The Archivist’s Nook: John Talbot Smith – “Woodsman in a Cassock”

This week’s post is guest-authored by Ronnie Georgieff, a graduate student in Library and Information Science at Catholic University.

Reverend John Talbot Smith LL.D. may have had a common name, but this Irish-American priest was anything but. He was a large, broad, solid figure. Over six feet tall, he was a “woodsman in a cassock,” some even calling him “the human icicle.” He is described as “utterly lacking in softness, never employed a caressing tone or phrase, and his impersonal Catholic viewpoint never relaxed or slackened or compromised.” Despite his intimidating figure, Smith was a practical joker, had a rather playful side to him, and a classic wit that could not be mistaken.

Rev. John Talbot Smith walking alongside Lake Champlain. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, John Talbot Smith Papers, box 8.

Smith was born in Saratoga, N.Y. on September 22, 1855 and was educated in the schools of the Christian Brothers in Albany, N.Y. and studied divinity at St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Canada. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 17, 1881. He was pastor of St. Patrick’s in Watertown, N.Y., pastor of Rouse’s Point, chaplain to the Christian Brothers at De La Salle Institute, chaplain of the Sisters of Mercy as well as pastor of Dobbs Ferry. Within the last year of his life, his health began to fail and on September 24, 1923, he passed away at the age of 68.

A booklet about The Catholic Summer School of America as well as The Boys Camp, ‘Champlain Assembly, Cliff Haven, Lake Champlain, New York.’ American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, John Talbot Smith Papers, box 8.

Outside of his priestly duties, Smith enjoyed the outdoors, which often inspired his writing. In his youth, the physicians had discovered in Smith a marked tendency of tuberculosis and prescribed a life in the pine woods and sleeping in a tent. So he became a missionary in the Adirondack region where he was well known by the woodsmen and lumberjacks. Soon after, he established The Boys Camp in Cliff Haven in 1898 as an adjunct to The Catholic Summer School of America. The Boys Camp was one of the first recreation camps for youth, which was greatly supported and highly revered by all who attended. Smith was also the president and trustee of the The Catholic Summer School of America for a number of years.

The outdoors, particularly the Boys Camp in Cliff Haven, in addition to the Catholic faith, Irish-Americans, social concerns especially in labor relations, housing and the theater, were big influences for his writing. He published many works, most notably “A Woman of Culture,” “Solitary Island,” “Saranac,” His Honor the Mayor,” “The Art of Disappearing,” which was reprinted  under the title, “The Man Who Vanished” as well as “The Boy Who Came Back,” The Black Cardinal” and “The Boy Who Looked Ahead.” He also published articles in a number of prominent journals and newspapers such as the Dublin Review, the Catholic World, the Ave Maria, the Columbiad, and the Catholic Review of New York. He also succeeded Patrick Valentine Hickey, the editor and founder of the Catholic Review of New York, for 3-4 years. In addition, he was the founder and chaplain of the Catholic Writers Guild of America in 1919. His written works also include two volumes of sermons, short stories, histories, lectures for on literature at Notre Dame University, Indiana and plays.

The Boy’s Camp at Cliff Haven in 1899. It is labeled “Campers as Actors” in ‘The College Camp of Lake Champlain, Season of 1899’ booklet. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, John Talbot Smith Papers, box 8.

Smith had quite a passion for theater, and unfortunately, lived during a time where there was tensions between the theater and the Catholic Church. He wrote columns on the theater in the Catholic Review of New York which sparked the beginning of the change of attitude in America towards the stage from Puritan to Catholic. He was also very important in the organization of The Catholic Actors Guild of America which would be very important to the Catholic community. It was dedicated to taking care of the religious need of individuals involved with the theater, and was in accord with Catholic discipline and morality.

Governor Theodore Roosevelt visiting Lake Champlain in 1899. His visit is referenced in Mosher’s Magazine, Volume XVI, No. 3. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, John Talbot Smith Papers, box 8.

Smith has some interesting connections to some of our other collections at Catholic University of America. Some of his letters and legal-financial materials are related to Patrick J. McCormick, future rector of Catholic University, who was his cousin. Smith wrote to Rector Thomas Joseph Shahan as well as Msgr. James McMahon regarding The Catholic Summer School of America which also involved Edward Aloysius Pace. The Christ Child Society is also very similar to The Catholic Summer School of America because it was also a summer camp. All of these materials are housed in the Archives of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

You can view the finding aid to the John Talbot Smith Papers here.

Affordable Textbooks

This post is guest-authored by Lea Wade, STEM Librarian, University Libraries, and member of the Textbook Affordability Task Force of the Washington Research Library Consortium.

Textbook costs are increasing. Since 1977, college textbook prices have risen over 1,000 percent.

Vox had a recent article on how much students spend on textbooks, and what publishers are offering to do to help. Over two-thirds of students skip buying or renting some required texts because they can’t afford them.

University and college students are estimated to spend $1,240 dollars on books and supplies at the average full-time private four-year college in 2018-2019 (College Board, 2019).  That’s an increase from the average 2017-2018 cost of $1,220 at private colleges. Textbooks at public colleges are estimated to cost more: in 2017-2018 the average cost was $1,250 (Collegedata), and in 2018-2019 the estimated cost is $1,298 (College Board).

The cost varies from course to course – generally, prices for textbooks in the sciences and analytical studies such as accounting are much higher than in the humanities. At Catholic University, the most expensive textbooks cost $446 for an accounting textbook to $396 for an Italian language textbook with the accompanying online access code. When the course requirement includes paying for an online access code, students do not have the option of renting or buying a used textbook. In those cases, students may resort to sharing with a friend or doing without the required online access. Other students may drop out altogether if they cannot afford the required textbooks.

Student success and retention have been demonstrably improved through transition to affordable textbooks (Winitzky-Stephens, 2017; Hardin, 2018).

Libraries and colleges can work together to reduce the burden of textbook pricing on students. The Catholic University of America University Libraries is leveraging its membership in the Washington Research Libraries Consortium to examine options. One option is expanding textbook access through library reserves. Another is expanding the use of Open Educational Resources, or Open Textbooks. A recent report from the Public Interest Research Groups has laid out some options for resolving the problem by embracing Open Textbooks.

“Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching, learning, and research resources released under an open license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OERs can be textbooks, full courses, lesson plans, videos, tests, or any other tool, material, or technique that supports access to knowledge.”Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition. 

OER involves replacing textbooks with openly licensed and easily accessible documents and media. With OER textbooks, students have access to the text online at no cost. Faculty can be assured that if students do not read the assigned text, it is not because they couldn’t afford the text.

Some universities are providing grant funding to faculty who agree to refocus their courses to include the use of OER. Even more funding is often provided to faculty who write an open textbook. Years of advocacy for open educational resources has begun to move the needle toward greater acceptance. Student Public Interest Research Groups have released an action plan for universities and faculty to help relieve the burden of textbook cost. An associated student-led campaign, the Open Textbook Alliance, provides simple handouts and guides on open textbooks.

Your subject liaison librarian can help you identify free open-source textbooks if you are wondering what is already available. There are several online open repositories of textbooks that are free and available to use for your research and coursework.

If you are wondering what is already available, there are several online open repositories of textbooks that are free and available to use for your research and coursework.

Some OER Repositories include the following sites:

You can learn more about what other campuses are doing to improve student success by reducing textbook cost burden from this article [Espocito, J. The Coming Wave of Affordable Textbooks [https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2018/11/19/the-coming-wave-of-affordable-textbooks/], November 19, 2018].

 

Recommendations

  • Students should directly advocate for open textbook use in their classrooms.
  • Faculty should consider adopting open textbooks in their classrooms. They should check the U. Minnesota Open Textbook Library to see if there’s a book available for your class.
  • Campus administrators should consider creating an open textbook pilot program on their campus. They can see the University System of Maryland’s MOST Initiative as a sample.
  • State and federal legislatures should invest in the creation and development of more open textbooks. See Washington State’s Open Course Library as an example.
  • Publishers should develop new models that can produce high quality books without imposing excessive prices on students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: A Scientist’s Work Revealed – The Herman Theodor Holm Papers


This week’s post is guest-authored by Joseph Smith, a graduate student in Library and Information Science at Catholic University.

Herman Theodor Holm, n.d. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

This semester, I had the privilege of processing a collection to create a finding aid (or inventory) of materials belonging to a remarkably prolific scientist: Herman Theodor Holm.  The variety and amount of items in the collection not only speak about Holm’s evident passion for his field (botany), but also demonstrate why they should be made available to the University Archives’ patrons, be they seasoned researchers or casual lovers of science and history.

Born on February 3, 1854, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Holm had an interest in biology from a young age.  It was not until 1882 that the young Holm embarked on “his first great opportunity… when he was attached to the Danish North Pole Expedition as botanist and zoologist,sailing from Copenhagen in July of that year and spending the next two winters in the ice packs of the Arctic Ocean” near Nova Zembla.[1]  After this, Holm “spent the summers of 1884-1886 in West Greenland” engaged in additional botanical and zoological work.  In 1888, Holm immigrated to the United States and became a citizen.  The jobs he held in America included “assistant botanist in the United States National Museum” (now the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.) and a position at the U.S.Department of Agriculture.  Along with this work, his early days in the United States included studying plant life in Colorado for a three-year period.  As such, he was a noted expert on plant life of alpine and arctic regions.

Holm’s connection with CUA stems from his earning a doctoral degree in botany in 1902.  Starting around 1921, he lived in rural Clinton, Maryland, but in early 1932, he took up a resident academic position at CUA with the title of “Research Professor of Biology.”

Holm passed away later that year on December 26.  In the wake of his sudden death, he left behind an immense array of unorganized papers.  His will appears to bequeath his library and his botanical collection to the University of Louvain in Belgium in response to the losses that the institution had suffered during the First World War.

Photograph of the Djimphna, which Holm sailed on in 1882 during an expedition, ca. 1880s. Featured in ”Illustrations – I – Glumiflore – Th. Holm,” ca. 1882-1925

The Herman Theodor Holm Papers contain numerous botanical notes on various categorizations of plants that were of particular interest to Holm, such as “sedges (Cyperaceae) and grasses(Gramineae),”[2] both of which are represented in the collection. Topics pertaining to botany are prevalent throughout mediums ranging from individual sheets of paper, notebooks (that sometimes function as sketchbooks), and even manuscripts.  Holm also penned a variety of articles, some of which were published in Merck’s Report, as highlighted in the collection.

The collection includes correspondences panning decades.  Based on some of the items in the collection it seems that Holm kept in touch with other fellow scientists of his day, such as the naturalist John Macoun of the Geological Survey of Canada, and his son, the botanist James M. Macoun.

Illustrations can be found throughout the collection in the form of sketches and plates.  Holm was a talented illustrator.  His depictions of plant life (and occasionally marine and insect life) are extraordinarily meticulous, and having an eye for detail would certainly be necessary for a serious scientist.


Botanical illustration (Plate 221) by Holm from ”Illustrations – III – Glumiflore – Th. Holm,” ca. 1920-1926. Herman Theodor Holm Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Not long after his death, a statement recognized his work as follows: “For nearly 60 years, Dr. Holm was acknowledged as a leading authority on Arctic and Alpine flora and although his contributions to the field of botany in the form of discoveries, collections,drawings, and the like, are unparalleled [sic] he had spent the last decade of his life in so obscure a fashion that only a few scientists in this city[Washington, D.C.] were aware of his residence near here [the University].”[3]  For a man who is regarded as such an important figure in the realm of science, I find it remarkable that Holm is not better known.  Even a quick Google search today produces very little about him, apart from a small Wikipedia entry and some scattered bibliographic references. 

It would seem that now is the time for the relics of his life and work to be brought forward.  Many of the items, such as the manuscripts and the botanical notes, have yet to be deciphered and transcribed, and this is something that makes this collection particularly exciting.  It provides a wealth of opportunity for researchers to explore, study, and share the prolific information that Holm accumulated.  The promotion of this collection may be the start of furthering the notability of this overlooked scientist.


[1] James Waldo Fawcett, “Recalls War Tragedy: Botanist Leaves Work to Belgium,” Washington Star, January 29, 1933.

[2] H. B. Humphrey, Makers of North American Botany (New York: Ronald Press, 1961), 114-15.

[3] “Celebrated Catholic Botanist’s Collection Is Willed to Louvain U.,”N.C.W.C. News Service, February 13,1933. Courtesy of the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.


The Archivist’s Nook: CU Classicist James Marshall Campbell

This week’s post is guest-authored by Ronnie Georgieff, a graduate student in Library and Information Science at Catholic University.

Monsignor James Marshall Campbell devoted his life to The Catholic University of America (CUA) as a student, professor in the Greek and Latin Department, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, his contributions shaped the lives of many. His collection is comprised of 8 boxes that consist of research notes, sermons, homilies, lecture notes, articles, course outlines, photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence and prayer books.

Msgr. James Marshall Campbell. University Photograph Collection, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives

Campbell was born on September 30, 1895 in Warsaw N.Y., and was educated at Hamilton College (1913-1917) to receive his B.A. in Greek, Princeton University (1917-1918), and then The Catholic University of America (1920-1923) where he received his M.A and Ph.D. in Greek. He prepared for the priesthood at the Sulpician Seminary, now the Theological College, and was ordained on January 14, 1926. He was a brilliant academic, who had a particular love for the classics. He became a professional assistant in the classics (1920-1921), then an instructor  (1921-1927), an associate professor of Greek civilization (1927-1932) and finally a professor of Greek (1932).  He was fluent in English, Attic Greek, Latin, German, and French, and his professional studies included advanced Attic Greek composition, ancient Greek tragedy, Greek philosophy, ancient history, history of classical philosophy and Greek fathers. In addition, he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the American Philological Association, and the Medieval Academy of America. His research and teaching material reflected his scholarly passion, writing several books, articles, and contributions. Most notably, he wrote his master thesis on ‘The Question of the Origins of Tragedy’ (1920), wrote his doctoral thesis on ‘The Influence of the Second Sophistic on the Style of the Sermons of St. Basil’ (1922), ‘The Greek Fathers’ (1929), ‘The Confessions of St. Augustine: Books I-X’ (1931), A Concordance of Prudentius’ (1928-9), and ‘Los Padres Giegos’ (1948).

Title page of Campbell authored article. Campbell Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Campbell served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1934) until he retired (1966). He was also the Director of the Pacific Coast Branch of the Summer Session (1932-1970), helped develop a plan of concentration for the curriculum which is partially modeled off the Princeton preceptorial system, and even cut out football at Catholic University as an intercollegiate sport. This was not the only grievance that he caused, and a number of academic controversies created a rift between the College of Arts and Sciences faculty and Campbell. There was even a walkout in February of 1966 and it was soon followed by a petition for the replacement of the Dean in March 1966. As a priest and later a monsignor, he was a chaplain at Holy Cross Academy and Dumbarton College while simultaneously working at CUA. He was also named a Domestic Prelate of His Holiness Pope John XXIII (1959). He died the evening of March 25, 1977 at St. Joseph’s Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Campbell at work. University Photograph Collection, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

It was not until I processed this collection as part of a library science practicum that I learned about Msgr. Campbell and his contributions to CUA. His passion in academia as well as his administrative leadership showcase a remarkable individual who through both his small and large contributions is an inspiration to follow your passion and lead with excellence. See the Msgr. James Marshall Campbell finding aid.

The Archivist’s Nook: Joncherez – A Life in Eleven Documents

This week’s post is guest-authored by Michaela Granger, a graduate student in History at Catholic University.

Age: 17. Height: 4 feet, 11 inches. Nose: small. Forehead: large. The above description belongs to a certain Alexander Louis Joncherez, a young man who came of age the same year as the Première République of France. This particular document was issued the “the fourth year of liberty, and the first year of equality,” otherwise known as 1792. In September of the next year, mere days after the ‘Reign of Terror’ had begun, officials in the District of Montivilliers recorded that Joncherez was now 18 and had grown to 5’ 1’’. They also gave him permission to travel. Joncherez took advantage of this freedom and eventually arrived in the newly established United States. In 1798 a clerk of Prince George’s County, Maryland, recorded that Joncherez had officially been naturalized as a citizen of his adopted nation. How do we happen to know these details about a relatively obscure French-American who lived over two-hundred years ago? The eleven documents which provide this information are part of the American Catholic Research Center’s Iturbide-Kearney Family collection.

This document, a proto-passport of sorts, allowed Alexander Joncherez the freedom to travel. Iturbide-Kearney Family Collection, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

In many ways, the story told by these documents raise more questions than they provide answers. In order to highlight both this fascinating collection and the process of historical inquiry, the rest of this post will be dedicated to considering some of the most interesting questions surrounding Joncherez’s papers. Perhaps the best question to begin with is “why did Joncherez keep these papers?” During the French Revolution, the possession of a valid passport could often mean the difference between life and death. French citizens who left during the Revolutionary period were called émigrés, a term that connoted a certain degree of disloyalty to the Republic. Fearful that these émigrés were plotting to overthrow the new government from their places of exile, the Revolutionary government began passing new legislation in 1792. Any émigré who attempted to return to France after this date had to prove they were given permission to leave and had remained loyal to the Republic during their absence. If they were unable to do so, they were liable to be executed as traitors. In light of this, the fact that Joncherez kept these documents suggests he had some intention of returning. If he had wished to completely sever his ties with his natal country, there would have been no need to keep these eleven documents (which include not only several passports, but documents confirming he paid the war tax, had taken an oath of allegiance to the Republic, and provided compulsory military service).

A receipt acknowledging that Joncherez had dutifully paid the war tax. A document like this could be used as “proof” that one was loyal to the Republic of France. Iturbide-Kearney Family Collection, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Did Joncherez hope to return to France? Or did he keep the documents purely for sentimental value? If he ultimately hoped to return, why did he leave in the first place? Did he ideologically support the Revolution? Or did he simply pretend to as a survival strategy? What did his French citizenship mean to him? Another set of fascinating questions relate to Joncherez’s ultimate destination: the United States. Why did he choose to come to the United States? The overwhelming majority of French émigrés migrated to England, estimates suggest close to 12,500 per year. There were at least 7,400 members of the French clergy alone in England by 1792. Why didn’t Joncherez go to England? It does not seem likely that Joncherez had family in the United States, but it is not impossible that he could have had other networks which drew him here. If it was not relationships, could he have been drawn to the United States for ideological or religious reasons? A few other notable French émigrés settled in Maryland, for example Father John Dubois, founder of Mount St. Mary’s University. However, Joncherez wasn’t a member of the clergy. Could Joncherez, like Pierre Charles L’Enfant and Marquis de Lafayette, have been attracted to America’s Revolutionary spirit?

A miniature portrait of Joncherez as a young man. The note, which was tucked in to the back frame of the portrait, was likely penned by Louise Kearney, Joncherez’s great-granddaughter. Iturbide-Kearney Family Collection, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Finally, why did Joncherez choose to stay? When Napoleon Bonaparte granted amnesty to the majority of émigrés in 1802, a sizeable number of them returned to France. Why not Joncherez? We do know he married a certain Nancy Sanford of Virginia, although it is not clear when. Could he have stayed for love? If it was not a traditional romance that influenced his plans, is it possible that by this point Joncherez had fallen in love with his adopted home and the life he had created here? Additional research has revealed that Joncherez quickly made himself a productive and active member of early American society. He served on the jury of the U.S. Circuit Court of the District of Columbia twice in 1809. He exchanged property with Edgar Patterson in 1811 and Benjamin MacKale in 1817. He exchanged two letters with Thomas Jefferson regarding the donation of several maps in the summer of 1812. He registered as a private in ‘Irwin’s company,’ part of the District of Columbia’s Militia, during the Creek War (1813-1814). There is some evidence that he taught French at Georgetown University and was a member of the local chapter of Freemasons. He had children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In fact, one of these great-grandchildren, Louise Kearney, happened to marry an exiled Mexican prince and pass on the documentary testament of Joncherez’s life to the Catholic University Archives. My hope is that this post may inspire some to visit these holdings for themselves in search of even more answers.

The Archivist’s Nook: The Mission on Biddle Street and Beyond

School for Italian immigrant boys, 416 West Biddle Street, Baltimore, MD, 1905

This week’s post is guest-authored by Austin Powell, a graduate student in History at Catholic University.

On November 14, 1904, Demetrias Cunningham, a daughter of Irish immigrants and now Mother Assistant of a young order of American nuns called the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, wrote to a Pittsburgh priest: “Our sisters now in Pittsburg [sic] have written to say that you are very much interested in the Italians in your city – and seem desirous to know more of our work, prior perhaps, to having a small band of our sisters to work amongst these poor people. We enclose a report of the work done generally by our Community and will also give an outline of it amongst the Italians.” Demetrias goes on to explain how the Mission Helpers sought to catechize recent Italian immigrants in three Mid-Atlantic American cities at the turn of the century: Demetrias’s native Baltimore, and the New Jersey cities of Trenton and Atlantic City.

Between 1880 and 1924 Eastern European immigrants arrived by the millions to the United States. This was only the latest in a series of mass migrations which led to an ever changing dynamic as people who spoke different languages, practiced different religions, and identified as different races and ethnicities lived together and interacted, sometimes peacefully but other times not. Indeed, anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiments reached a fever pitch in the 1910s and 1920s, culminating in 1924’s Johnson-Reed Act which established quotas regarding the national origins of arriving immigrants, effectively outlawing immigration from Asia and steeply cutting the numbers of Italians and eastern Europeans allowed entry to America.

Mother Demetrias through the years.

Scholars have recognized that the archives and papers of religious organizations can provide insights into branches of American history outside the strictly religious, such as labor or immigration. And because of the nature of their work the collection of these Baltimore nuns, which entered the Catholic University Archives in 2014, provides ample evidence for how communities of different nationalities, races, and religions engaged each other in America’s cities around 1900.

In 1890, Anna Frances Hartwell (an Anglican convert to Catholicism) adopted the name Mother Joseph and founded the order in Baltimore. Originally, the group was entirely dedicated to missionizing the predominantly Protestant African American population of Baltimore; however, after 1896, the scope of the Mission Helpers’ ministry expanded to people of all races. They soon had a particular focus on ministering to deaf Catholics as well as the many Italians settling in America. The nuns also opened houses in 1902 and 1905 in the recently conquered Spanish territories of Puerto Rico and Guam.

In her 1904 letter, Mother Demetrias, who served as Mother Joseph’s deputy, describes how the Mission Helpers established catechism classes for young Italian boys on weekday evenings in Baltimore. The nuns also managed evening classes in “secular studies” (i.e. reading and writing) for those same boys. In Trenton the nuns had a “Home Training School” for Italian children, teaching them to respect their elders and how to clean their linens; meanwhile, in Atlantic City the nuns conducted sewing classes for Italian girls. It was not only the tenets of the Catholic faith the nuns wanted to impart to these new arrivals, but also more practical skills which would help them operate in American society.

However, Mother Demetrias notes that the nuns first had to build bonds of trust with the Italian parents before they could convince them to send their children to the Mission Helpers’ schools. To do this they would visit the immigrants in their homes, staying for ten or fifteen minutes at a time “and in this way we get acquainted with the family, talk to them on indifferent subjects, until they learn to know us.” As almost all the Mission Helpers in these years were Irish immigrants or the children of Irish immigrants, many of the sisters had to learn Italian to better minister to that growing community; indeed, the collection holds more than one example of Italian lay-people living in American cities writing letters to the Mission Helpers in their own native tongue.

Italian boys learning crafts, Baltimore, ca. 1900s

Mother Demetrias emphasizes that the purpose of their work was to convince Italians, young and old, who had not gone to Mass to receive the Sacraments “sometimes for three, four, five as many as ten years,” to reform their lives in accord with Catholic teachings and practice. Yet a 1921 report the Mission Helpers’ sent to the Vatican provides further explanation. In the later document it becomes clear that competition with Protestants was a top concern for the nuns. Indeed, they note that in Trenton they opened their Sunday School for Italian children in the same building some Protestants were holding theirs, thereby “rescuing nearly all these children.” In New York the sisters claimed there were “14 different Protestant sects busily proselytizing” the immigrants, and one man, an excommunicate, in Staten Island called “Di Santo … has succeeded in deceiving many.”

The letters and reports of the Mission Helpers reveal much about Catholic-Protestant competition for the souls of recent immigrants at the turn of the century, as well as the methods these women used to minister to a variety of different groups in the United States, including African Americans, Italians, Puerto Ricans, and deaf people. The records of the Mission Helpers are held at the Archives of Catholic U. For more information, please email
lib-archives@cua.edu

The Archivist’s Nook: Richard John Neuhaus – A Catholic Lutheran in the Public Square

Fr. Neuhaus, then a Lutheran pastor, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ca. 1960s (Courtesy: National Catholic Register) Neuhaus Papers, box 88, The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Today’s post is guest authored by Undergraduate student in Social Work, Emmanuel A. Montesa, who expresses his thanks to the professional Archives staff.

On October 19, 1999, the Reverend Richard John Neuhaus gave a lecture entitled “My American Affair” here at The Catholic University of America, only a few months after he had converted to Catholicism. As a former Lutheran pastor, he was heavily involved in the liberal causes in American politics of the 1960s such as the Civil Rights and the Anti-War movements. He even considered himself to be a radical, seeing the War in Vietnam as “God’s instrument for bringing the American empire to its knees.”¹ On December 4, 1967, Neuhaus led a service at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran in Brooklyn where over 300 people turned in their draft cards in protest, drawing the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Neuhaus was arrested twice in his life, the first for participating in a sit-in at the New York City Board of Education headquarters demanding for the desegregation of city public schools and the second for disorderly conduct during the chaotic 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In addition, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for New York’s 14th Congressional district.

Neuhaus meeting with President Ronald Reagan at the White House, Feb. 26, 1986. Neuhaus Papers, box 88, The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

However, by the time he was invited to speak at the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States, Neuhaus was one of the leading neo-conservatives in America, along with George Weigel and Michael Novak. Neuhaus strongly believed that politics can and should only exist within the context of Christian morality, calling for Christians to find their place in what he called “the naked public square,” a reference to the absence of values emanating from faith-based communities in public life. His 1984 book of that title, which addressed the complex relationship between faith and politics, arguably paved the way for Ronald Reagan’s landslide re-election to the American presidency. In addition, Neuhaus served as a catalyst in the solidification of the political alliance of Catholics and evangelical Protestants. He served as an unofficial advisor to President George W. Bush on social matters which included abortion and same-sex marriage. As the editor-in-chief of First Things from its founding in 1990 until his death in 2009, Neuhaus voiced his discontent with the social liberalism that had taken hold of America. In 2005, Time Magazine named Neuhaus as one of 25 most influential evangelicals in America despite being a Roman Catholic.

Neuhaus’ renunciation of the Lutheran profession and conversion to Roman Catholicism is, in a sense, related to his political shift from the liberal left to the conservative right. His 1999 lecture at the Catholic University offers great insight into his reasoning for his conversion, both political and theological. He saw that the theory of the twofold kingdom of God, on which Lutheran political ethic is based on, “leads to Christian passivity and quietism in the face of social and political in justice.”² This theory holds that God rules the temporal earth with his left hand and the divine world with his right, and in the same way, theology should not muddy itself with human politics. However, Neuhaus believed that the Church should necessarily engage with the world, but the Church must first have a “vigorous ecclesiology” that can stand what St. Paul calls “the principalities and powers of the present age.”³ He  concluded that the only the Roman Catholic Church possessed such a vigorous ecclesiology.

Neuhaus being ordained a Catholic priest, 1991. Neuhaus Papers, box 88, The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Furthermore, in another lecture given at Catholic University in March 2000 titled “A Consistent Ethic of Strife,” which would later be published in CUA’s Journal of Law, Philosophy, and Culture, Neuhaus spoke about what he called the Catholic Moment. He first defined the term as a Lutheran in his 1987 book The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World, where he posited that the “premier responsibility for the Christian mission rest with the Catholic Church.”⁴ Now speaking on the Catholic Moment as a Catholic priest, he asserted that the Church should not fall into the passivity that his old profession had fallen into, but should continually play an active role in the world to establish the Kingdom of God. He declared that the Catholic Moment had not passed even 13 years after he first coined the term, because every single day since the first Pentecost until the end of time is the Catholic Moment.  In this framework, he distinguishes that there is a difference between an American Catholic and a Catholic American. The former is a corruption of the religion, but the latter is what we should strive for as Americans. There is a distinctively Catholic way of being an American.

Please see the newly completed finding aid (our 200th) for the voluminous Neuhaus Papers, a recent and welcome addition to the Catholic University Archives, joining the significant papers of other notable public priests such as Bishop Francis J. Haas, Msgr. John A. Ryan, and Msgr. George G. Higgins.


¹Daniel McCarthy. “Richard John Neuhaus by Randy Boyagoda,” The New York Times, March 26, 2015, accessed December 6, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/books/review/richard-john-neuhaus-by-randy-boyagoda.html.
²Richard John Neuhaus, “My American Affair” (speech, Washington, D.C., October 19, 1999), The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
³Ibid.
Richard John Neuhaus, “A Consistent Ethics of Strife” (speech, Washington, D.C., March 2000), The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

The Sounds of Hanukkah: Flory Jagoda

Flory Jagoda. Image courtesy of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music.

This post is by library technician Rachel Evangeline Barham.

Did you know that one of Hanukkah’s most influential tastemakers lives in the DC area? The multifaceted musician Flory Jagoda, now in her 90s, calls Virginia home. She is known widely as the “keeper of the flame” of the music of Bosnian Sephardic Jews.¹ Here she is sharing one of her most famous songs, the counting song “Ocho Kandelikas” (Eight Candles). (Warning: it’s catchy!) I use the word “sharing” because – you’ll agree when you see her – it is clear that Flory Jagoda is not just performing the music she composed. Sharing her music is her way of transforming unthinkable personal and collective tragedy into a living monument to the special family who raised her and who were robbed of their own lives.

Flory Jagoda was born into the Altarac Singing Family of Vlasenica, Bosnia: her mother and seven aunts and uncles – directed by Flory’s Nona (grandmother) – sang and played instruments at all kinds of public gatherings.² Flory lived with her Nona until she was eleven years old, speaking Ladino (or Judaeo-Spanish), the language that Sephardic Jews took with them all over the world after Ferdinand and Isabella’s 1492 Edict of Expulsion. Both the Ladino language and its songs preserve parts of medieval Spanish but have picked up local flavor wherever people settled: a new spelling of a word here, a new instrument there. Flory’s Nona was an eager teacher of a very willing pupil, passing on all the songs she knew to her granddaughter.

Jagoda in the 1940s.

It was when she had to leave her Nona and move to the city – against her will – that Flory’s stepfather gave the unhappy girl the accordion that would later save her life. Flory became adept at several instruments and adjusted to city life in Zagreb, but her world fell apart in 1941 when the Nazis’ racial policies hit her family hard. They managed to get to the Dalmatian island of Korchula, where they were interned for two and a half years before fleeing to Italy amid the chaos that accompanied the end of World War II in Europe. She found a job as an interpreter for the US Army in Italy, where she fell in love with and married a Jewish American soldier, Harry Jagoda. It was when they returned from their honeymoon that she learned to her horror that out of the 41 members of her beloved Altarac family, only her mother, one uncle, and one cousin had survived. Along with every other Jew left in Vlasenica, the family members were rounded up and brutally slaughtered on May 6, 1942. “Babies, Nona, Nonu, las tiyas (aunts), lus primus ermjanus (cousins) … all of them.”³

The Flory Jagoda Songbook: Memories of Sarajevo (Tara Publications, 1993).

In 1946, Harry and his new wife settled in Virginia and started a family. For years, Flory, noting that silencing the past is a way of coping for many survivors, suppressed memories of her former life. But at some point, she wanted her children – and the world – to share the music, memories, and traditions that had made her childhood so special. She began recording music in the 1980s, releasing three albums and an accompanying songbook including both traditional songs and original compositions such as the joyful “Hanuka, Hanuka,” performed here by the Trio Sefardi, with whom Flory appeared in a 2013 interview with WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi. Always a teacher, she has used her many public appearances to teach this music to anyone who will listen. Many of Flory’s songs are holiday-themed. “Because every holiday song … that I have composed continues the memory of my family in Vlasenica; I am still sharing the holidays with them.”⁴ Through her music, the legacy of an extraordinary musical family will live on from generation to generation. 

Hear Pink Martini’s cover of “Ocho Kandelikas,” or this one by Flory’s great-grandchildren.


¹http://washingtonjewishweek.com/5670/a-keeper-of-the-flame-performs-at-library-of-congress/arts/ and many other sources.

²Much of Flory Jagoda’s life is well documented, but a particularly detailed first-person account of her family and personal history is found in the Introduction to The Flory Jagoda Songbook (Tara Publications, 1993). Many of the facts in that account are noted in this post.

³The Flory Jagoda Songbook, p.14.

The Flory Jagoda Songbook, p.16.

The Archivist’s Nook: From Catholic University to Broadway – The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection

Booklet title page that accompanied the “Sing Out, Sweet Land” album, 1946.

This week’s Archivist’s Nook is by Morgan McKeon, graduate student in the Department of Library and Information Science.

Walter and Jean Kerr, partners in life and art, were figures of the dramatic arts from Catholic University to Broadway. Their work spanned from the stage to the televisions of the American public. Together, Walter and Jean Kerr had a fruitful artistic and familial partnership. Their first collaboration in 1942, the musical comedy “Count Me In,” opened at Catholic University and was produced in New York in 1942. Their Catholic University musical, “Sing Out, Sweet Land,” was brought to Broadway in 1944. 1946 saw their Broadway debut as a team with “Song of Bernadette.”

Walter Kerr alongside Josephine Callan directing Sing Out Sweet Land, 1944.

Walter Kerr became a professor of speech and drama at Catholic University in 1939 after it was founded by Father Gilbert Hartke in 1937. Alongside Hartke, Kerr helped develop the department and supported it through his direction of stage productions as well as writing original works to be performed at the university. By Spring of 1939 Kerr “wrote and directed his first production at the university, a one-act play entitled Hyacinth on Wheels.”¹ While popular among the students, Kerr decided to move on from academia in 1951. Walter Kerr continued to write and direct works for the stage – he also turned his attention to criticism. For his work as a critic, he would win a Pulitzer Prize in 1978. In 1966 he became the chief drama critic for the New York Times. Though hired as the soul critic, Kerr made the decision to only write for the Sunday edition so that he would not be the only opinion. “I saw in advance that the power of the Times, with one man writing both daily and Sunday, would be absolute. I wanted the vote split, and the Times was quick to agree.”² Due to his writing style, he made the theatre accessible to a wide audience – Newsweek even deemed him a “supercritic”.³ Though he was an influential critic, Kerr was not without those who criticized his reviews. In 1965 The Village Voice “presented him with an award for his ‘outstanding disservice to the modern theatre.’”⁴ During his career, Kerr was often critical of work that he though too musically ambitious or overrun with pretension. Despite some critics, Kerr won a Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for his criticism, was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1983, and was honored in 1990 when Manhattan’s restored Ritz Theatre was renamed the Walter Kerr Theatre.

Fr. Hartke and Walter Kerr.

Jean Kerr, was successful in her own right. Her theatrical works and publications were admired for their humor and “unerring eye for life’s everyday absurdities.” She won a Tony Award in 1961 for King of Hearts – but it was Please, Don’t Eat the Daisies that brought her into popular culture. Published in 1957, this collection of essays (based on her life as a mother and wife to an important critic) became a best-seller. It was adapted into a film in 1960 and made into a short-lived television series in 1965. In 1973, Jean Kerr won The National Institute of Social Sciences Gold Medal Award for distinguished service to humanity.

It was not until the processing of this collection that I learned about the contributions of the Kerr’s. The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection is made up largely of awards received by Walter and Jean. The Catholic University of America continues to live the legacy of Father Hartke, Walter and Jean Kerr – as well as the others that were central to the development of the Drama department. Their collection provides an important element to the holdings at Catholic University – providing another look at important figures that found themselves in Brookland. The Kerr’s found in themselves and through each other the desire to create for and support the theatrical arts. With every new production, Walter and Jean Kerr live on both at the Catholic University of America and the Broadway stage.

Jean Kerr and Adlai Stevenson, ca. 1950s.

The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection can be viewed here: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/kerr.cfm


¹Mary Jo Santo Pietro, Father Hartke: His Life and Legacy to the American Theatre (Washington: The Catholic University Press, 2002), 70.

²Roderick Bladel, Walter Kerr: An Analysis of His Criticism (Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1976), 1.

³Bladel, 1.

⁴Bladel, 2.

The Archivist’s Nook: Religious School Champion – A Bill Bentley Ball Blog

William B. Ball in his office, c. 1970. William B. Ball Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

This week’s post is guest-authored by Austin Arminio, a graduate student in the field of Library and Information Science.

Currently, about ten percent of students in the United States attend private schools, the majority of which are run by religious institutions. While they likely don’t know his name, many of these students owe their ability to go to these schools to William Bentley Ball. This October 6th is the 101st anniversary of the birth of William Bentley Ball, whose devout Catholicism and passion for constitutional law led to him defending student’s rights to religious education.  

William Ball on the steps of the Supreme Court following, Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District, 1993. William B. Ball Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Ball was a patriot and devout Catholic from an early age. When the United States entered World War II, Ball joined the Navy, obtaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander, after which he studied law at Notre Dame. Following college, Ball begin teaching constitutional law at Villanova University, as well as serving as a general counsel for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public policy wing of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. In 1967, Ball worked on his first case before the United State Supreme Court: Loving v. Virginia. On the case that would overturn laws prohibiting interracial marriage, Ball entered a brief on behalf of 25 Catholic Bishops in support of the Loving’s position. This would be the first of many Supreme Court cases Ball would be involved in.

The case the propelled Ball into the national spotlight was 1972 case of Wisconsin v. Yoder. Jonas Yoder was the member of an Amish community in Green County, Wisconsin and following his children’s completion of the 8th grade, Yoder attempted to pull his children out of school, as the Amish believe that high school education unneeded for their way of life. This view led to conflict with state and national compulsory education laws, leading to Yoder being fined by the county. As the case reached the Supreme Court, William B. Ball agreed to represent the Yoders free of charge. Before the Supreme Court Ball argued that forcing Amish children to attend high school was forcing them to violate their religious beliefs. “Whether the Amish religion itself is unreasonable is not relevant, the plain facts are that the state (whether acting reasonably or otherwise) is preventing the defendants from performing their religious obligation.” The Supreme Court agreed with Ball and in a 7/2 decision ruled in favor of the Yoders.

Undated poem and doodle by Ball. William B. Ball Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Besides Wisconsin v. Yoder, Ball’s most famous Supreme Court case was the 1993 case of Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District. James Zobrest was born deaf, and as a result was provided a sign-language interpreter while he attended public school. However, when he began to attend a Catholic high school, the school district refused to continue providing Zobrest with an interpreter, saying they could not provide public education funds to a religious school. The Zobrest family argued that this was religious discrimination, and took the case to court. Ball argued before the Supreme Court that the school district’s refusal was a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment. In a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court sided with Zobrest.

William Bentley Ball died January 10th, 1999 following a short illness. Over the course of his luminous carrier, Ball argued 9 cases before the US Supreme Court, having a win/loss margin of 5/3. Ball additionally served as an advisor on 25 other Supreme Court cases, as well as giving his testimony on numerous state and federal laws concerning the 1st Amendment. When not practicing law, Ball was an artist and poet, loved for his cheeky caricatures and limericks, some of which can be viewed here, here, and here. To find out more information about William Bentley Ball, you can view the finding aid to Ball’s collection here.