineteenth-Century ‘American Idol’

Group portrait of leaders of the Knights of Labor, with Powderly prominent. T.V. Powderly Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).

January 22 is the birthday of Terence Vincent Powderly (1849-1924), a man not widely remembered in the twenty-first century, but a national celebrity, an ‘American Idol’ if you will, in the tumultuous era of the late nineteenth century. Born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, to Irish-Catholic immigrants, Powderly was a reform minded Mayor of Scranton (1878-1884), head of the national Knights of Labor union (1879-1893), and federal bureaucrat (1897-1924).  He was also a supporter of Irish nationalism, serving in Clan na Gael, a secret Irish independence society, and the Irish Land League, a political organization supporting tenant farmers.

Labor friends and celebrities in old age: T.V. Powderly, Nineteenth-Century ‘American Idol’ with ‘Mother’ Mary Harris Jones, ‘The Miner’s Angel.’ Washington, D.C., 1909. T.V. Powderly Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).
Labor friends and celebrities in old age: T.V. Powderly, Nineteenth-Century ‘American Idol’ with ‘Mother’ Mary Harris Jones, ‘The Miner’s Angel.’ Washington, D.C., 1909. T.V. Powderly Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).

A railroad worker, Powderly joined the Scranton Local Assembly of the Knights of Labor in 1876, assuming the national leadership as Grand (later General) Master Workman, 1879-1893. The Knights came into national prominence during his tenure, in part due to his rousing public oratory, peaking in national membership and influence in 1886. At this point, Powderly was so popular there were babies named for him. However, failures in several labor disputes and a divisive power struggle saw the Knights rapidly decline and Powderly removed by a cabal involving John William Hayes, whose papers are also at CUA. Perhaps Powderly’s greatest achievement, greatly aided by Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore, was to bring about reconciliation between the labor movement and the Roman Catholic Church that distrusted and disapproved of labor organizations due to their secretive and ritualistic activities.

Immigrants, both detailed aliens and regular employees, working in an Ellis Island kitchen, Dec. 18, 1901. T.V. Powderly Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).
Immigrants, both detailed aliens and regular employees, working in an Ellis Island kitchen, Dec. 18, 1901. T.V. Powderly Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).

Campaigning for the Republicans in the 1896 presidential campaign, Powderly was rewarded by President William McKinley with appointment as Commissioner General of Immigration. Powderly’s efforts to reform conditions at Ellis Island prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to dismiss him in 1902, though he was reinstated in 1906 as a Special Immigration Inspector.  Powderly next served as Chief of the Division of Information, U.S. Bureau of Immigration, 1907-1921, and as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Commissioner of Conciliation, 1921-1924. He was also author of Thirty Years a/Labor (1889) and his posthumous memoirs, The Path I Trod (1940). In 1999 was honored as an inductee into the U.S. Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor, joining figures such as rival Samuel Gompers and friend Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: T.V. Powderly-Nineteenth-Century ‘American Idol’”

The Archivist’s Nook: For God and Country – American Catholics in the World War

Student Army Training Corps (SATC) at The Catholic University of America, 1918. University Records, CUA Archives.
Student Army Training Corps (SATC) at The Catholic University of America, 1918. University Records, CUA Archives.

Each year November 11 is a special day in which we honor the nation’s military veterans. A previous blog post examined the American Civil War (1861-1865) relative to the grounds of what would become The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C. This post looks at the role of American Catholics in The World War, subsequently known as World War I that raged exactly one hundred years ago. Not coincidentally, the records and papers of many of the Catholic organizations and individuals mentioned hereafter are deposited in the Archives of CUA. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: For God and Country – American Catholics in the World War”

The Archivist’s Nook: From the Pew to Our Living Rooms – Broadcasting the Mass

Rev. Frederick R. McManus performing a Television Age Mass, 1960s, McManus Papers, ACUA.
Rev. Frederick R. McManus performing a Television Age Mass, 1960s, McManus Papers, ACUA.

This week’s post is guest authored by Chelsy Tracz, a CUA graduate student in Theology.

The twentieth century witnessed an explosion in the growth, development, power and influence of various forms of media in our world. While we might be most familiar with the digital revolution—which we, as archivists, are working to take full advantage of—the explosion of radio and television preceded the rise of the internet.

The development of radio and the advent of television didn’t just change the landscape of American popular culture, but had such influence that even the Catholic Church had to reckon with this new form of communication.

The highly influential Msgr. Frederick Richard McManus (1923-2005) was one of the many leaders of the Church that offered guidance about these new forms of media. Having received both his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from The Catholic University of America (CUA), he later returned to CUA, serving as the Dean of Canon Law from 1958 to 1993. McManus is most notable for his leadership in the twentieth century Liturgical Movement and for his role as peritus (or expert) on Sacred Liturgy at the Second Vatican Council. He would prove to be integral in implementing the reforms of Vatican II in the liturgy of the United States, celebrating the first official English-language Mass in 1964. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: From the Pew to Our Living Rooms – Broadcasting the Mass”

The Archivist’s Nook: Putting Their Money Where Their Hearts Were

Bruce and Dorothy Abts Mohler at a formal event with an unnamed priest in 1949, the same year of their marriage. Though they had no children, they left a formidable financial and archival legacy. Photograph from the Dorothy Abts Mohler Papers, ACUA.
Bruce and Dorothy Abts Mohler at a formal event with an unnamed priest in 1949, the same year of their marriage. Though they had no children, they left a formidable financial and archival legacy. Dorothy Abts Mohler Papers, ACUA.

Among the archival collections housed at The Catholic University of America (CUA) are the papers of Bruce Monroe Mohler (1881-1967) and Dorothy Abts Mohler (1908-2000), two of the most remarkable people ever produced by the American Catholic Church. Both epitomized the active participation of the laity as each contributed a lifetime of humanitarian service in regard to the crucial issues of immigration (Bruce) and charity (Dorothy). In addition to this legacy of service to their Church, they not only left their aforementioned papers but also a stupendous financial bequest to the CUA Archives to collect and safeguard archival collections to promote the study of American Catholic history.

Bruce Mohler was an Ohio native and graduate of Ohio State University who worked for the Minnesota State Board of Health supervising sanitary conditions of public drinking water until released in 1918 to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in the First World War. As an army major in France, he was in charge of engineers purifying drinking water for the troops. After the armistice, he was the army representative to the American Red Cross relief effort in Poland and after de-mobilization was Deputy Commissioner of the American Red Cross in Poland. As conflict raged between Poland and Bolshevik Russia, he heroically took a relief unit to the war torn city of Kiev, earning accolades for his efforts from both Poland and the United States. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Putting Their Money Where Their Hearts Were”

The Archivist’s Nook: Treasure Chest – Your Own Virtual Jesus

Although the 1950s are generally thought of as a White-bread decade, this picture clearly shows Jesus (Sacred Heart) as the humane Savior of all the world’s children. Treasure Chest, v. 14, n 20, June 9, 1959.
Although the 1950s are generally thought of as a White-bread decade, this picture clearly shows Jesus (Sacred Heart) as the humane Savior of all the world’s children. Treasure Chest, v. 14, n 20, June 9, 1959.

As the campus of The Catholic University of America (CUA) and surrounding D.C. community basks in the afterglow of a momentous papal visit and canonization of a new saint, it is not out of order to reflect upon the Christian Savior, Jesus Christ. Now, before anyone gets the notion this archivist is about to impersonate a theologian, let me assure you my mission is an archival one, to study appearances by the Son of God on the covers of the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book housed in the CUA Archives.

As any user of the Archives, and, indeed, readers of this blog know (see ‘Hark! The Digital Angel Comes!’), Treasure Chest was a Catholic comic book, with over five hundred issues, distributed to the American Catholic parochial school system from 1946 to 1972. Moreover, it is CUA’s most popular digital collection, with visually stunning covers, including one in ten of all covers (53 of 508) featuring images of Jesus.  The first verse of the 23rd Psalms tell us ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ but let’s reverse things and Shepherd the Lord through his various Treasure Chest incarnations by looking at some of the best examples. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Treasure Chest – Your Own Virtual Jesus”

The Archivist’s Nook: Get Off the Road to Digital Perdition

nun, slide projector and twenty-first century classroom with computers
Your grandmother’s Catholic school classroom has changed: Left, sister teaches with a slide projector in a Baltimore Catholic school, 1955. Right, a teacher in a fully-loaded Catholic school classroom in Covington, Kentucky, 2010.

… and come to this Conference!

Come all ye lovers of free things digital!  Teachers and archivists, archivists and teachers, we call you all.  The Catholic Archives in the Digital Age Conference takes place October 8-9, 2015 on the campus of The Catholic University of America.  And it’s FREE.

Perdition:  I don’t know how to digitize my collection materials. I don’t know how to get free online stuff for my classroom.

Let’s face it, resources are scarce—time, money, and staff are in short supply.  Most archivists would love to put their unrestricted materials online for researchers and teachers to use.  And most teachers don’t like spending hours online searching for excellent classroom resources.  But the fact is, archivists don’t usually have the time, staff, or equipment to make their materials widely available.  Teachers, for their part, don’t always know where to look for digital documents they can use in their Catholic history, religious studies, and theology classes. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Get Off the Road to Digital Perdition”

The Archivist’s Nook: CUA’s Silent Sentinel

Cardinal Gibbons and ex-President Theodore Roosevelt with warm greetings for each other in 1918. (CUA Archives)
Cardinal Gibbons and ex-President Theodore Roosevelt with warm greetings for each other in 1918. (CUA Archives)

James, Cardinal Gibbons was a key figure in American Catholic history as a major leader and spokesman of the Church during a tumultuous time of industrial growth, contentious immigration, and structural change in American society. He was also a founder and first Chancellor of The Catholic University of America (CUA), where his presence on campus is commemorated by Gibbons Hall (see image below). He also presides over the CUA campus in many guises, most notably as a marble bust in McMahon Hall and a large oil on canvas painting in Mullen Library.  There is also a small collection of his archival papers preserved in the CUA Archives and another, larger cache with the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The future Cardinal was born in Baltimore to Irish immigrants on July 23, 1834 and received his priestly training at St. Charles College and High School and St. Mary’s Seminary. He was ordained in 1861, just in time to serve as a Civil War chaplain at Fort McHenry (already famous from the War of 1812), which was then a prison for both captured Confederate soldiers and Maryland civilians who were suspected rebel sympathizers. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: CUA’s Silent Sentinel”

The Archivist’s Nook: Hark! The Digital Angel Comes!

Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, Vol. 10, No. 14, March 24, 1955.
Treasure Chest, Vol. 10, No. 14, March 24, 1955.

My colleague Dr. Maria Mazzenga has blogged previously about digital materials, especially those used in the American Catholic History Classroom teaching sites. My intent here is to review the separate and distinct digital collections that originated from a 2001 grant from the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Leadership Program to The Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC), of which CUA is a member. Each member was asked to provide materials for digitization via WRLC’s collaborative facilities known as the Digital Collection Production Center (DCPC), and CUA provided a total of ten collections during the DCPC’s era of operation, 2002-2010.

I confess that I am not one of those archivists mesmerized by every new shiny bauble that comes along, so I had curmudgeonly doubts about the utility of putting resources into digitizing at that time. Fortunately, taking a chance turned out to be the right thing to do as the collections selected (or ‘curated’) have been enduringly popular and frequently accessed by researchers. However, things have changed since 2010 and the process to create what many would call these ‘boutique’ collections is now being augmented, if not superseded, by mass digitization of a broader range of materials and formats (which my colleague Paul Kelly will talk more about future). Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Hark! The Digital Angel Comes!”

The Archivist’s Nook: Collecting the Sacred and Secular – The Museum at CUA

Christ Pantokrator Enthroned by Thomas Xenakis (1997)
Christ Pantokrator Enthroned by Thomas Xenakis (1997)

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, the Museum Collection at CUA is the oldest part of the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives. The first donations date to before CUA opened in 1889. Items were displayed in Caldwell Hall until 1905, and thereafter, until 1976, parts of the collection were either displayed in McMahon Hall, Mullen Library, or in storage. Since then the collection has been stored in Curley Hall, and more recently parts in Aquinas Hall or with items being used in campus exhibitions, often the May Gallery in Mullen, or loaned to secure campus offices to be displayed and enjoyed as office decoration.

CUA continues to accept a small number of artifacts as part of its manuscript collections along with paintings, sculptures, and other objects from individual donors. In 1976, responsibility for the museum was taken up by the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives (then known as the Department of Archives and Manuscripts), though it was not until 1994 that a project to establish a comprehensive and descriptive catalog of the entire museum collection was undertaken.  The museum collection today includes art works and artifacts representing different periods and genres, totaling about 5,000 pieces. For more on the history of the Museum, see http://archives.lib.cua.edu/musecol.cfm. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Collecting the Sacred and Secular – The Museum at CUA”