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?”

The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Footprints of CUA Blue and Gray

The Catholic University of America (CUA) did not yet exist during the time of the Civil War (1861-1865). However, the land that would eventually house CUA and the surrounding Brookland community experienced some of the war’s bitterness, though thankfully little in the way of bloodshed.

Fort Slemmer in Color, 3D
A colorized and stereoscopic image of Fort Slemmer. For 3D effect, cross your eyes until the images overlap in the center and refocus on center image.

On the northern end of the present CUA campus behind Marist Hall, on a knoll covered with trees lies the remains of the Civil War era Fort Slemmer, featured as a key part of CUA’s Historic Walking Tour.

The fort was part of the northern flank of a complex system of fortifications to defend the nation’s capital from Confederate attack (for more information see National Park Service site). Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Footprints of CUA Blue and Gray”

The Archivist’s Nook: Trashing the Trailers – A Short Genealogy of a Space

trailer being removed
Trailing into the sunset. Perhaps not as (un)dramatic as it looks, however: The trailers were gutted and many of the furnishings were donated to Community Forklift for discount resale and to other charitable organizations serving homeless veterans.

University archivists save university stuff.  Our mission entails preserving university-related historical materials that enable us to make observations about our school across time.  This includes the physical space of CUA.  The Archives holds files and blueprints detailing the history of most every building of the University, and even some that no longer exist.

Which brings me to the recent trashing of the trailers.  Back in the 1990s, twenty-six trailers were placed on Curley Court to house an overflow of students—this was before the grand Opus Hall was built to accommodate the incoming numbers.  This past March, however, it was time to remove those trailers, and especially for those of us here on the upper campus who pass by the units daily, it was something of an event. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Trashing the Trailers – A Short Genealogy of a Space”

The Archivist’s Nook: Monsignor Furfey’s “Reindeer” Games

1927-28 CUA basketball team
1927-28 CUA basketball team

When I was hired as audiovisual technician at ACUA in February (after serving as a graduate assistant for two years), I was greeted by John Shepherd (his eyes twinkling with a devilish glee) with my first assignment: processing the athletics department collection. Do you remember being asked by your parents to clean your room as a kid, and you had no idea where to begin? Well, this request was akin to that, only with box scores and rosters instead of GI Joes. However, it has given me the chance to discover some hidden treasures among the papers. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Monsignor Furfey’s “Reindeer” Games”

The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Curation – Sent from the Future to Write-Protect You

In the last two weeks we’ve covered paper and web pages. My job here is done, right? Wrong! Sometimes, we receive collections containing not just paper, but floppy discs, flash drives, and even entire computers. The list goes on. How do we go about processing this stuff?

To begin, it’s essential to have not only data carriers, but also players. Ever seen one of those elephant graveyards? We have something similar in our facility, but with old technology instead of, um, bones. Of course, older hardware was never designed to work on modern computers. We get around this by sticking to external USB drives whenever possible, and using an external control board for 5.25 floppies (FC5025, oh my!) that effectively duct tape an old IDE interface onto, you guessed it, USB.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
“I swear I will not kill any floppy.”

Did you know that you can alter a computer file simply by opening it? Don’t believe me? Just right-click your desktop and arrange the icons by “last modified”. The very act of saving that last click is an archival deadly sin. Sometimes a piece of media will let you prevent alteration by flicking a switch on the item itself (3.5 floppy discs) or by covering a hole with a piece of tape (5.25 floppy discs). With other carriers, though, you can be fresh out of luck. What can we do about this? In short, by borrowing techniques from law enforcement. Software like Forensic Toolkit (FTK) in conjunction with write-blocking hardware has been used to gather evidence of computer crime for years. Why not apply that technology to archives work? In spring 2015, CUA Archives set up its own digital curation workstation for this very purpose. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Curation – Sent from the Future to Write-Protect You”

The Archivist’s Nook: Archiving the Internet – Do Web Crawlers Dream of Electric Sheep?

Still from "The X Files"
That’s a whole lot of files!

My previous blog entry covered the digitization of physical things. Well, paper at least. We’re pretty on top of that! You take a page, scan it, and kablammo – it’s online, so to speak. But how do we deal with records that are already digital, like, say, web pages? Do we print them? Stick them in folders? What would that even look like? 136 billion pages, apparently. Granted, CUA’s site is tiny compared to the internet as a whole, but you get the general idea.

As it turns out, though, non-profit organization The Internet Archive has been doing more all these years than hosting bootlegs of old Smashing Pumpkins gigs. In fact, since 1996 they’ve also been saving snapshots of websites (47 billion and counting), all of which are accessible through the Wayback Machine. If you know the URL, chances are you can score some older version of the page. I dare you to find my Dead Journal from 2001. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Archiving the Internet – Do Web Crawlers Dream of Electric Sheep?”