The Archivist’s Nook: Reflecting The Renaissance – Andrea della Robbia’s Annunciation

The following is a selection from Catholic University student Moira McCoy’s class paper on Andrea della Robbia’s Annunciation, a piece of Renaissance-era Italian art held by Special Collections at the University. Ms. McCoy’s piece was submitted as an assignment for Professor Tiffany Hunt’s course ART 272: The Cosmopolitan Renaissance. The students used art from the University collections for their papers.

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Andrea della Robbia’s Annunciation is a prime example of the movement of Renaissance art from the late fifteenth century into the present-day world. This terracotta relief sculpture, currently displayed at The Catholic University of America, has very little documentation prior to its donation to the University in 1960 by Mr. Arthur T. Roth. This piece was created for a Florentine audience, but we might ask how the message of this art piece changed throughout time and location.

Figure 1: Metal Plaque shown on the wooden shelf of Andrea della Robbia’s Annunciation as displayed at Catholic University of America.

The Annunciation’s archival file in Special Collections offers a foundation for research. Though Robbia’s Annunciation is not extremely well documented, readers do get a general idea of the artist, the donor, and other aspects through the file. There is no signature of the artist that tells us for certain that this is an original Andrea della Robbia, though the metal plaque on the bottom of the sculpture is associated with the Florentine sculptor (Figure 1). This sculpture has little known transaction prior to its donation to the University in 1960. There appears to be no documentation of how Roth, a prominent New York banker, purchased the Robbia sculpture, indicating that the piece may have itself been a gift to him.

Along with the file is information about the artist, Andrea della Robbia. His role as a sculptor under the influence of his uncle, Luca, lead us to understand that the Florentine artist’s pieces were to attract the local audience. Personal research shows that there is very little evidence of Robbia pieces in the western world today, indicating that they were primarily meant for the Italian viewers of the fifteenth century. There is no confirmed date of completion of Andrea’s Annunciation, nor is there information on this specific piece on public online sources. When viewing the object file, the date of execution is vaguely indicated as “fifteenth century (?).” Of the pieces in Florence today, there is a highly designated purpose that these pieces fulfill. Andrea della Robbia appears to be a sculptor of religious scenes primarily, as most pieces are in correlation with religious institutions. Many of these pieces remained in Florence due to the sculpture type, as they are attached to their original space, and removal would be difficult.

Figure 2: Front view of Andrea della Robbia’s Annunciation, terracotta relief, late fifteenth century, Catholic University of America.

The Annunciation appears to the viewer in a semi-circular arch with a peaked top, (Figure 2). At first glance, viewers may find this piece to have little detail due to the dominating white-blue color tones of the sculpture. The deep, muted blue provides a background to the whitened figures of Mary and Gabriel, as well as other features such as the dove, flowers and vase. This blue background is also the deepest layer of the relief whereas the white objects and figures appear in the higher relief layer. But why use these two tones as the main colors of the piece? It is believed that the cerulean blue and ivory white color scheme is a trademark of the Robbia workshop founded by Luca della Robbia, Andrea’s uncle. These colors are functional and unique colors which mark all pieces from the Robbia. In other pieces, such as Luca della Robbia’s Resurrection (Figure 3), we are sampling the earlier model of this blue-white glazing technique that is constant in all Robbia works, including a brighter green to the work for forestry and brightness. A secondary claim as to why these colors are utilized is in the remembrance of the Florentine aesthetic of the Renaissance. The memory of Florentine Renaissance leaves us with the idea of Humanism and the imagery of the Florence artists’ personal touch. Nineteenth-century essayist Walter Pater wrote on Luca della Robbia’s use of blue and white terracottas, stating that “…nothing brings the real air of a Tuscan town so vividly to mind as those pieces of pale blue and white earthenware . . . like fragments of the milky sky itself, fallen into the cool streets, and breaking into the darkened churches..” (1) which reinforces the statement that the use of these duochromatic palettes in the Robbia art space are reminiscent of the Florentine art style and appeal to the fifteenth century audience. The last claim is the significance of the subjects, and the importance of these colors in a religious sense. Though there is a paragraph on the religiosity of the scene ahead, it is important for researchers to understand how the light blue is seen in many different versions of the Annunciation pieces, from Northern territory artists such as van Eyck to the Italian Fra Angelico. The blue is often associated with Virgin Mary whereas the white is to symbolize the purity of the Annunciation scene, with iconography of white lilies and a dove. Overall, it is important to note that something as simple as the color palette connects to the location of Florence, the iconography of religious symbols and figures to the individualism of the artist.

Figure 3: Luca della Robbia, Ressurection, polychromed and glazed terracotta,1442-1445, Duomo di Firenze.

A major feature of Andrea della Robbia’s artwork and style is his material use and glazing techniques. Terracotta is a form of clay-based material that is fired under extreme heat to solidify into a ceramic texture. This clay is found in many parts of the world, such as Asia, the Mediterranean & Africa, and is used in pieces from sculptures to brick making. Its application in Renaissance art was popularized by Ghiberti and Donatello during the early fifteenth century (2). Terracotta was used for two main reasons. First, the Mediterranean region where it existed was accessible to Florentine artists. Second, the clay material was easily pliable for artists of the era. The soft shape of the material allowed artists to decorate and create free flowing shapes very different from metals, marble, and other resources. Andrea was introduced to the making of terracotta sculpture while an apprentice to his uncle Luca. Luca’s innovation of developing glazed and colored terracotta that, when fired with glazes, would fuse with the clay underneath and result in brightness and shine. Furthermore, Andrea’s improvement in the creation of these enameled figures was to leave the face, hands and other parts bare. The emphasis of polychrome, or multiple colors, on Andrea’s pieces gives the Florentine artist a sense of individuality within the della Robbia workshop.

Andrea della Robbia’s Annunciation was made as a religious motif that includes all of the classical iconography of the biblical scene of the Annunciation of Mary with Gabriel. The event takes place when Gabriel the Angel descends to the Virgin Mary and announces that she will bear the child of the Holy Spirit, reiterated in the Book of Luke. The Holy Spirit is symbolized by a dove or rays of light in these scenes whereas the inclusion of white lilies is the symbol of the Virgin Mary, indicating her purity. Specifically in Andrea’s Annunciation, we see all four of these characters. Gabriel and Mary face each other with a vase of lilies filling the space between them. Above head, a swooping dove represents the Holy Spirit. Even if the viewer does not know the name of the art piece, these subjects tell the story of the Annunciation. In the Renaissance eye, the Annunciation scene was popularized to portray the old to new transition through the world, just as the change from the Old to New Testament. More importantly, the Annunciation connects with the Renaissance ideology of a new age of religion and mankind. Appealing to the Franciscan ideals of contemplation upon art, Andrea conceived many of his pieces to the influence of Franciscans in Florence during the Early Renaissance period. Contemplation of art allows the viewer to meditate on the Annunciation scene, which can evoke the reliving of the biblical event to the viewer and give a sensational understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role during the Renaissance era. Furthermore, the role of Gabriel could be the concept of Renaissance, or rebirth, who is appointing new changes upon the Virgin Mary, symbolizing the European society of the times.

The function of this art piece is to appeal to the religious perspective of its audience. Though we do not know the original location of this piece, many parts of this terracotta sculpture tell us that this was made for a religious institution and serve the purpose as a religious piece. Other than the obvious iconographic traits of this piece, the shape also indicates an interesting aspect. The arching shape with the semi-pointed top, known as a tympanum, is noticeably similar to the shape of Luca della Robbia’s piece Resurrection, a terracotta piece that is found above the left sacristy in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Fig. 3). The shape of tympanums have changed drastically through time and with the ideas of reconnecting with the classical Roman features, the shapes of the Andrea and Luca della Robbia pieces act not only as a symbol of Renaissance art, but also gives researchers some insight that Andrea’s Annunciation may have been originally placed or created as a tympana for a religious site or church. What appears as a little detail actually gives lots of context to the religious function.

Andrea della Robbia’s Annunciation allows viewers to gather insight as to how important documentation is for pieces of historical artwork. With the thin file and little to no information on the actual piece itself, the interpretation of the piece relies on the audience members to recognize the iconography and biblical importance of this scene. Being able to comprehend the symbolic message of this terracotta sculpture was a task for this viewer, as it was a noticeably religious scene and would have been reinforced by the original location. The world of Florentine Renaissance highlights the importance of rebirth and return to the humanistic view of antique Greek and Roman society. The Renaissance was a new turning point for Europeans in means of politics, society, literature and philosophies and though that time has passed, the significance of Andrea della Robbia’s Annunciation has not lost its importance, but merely been lost to time and underappreciation for the original Florentine piece.

Sources:
(1) Pater, Walter The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Literature, February 1873. Page 63-72

(2) Victoria and Albert Museum, “Italian Terracotta Sculpture,” Italian Terracotta Sculpture (London September 4, 2013)

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Adeptio-Rare Book Acquisitions, 2021-2022

Special Collections, including the Rare Books Department, like the rest of the world, is continuing to emerge from the shadow of the COVID Pandemic. We continue to purchase new books and related materials, which we reported on in our November 2020 and November 2021 blog posts, and are pleased to announce further acquisitions during the 2021-2022 fiscal year from reputable dealers in order to further enhance our collections. This was a banner year, with eight purchased Rare Book acquisitions, four of which are featured below. The others are listed in the footnotes and more information is available upon request.

[Reverendissimo patri domino] Hipolito Aldobrandino Mantuanorum feudorum Processus de partibus vigore compulsorialium generalium factus pro partas perillustris et reverendissimi Claudii et eius consortium de Gonzaga per compulsiv… Die30martii 1583…SpecialCollection,The Catholic University of America.
The first item is a Sixteenth century Italian manuscript, 11 x 8 inches, regarding a dispute between the Gonzaga family of Mantua and the Vatican represented by its auditor, Ippolito Aldobrandini (1536-1605), later Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605). The manuscript is a notarial deed concerning the February 4, 1583 trial held in Mantua in the San Pietro Cathedral.  It is a certified copy written in the Bishop’s Mantua palace on March 16, 1583 and given to Aldobrandini, who was representing the Holy See appearing in this trial as the judge commissioner. The trial, initiated at the request of Claudio Gonzaga, Abbott of the Benedictine Church of Santa Maria di Felonica in Mantua, addressed the validity of feudal rights claims by Felonica concerning properties used by the church. The manuscript has 90 leaves, or 180 written pages, with contemporary inscriptions on front cover and many pages with a notary stamp. This was purchased in June 2021 from Portuguese dealer Sandra Antunes, who in turn obtained it from Sotheby’s of Italy, in 2005.[i] Incidentally, it is often claimed that the spread of Coffee’s popularity is due to Pope Clement VIII’s influence. Supposedly responding to criticism of the beverage as ‘Satan’s drink,’ he tasted it, declaring it would be a pity to permit infidels to have exclusive use of it, so he blessed the bean, arguing it was better for people than alcohol.

Fifteen (15) items in one volume, 1682-1709. Bound in contemporary sheep with gilt title on spine (“Paneg[yrique]. Jans[eniste]. [et] Div[erse]. Autre Ecrits”. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.
The second purchase is a remarkable Sammelband, 7.6 x 6 inches, of fifteen Jansenist tracts, 1682 to 1709, in contemporary binding titled “Paneg[yrique]. Jans[eniste]. [et] Div[erse]. Autre Ecrits”.  Several of the items are not recorded in any American institutional library. The rarity of these tracts may be due to their heterodox nature as at least seven were added to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Books prohibited to Catholics) soon after publication. Many were written anonymously by Gilles de Witte (1648-1721) who followed Jansenist ideas of reading the Bible in the vernacular. He had already attracted the attention of the authorities by publishing a Dutch translation of the New Testament in 1696. He also wrote approvingly of Cornelius Jansenius with a biography of the Bishop of Ypres and an overview of the Jansenist conflict, affirming that many Jesuits has similar views and had not been condemned.[2] This was obtained in September 2021 from David Rueger of InLibris.

The Church Affirms its Stance on Abortion – Printed in Mexico Rodríguez, Mathías (active 17th c.); Innocent XI, Pope (reg. 1676-1689), 1684.

The third accession was a book printed in Mexico, then a province of Spain, by Por Dioego Fernandez de Leon in 1684, titled: Explicacion de las sesenta, y cinco proposiciones prohibidas por la santidad de N.M.S.P. Innocencio XI. mandadas publicar por el Excellentissimo Señor Don Diego Sarmiento de Valladares, obispo inquisidor general: y publicadas por el Santo Tribunal de la Inquisicion de esta Nueva España en siete de abril de mil seiscientos, y ochenta. Author el padre fr. Mathias Rodriguez, predicador, y confessor, de la Santa Provincia de San Diego de religiosos descalços de N.P.S. Francisco de esta Nueva España ; dedicada al Capitan Don Francisco de Alarcon, y Espinosa alcalde ordinario, que fue de la ciudad de la Puebla de los Angeles, su regidor, y thesorero general de la Santa Cruzada.  This is a first edition, 7.5 x 6 inches, with an armorial woodcut on the second leaf, bound in contemporary vellum with remnants of the original ties. The text was written by Fransican friar Mathias Rodriguez of San Diego, New Spain, examining a papal bull condemning sixty-five supposed heretical propositions or ‘laxism’ by Jesuits relating to fornication, gluttony, robbery, and usury. This includes the original Latin of the bull, the Spanish text of the heresies, and Rodriquez’s commentary. In order to expand their ministry, many Jesuits adopted a less stringent approach to theology (‘probabilism’), resulting in Pope Innocent XI’s condemnation in 1679 reasserting Conservative ‘rigorism.’[3] Among the condemned propositions in this book are two related to abortion. Obtained in January 2022 from Liber Antiquus.

Salesman’s Sample Book, Saint Etienne, les Succs de Bochard. Ca. 1935.

The fourth acquisition is a salesman’s sample book of sacramental textiles from the French firm of G. Bochard, which operated in St. Etienne from the late nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century. The company focused primarily on embroidered silks, not only for vestments, but also table cloths, banners, and book braids. Examples in this volume include swatches of numerous priestly vestments, including cincture, maniple, stole, chasuble, cape, dalmatic, surplice, and cotta represented in vivid woven silks as well as embroidered and tapestry fabrics, many with stock notes, and other related marginalia in French. This burgundy board scrapbook, ca. 1935, has a string tied with matching silk braid, approximately 10.5 by 8 inches, containing 16 card stock leaves mounted recto and verso with 92 original silk sample swatches. There are also three black and white mounted photo illustrations of finished patterns.[4]  This was purchased in March 2022 from Type Punch Matrix.

In addition, there were four other purchased acquisitions, listed below. These new arrivals are a further enhancement to the diverse Rare Books Department of Special Collections at Catholic University. They are already making an impact via perusal by patrons and instructional purposes for various university classes. If you are a faculty, student, or alumni with interest and expertise in rare books and have acquisition suggests, please contact us. We can not make any promises but will seriously consider any proposals.

[1] Sandra Antunes, R. Dr. Augusto Jose da Cunha 9 Menos-2C,1495-240 Alges, Portugal.

[2] David Rueger, Inlibris LLC, 245 9th Ave, #166, New York, NY 10011.

[3] Paul Dowling, Liber Antiquus, 7306 Brennan Lane, Chevy Chase, MD, 20810.

[4] Type Punch Matrix, 1111 E. West Hwy, Suite 300, Silver Spring, MD, 20910.

[5] Small format Prayer Booklet to the Holy Family, partially titled, ‘Tierna, Y Dulce Memoria…’ printed in Puebla by Manuela de la Ascension Cerezo, 1753, purchased in June 2021 from W. S. Cotter Rare Books, 4615 Cedar Point Drive, Auston, TX, 78723.

[6] Broadside by Adolph Sutro, titled ‘Sutro and the A.P.A.’, printed in San Francisco, 1894, regarding the anti-Catholic American Protective Association, obtained in June 2021 from David Lesser, Fine Antiquarian Books, One Bradley Road, Woodbridge, CT, 06525.

[7] Two catechisms in English and Odjibwe, titled ‘Katolik Anamie…’ 1880, and ‘A Baltimore Short English-Odjibwe Catechism..’ 1896, bought in February 2022 from William Reese Company, 409 Temple Street, New Haven, CT, 06511.

[8] Collection of Sixteen Anti-Catholic Pamphlets from the Rail Splitter Press, ca. 1920-1935, acquired in April 2022 from Walkabout Books, P.O. Box 22, Curtis, WA, 98538.

The Archivist’s Nook: Rare but Numerous – ‘Imitation of Christ’ in Rare Books

Thomas à Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, Leiden, 1658

“Why do you need so many copies of the same work in your collection?” Such a question can be easily asked by any patron after finding in the library catalog that Rare Books houses 36 cataloged copies of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. It blows some people’s minds and raises questions: Why so many? Is not one or two copies enough, especially since there are multiple modern editions and translations available in the general stacks?

As the matter of fact, most of the books, pamphlets, and other kinds of resources housed in Rare Books are preserved on our shelves not only because of the text they contain (though this may be the case for some extremely rare or unique editions) but rather because of some other unique or special features of the books as physical objects, such as print and type, binding and tooling, illuminations and miniatures, paper and watermarks, corrections and marginalia (personal notes, images, and doodles left on margins by previous readers), bookplates and inscriptions, association with prominent historical figures, items left between the pages, and many more. Similar to twins, that develop unique features of their look and character as they grow, so the books even if they came out of the same printing press on the exact same day, will differ significantly in their appearance and each will have its own story to tell.

Scholars in various disciplines study rare books as objects that possess historical, evidential, and informational value through their physicality. They can provide insights on the history of book printing and binding, circulation and ownership, reading habits and purposes (both recreational and educational), aesthetic preferences, changes in society, and more. That’s what makes our books special: they are always ready to give a personal witness to the past.

Thomas a Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, Cologne, Germany, 1507
Thomas à Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, Cologne, Germany, 1507

“The Imitation of Christ” is one of such popular works translated and reproduced abundantly through the centuries. It has always and continues to be deeply respected, loved, read, studied, and praised by many, religious and laypeople, artists and soldiers, and novelists and scholars alike. It has brought comfort to many historical figures, such as St. Theresa of Avila, George Eliot, Thomas Merton, and St. Thomas More, who, according to some, had a copy of The Imitatio with him while waiting for his execution, as well as fictional characters such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, who used to keep a copy at her bedside and read a few chapters every night. But the main reason, it has been chosen as the hero of this story is its astounding 600 years jubilee which we celebrate today.

Well, not exactly “today,” for we do not know the year in which De Imitatione Christi was composed. Various scholars agree only on the timeframe between 1410 and 1425, which gives us still plenty of time to commemorate the date and salute this great work. Though it first appeared anonymously, De Imitatione Christi is now commonly attributed to a German-Dutch canon regular and member of the modern devotional movement (aka Devotio Moderna) Thomas Hemmerken from the town of Kempen, better known as Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380 – 1471). 

In homage to his inspirational work, we’d like to highlight today three of our special copies of The Imitation of Christ, offering also a glimpse into Rare Books holdings and encouraging everyone interested to come and see the original volumes in person.

A copy with a secret (Cologne, Germany, 1503)

Various museums and libraries in the U.S. and overseas preserve peculiar books that have a hidden compartment in their bindings. Sometimes it can be as wild as a place to hide a pistol. Our volume is not a book of a criminal or a smuggler, but rather of an early 16th-century passionate reader, who just wanted a convenient spot to keep their reading spectacles and to never have to ask one of the eternal questions of mankind: “where did I put my glasses?

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An annotated copy (Cologne, Germany, 1507)

There are always people who like to make notes on the margins of a paper book one studies deeply: agreeing or arguing with the author, developing their own ideas about the topic, or recording insights and expanding the perspective. That is one of the ways to collaborate with the author and create a personal relationship with the book: both, the work and the object (Though we don’t encourage it in any other than one’s own books!). Another of our early 16th-century copies of the Imitatio, which was previously part of the collection of a book lover and our great donor Msgr. Arthur Connolly, holds marginal notes of a scholar who was deeply immersed in the text. It’s still waiting for its researchers who would like to transcribe and study the thoughts and insights of this early reader of the Imitation of Christ.

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The Musica Ecclesiastica (New York, 1891)

As a devotional work, The Imitation of Christ was meant to be not only studied by the educated but read and put into practice by anyone. To assist with that, there were numerous attempts conducted to translate it from Latin into vernacular languages making it accessible to everyone. There are multiple translations of the Imitatio known and available today, but in this unique late 19th-century American edition, the translator, an English theologian, Oxford professor, and a personal friend of Lewis Carroll, H. P. Liddon, endeavored to preserve its original beauty. According to him, the Imitatio was also called “Musica Ecclesiastica” or “The Church Music”, because of the rhythm and melody of the original Latin, which the translator wished to catch and preserve. Maybe it’s not as old as other copies that are shown here, but it is trying to be faithful to the original intent of the author as well as is faithful to the spirit of its own time: in its language, appearance, binding, and other features.

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Each one of these books, as well as any other copy of The Imitation of Christ in our collection, can be accessed by appointment in Rare Books (Mullen 214, lib-rarebooks@cua.edu) by any patron or researcher interested in studying them more closely. 

 

Sources:

  • Becker, Kenneth Michael. From the Treasure-House of Scripture: an Analysis of Scriptural Sources in De Imitatione Christi. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2002.
  • Thomas, à Kempis. The complete Imitation of Christ. Translated and commented by Father John-Julian. Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete Press, c2012.
  • Thomas à Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, Leiden, 1658

The Archivist’s Nook: Of Art and Industry – A Sample of 19th Century Literature in CatholicU’s Rare Books

The nineteenth century was a period of rapid growth and change for England and America, and one can find a microcosm of these changes reflected in the English novel, in both the pages themselves, and the culture around printing their printing and distribution. Further advancements in printing, and intense industrialization had made books cheaper than ever to produce and ease of access naturally spurred an increase of interest. Lending libraries began to spring up all over England, where users could pay a small fee to receive access to a communal collection of novels. Throughout the nineteenth century, but particularly during the Victorian era of literature (lasting from 1837-1901) the novel blossomed, coming into its popularity just in time to help document the culture of a society diving headfirst into modernity.

The cover page to the first volume of the two part “Frankenstein” including some reviews describing it as “universally acceptable.” Surely, Shelley was duly flattered.

Despite the relative opulence that industrialism brought with it, many people felt an understandable skepticism towards a society that seemed to have forsaken pastoral life for a life crushed into the bustle of polluted cities, toiling away at dangerous machines, gradually allowing the beauty of the natural world to be rendered strange, carved up for wailing steam engines and smoggy factories. Mary Shelley was a writer of the Romantic movement, known for venerating the wonder of the natural world, and she viewed this zeal for industry with a certain amount of skepticism. In her novel Frankenstein, first published in 1818, the monster is cobbled together from various bodies, with its parts being selected for beauty. Yet despite it being made of only the most beautiful bits and pieces its creator, Victor Frankenstein, could find,  the end result is something grotesque. Frankenstein cannot hope, even with all his scientific arts, to match the beauty that comes naturally to the world. Instead he creates a mockery. A first edition of this work, of which only 500 were printed, sold last September for a record breaking $1.17 million. Catholic University’s special collections cannot boast to have such a rare copy, but we do own a first American edition, printed in 1833 and generally believed to be pirated from the original 1818 British text. (Pirated in this context means that American publishers set unauthorized copies of the text by lifting it from a book published overseas. Clearly, the “industrial spirit” was alive and well in America as well.)

An issue of the weekly journal All The Year Round, in which some of Dickens’ greatest works were printed as serials.

Our copy of Frankenstein was printed in Philadelphia by Carey, Lea & Blanchard. This is the same press which was publishing Charles Dickens’ first book, The Pickwick Papers, before the man had even finished writing them. Given that Dickens dedicated the book to the lawyer Tomas Talfourd for his work on copyright laws in Britain, this seems in particularly poor taste but in fact, pirated texts of foreign novels were incredibly common in the United States. Dickens, on his tour of America in 1837, campaigned heavily against this practice, citing the wrongs it inflicted upon already underpaid authors and their families, but to no avail. Indeed Dickens was, and is, famous for his championing of London’s poor, and could speak first hand to their suffering, having grown up in poverty, and worked in factories as a child to help support his family. Two of his later novels, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, which, among other topics, explore the universal hardship of extreme poverty, can be found serialized in the weekly journal All the Year Round. The journal was owned and run by Dickens himself and a full collection can be found in Special Collections.

America may have been home to a bustling business of pirated publications, but as the nineteenth century pressed on, its history and culture became increasingly re-entwined with Britain’s own and these themes of transatlantic cultural exchange made their  presence known in the literature. And not all of it was uncomplimentary. The writer Henry James often explored themes of American idealism and naivete, mixed with its reputation for forward boldness through the characters of young American women, such as Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady. An expansive collection of American and British first editions of the works of Henry James are available in the Catholic University Special Collections, as part of the Richard N. Foley collection. The late Professor taught in the English department here at Catholic University from 1940 until 1974 and his collection was acquired by Rare Books in 1982.

This copy of Apologia pro vita sua contains a letter written by Cardinal Newman bound into its pages, requesting that the editor of the Union not publish a note on Newman’s “Visions of Hope.” It was given to us by bibliophile and prolific donor, Msgr. Arthur Connolly.

America fostered a reputation for embracing freedom, even from its colonization. It offered refuge to those religious dissenters who could not practice their faith as they liked amongst the Anglican church. But even this was changing. In George Eliot’s Victorian pastoral masterpiece, Middlemarch, the characters express their concerns over land rights and railroads. Yet in the background of these concerns, there are often references to “the Catholic question,” and what to do about it. In 1791, practicing Catholicism in England was legalized, and in 1829, parliament voted in favor of the Catholic Emancipation Act, which restored most civil rights to Catholics. Although Roman Catholicism remained something of a minority, the church did manage to gain some notable converts, the first of which was John Henry Newman. As anti-Catholic sentiment rose, his autobiography, Apologia pro vita sua was one of the pieces of literature which helped render Catholics more sympathetic to the average Englishman. 

Cardinal Newman had another piece of writing which, while perhaps not achieving the same lofty heights as Apologia pro vita sua, is certainly very dear to us here at Catholic University. Upon our founding, Catholic University’s first chancellor, James Cardinal Gibbons, received a letter of congratulations from Cardinal Newman. This letter is a cherished piece of CatholicU history, and held in a secure place in the Catholic University Special Collections, where it keeps good company with the other works mentioned in this blog post, along with numerous other wonderful treasures. If you would like to visit them sometime, drop us a line. We are a library after all, and unlike the Victorian lending libraries of old, we won’t even charge you.

 

References:
Foley-Hoag. (2017, January 17). Charles Dickens And Copyright Law: Five Things You Should Know. JD Supra. www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/charles-dickens-and-copyright-law-five-29878.
Herringer, C. (2012). Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism. Oxford Bibliographies. www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199799558/obo-9780199799558-0102.xml.
University of Delaware. (n.d.). The Realistic Novel in the Victorian Era. British Literature Wiki. https://sites.udel.edu/britlitwiki/the-realistic-novel-in-the-victorian-era/.

The Archivist’s Nook: Curation, Campus, and the Classroom

Special Collections has shared the University’s treasures with many classes from many schools and departments over the years: History, Library Science, Religious Studies, Anthropology, and Education among them. While we often use our museum collection materials for instructional purposes, we were privileged with our first visit from a class in the Department of Art, Rome School of Music, Drama and Art just this semester.

Professor Tiffany Hunt brought students from her course, ART 272: The Cosmopolitan Renaissance, to Special Collections this month to explore pieces dating from the 1400-1600 period. Because many of the University’s works of art hang in the classrooms, offices, and corridors of the school, this archival visit was actually a campus tour. Professor Hunt’s goal was to have students embark “on an object-based art history research project that begins with a deep engagement, slow looking, and critical analysis of 11 art objects from the early modern period (1300-1600).”

Professor Tiffany Hunt uses the University’s art collection to instruct ART 272 students in the Archives reading room in Aquinas Hall, February, 2022.

The University’s museum collection, from which the pieces were drawn, is comprised of more than 5,000 objects, with the first donations of museum items dating to before the school  opened in 1889. Up until 1905 the collection was displayed in Caldwell Hall. Starting in 1905 and continuing until 1976 parts of the collection were either displayed in McMahon Hall or Mullen Library, or were put into storage. In 1976 the university museum collection was put under the management of the archives and the collection was housed in Curley Hall vault, with items being used in campus exhibition or loaned to campus offices to be displayed and enjoyed as office decoration. The students in ART 272 focused on objects currently housed in Special Collections repositories, the archives’ reading room, Curley Hall, Salve Regina Hall, and Nugent Hall.

 

Catherine Coyle, one of ART 272’s students, notes that “the pieces I saw in the collection helped to illustrate the theme of connectivity of objects and styles that we have been discussing in the course.” Underscoring the “cosmopolitan” aspect of the course, Coyle notes that “all of the objects in the collection are connected to the era of the Renaissance in Italy, but they also visualize the movement of influences across the Mediterranean and even the East. The experience of having the ability to see these connections firsthand through the objects gave me the opportunity to fully see how expansive the Renaissance was.”

Some are surprised at the beauty and abundance of  furniture present in the Museum collection. This piece, which students examined as part of the Cosmopolitan Renaissance class, is a Spanish antique wood cabinet dated ca. 1550-1600.

 

Some students were surprised at the scope of the objects in the University’s collections. Annaliese Haman observed that “the furniture pieces surprised me. I knew that furniture had much to say about the time it was created as well as the materials available, but after the brief discussion and visit to the Archives, I was more intrigued by furniture and its uses for research and for its uses during the Renaissance.”

Students examine a terra cotta Madonna and child by Antonio Rosselino ca. 1450-70. The piece is located in Curley Hall.

 

Haman chose a painting of the Madonna and Child hanging in Salve Regina Hall for her deep analysis. Why that particular painting? I asked her. “it was close to my dorm,” she wrote,”and I wanted to research a painting. Because this piece is located in Salve Regina, I can go and view it on a frequent basis which was wonderful to be able to do. After I learned St. Genesius was pictured in the piece, I got very excited, as I have a special devotion to him.”

 

 

 

In fact, Haman recounts some of the painting’s colorful history, including a connection to the psychic, astrologer, and Washington, D.C. resident, Jeanne Dixon (1904-1997). You can read more about the ART 272 students’ adventures with their various works on Professor Hunt’s course website here: https://hunttl.wixsite.com/website. Additionally, we will publish selected works by the students here at The Archivist’s Nook in the coming weeks.

ART 272 student Annaliese Haman chose to examine this Madonna and child painting hanging in Salve Regina Hall, for which she found a rich and interesting history.

Sources:

  1. Professor Tiffany Hunt, The Cosmopolitan Renaissance website: https://hunttl.wixsite.com/website
  2. Email communications between Maria Mazzenga, Catherine Coyle (March 14, 2022), and Annaliese Haman (April 8, 2022).

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: CUA Bulletin Chronicles Catholic U

CUB chronicled an illustrious visitor, newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt, v. 1, n. 5, July, 1933. CU Bulletin, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Since the nineteenth century American colleges and universities have published annual reports, yearbooks, newspapers, and other promotional materials chronicling their institutional related events and accomplishments to faculty, students, alumni, and other interested parties. Many of these, such as yearbooks and newspapers, while sanctioned by administrators, are produced by students. Others, generally targeted at alumni and other potential donors, are official institutional publications, often citing institutional archives. The award winning CatholicU magazine, published since 2017, is the latest incarnation of The Catholic University of America’s official publication. Earlier versions include The CUA Bulletin, First Series (1895-1928), CUA Bulletin, Second Series (1932-1968), Envoy (1971-1990), and CUA Magazine (1989-2017).

CUB reported on CU Physics faculty and their new “atom smasher” obtained with assistance from The Carnegie Institute, v. 8, n. 6, September 1941. CU Bulletin, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Previous blog posts have featured the early years of Catholic University’s yearbook The Cardinal and student newspaper, The Tower, both digitized, while this one is focused on the CUA Bulletin, Second Series, and its recent in-house digitization. The first manifestation of the Bulletin was more of an academic journal in format and content, though including newsworthy items. It is largely scanned and online in several places due to the lack of copyright. There were 34 volumes in a 6” x 9” format. There were 4 rather thick issues per year through 1908, then 9 more slim issues 1909 through 1925, then back to 4 issues for the final three years, 1926-1928.  The pages were consecutively numbered for all but the last volume when each of the four issues begin pagination all over again.

CU students, like so many others in wartime America, support War Bonds, v. 11, n. 2, September 1943. CU Bulletin, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The second series, the subject of this post, was published in 36 volumes, 1932-1968, but in the glossy magazine format more recognizable in similar and later alumni focused publications at Catholic University and elsewhere. As historical objects, such publications reflect the customs and perspectives of their time and may seem offensive to contemporary views. We have chosen to retain the digital content intact for historical accuracy though we do not necessarily endorse views depicted in this online archive now available to the research community and broader public.

CUB details Mullen Library expansion to address the annual addition of over 14,000 new books, bound periodicals, and pamphlets, v 24, n 1, July 1956. CU Bulletin, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Regarding the original print format, individual issues of the first seven volumes, November 1932-August 1939, were 14 pages each and sized 7.75 x 9.75 inches.  The remaining issues through 1968 were sized at 8 x 10.5 inches, though the number of pages per issue rose to 16 for volumes 31-34, 1963-1966, but was reduced to 6 pages for the last two volumes in 1967-1968. Oddly, the last two volumes are numbered 1 and 2. A particularly erratic feature of this otherwise very professionally produced publication was the number of issues per volume, ranging from 4 to 6 for the majority of publication, but with only 2 for volume 34 but 7 for the second volume 1 for 1967. Future plans in Special Collections include digitization of the aforementioned successor publications Envoy, CUA Magazine, and Catholic U.

The last issue of the C.U. Bulletin, May 1968, v 1, n 2, reports on the Commencement address of D.C native, Senator Edward Brooke. CU Bulletin, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Future plans in Special Collections include digitization of the aforementioned successor publications Envoy, CUA Magazine, and Catholic U. For more on Special Collections see the folowing post and our web site.

The Archivist’s Nook: A Patron “Saint” – The Bookish Legacy of Msgr. Arthur Connolly

The man, the myth, the patron. Msgr. Arthur Connolly portrait, donated on his birthday (December 2) in 1930. The plaque reads, “Rt. Rev. Msgr. Arthur Theodore Connolly 1853-1933 Library Patron”

I am glad to place this collection where it will be of so much benefit to students of history, yet I must confess I feel as if I were bidding good bye to friends who have become very dear to me…I have grown to love them for the many hours of pleasure they have afforded me.

-Msgr. Arthur Connolly to Rector Bp. Thomas Shahan, April 25, 1917

Anyone who spends time in the Catholic University Special Collections will soon become acquainted with the names of consequential donors and collectors. Ranging from Fr. James Magner and James Cardinal Gibbons to Mercedes McCambridge and Dorothy Mohler, there are several patrons whose legacies ripple through our collections and the campus. Few of these donors span the full scope of our collections, with their bequeathed items in the museum, rare books, and archives. But one Boston-area priest’s influence  is present in the stacks of the archives and rare books, as well as in the paintings and sculptures displayed around campus – Msgr. Arthur T. Connolly (1853-1933).

Born December 2, 1853 in Waltham, Massachusetts, Connolly was the son of Irish immigrants. He was a product of public schools and later attended Boston College then St. Charles College in Ellicott City, Maryland. From there, he would go on to study theology at the Grand Seminar in Montreal, Quebec. On December 21, 1876, Bishop Édouard-Charles Fabre ordained Connolly to the Catholic priesthood. (He would be given the title Monsignor in 1926.)

Relocating back to his native Boston, Connolly would remain a lifelong parish priest. His longest tenure was as the inaugural rector for the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Jamaica Plains neighborhood in Boston, serving from 1892 until his retirement in 1931. But beyond serving his parish community, Connolly was an avid collector and traveler. On multiple trips to Europe and South America, he acquired numerous books and art objects. Of particular note was his collecting of ivory artwork, religious manuscripts and incunabula, and Irish history and early American publications.

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But beyond merely collecting, Connolly was a generous benefactor. His love of knowledge was only surpassed by his love of libraries! From 1916-1932, Connolly served as a Trustee of the Boston Public Library, acting as the Library’s Board President from 1923-24 and 1927-28. (There is even a branch of the Boston Public Library named after him to this day.) His engagement was not limited to his local libraries, as he donated thousands of volumes to his alma mater, Boston College. And in 1915-16, Connolly began the first of many generous donations to Catholic University.

This first shipment to the University focused predominantly on books intended for the general reference stacks in the campus libraries. A second wave of materials arrived in 1918, which included medieval manuscripts, early printed incunabula, and chromolithographic prints as well as Renaissance-era artwork sculpted from ivory. Over the next 15 years, Connolly continued to send books, art, and papers to campus. By the time of his passing in 1933, the Connolly Library – as it was called at the time – had amassed approximately 16,000 titles located in its own designated spaces in McMahon Hall and Mullen Library. Among the many, many special collections that existed in the Library from the 1890s until the 1960s, Connolly’s stood out as among the largest and most eclectic.

Connolly’s bookplate. Motto: Patientem ovem agnus eucharistiae regit illluminat levat et coronat. (The Lamb of the Eucharist rules, illuminates, supports and crowns the suffering sheep.) Connolly seems to have commissioned this piece in December 1896 by Boston-based engraver Sidney L. Smith, whose initials (and the date) can be seen in the lower right corner.

In the early 1960s, these many collections would be reviewed and combined into the present Rare Books Library, which today is part of the broader Catholic University Special Collections. The Connolly Library remains a significant part of the collection, and his legacy can be seen by all visitors to Rare Books and campus. Researchers often encounter his handwritten notes and personalized bookplate in medieval manuscripts and early printed works, while visitors to campus may see one of the many donated sculptures or paintings he donated displayed in an office. 

Today, there are thousands of unique theological, historical, and literary works in the stacks from Connolly. These include 30 medieval manuscripts, 11 incunabula, and over a dozen pieces of art displayed around campus.

Connolly passed away on November 10, 1933. As a beloved local figure, his funeral would see over 3,000 people in attendance, including delegates from the Catholic Archdiocese and City of Boston. His legacy continues in the many collections he donated to his home city’s institutions, as well as to the Catholic University community.

To learn more about our rare books and museum collections, please visit our website: https://libraries.catholic.edu/special-collections/archives/index.html

Questions can also be directed to: lib-archives@cua.edu 

Special thanks to the Boston Public Library and Catholic University Special Collections for providing documentation on Connolly’s life and collections.

The Archivist’s Nook: Many Voices, One Church: Archiving the Cultural Diversity Committee of the USCCB

Hannah Kaufman is a Graduate Library Pre-Professional (GLP) at The Catholic University of America, who also works in Special Collections.

Since starting my position as the new archives GLP, I have been working on the finding aid for the USCCB/NCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity. Having never created a complicated finding aid before, I took one look at the 25 boxes that made up the collection (with more, Catholic University archivist John Shepherd assured me, possibly on the way) and felt a little overwhelmed. However, after spending a little time browsing other finding aids and getting acquainted with the boxes themselves, I began to feel a little better.
This collection could be easily divided into two distinct ‘series’ or categories within which archival material is organized. Although all diversity task forces were merged under a new Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, the Hispanic Catholics and Black Catholics subcommittees of USCCB were originally their own distinct entities and are thus easy to differentiate. Armed with a preliminary inventory done by a former practicum student, I set to work identifying which boxes contained which materials. A few things quickly stuck out to me. The materials devoted to Hispanic Catholics were generally older, and there were fewer to sort through. My still lingering trepidation over the amount of material I would be working with was certainly a part of my decision when deciding how to organize the collection, but in the end the materials’ age was what convinced me to put it first. All of the Hispanic Catholic materials date from the seventies and early eighties, with only a few exceptions. Meanwhile, the Black Catholics materials issue from the eighties up to the early two-thousands. Although within the series, material organization is prioritized alphabetically, I decided to organize the series chronologically, as it felt more intuitive to have the older organization first in the finding aid.
The Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs (directed by Paublo Sedillo for the duration of the papers currently held in the Catholic University Archives) came as a result of one of the recommendations of the First Encuentro. It called for the then USCCB Division for the Spanish Speaking be upgraded to that of a special office directly under the USCCB’s General Secretary. The Encuentros were events designed as a way of reaffirming the Hispanic Catholics’ place in the faith, both for themselves, and for the Catholic Church. Encuentros often spawned other events which drew off the energy the anticipation for these events wrought, such as the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Guadalupe, in Mexico, 1984. Each event culminated in the creation of a pastoral document presented to the church, with a plan for creating a more welcoming environment within the church for Hispanic Catholics, as well as expanding involvement within Hispanic Communities. A significant amount of materials in this collection are devoted to the planning and production of these Encuentro events.

Logo used for the Third Encuentro in 1985 which appeared on posters, pamphlets, and facilitator guidebooks to name a few.

 

But the Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs did much more than plan Encuentros. Other examples of material one can find in these records include campaigns to protect migrant workers, to fight against welfare cuts, to push for positive immigration reform, and to denounce racist policies. There are also pastorals, papers, and a large collection of audio visual materials containing, among other things, Spanish liturgy and sermons.

Bishop Patrick Flores, the First Mexican-American Bishop, addresses the First Encuentro, June 1972.

The Secretariat of African American Affairs papers hold some content similar to that of the Hispanic Affairs papers, in that it consists of the efforts of a group of people which had historically not been prioritized by the Catholic church working together to amplify their voices. These papers contain talks and interviews given or conducted by Beverly Carroll, surveys on the numbers of Black priests serving in the United states, and records of both Bishops’ Committee on African American Catholics materials and National Black Catholic Congresses.

 

 

The later National Black Catholic Congresses was numbered in homage to the Colored Catholic Congresses held in 1889. As there were five of these, the numbering of Black Catholic Congresses started at number six, to show that they were building off the work done in 1889.

Additionally, the collection deals with issues being faced by Black Americans both inside and outside of the church. There are several folders devoted to the effects of racism and ways to combat it, as well as the AIDS crisis, by which Black people were disproportionately affected. The collection contains ways to combat and ameliorate these issues, both through legislation and volunteer work, as well as through community support and prayer for victims.

A leaflet from the Maryland Teachers Association for Black History Month in the African American History Month 2000 folder of this collection.

There are also records for events and information distributed by the Secretariat of African American Affairs for Black History month, and research and materials on Black theology and Black liturgy, as well as publications such as The African Bible, or the Black Biblical Heritage, all of which seek to celebrate Black Catholics and demonstrate that their place in the faith has been there since its very beginnings.
Looking over my finding aid, you may notice that the first half, devoted to the Secretariat of Hispanic Affairs, is intensely specific. It seems almost as though each file has been labeled individually and put in its own folder. That’s because this is mostly what I did. As an archivist in training, I fell victim to the same mistake many new archivists do: over processing. This collection is important; I knew that and I didn’t want to miss anything, or cause a researcher to miss anything, through my negligence. By the time I reached the Beverly Carroll files, I knew better. Ms. Carroll was assiduous with her filing, and all the folder titles for the second half of the finding aid are predominantly of her own making. Indeed, it was Mrs. Carroll’s careful filing (she often wrote the location of the paper she wanted to preserve on the corner of the page with a ballpoint pen) which helped me realize I should be focusing more on the original order. This is not to say that Mr. Sedillo was not well organized, rather that sometimes you need something spelled out for you (in the corner of a page. With a ballpoint pen). After I realized this, I simply removed paper clips and staples and re-foldered them into acid free folders. I learned a few important lessons here. The first is to trust researchers to be able to find what they’re looking for, and the second is to learn when you can trust the original owner of the work you’re processing as well. After all, Mrs. Carroll had a good system, one that made sense to her and that she was careful to preserve. Why destroy that, when that organizational context adds so much to each piece of the collection?
One of the primary functions of an archive is to hold recorded history, so that someone can come back years later and examine that history. I cannot help but think about this purpose in conjunction with these two groups’ work to be recognized as they deserve in the Catholic church, to assert that they have always been valuable members of the Catholic community. They have always been here, and this collection is yet another resource that people can point to as documented evidence of a long term commitment by Black and Latinx Catholics to their committees, to their faith, and to themselves.

Marquette Archives. (n.d). Inculturation Task Forfces Records of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. [Finding Aid]. Inculturation Task Forfces Records of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. https://www.marquette.edu/library/archives/Mss/ITF/ITF-sc.php.
Sharpe, R., (1997). Black Catholic Gifts of Faith. U.S. Catholic Historian, 15(4), 29-55. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25154603
Tampe, L.A. (2014). Encuentro Nacional Hispano de Pastoral (1972-1985): An Historical and Ecclesiological Analysis [Unpublished doctoral dissertation/master’s thesis]. The Catholic University of America. https://cuislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/etd%3A417/datastream/PDF/view.
Tilghman, M. T. (2021, November 29). Former USCCB official and leading voice for Black Catholics dies at 75. Catholic Standard. https://cathstan.org/news/us-world/former-usccb-official-and-leading-voice-for-black-catholics-dies-at-75.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (n.d.) Cultural Diversity in the Church. https://www.usccb.org/committees/cultural-diversity-church.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (n.d.) Timeline 1917-2017. https://www.usccb.org/about/usccb-timeline-1917-2017.

 

 

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: The Not So Small World of Terence V. Powderly

 

In January, 2000, the U.S. Department of Labor held a ceremony in Washington, D.C. to honor Terence Vincent Powderly (1849-1924), the 1999 Labor Hall of Fame inductee. He joined fellow Hall-of-Famers such as rival Samuel Gompers, friend Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, and fellow Pennsylvanian and labor leader Philip Murray. The Labor Department Report announcing the honor referred to Powderly as a “little known leader,” then went on to delineate his accomplishments. Powderly himself might have been a little offended at the reference to his obscurity, and not without cause. He was an extremely popular leader in his time. People wrote celebratory songs and poems about him and hung his portrait in their homes. He was often greeted with cheers and celebration in his extensive travels promoting the Knights. William Mullen, a Knights leader and organizer in Richmond, Virginia, named his son Terence Powderly Mullen when the boy was born in 1885. With many, many friends in the labor movement, and as a committed leader who cared about individuals ruthlessly exploited by corporate power, Powderly can be understood as a representative of the collective will of late-nineteenth century labor. We have selected objects from his voluminous collection, housed at the University’s Archives, for a display open to the public in the Archives’ Reading Room on the centenary of the penning of his autobiography, The Path I Trod.

Terence Vincent Powderly, 1849-1924, in an undated photo from the Terence Vincent Powderly Collection.

Powderly’s massive popularity in the late nineteenth century was not necessarily foretold by his humble beginnings, though his personal story lent to his credibility among labor’s rank and file. He himself thought his story was worth telling enough to labor over it. Quoting Benvenuto Cellini that one who had “done anything of excellence” ought to “describe their life with their own hand,” (The Path I Trod, 3) Powderly set out to describe what he saw as the major events of his life: his youth in Pennsylvania’s coal country, early interest in labor unionization, years as the Mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania, involvement in American politics, and civil service as U.S. Commissioner General of Immigration.

Young Terence’s parents came to the United States from Ireland in 1827 for the same reason thousands of other Irish did: to seek the opportunity to work and raise a family outside of the oppressive conditions of British-ruled Ireland. Terence was born in what would become Carbondale, Pennsylvania, on January 22, 1849. Anthracite coal had just been found in the area, heralding the industrial growth of the Scranton region as a coal- and iron-mining center. The rail industry, a fascination for Powderly as well as a source of early employment, developed concomitantly in the area during his youth.

Powderly describes his childhood home as cold and drafty, with “no lathes, no plaster, and when the wind blew the house would rock as well as the cradle.”(8) The eleventh of twelve children, young Terence served as “the coal-breaker of the family at a time when coal was delivered “in lumps just as it came from the mine, few of them smaller than one’s head.” (14) He also helped his mother maintain the house, cleaning, cooking, and churning butter, according to his account, as a boy. At thirteen, Terence went to work as a switch operator for the railroad, eventually apprenticing as a machinist with James Dickson at age 17.

Terence Powderly’s nameplate, gavel and eyeglasses (with case).

Working conditions in the age of burgeoning industry caused many workers to join labor unions, and Powderly was one of them—he joined the local Scranton unit of the Machinists and Blacksmiths International Union in 1871, soon becoming its secretary, then president. Shortly after marrying Hannah Dever in 1872, he was fired from his job as a mechanic for his union work and “walked the [railroad] ties” into upstate New York and Canada looking for work. (26)

Rather than back away from his labor activism, however, Powderly leaned into it further. He gave speeches on the importance of unionization. He wrote articles for trade journals and newspapers. He also studied and practiced law, which certainly strengthened his mediation skills (and helped pay the bills). In 1874 he was elected a union delegate for several districts in Pennsylvania. Unknown to Powderly, the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor was founded by Uriah Stephens and a group of tailors in Philadelphia in 1869. “While the Knights of Labor were secretly working their way to light and a world’s recognition,” he notes, “I had never heard of that order.” (42) The order maintained secrecy to protect its members from employer retaliation.

Later that year, however, Powderly attended an anti-monopoly convention in Philadelphia and was invited to join the Knights, though he wasn’t initiated until September 1876. After that, “I knew no waking hour that I did not devote, in whole or part, to the upbuilding of the Order.”(45) Powderly’s work resulted in his being elevated to the organization’s General Master Workman (the union’s highest office) in 1879.

The Knights’ approach to generating change was both local and national. Between 1869 and 1896 the order found its way into every state, comprising 15,000 Local Assemblies with over 700,000 members by 1886. The Knights found community, solace, and valuable information in their local meetings throughout the country. Local Knights organized and sponsored lectures and study clubs that were aimed at educating workers in economic principles. Women and Black Americans also had their own units, though the order specifically discriminated against Chinese laborers.

The Knights, however, declined in power by the late 1880s. A strike they led in 1886, the Great Southwest railroad strike, was unsuccessful, causing a decline in membership. The Knights suffered another blow that same year when they were associated with the tragic Haymarket Affair, a bombing in Chicago that took place during a worker’s rally in the city’s Haymarket Square. Finally, the founding of the American Federation of Labor by Samuel Gompers in 1886, drew skilled workers into its ranks, and away from the Knights. By 1889 Knights of Labor membership had dwindled to 120,000. Powderly resigned as Master in 1893.

Powderly made enduring friendships with important leaders in the labor movement. He was especially close to Mary ‘Mother’ Harris Jones (ca. 1836-1930), pictured above, the Irish-born rabble rouser and ‘Miner’s Angel’ who was an active participant in the front lines of the American labor movement for nearly sixty years. Another labor comrade of Powderly’s was John B. White (1870-1934), right, an Illinois-born coal miner and progressive president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1911 to 1917.

Powderly was elected Mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania on the Greenback-Labor Party ticket for three two-year terms from 1878-1884. That he was still under 30 years old when first elected is a testament to his political skill. Though known primarily as a labor leader, politics came with the territory, especially in the politically and economically tumultuous years of the second industrial revolution. After he left his leadership position with the Knights of Labor in 1893, he became more involved in local, and eventually, national politics. He first met William McKinley in 1881 during a coal miners’ dispute in Ohio. McKinley, a lawyer, took up the case for miners accused of unlawful assembly without payment, as the miners couldn’t pay for counsel. This earned McKinley Powderly’s lasting admiration, and the two became good friends. McKinley was a Congressman from Ohio at the time, but would serve as U.S. President from 1897 until his assassination in 1901. Powderly describes him as “a man who had a heart that felt for others’ woes; he was unpretentious, unassuming, and kind.” (296) The Powderly papers contain numerous tokens of Powderly’s support and affection for McKinley. McKinley, for his part, appointed Powderly Commissioner General of Immigration in 1897.

Powderly was a big fan of President William McKinley–this button is one of the many McKinley-related objects in the collection.

Ellis Island was the main port of entry during Powderly’s term as Commissioner. Arriving at the immigration station, however, he saw “that all was not well… ill treatment of arriving aliens, impositions practiced on steamship companies, and discourtesy to those who called their meet their friends on landing were frequent.” (299) Powderly created a commission to investigate conditions at Ellis Island that resulted in charges of corruption and nearly a dozen firings. Powderly himself lost his position when McKinley was assassinated in 1901, though he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt Special Immigration Inspector in 1906. This position entailed travel to Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, and Austria-Hungary to study the causes of immigration. An avid amateur photographer, Powderly took copious photos as he traveled, some of which are digitized and can be viewed here.

Powderly’s final position, 1921-1924, was as Commissioner of Conciliation of the U.S. Labor Department under James J. Davis (1873-1947), who served as U.S. Secretary of Labor, 1921-1930, under Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. Powderly died in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 1924.

The exhibit on Terence Powderly featuring the objects pictured here, along with many others from the collection can be viewed by the public in the Archives’ Reading Room in 101 Aquinas Hall.

 

References: Terence Powderly, The Path I Trod (New York: Columbia University Press, 1940)

 

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Processing the Papers of CatholicU’s First Law Dean

William C. Robinson, 1896. John Joseph Keane Collection

Our guest blogger is Julie Pramis, who is a graduate student in Library and Information Science (LIS) at the Catholic University of America. 

What more fitting collection for the university archives to have than one of Catholic University’s own founding members: William C. Robinson. Judge Robinson was a founder, professor, and dean of the Columbus School of Law, then known as The School of Social Sciences. After a 27-year long career as a law professor at Yale, he left his comfortable position to move to Washington, D.C. (somewhat reluctantly, due to health concerns: he was in his sixties at the time!) to ensure the founding of a law school at the university of his faith. His personal papers include a great collection of his correspondence with John Keane in their planning of the school, and many of his notes on the law for the courses he taught.

William Callyhan Robinson was born on July 26, 1834 in Norwich, Connecticut (Alumni Record of Wesleyan University, p. 421). Robinson was raised Methodist, but after graduating from Dartmouth he entered the General Theological Seminary, where he studied for the Episcopal Ministry. In 1857 he graduated from the Seminary and married his first wife, Anna Elizabeth Haviland. He became a missionary of a parish in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and then a rector in Scranton. In the early 1860s, Robinson converted to Catholicism and left his position as a clergyman. Had he not been married, Robinson likely would have become a Catholic priest.

In 1891, Bishop John Keane wrote to Judge Robinson about founding a school of social sciences at The Catholic University of America (Ahern, P. H., 1949, p. 98). Robinson had great interest in establishing a law school in CUA, as both a proud Catholic and long-serving practitioner and professor of the law. However, he was unsure what effects the climate of D.C. would have on his health, a man accustomed to the New Haven atmosphere. Moreover, he had a comfortable position at Yale—whose law school he helped bring back from the brink of extinction—and he was in his middle age at the time. Bishop Keane was persuasive, though, and Robinson was absolutely committed to the founding of the school. Later on, Robinson would write to a friend about the difficult work involved in bringing the School of Social Sciences into being, and stated that “The creation of a University is not the task of sinecures” (Jackson, F. H., 1951, p. 60). Robinson taught law at CUA until his death on November 6, 1911. He gave his last lecture on the Friday before his death.

Example of some of the contents of the collection. Box 6.

The Papers of William C. Robinson were interesting to process for this first-year Library and Information Science student. Sometime prior to the Fall semester of 2021, the papers had been sorted into acid-free folders, placed in Hollinger boxes, and a finding aid was started and then abandoned. Many small notebooks were left unfoldered and unsorted in their boxes. Additionally, some of the materials in the last boxes had sustained fire damage, which happened prior to donation to the archives. The larger of these items – three bound volumes – were wrapped in acid-free paper. Staples, pins, and paperclips were left in the papers. A group of extra-long papers that were folded in half remained as such.

I started my work with many questions and a general understanding of archival work. Why leave metal fasteners – susceptible to rust – in these papers that are more than 100 years old? Why leave these folded papers folded rather than flatten them to ease researcher use? How do I handle unsorted notebooks with no clear chronological order? What in the world do I do with fire damaged paper? Since then, I’ve learned a lot about MPLP: More Product, Less Process, as well as more about the competing needs of archivists’ resources and researcher’s needs. With this information I’ve learned to understand the previous processor’s work as though they were explaining it to me through time. With the papers stored in both acid-free folders and boxes, and stored in a climate-controlled environment in the university archives, rusting metal fasteners is less of a concern and would serve more to take time away from other, more necessary work in processing the collection. Unfolding papers that have been folded for such a long time and of such an age (more than 100 years at least), unfolding would require humidification and perhaps a professional conservator; concerns of time, money, and other resources means that we can leave the papers as they are. Those same concerns apply to various unsorted notebooks: the time and money involved in trying to sort items that may not have a clear order even after extended effort tells archivists that we can apply MPLP here, too. As for the fire damaged items, I had to approach that as its own beast.

One of the fire-damaged ledgers. Box 17.

Some items were loose papers singed on the sides; some items were large bound volumes singed on the edges, effectively sticking the pages together; and some were smaller notebooks with fire damage that did not stick the pages together as with the larger volumes. I researched what archivists and/or conservators could do to improve singed materials. Much of my research turned up what to do with recent fire damage, which in most situations would be followed by water damage from sprinklers, the fire department, or any other water-suppression system designed to stop the fire. These materials were damaged in 1977, in Judge Robinson’s personal library. His grandson, John B. Robinson, donated the items to The Catholic University of America with both party’s full knowledge of the state of the items. They are long dry. I had already re-foldered the loose papers from their manila envelopes into acid-free folders and boxes before I understood the MPLP process, and that the papers were probably fine in their envelopes. You live, you learn. The large bound volumes are still wrapped in the acid-free paper they were in when I found them.

Regardless, I am glad that I sorted some of these items into more Hollinger boxes. The last box, box 17, was a bit heavy and very full. Especially considering nearly all of these items had some level of fire damage, having all of them stacked on each other in a heavy banker’s box that may be troublesome for some to lift, I think sorting them out into three boxes (two Hollinger and the original banker’s box) will help to prevent unnecessary handling of the items. Boxes 17, 18, and 19 can be handled individually, so any use of box 17 won’t result in needing to move or rearrange items from 18 or 19 to ensure they all fit back in the box. Additionally, one non-damaged item in box 17 is Judge Robinson’s leather diploma case. It is a little worn with age, but no fire damage, and the contents inside are in good condition (rolled tightly, though, so handle with care!).

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Working with Judge Robinson’s papers hands-on gave me so much more insight into archival accessioning, processing, and description and access than I could have had solely in the classroom. In the beginning of the semester, I was intimidated by the size of the collection and how much work I needed to do to sort through every paper. In hindsight, a 17-box collection is a good beginner’s introduction – not too big, not too small – and I know now that I don’t have to examine every piece of paper. Thinking about how to arrange the collection for future researchers felt like a lot of responsibility for a first-time processor. That’s why I am so grateful to the processor before me, who showed me through their actions and restraint what archival work we should prioritize first and what we can prioritize last, if we get to it. If I could change one thing now, I would have worked on the papers more slowly. Since I had the full semester to work on these papers, there was not as much of a time limit on completing the processing and creating the finding aid with EAD as there would be for a professional archivist. I’ve had the great opportunity to work in the archives at my pace focused entirely on one collection, which I understand now is not every archivist’s experience. 

The papers themselves are fascinating, and available for further examination in the CUA archives! In addition to his work on founding CUA’s law school and other work in the law, you can find the work he did tracing his genealogy, personal and professional correspondence, and various financial and other papers accumulated in the course of his lifetime. Please take a look at Judge Robinson’s papers if you get the chance.

References

Ahern, P. H. 1916-1965. (1949). The Catholic University of America, 1887-1896; the rectorship of John J. Keane. Catholic University of America Press, 1948 [c1949].

Alumni Record of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn. (Third edition). (1883). Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=gqMgAAAAMAAJ=PA421#v=onepage=false

Jackson, F. H. William C. Robinson and the Early Years of the Catholic University of America, 1 Cath. U. L. Rev. 58 (1951).