The Archivist’s Nook: Walter Reuther – 50 Years Later

Today’s guest post is authored by Kimball Baker,  former graduate student of the Catholic University History Department.(1)

Walter Reuther with James P. Davis, Bishop of San Juan, at AFL-CIO Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, February 1959. George G. Higgins Papers, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

A half-century ago, on May 9, 1970, America lost one of its greatest heroes, United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther, in the crash of a plane whose engine, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, was missing parts and had parts wrongly installed—including one part installed upside down. To this day, there is no conclusive proof of foul play, although it is widely suspected.

This tragedy, and several similar tragedies, occurred amidst a time like today, when progressive social reformers are battling valiantly to promote social justice in every area of American life. Therefore, it behooves us to take a fresh look at Walter Reuther and what he fought for, and to realize the large extent to which today’s workers and worker-justice activists are standing on Reuther’s shoulders.

Reuther, in turn, was standing on the shoulders of the workers and worker-justice reformers who preceded his rise to dominance as a leader in the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) during their organizing and 1935 founding. Reuther and his fellow workers and activists saw Industrial unionism as a direct outgrowth of a democratic-socialist vision for the United States, a vision in which workers and other Americans can thwart income inequality and play larger roles in determining their economic and political destinies.

John Brophy laying a CIO wreath with Dan Benedict and Walter Reuther in Mexico. 12/13/1954. John Brophy Papers, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

One cannot fully understand worker justice in the 1930s and 1940s without exploring the extent to which unions in those decades were affected by the relationship between the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) and its allies, and U.S. socialists and their allies (including the Catholic social-action movement). Communists and socialists were bitter foes long before the 1930s, and except for a brief period of cooperation during the Popular Front era of the 1930s (cooperation which ended with the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 23, 1939), UAW and other CIO unions were constant battlegrounds. Communist workers everywhere had to follow a line of complete subjugation of worker interests to the war aims and foreign-policy objectives of the Comintern (the Communist Party globally), which still and always included world domination. During World War II, CPUSA-led union factions hampered collective-bargaining activities (already hampered by corporate domination of wartime union-management relationships) by demanding no-strike pledges and extreme production speed-ups, and by downplaying workers’ concerns with low pay, meager benefits, lack of worker input, and unsafe working conditions.

From UAW’s founding, Reuther courageously led the union’s democratic-socialist coalition. He was a member of the Socialist Party in the 1930s until 1938, when he joined the Democratic Party, and he played a major role in UAW going from 30,000 members in 1935 to 400,000 members in 1938. He sought cooperation with the workers of every union faction, and was a veteran of the sit-down strikes and of the bitter three-year-long struggle to organize Ford Motor Company (featuring the famous photo of Reuther bloodied by company goons).

Walter Reuther’s World War II innovations, however, most dramatically exemplify his leadership. His defense-readiness plan was extremely effective, and could serve as a model for dealing with today’s coronavirus. And most significantly, in June 1945 he filed a brief with all war-production agencies recommending that in postwar, “Increased production must be supported by increased consumption, and increased consumption will only be possible through increased wages.” Indeed, he made this recommendation part of UAW’s then-current round of negotiations with General Motors by proposing that the company’s workers be given a 30-percent wage increase and that it not be accompanied by an increase in the price of GM cars. Reuther’s proposal didn’t go through, but it was a ground-breaking challenge to economic inequality in a ground-breaking manner and promises to play a key role in today’s crucial national debates.

Letter of October 24, 1949 announcing a Testimonial Dinner in honor of Walther P. Reuther. Phillip Murray Papers, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Poet Robert Frost speaks of the importance of the “the road not taken”; and America’s not taking the road championed by Reuther set a discouraging tone for the country’s postwar years, when labor had to yield to corporate dominance and the country entered an era of excessive consumer abundance. Reuther was disappointed, but he still fought hard for worker justice (such as by supporting Cesar Chavez and farmworker organizing and by promoting public-sector unions), and he expanded efforts he had long made on other social-justice fronts, including civil-rights struggles, Vietnam War protests, and a greater voice for young people.

Unfortunately, this road called for but not taken has received woefully insufficient attention in the few major biographies of Walter Reuther. Nelson Lichtenstein, for example, in The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit, portrays Reuther after World War II as a champion of corporatism and consumer abundance, a portrayal which insufficiently accounts for Reuther having to row against the anti-labor current of that era and for his increased efforts in non-labor directions. Also, Lichtenstein neglects the positive anti-Communism which Reuther displayed and which helped propel him to the UAW presidency in 1947, helping bring about CIO’s expulsion of 13 CPUSA-led unions in 1949-50. Sadly, positive anti-Communism was soon replaced by the negative anti-Communism of the right wing and of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his ilk.

Ironically, during Reuther’s fight for his innovative challenge, James Matles, President of the CPUSA-led United Electrical Workers-CIO (UE), secretly negotiated with GM on behalf of the 30,000 company workers which UE represented. The UE-GM agreement unfortunately became a basis of the much weaker agreement which UAW eventually had to settle for.

Delegation of American labor leaders, including Walter Reuther, with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, 1960s. Joseph D. Keenan Papers, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

In The Wage Earner, a highly-regarded Detroit labor newspaper, the paper’s editor, Paul Weber, commented in October 1945 on the Reuther challenge: “If Reuther succeeds in forcing GM, one of the country’s largest industrial empires, to redivide the fruits of its production, the day of gigantic profits in American business will be done … [T]he result may not be the end of capitalism, but it will certainly be the beginning of a new kind of capitalism.”

 

The actual result, as we know, was swallowed up in the machinations of runaway capitalists and right-wing politicians, who then gave us decades of assaults on workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively—including, in 1981, President Ronald Reagan’s firing of 12,000 striking members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or PATCO (see Collision Course, by labor historian Joseph A. McCartin, Oxford University Press, 2011). Such assaults continue today, but thanks to the renewal of the democratic-socialist vision for America’s future, Walter Reuther’s “road not taken” promises to become a wide highway of worker justice and of social justice in general.

 

(1)Kimball Baker is the author of “Go to the Worker”: America’s Labor Apostles (Marquette University Press, 2010). For further reading about Walter Reuther in the 1930s and 1940s, he suggests The UAW and Walter Reuther, Irving Howe and B. J. Widick (Random House, 1949).

The Archivist’s Nook: Documenting Student Governance – John P. O’Connor and the National Student Association

Program Cover for July 1955 International Student Conference held in Birmingham, UK.

Today’s post is guest authored by Justin Gould, a MA student in Library and Information Science at Catholic University.

The collection of John P. O’Connor consists of materials collected by the eponymous man ranging from 1937 to 1967. These materials largely represent organizing efforts in student life during the mid-twentieth century, including reports, marketing materials, personal correspondence, and newspaper articles. The experience I had while processing this collection was educational, but also exciting and entertaining at times. 

John Patrick O’Connor was born on December 27, 1931. He graduated from Manhattan College in 1956, and remained active in collecting information about the United States National Student Association (NSA) until 1967. From its inception in 1947, the NSA was a confederation of college and university student governments. In 1967, it would be revealed that much of the NSA’s operations had been secretly funded by the CIA, as a perceived counterweight to Soviet-backed international student groups. While this may have led to O’Connor’s disengagement with the organization, the NSA would disavow its relationship with the CIA and continue operations until 1978.

Two publications – from the University of Wisconsin and Harvard – highlighting the 1947 founding of the United States National Student Association (USNSA)

While exploring the collection, I tried to puzzle out the views and beliefs of Mr. O’Connor, but always found myself unsure. He collected lists, names, and notes of all kinds, meticulously documenting the student organizing scene from the rise of the NSA in the 1940s, formed as a bulwark and western alternative to the International Student Union – a Soviet organ – to various student groups and movements in the 1960s, far beyond his graduation from Manhattan College. He collected official communist newspapers, unaffiliated left-leaning flyers and journals, the works of noted racists and antisemites (in smaller portions), far-right propaganda from the 1950s, and standard, mainstream journalistic retinue. From his correspondence and personal collection the only conclusion I can make is that the man was passionate, bent on understanding and deconstructing the forces behind student groups and student organizing, possibly recognizing that the youth of tomorrow are the greatest force for change.

A 1956 flyer showcasing a regional Congress of the National Federation of Catholic College Students. O’Connor collected materials related to student governmental organizations of all types across the US and internationally.

In the final periods of his collecting, he picked out newspapers from communist and left-leaning groups for their inclusion of articles exposing the influence of the national security apparatus in the student groups he worked in and around during the 1950s. These articles were published in the mid 1960s, and I can only assume the man had all but moved on from the day to day operations of the NSA and its affiliate groups by then. However, he was still fascinated by the mechanisms moving the world around him, and with this I can greatly sympathize.

I made the mistake early on of beginning with a physical inventory instead of a digital one, but that allowed me to make mistakes that would have been difficult to recover from on a digital scheme. When the collection was brought to me there was no original order to be truly found, so a full inventory and subsequent reordering was necessary. It was a task that, were I to do it again, I would start with a digital inventory. It took months, albeit part time, to finish cataloguing everything, and when I came out on the other end I understood vividly why archivists don’t typically do an item level inventory of a collection. Coming in at around 1,450 items, I wished that the collection had lent itself to a more concise way of processing. The completed collection, spanning four boxes, consists of hundreds of individual documents.

USNSA Summer Travel Abroad Poster, ca. 1950s.

The finding aid is available online.

The Archivist’s Nook: Keeping Up With The Woodsons

This week’s post is guest-authored by Ronnie Georgieff, a recent graduate of the Library and Information Science program at The Catholic University of America.

A letter from Walter Nelson Woodson to Cecilia Alfaretta Parker thanking her for the privilege to call her “my dear cousin.” American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 2.

Often, we take for granted how blessed we are when it comes to the power of our technology. Communication is at our fingertips… messages to the ones we love quite literally take seconds to send and receive. Abbreviations, emoji’s, gifs are all used to express emotion and convey a message. Not to mention the numerous applications that are available for us to post and share big announcements in our lives.

Written on the back of the image in Charlotte Woodson’s handwriting, “This is Mrs. Lansing next to Aunt Mayne [seated top, right] and her sister next to me [seated bottom, right].” It is followed with a question by “Mayme” Montavon, “Looks like a giggling crowd doesn’t it? Does it become us?” American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 26.

But in the late 1800s, early 1900s, Cecilia Parker Woodson, her family and friends, did not have this convenient form of contact. Rather, they wrote letters. All the letters within the collection, each handwritten in beautiful cursive, are not by Cecilia’s hand. Rather, they are from others, the majority from her husband, Walter Nelson Woodson and her daughter, Charlotte Virginia Woodson. Each letter is unique, whether it be the style of handwriting, the type of paper used, the envelopes chosen, or the stamps. Not to mention items such as pamphlets, newspaper articles that were saved regarding the Woodson family and announcements concerning them. The messages written therein are heartfelt, endearing, and contain a great deal of emotion that equally expresses love, joy as well as sorrow.

Given the task of digitizing the collection, the varying sizes of the letters and items presented me with a unique challenge. Some envelopes were very small, and other parts of the collection, such as portrait images, a notebook used to record recipes and a copy of the Ulster County Gazette could be quite large. When handling the collection, it was important to keep the fragile state of the paper in mind. Despite the excellent condition of the collection, many were quite brittle, worn and thin, and depending on the size and material, needed more care than the others.

Images of Victor Louis Tyree, Husband of Charlotte Virginia Woodson. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 26.

I often found myself lost in the collection and reading the handwriting therein. But there was something about the paper itself that made this collection very much ‘human’ and resonated with me. There were blotted ink stains from pens, scratch-out marks where there omitted words, wear and tear from frequent usage, cuts from scissors where stamps were removed from envelopes, fine pins were newspaper articles were attached to the page… the list goes on. These simple little touches were easily captured in exceptional detail by the archive’s high-quality scanners.

The cover of Charlotte Woodson’s recipe book. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 21.

With a collection that is a little over a hundred years old, I was reminded of several things. First, we appreciate the modern ways we can quickly communicate with our loved ones. Many of the letters written to Cecilia tend to mention the excitement upon receiving Cecilia’s letter or the anticipation of it being sent or received. Secondly, in a world filled with emoji’s and abbreviated texts, meaningful handwritten letters seem like a lost art. Thirdly, I am grateful that technology has advanced in such a way that we are able to permanently family stories and memories, such as these, for future generations.

Written on the back of the image in Charlotte Woodson’s handwriting, “Aunt Mayme and I in the door way. How do you like us. C.V.W.” American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 26.

Take some time today to message a loved one… try something new- write a handwritten letter to a friend… and I highly encourage you to explore and read the digitized collection. It will captivate you and touch your heart just as it touched mine.  In a world filled with technology, you will gain a better appreciation for what has passed, what is present, and what will be.

You can view the Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection Finding Aid here.

The Cecilia Parker Woodson Digitized Collection will be available online soon.

Interested in reading more? Look at Maria Mazzenga’s Archivist Nook blog posts “Friends I’ll Never Meet” and “D.C. History at the Archives.”

Can get enough? Check out our Instagram page: @catholicu_archives where you can find a recipe for ‘Sunshine Cake’ (posted July 30th)

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Curating the Catechism

This week’s post is guest-authored by Mikkaela Bailey is a PhD student at CUA studying medieval history with special interests in women’s history, public history, and digital humanities. You can find her on Twitter: @mikkaela_bailey

Curation is a long, detailed conversation between individuals, offices, texts, and objects, as students from Catholic University’s History and Public Life class learned this semester.

It’s easy to evaluate an exhibit and poke holes in the choices made by its organizers. It’s far more difficult than I imagined to craft an exhibit.

With most of the logistics arranged long in advance by our professor for the class History and Public Life, Dr. Maria Mazzenga, our job as a class was focused on assembling and advertising the physical exhibit itself.

The first thing we had to do was break up the objects into thematic categories so we could decide what should be included in our display. Then, we had to plan how to best demonstrate the common themes between them and also establish continuity in the display. After that, we had to craft captions and marketing materials that communicated why our visitors should care about our work and choose to come see it.

We used minimal materials to set up the exhibit. Aside from the items featured, we added captions and some text as well as stands for the books and weights to keep the books open for display.

One of the ideas about organizing the books rested on the idea that the Eucharist is a central and essential element of the catechism and one’s first Communion is an important life event. Since our audience is likely to be heavily Catholic, there is resonance with their own experiences in the exhibit here. This thematic approach connected well with the objects in the exhibit, and inspiration flowed from that idea as we assembled catechisms aimed at children and teens in the same display case. One thematic element of change over time was the implementation of more children’s catechetical education as the age for first Communion shifted from around 13 to around 7 years of age.

The caption writing process was difficult, and you can see unique touches from the students who collaborated on them. We divided them between ourselves, working in groups of two or three to write them.

But, there were still two more cases to fill and many more objects to consider. In the first case, which we actually finished last, we installed the oldest books, including a Latin catechism from 1566. These 16th and 18th century books were connected by the vernacular languages in which they were printed. Printing educational materials in the vernacular was a very important emphasis of the Tridentine Catechisms, so grouping these non-English catechisms gave emphasis to the importance of the catechism worldwide, outside our own framework, and outside the Latin-based world of the church.

The central case features several interesting pieces, but it also provides context for the cases flanking it. This is where we chose to place the bulk of our textual engagement through questions we are asking the audience and a QR code linked to the digital exhibit.

A sneak peek at the finished display cases that will be on exhibit for the next few weeks!

At the end of this process, I am so thankful for teammates who were engaged from the beginning and expressed great passion for this project. I shudder to think of undertaking something like this alone! In fact, looking at the finished product, I feel as though no idea I had for the display was totally my own and I think almost every decision made was by committee. From the marketing materials to the captions and display case arrangements, this exhibit was completely collaborative and has benefitted from open communication and easy acceptance of constructive criticism. In public history, I think all of these qualities are essential for a successful, cohesive exhibit. This experience has been the highlight of my first semester as a PhD student at CUA!

This is an “insider’s perspective” of what it was like to arrange the items in the case while my co-curators directed me from outside the case. We had a challenging time arranging many of the items and it took a lot of collaboration to put it together.

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