The Archivist’s Nook: A Very Merry Christmas from the Fathers Hartke and Magner

In 1972, Rev. Magner’s Christmas card transports us all the way to Jerusalem.
In 1972, Rev. Magner’s Christmas card transports us all the way to Jerusalem.

In the history of The Catholic University of America, two priests are truly larger than life:  Father Gilbert V. Hartke (1907-1986) and Rev. Msgr. James Magner (1901-1995). Both men served the University community for decades: 28 years for Magner and 37 years for Hartke. Best known for running CUA’s theater program, CUA’s playhouse still bears Father Hartke’s name today, while Rev. Magner was renown on campus for leading world wide tours to such far flung places as Mexico, India, and even behind the Iron Curtain.

“May the joys of Christmas shine brightly for you throughout the New Year.” Signed Lady Bird Johnson and Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967.
“May the joys of Christmas shine brightly for you throughout the New Year.” Signed Lady Bird Johnson and Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967.

Nothing makes these big personalities more human and relatable than the several dozen Christmas cards they’ve left behind. Rev. Magner meticulously kept track of the names and addresses of each person he sent a Christmas card to every year. Here at the Archives, we have many copies of his personal cards from the 1940s to the early 1970s. His cards have a somewhat trademark style drawing on his adventures abroad; they usually involve a solo shot of this well-traveled priest in an exotic location. Some of our favorites include Japan, Costa Rica, Alaska, Jerusalem, and Ireland.

Although show-biz priest Fr. Hartke did not create signature personal Christmas cards, he certainly received them! He received not just one, but a total of five White House Christmas cards from then President Lyndon B. Johnson and First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson. These large, gold framed Christmas prints showing White House winter scenes remain part of the Archive’s museum collection today.

Merry Christmas to our High Flying Friend!
Merry Christmas to our High Flying Friend!

While we were unable to locate a presidential Christmas card among Rev. Magner’s papers, he did get three impressive hand drawn cards from a devoted pair of ladies. Whoever they were, Helen and Betty really captured something of Rev. Magner’s glamorous, jet setting lifestyle. In one card, a Hawaiian shirt clad Magner climbs into an old fashioned cocktail while another depicts a fez wearing Magner flying a magic carpet and simultaneously smoking hookah.

Judging by their Christmas cards, these two priests effortlessly lead interesting and adventurous lives. These ephemeral items give a glimpse into the personal lives of two men who redefined their roles as priests and did great things for Catholic University in the process. Whether making and receiving Christmas cards or living life to the fullest, each of these men did it in their own memorable way. Merry Christmas from the Fathers Hartke and Magner!

The Archivist’s Nook: A Merry Treasure Chest Christmas to All!

A Holy Mother who looks like Audrey Hepburn? Treasure Chest, v. 11, n. 8, December 15, 1955.
A Holy Mother who looks like Audrey Hepburn? Treasure Chest, v. 11, n. 8, December 15, 1955.

The Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book digital collection is the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, so what better archival collection to highlight during the Christmas holiday season? As readers of this blog know, The Treasure Chest is an outreach horn of plenty for any archivist, especially for a somewhat dyspeptic and mildly iconoclastic one as myself. It has been featured or at least referenced in three previous blog posts: Finding Your Way Around the Collections, Hark! The Digital Angel Comes! and Treasure Chest: Your Own Virtual Jesus. So, at the risk of going to the well one too often, we return to investigate the Treasure Chest’s always colorful and often inspiring Christmas covers.

Decorating the family tree! Treasure Chest, v. 6, n. 8, December 21, 1950.
Decorating the family tree! Treasure Chest, v. 6, n. 8, December 21, 1950.

The Treasure Chest was published, for most of its history, by George Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio for distribution to American Catholic schools, with a total of twenty annual Christmas covers for 1946-1962, 1964, 1966, and 1968. Not surprisingly, the majority of these illustrated covers (15 of 20) depict some version of the Holy Family in and around the manger, sometimes with the Star of Bethlehem present. One in particular (1955), depicts a Holy Mother Mary who bears a remarkable resemblance to screen beauty and legend Audrey Hepburn, then in her prominence (see right), while some others are reproductions of the works of famous Renaissance artists such as Lorenzo Lotto (1962) and Antonio Correggio (1964). Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: A Merry Treasure Chest Christmas to All!”