The Archivist’s Nook: If This Table Had Ears!

The Table, up close and personal, photo  by Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015.
The Table, up close and personal, photo by Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015.

This week’s post is guest authored by Angela Geosits, archives assistant and doctoral student in English.

Any visitor to McMahon Hall is likely familiar with the massive marble table which dominates the central foyer. Set between the two great staircases out of the flow of foot traffic, this stately table blends in with the neutral colors of the space and feels as if it has always been there. But contrary to all expectations, this 2 ½ ton marble table is surprisingly well traveled, and even enjoyed a misspent youth loitering in the lobby of Loew’s Capitol Theatre, the last surviving Broadway vaudeville house. Some traces of this thespian origin can be seen in the detailed carvings of Comedy and Tragedy on the table’s supports.

But how on earth did our table get from a vaudeville theatre in New York City to an academic building at Catholic University in Washington, DC? The story begins in the winter of 1967, when the roof of the Army surplus theater the Drama Department had been using as their performance space collapsed under a heavy load of snow. Enthusiastic fundraising efforts began in order to fill the desperate need for a new stage. CUA Drama alumnus Ed McMahon (no relation to Monsignor James McMahon for whom the building is named) knew the Loews and organized a special benefit for the CUA Drama Department on the last night of performances at the Capitol Theatre.

Our Table on display in McMahon, with the Venerable Statue of Pope Leo XIII, see 7-16-2015 blog post ‘On McMahon’s Oldest Resident’ by Maria Mazzenga, in the background. Photo, Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015
Our Table on display in McMahon, with the Venerable Statue of Pope Leo XIII, see 7-16-2015 blog post ‘On McMahon’s Oldest Resident’ by Maria Mazzenga, in the background. Photo, Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015

On September 16, 1968, the Capitol Theatre held an evening of special live performances celebrating the legacy of the theater, and the proceeds of the benefit were donated to the building efforts for the new Center for the Communication Arts at CUA. You might know the end result of the building project better as Hartke Theater. The evening of entertainment featured famous performers including Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Johnny Carson, and Florence Henderson, among others, and was followed by a champagne dinner and dance at the nearby Americana Hotel. The wildly successful party went long into the night and even rated an article in the New York Times.

McMahon Hall, home of both the Table and the Leo Statue, Photo, Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015.
McMahon Hall, home of both the Table and the Leo Statue, Photo, Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015.

Our table had graced the halls of Capital Theatre from 1919 until it closed in 1968. On the night of the benefit, Fr. Gilbert Hartke spotted the table and thought it would make a lovely addition to the lobby of the new Drama building. Our substantial marble traveler was presented as a gift from the Loews Theater Organization to Fr. Hartke in 1968. The intrepid table never made it into the lobby of the new building; a 2 ½ ton table doesn’t fit just anywhere! For two decades, the table provided a stable surface in the basement of Curley for sorting the mail of the building’s residents. But in 1989, the table returned to public appearances when it was moved to its current home in McMahon Hall during renovations. It now rests under the benevolent but watchful eye of long-term resident, the statue of Pope Leo XIII.

Sources:

Crowther, Bosley. “Old-Time Star-Filled Benefit to Close Capitol Theater Tonight.” New York Times, Sept. 16, 1968, p. 57.

Pietro, Mary Jo Santo. Father Hartke: His Life and Legacy to the American Theater. Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2002.

Gatton, John and Dubeck, Joanne. “Gala Benefit Boosts Drive for Theatre.” The Tower, Sept. 27 1968, p. 8.

“NYC Alumni Organize Benefit for the Center of Communication Arts.” Alumnus, Spring 1968, pp. 14-15.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Dinks, Paddles, and Sophs! Oh My!

Freshmen dink and Sigma Pi Delta Fraternity jacket and paddle (Courtesy of Paul Rybcvzyk, BA 1972, MA 1977)
Freshmen dink and Sigma Pi Delta Fraternity jacket and paddle (Courtesy of Paul Rybcvzyk, BA 1972, MA 1977)

As the summer days wane and a fresh academic year begins, new and old faces alike are appearing across campus. Other than the confused look on some faces trying to locate O’Boyle Hall, both new and returning students alike will soon be an indistinguishable part of the campus community. However, in the past, telling the newcomers apart from the old timers was much easier, thanks to a small cap.

As the institutional memory of the University, the Archives prides itself on recording the life and times of the campus community. Though, frankly, it is often easier to secure official records than snapshots of the daily lives of students. However, with that said, many alumni have generously donated documents and artifacts from their student days. These collections include everything from nursing student capes to Greek life paddles. Yet, there is one object that many of these alumni donations share; one object that students across the decades often have in their possession. This shared artifact is the freshman dink.

A longstanding CUA tradition spanning much of the twentieth century, a cap called a dink or beanie was given to freshmen. As a form of induction into the campus community, upperclassmen required new students to don a special cap and badge marking them out as a newbie. Sometimes an official induction ceremony known as “The Capping” was also performed. These beanies were not the only requirement. Policed by the sophomore class, the freshmen were assigned a series of mandates to obey.

Freshmen during Registration, 1950s – Notice the small caps and name badges.
Freshmen during Registration, 1950s – Notice the small caps and name badges.

Much like a fraternal hazing – sans the paddle above – many of these rules look rather silly when written down and involved some social hierarchy. But they did attempt to encourage a sense of community and foster familiarity with the campus and its history. (As a historian, I can appreciate the latter.) According to the 1954 “Facts for Freshmen,” the rules were:

  1. Freshmen will wear dinks (a dink is a small red and black cap) and badges at all times!
  2. Freshmen will speak and tip their dinks to everyone they see on campus.
  3. Freshmen will always be in possession of change and matches.
  4. Freshmen will never step on a blade of grass.
  5. Freshmen will salaam before entering and after leaving the front entrance to McMahon Hall.
  6. Freshmen will sign in at Shahan at the request of the Sophomores and will give their seats and places in line to Sophomores.
  7. On the day of September 27, the Freshmen boys will wear unmatched shoes and socks and pants rolled up to their knees; on this day, the girls will not wear make-up, will wear pigtails and will carry open umbrellas.
  8. 1925 Cardinal Yearbook Depiction of a Sophomore. I personally blame that newfangled Jazz music.
    1925 Cardinal Yearbook Depiction of a Sophomore. I personally blame that newfangled Jazz music.

    Freshmen will know the names and positions of members of the Administration and will be able to recite a brief history of C.U. at the request of the Sophomores.

  9. Freshmen girls and boys will always look neat. Boys will wear a shirt and tie at all times; girls will wear ribbons of cardinal and black, the school colors.
  10. Freshmen will sing the Alma Mater and say the cheers at the request of any Sophomore.

The rules listed above must be observed at all times, except on Sunday, within the dorm, or at social functions.

On Sept. 30, the Sophs will conduct a tribunal and affix due judgement and penalties to all violators of the regulations. BEWARE!

While you may no longer have to sing on demand to become a part of the CUA community, you can still connect to its past. Whether you are new to the campus or an experienced, card-playing veteran, you can peruse the Yearbooks, the events and debates of the past via the Tower, or explore the faded terrain of the campus.

No matter what, just be glad you don’t have to wear mismatched shoes or pigtails on September 27…unless you really want to, I guess.

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: Legion of Decency Keeping the Big Screen Clean

Cleopatra, 1963
Cleopatra (1963), scourge of the National Legion of Decency [source: wikimedia commons]

This week’s post is guest authored by Vitalina A. Nova, Archives assistant and LIS graduate.

Regardless of your opinion of Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) movie ratings, you’re likely familiar with them and know the MPAA reviews film content to determine suitability for specific audiences. What you’re less likely to know is that the indignation which led to the formation of the MPAA’s predecessor, the Hays Code, also led to the formation of the National Legion of Decency, a Catholic interest group with similar goals.

The Hays Code imposed restrictions on the film industry beginning in the early 1930s, aiming to align content on the big screen with moral standards codified as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA) Don’ts and Be Carefuls.  The Hays code was replaced by the MPAA in 1968.  The full list of Don’ts and Be Carefuls is available from the School of Media Arts at the Santa Barbara City College.

In contrast, the National Legion of Decency maintained an interest in advising the American public on the morality of films long after the Hays Code went out of use.  Formed in 1933, the Legion was initially composed of religious and laity of Jewish and Christian faiths concerned that exposure to immoral material harmed viewers’ quality of character.  Censurable material included the discussion or depiction of childbirth, immodest dress, and a lack of ultimate judgment on characters’ questionable behavior (as defined by the Legion).  Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Legion of Decency Keeping the Big Screen Clean”

The Archivist’s Nook: Audio Capture – NOW That’s What I Call Music

“Our old friend Ludwig Van, and the dreaded Ninth Symphony.”
Our old friend Ludwig Van, and the dreaded Ninth Symphony.

The Archives has several different media types in its holdings, and some of these, such as magnetic tape, are much more susceptible to degradation than paper. Audio cassettes and open reel tape can, over time, become sticky and difficult to play without causing irreparable damage, if stored in less than perfect conditions. They can also suffer data loss when exposed to magnetic fields (this can happen just by storing cassettes close to high-powered speakers), and digital media can suffer data rot. CUA Archives decided to get ahead of the game here; since our audio materials are still in good condition, why not duplicate them for preservation and access while we still can?

Remember that technology graveyard I mentioned in my digital curation blog? Well, it contains more than just computer equipment. Think cassette decks, reel to reel players, turntables, and, yes, even minidisc and DAT players. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Audio Capture – NOW That’s What I Call Music”

The Archivist’s Nook: A Knute Rockne Protégé at CUA

Left to right, CUA Football Coach Arthur J. “Dutch” Bergman, NFL Hall of Famer and Redskins great Sammy Baugh, and assistant coaches Wayne Millner and Forrest Cotton, 1939
Left to right, CUA Football Coach Arthur J. “Dutch” Bergman, NFL Hall of Famer and Redskins great Sammy Baugh, and assistant coaches Wayne Millner and Forrest Cotton, 1939

As I mentioned in a previous post in June, I am currently attempting to make heads or tails of the university’s athletic collection (not an easy task, when you have material related to basketball mixed in with field hockey). During a recent adventure in the collection’s voluminous news clippings, I stumbled upon a connection between the CUA football program and legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. A brief clipping taken from the San Francisco Examiner c.1935 described the November 28, 1935, contest between CUA and North Carolina State. This game would feature CUA head coach Arthur J. “Dutch” Bergman and NC State coach Heartley “Hunk” Anderson (I think Coach Bergman won the better nickname category).

Ronald Reagan as George "The Gipper" Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American (Warner Bros., 1940)
Ronald Reagan as George “The Gipper” Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American (Warner Bros., 1940)

What does this have to do with Rockne? The article notes, and Internet research confirms, that both coaches played together on the same Notre Dame team led by Rockne in 1919 (click here for more on that team), when Bergman was a senior halfback and Anderson a sophomore guard. Even more amazing, an article written by former CUA sports information director Chris McManes notes that during Bergman’s senior year at Notre Dame, he was the roommate of none other than George Gipp (the real guy, not Ronald Reagan), of “win one for the Gipper” fame (which leads one to wonder if during their time together Gipp ever asked Bergman to wash the dishes just once for the Gipper). Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: A Knute Rockne Protégé at CUA”

The Archivist’s Nook: Roving Students Save Rector from Wreck

Brookland Streetcar
Let’s face it. That night, the trolley would have been the better choice for Rector Denis O’Connell.

Catholic University, Fall 1904: Unpaved roads. No streetlights. A moonless November evening. A horse and buggy, and a wobbly trolley car. A formula for disaster? As it turns out, that night it was. But guess what? A fearless group of wandering CUA undergrads saved the day!

The first thing you need to know about this tale is that Trinity College was established across the street from Catholic University in 1897 to educate young women. At that time, CUA educated only men, and these were mostly diocesan priests and members of religious orders. In fact, many faculty members walked back and forth across Michigan Avenue, teaching at both CUA and Trinity. But the dynamic changed when CUA’s first male undergrads arrived in 1904. There was all manner of fretting over these young men fraternizing inappropriately with Trinity women (and vice-versa). One night, a group of men could be heard serenading the girls at Trinity outside their windows. No one ‘fessed up to the crime and the perps managed to escape with their pipes intact, but Rector Denis O’Connell (1903-1909) let it be known that no CUA men were allowed outside the dorm after 10 p.m. at night. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Roving Students Save Rector from Wreck”

The Archivist’s Nook: On McMahon’s Oldest Resident

McMahon Hall, undated photo
McMahon Hall, looking pretty timeless in this undated photo.

Good Old McMahon Hall. Built in 1892 to house the school of philosophy, arts and sciences, and the school of social sciences, this Romanesque structure has had many occupants across the last 123 years.  Sociology, biology, languages, math, a plethora of administrative offices—all have been in, out, and back again across the decades. The second building erected as part of CUA’s young campus, McMahon was made possible by a $400,000 (yes, buildings were a lot cheaper way back then) donation by Monsignor James McMahon, an Irish-born priest who had served as a New York pastor. The Monsignor lived in the building in his retirement, passing his final days there until his death in 1901 at the age of eighty-four.

McMahon would surely have had good company there, not only with the professors and students who roamed the halls and occupied the classrooms, but with Giuseppe Luchetti’s imposing Leo XIII, a 12-foot high marble statue with which Theodore Roosevelt explicitly requested an audience. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: On McMahon’s Oldest Resident”

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: What Do the Semitics Department, the Franco-Prussian War, and this Dashing Cat All Have in Common?

Tommy, loyal friend to Clara Barton and patient model, 1885 (Courtesy: National Park Service)
Tommy, loyal friend to Clara Barton and patient model, 1885 (Courtesy: National Park Service)

Now that I have the undivided attention of the cat-hungry Internet, I will admit that the charming cat pictured is not the subject of this post. Alas! I will instead be introducing you to one of my favorite Brookland figures and the painter of this furry portrait, Antoinette Margot. Margot was an artist, humanitarian, and Brookland fixture in the early twentieth century.

Born in 1843 in Lyons, France, she was raised in a strict Protestant Huguenot household. Her early life was devoted to painting, at which she excelled. (It would continue to be a lifelong hobby, as she created images of family members and saints.) Margot, however, wanted to help people, and with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, she volunteered as a nurse with the then-new International Red Cross. It was in this capacity that she met an American by the name of Clara Barton, the legendary Civil War nurse and future founder of the American Red Cross. Over the course of the next several years, Barton and Margot would forge a close relationship, as they witnessed the horrors of the conflict and became roommates after the war. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: What Do the Semitics Department, the Franco-Prussian War, and this Dashing Cat All Have in Common?”