The Archivist’s Nook: To Our Honest Readers – Curses in Rare Books

A friendly curse written in The works of Jonathan Swift, 1756-62.

Working in the Special Collections stacks, you often see messages from the past. Notes from long-past authors or readers, who have scribbled in the margins or front leaves of books. Some notes are merely the thoughts of a reader or a dedication, but at other times, there is a note directed to you – the person holding this book – a warning from centuries past. A curse! 

“Steal not this book my honest friend for fear the gallows should be your end”

So warns a handwritten note in a 1756 edition of The Works of Jonathan Swift. Written in the same hand as the note of its later owner, “Wm. Davis’s Book Coolmore [possibly Culmore, Ireland] May 2nd 1817…”, it stands out as one of the known curses that exist within the Catholic University rare books collection, but not a surprising find.

Modern special collections libraries have all manner of security features to protect their holdings from theft, flood, fire, and more. These protections come in many forms – from alarm systems, specialized access policies, disaster plans, etc. But one thing that is perhaps missing from today’s library is curses. A long-common practice, dating back millennia, book curses were another means by which creators and owners of books wished to protect their manuscripts. The labor-intensive process of creating books prior to the invention of the printing press made books an extremely valuable – if not vulnerable – piece of property. One could limit access to a collection or chain up the books, but why not add a final threatening note to ward off would-be miscreants? 

These stacks are secure…but spooky in the dark.

While the curses could be written by the later owners of a book – such as is the case in early modern printed books – in the medieval period, it was often the scribes themselves who added a final warning to their texts. After spending countless hours copying a text, a scribe may have wanted to guarantee that his work would be respected and protected by adding a few lines of warning to any would-be book thieves or desecrators. 

While these warnings could be simple pleas to one’s conscience, they could also call forth cruel punishments or God’s wrath (or the executioner’s rope) upon anyone who plucked or mistreated the work in question. But the spirit was the same – protect the hard labor and valuable material that constituted the book. In an age before the printing press – and even well past its widespread use in Europe – books were valuable and expensive objects that might not be easily replaced. The loss or desecration of one could snuff out a person’s only copy of a work or eradicate months (or even years) of hard work by a dedicated scribe.

Beyond a warning from the nineteenth century in our collection, we also hold a 1460s German Passionale, a collection of martyrology narratives. This handwritten manuscript from the late medieval period is cataloged with the note that it has a “book curse” on its first folio. No further details or translation were offered, so our staff went to work. (We had to know what actions we should avoid, lest we receive the curse…) 

While it still remains somewhat of a mystery to us – and we welcome additional feedback – thanks to the dedicated work of History doctoral candidate, Nick Brown, and several graduate students*, we are much closer to identifying what spell may have been placed upon our staff. Here is an approximate transcription and translation:

Concordes ineunt Lybie deserta leones,

Sevaque concordi tygris depascitur ore.

Nec lupus ipse lupum, nec aper male vulnerat aprum;

Non aquilis certant aquile, non anguibus angues.

Soli homines proprio grassantur sanguine. Soli

Exercent trepidas per mutua vulnera cedes.

 

Dic quibus in terris, et eris mihi magnus Apollo,

Tres pateat celi spatium non amplius ulnas?

A close-up of the possible curse, Passionale Sanctorum, 1460 (Ms 141).

The lions go peacefully together into the deserts of Libya,

And the fierce tiger grazes with a docile mouth.

The wolf does not harm another wolf, nor does the boar harm another boar;

Eagles do not contend with eagles, nor does the snake contend with the snake.

Only humans go after the blood of their own kind. Only they,

Through wounding each other, bring about restless murders.

 

Speak, and you will be great Apollo to me, in what land

Does heaven extend no more than the space of three measures?

Our working theory is that the “curse” is a later addition, and not from the original scribe. While the date of the “curse” is unclear, we are are certain that the passage is referencing two distinct sources, circulating in the late medieval/early modern period. The first is a passage on animals,”taken from De vita solitaria et civili, a collection of poems attributed to Theophilus Brixianus. There was a fifth-century bishop of Brescia by this name, but it looks like all we know about him is that he was bishop and martyr. Perhaps the “curse” author wanted to open the work with a quote attributed to an early Christian martyr, as a link to the passion narratives in the text (and on the theme of the humans shedding blood)?

A blessing, hanging in our archival stacks.

The last two lines of the “curse” are from Virgil’s Eclogue III, and is called the Riddle of Damoetas. The rediscovery of Virgil is a significant theme in the early Renaissance, suggesting a familiarity with the scribe to his works. While it may not be a “curse” per se, it does open up a fascinating window into the literary diet of its author, as well as the broader social milieu under which they operated. This passage may have been written during a time of early literary humanism and classicism in the Italian and/or German sphere. As the riddle itself remains unresolved, is the scribe offering his own answer to it in the context of the example of the passion narratives? Take your own guess!

So while we cannot say for sure how many of our books are definitively cursed, we think it safe to say that we will treat all our books with the utmost respect (and caution). Not just as professional curators of these treasures, but lest some vengeful reader/writer past unleash their curse upon us! 

And even if our books are cursed, our reading rooms are not! In fact, they are blessed, and are open to appointments. Contact us at this link: https://libraries.catholic.edu/special-collections/archives/about/contact-us.html

*In addition to Nick Brown, special thanks to Patsy Craig, Jon Dell Isola, Jane and Luke Maschue, and Alex Audziayuk. They double-checked the translation and aided in the research of the Passionale’s “curse”.

For more information on book curses:

Drogin, Marc. Anathema: Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses. Totowa, NJ: Allanheld & Schram, 1983.

O’Hagan, Lauren Alex. “Steal not this book my honest friend.” Textual Cultures 13, no. 2 (Fall 2020): 244-274.

More on Virgil’s riddle:

Campbell, John Scott. “Damoetas’s Riddle: A Literary Solution.” The Classical Journal 78, no. 2 (1982): 122–26. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3297061.

The Archivist’s Nook: Catholic University’s Sisters of Life Collections

March for Life Program Journal, January 22,1990 edition. March for Life Memorabilia, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Special Collections at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., is happy to announce the receipt in September of the donation of eight small collections of Pro-Life archival materials from The Sisters of Life of New York City. While the Sisters decided to donate the bulk of their archives, centered on the Joseph Stanton Papers, to Harvard’s Schlesinger Women’s History Library, it is nevertheless gratifying for Catholic University to host at least a portion of this valuable archive dedicated to an issue of vital importance to the American Catholic Church.

Natural Family Planning Pamphlet, n.d. Natural Family Planning Collection, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The Sisters of Life are a uniquely American, Roman Catholic religious institute, following the Augustinian rule.  It is both a contemplative and active religious community, dedicated to the promotion of pro-life causes. Their abbreviation S.V. stands for Sorores Vitae, which is the Latin version of their name. They were founded under the auspices of John O’Connor (1920-2000), the Cardinal-Archbishop of New York in 1991, when eight women gathered in New York to begin the new community. Since then, they have grown to over a hundred Sisters from across the globe, in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, and the Philippines. They have also expanded missions from their birthplace in New York beyond to Denver, Stamford, Philadelphia, Washington, and Toronto.

Secular Feminist Publication, Spokeswowan, November 1, 1979. Catholic and Other Periodicals Collection. Special Collections, The Catholic University of Amerca.

The new collections at Catholic University total fifty-one boxes, over sixty linear feet, covering the 1970s to 2000. They include the Abortion Parental Consent Legal Research Case Files from the University of St. Thomas Law School, the Center for the Rights of the Terminally Ill Collection, The Long Island Grass Roots Pro-Life Collection, March for Life Memorabilia, National Right to Life News Complete Collection, Natural Family Planning Archival Collection, Pro-Life Movement Newsletters and Periodicals, and various rare Catholic and other periodicals.

Report Newsletter, July/August/September 1990 Edition. Center for the Rights of the Termininally Ill Collection. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Each of these collections will be processed, primarily by student workers and practicum volunteers, to create online finding aids (inventories), joining those presently on the Special Collections website.(1) We also plan to craft a Pro-life research guide to the related materials. For more information on these and other collections, including another order of homegrown sisters, please contact us at https://libraries.catholic.edu/special-collections/archives/about/contact-us.html 

 

(1) Special thanks to Brandi Marulli, both for visiting the Sisters of Life in person in 2020 to assess their records, and for her help with this blog post.

The Archivist’s Nook: Labor’s Ambassador – Joseph D. Keenan

Patrick Cardinal O Boyle, James Mitchell, Secretary of Labor under Eisenhower, Keenan, and statue of Cardinal Gibbons in northwest D.C. Joseph D. Keenan Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The Special Collections of Catholic University is home to many valuable labor collections. Prominent among these are the papers of Terence V. Powderly, John Mitchell, John Brophy, and Phillip Murray. Less well known, but no less impactful, are the papers of Chicago natives Harry C. Read and Joseph Daniel Keenan (1896-1984). The latter is the subject of this blog post. Referred to by biographer Francis X. Gannon as ‘Labor’s Ambassador,’ the talented, modest, and patriotic Keenan was a labor leader who was an important labor-government liaison during the Second World War, a significant force in labor’s post war support for Democratic presidential candidates from Harry S. Truman to George C. McGovern, and a key advisor to George Meany, long-time leader of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

Program of the Special Convocation to Honor Joseph D. Keenan at Catholic University, October 29, 1974. Joseph D. Keenan Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Born in 1896, Keenan was the eldest of eight children. He left school at an early age to help support his family after his father was injured and he became an electrician by trade. He participated in the labor movement in Chicago, beginning with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ (IBEW) Local 134 in 1914, and then from 1937 as Secretary of the Chicago Federation of Labor. In 1940, he moved to Washington, DC, to work with President Franklin Roosevelt’s National Defense Advisory Commission to mobilize national defense in the face of Hitler’s European onslaught. He eventually became the Vice Chairman for Labor of the War Production Board, 1943-1945, where he worked effectively to stabilize industrial relations in the construction field and to halt strikes and work stoppages while arbitration agreements were conducted. He served in postwar Germany, 1945-1948, as both an advisor to American commander General Lucius D. Clay and as President Truman’s special coordinator between labor and industry for reorganizing trade unions.

U.S. Congressional Appreciation for Joseph D. Keenan, November 7, 1972. Joseph D. Keenan Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Keenan returned home for the 1948 elections where he was first director of the League for Political Education where he was credited with an important role in Truman’s upset victory over Thomas Dewey. He later served as labor’s campaign liaison with presidents John F. Kennedy (1960) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1964), Vice President Hubert Humphrey (1968), and Senator George McGovern (1972). He served as first Secretary of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), 1951-1954, and IBEW International Secretary, 1954-1976. He was a key friend and advisor to George Meany when the latter merged the rival AFL and CIO into one organization in 1955 and Keenan served thereafter as Vice President and Executive Council member of the combined AFL-CIO.

Joseph D. Keenan meets Richard M. Nixon at the White House, ca. 1972. Joseph D. Keenan Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Keenan was an active Catholic layman and was honored with the papal medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award, in 1973 and an honorary doctorate from The Catholic University of America (CUA) in 1974. For the latter, Catholic University stated “Like his patron and fellow craftsman, Joseph the Carpenter, he richly deserves the title ‘Justus Vir.’” He was also a recipient of the Medal of Merit and Medal of Freedom by President Harry S. Truman for World War II services. Keenan was known to support civil rights organizations and helped found the Joint Action in Community Service (JACS), the political organization behind Jobs Corps that trained millions of disadvantaged, including minorities, for employment. [1] He was also devoted to the State of Israel. He was married three times, first to Ethel Fosburg, by which they had son Joseph Jr; second to Mytle Fox, whose son John was adopted by Keenan; and third to Jeffie Hennessy. His burial mass in 1988 was held at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. For more information on Keenan, see his papers at Catholic University and a 1971 oral history transcript at the Harry Truman Library.

 

[1] Francis X. Gannon. Joseph D. Keenan, Labor’s Ambassador in War and Peace. Lanham, New York, and London: University Press of America, 1984, p. 155.

The Archivist’s Nook: The Durwards of Scotland and Wisconsin – Catholic Converts, Artists, and Poets

Madonna of the Dove, 1875. Charles P. Durward. (1) Special Collections, Catholic University.

Primarily known as a portrait painter in Milwaukee, Bernard Isaac Durward (1817-1902), was a native of Montrose, Scotland  In addition to portraits, he also painted numerous religious subjects and still life paintings as well as creating several altar pieces for churches in the Milwaukee area.  He also became known for his poetry. His volume of poetry, Cristofero Colombo (1889), was celebrated at the 1893 World’s Fair at Chicago as the “best original and extended epic yet written in this land.” Additionally, he was a collector, having acquired a number of works for his gallery at Durward’s Glen from other Wisconsin artists of the time. Bernard’s son, Charles Durward (1844-1875), was also a painter, especially of religious scenes and sites in Europe.

Bernard I. Durward in his garden, ca. 1895. (2) Special Collections, Catholic University.

The youngest of five children, Bernard’s father died when he was an infant and the family struggled financially. He had to work as a youngster, becoming a shepherd boy in the Grampian Hills at age 8 and apprenticed to become a shoemaker at 12 to James Horne who also provided instruction in reading and writing. Bernard’s introduction to art was through the imitation of the works of others, which he sought to replicate in watercolor and crayon.  He later became adept with the use of oils. He married Margaret Hillyard in 1842 and briefly settled in England where their sons Bernard Jr. and Charles were born in 1844. In 1845 the young artist embarked with his wife and two children on a one month ocean voyage across the Atlantic and made his way by the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Bernard’s uncle Martin lived.  After a short lived attempt to homestead in Dodge County near Neosho, the Durwards moved back to Milwaukee where they eventually had an original home built called the ‘Octagon House’ on the land now called Gordon Park. Bernard became a successful portrait painter, with his subjects being many of Milwaukee’s elite, including Solomon Juneau and Bishop John Henni, the first Bishop of Milwaukee, who would influence Bernard to convert to Catholicism in 1853.

Wild Kalydon and other Grapes, 1887. (3) Bernard I. Durward. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Bernard also had literary success as fifty of his short poems were printed in the Milwaukee Sentinel, the Crayon of New York, and the Leader of St. Louis. His poem, May (1855), won special praise while his most famous was St. Mary’s of the Pines, written during the Civil War. When St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee opened in 1856 he joined the faculty teaching English and elocution. He also taught painting to the School Sister of Notre Dame in Milwaukee. In 1862, the Durward family moved for a final time to the Baraboo Hills at a place they called ‘Durward’s Glen.’ Bernard sought the contemplative solitude of nature to inspire his religious art though as he aged he focused more on writing and poetry.  He continued to support his family through painting commissions and teaching at the seminary until his death. Besides Charles, his other children included Bernard Jr. (1843-1855); two who became priests, John (1847-1918) and James (1851-1933); musician and writer, Wilfred (1857-1927); farmer, Andrew (1861-1926); and two daughters, Emma (1850-1852), and Mary Thecla (1863-1946), the only one born at the Glen.

Charles P. Durward, ca. 1875. (4) Special Collections, Catholic University.

Charles Durward was baptized a Roman Catholic in 1853 and attended St. Francis School. He traveled to Europe, where he painted Chester Cathedral from St. John’s Priory Window, Immaculate Conception of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Charles Borromeo, the Madonna of the Sleep, and the Stable of Bethlehem. He later purchased six acres from his father and built a small home (later a guest house of the Order of St. Camillus) where he painted Madonna del Colombo and Stations in 1874, shortly before his untimely death due to eating the poisonous water hemlock plant. He was buried at St. Mary of the Pines. This artistic family was summed up “as eccentric, a reputation which was not diminished when the son, Charles, also began to paint and erected in the glen a studio and gallery for the quiet pursuit of religious art. These unusual proceedings, coupled with the ritualistic devotion of the family members toward one another (referring to each other as ‘the Artistic Brother,’ ‘the Poet Father,’ etc), were not calculated to bring art very close to the interests of the farmer natives.”(5) The bulk of the Durward Collection now resides in the Museum section of Special Collections at The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. Father John Durward had visited Catholic in 1909, striking up a friendship with Rector, Thomas J. Shahan. Subsequently, the initial donation of three paintings was made in 1919 by the John Durward Estate, and two of these, Madonna of the Dove and Madonna of the Sleep, are prominently displayed on campus. A further, substantial donation of 41 paintings was made in 2007 by the Order of St. Camillus. It is also of note that four of the paintings were returned to Catholic University in 2021 after being on long term loan to the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

A stone church building with a white monument in front. (6) Bernard I. Durward, Special Collections, Catholic University.

(1) NMC 19, A framed oil painting, 30 by 38 inches.

(2) Mary Grace Terry. The Story of Durward’s Glen. Order of St. Camillus, 1958, p. 7.

(3) A framed oil painting by Bernard I. Durward, 24 x 35.5 inches. NMC 1163

(4) Terry, p. 31.

(5) Porter Butts. Art in Wisconsin. (1936), p. 78.

(6) A framed oil painting by Bernard I. Durward, 16.25 x 18.75 inches. NMC 1154

 

Latin American Independence: a guide to resources at the Oliveira Lima Library and Catholic University’s Special Collections

In anticipation of the upcoming celebrations of the bicentennial of the independence movements of many Latin American countries, the Oliveira Lima Library has collaborated with Special Collections on a guide to relevant source material. 

Holland, William, active 1782-1817. General Miranda, an accurate likeness taken at Barbadoes (1806).

 

While the materials presented focus on Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela, we cannot overstate just how much impact these independence movements had throughout the whole of the European continent, particularly in the ever more powerful British Empire. Readers will thus note the presence of many materials written in English. It should also be noted that the materials contained in this guide do not merely relate to portrayals of the great figures of the time, though figures like Agustín de Iturbide, Simón Bolívar, Francisco de Miranda and Dom João VI are certainly present. In many instances, readers will also gain insight into daily life in the erstwhile colonies.

We hope you enjoy this guide as much as we did working alongside the staff at Special Collections! To access the libguide, please visit the following link: https://guides.lib.cua.edu/c.php?g=1163778

Chamberlain, Henry, Lieutenant, 1796-1843. Views and costumes of the city and neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1822). Plate 4: A market stall.

To access materials in the Oliveira Lima Library, please schedule a visit with us via email at cua-limalibrary@cua.edu.

The Archivist’s Nook: On Movies and all that Jazz – The Talkies and their Catholic Critics

An early Technicolor film, The King of Jazz (1930) is a film that the IFCA film reviewers were fascinated with due to its production elements around sound and color, as well as its direction. Courtesty: Wikimedia Commons.

The magic of the motion picture leaves one a little breathless sometimes. And to those of us who see feature, short, travelogue, newsreel in the studio there is a tremendous sense of awe at that which motion picture accomplished for our entertainment. Of course, there are pictures we do not like…

Rita McGoldrick, Feb. 2, 1933

Fans of our blog are probably familiar with the story of Catholic film critics through the work of the Legion of Decency/Office of Film and Broadcasting records. But that organization was not the only Catholic critic show in town in the 1930s. Alongside the Legion, there operated the Motion Picture and Broadcasting Committee of the International Federation of Catholic Alumnae (IFCA). Operating from the end of the Silent Film era through the early Talkies period, IFCA produced monthly radio and printed reports that filmgoers around the nation could tune in and subscribe to. The majority of these reports were written and performed by the Committee’s chair, Rite McGoldrick. These reports reveal the underlying moral and educational mission of IFCA, as well as the presence of cinephiles among its leadership.

Founded in November 1914, IFCA promoted the activities of Catholic teachers, religious sisters, and the alumnae networks of American Catholic colleges and universities. As part of its educational mission, IFCA focused on promoting charitable examples and combating examples of bigotry in media and in the classroom. They established eight departments, including education, literature, social service, motion pictures, bureau of sisters scholarships, religious activities committee, and the De Paul Missions Committee. 

IFCA Seal, ca. 1930s.

Formed in 1927, the Motion Picture Bureau (later Committee) rated films, denoting which were suitable for schools and general audiences with ratings as either ‘good,’ ‘very good,’ or ‘excellent.’ As stated in the March 1928 Quarterly Bulletin of IFCA, the guiding questions it asked of each film were: “What are suitable motion pictures for children?” and “How are we going to get the proper motion pictures to them?”

But their work goes beyond simply rating films. The Legion of Decency, another Catholic film review organization, would form later in the 1930s with the intent of reviewing and influencing the work of the film industry. In the process, the Legion would review almost any film and intervene in film production to modify films it deemed improper. The IFCA Committee, on the other hand, took a different approach. As stated in their November 29, 1929 broadcast:

To forbid people to attend the movies would be to shut out of their lives a very interesting form of entertainment which they might receive from legitimate movies. The happy plan of reviewing and classifying the movies and the talkies has been evolved by the Motion Picture Bureau of the International Federation of Catholic Alumnae. Each month this body publishes a list of plays to which Catholics may go without offending God….

First page of the August 1930 Endorsed Motion Pictures newsletter from the Committee.

Their monthly newsletter of recommended films, supplemented by a monthly radio address given during the early 1930s by Committee chair Rita McGoldrick, only discussed films that the Committee deemed appropriately moral and educational. (Unlike the Legion, they would not even think of discussing horror films!) And while their focus was on education, this did not mean that the reviewers limited their enthusiasm for newsreels or documentaries. They would express excitement over murder mysteries – The detective story lovers – and there are millions of us! – are going to have a fine time (McGoldrick, May 22, 1931). McGoldrick also would comment positively on genres ranging from jazz musicals and Rin Tin Tin movies to “Dogville Comedies” (or barkies). Educational and moral value could be seen by the reviewers to be contained in virtually any film type… so long as it wasn’t gangster movies!

But the Committee’s records do go beyond simple film reviews. Reading through them may remind a modern reader of their favorite film podcast or social media personality. In addition to discussing their recommended films, IFCA Committee members would excitedly report—in an almost casual, conversational tone—on the trends in the film industry, make predictions about how the industry may develop, share news of their favorite stars signing up for projects, and generally nerd out over the latest technological and production achievements seen on the silver screen.

Legendary director, Cecil B. DeMille, in a letter exclaiming the educational and family-friendly value of a particular film. The studio, UFA-Films, forwarded this letter to the IFCA Committee, with a note detailing the educational value of their productions. Quite a letter of recommendation!

Some times [sic] we wonder if you, our Radio audience, are interested in some of these technical details that go into the production of the finished picture that we accept so casually as an evening’s entertainment? To those of us who are reviewing all of the pictures and who are in intimate contact with the producing agencies, the science, vision, genius that go into productions of these greater pictures is a never-ending wonder. Rita McGoldrick, Feb. 28, 1930

They commented on advances in sound technology and the experimentation of studios in bringing it to theaters. They also reported in 1930 on the promise of full-color features, as they broke down the technical processes behind Technicolor. And they made predictions about how sound and color—as well distribution—may impact the industry over the 1930s.

The radio broadcasts, which began in 1928 continued until at least 1933. However, the monthly newsletters denoting “endorsed motion pictures” continued until 1940. At that stage, much of the work that the Motion Picture Commission had been performing became increasingly covered by the film reviewers and censors with the Legion of Decency. 

The records of the Motion Picture Committee are available in the IFCA records onsite, but have also been digitized. The files include correspondence and monthly reports from the Committee.  You may see the digital collection here.

The Archivist’s Nook: Speaking of Rainbows…

Clickbait, non sequitur, or cross promotion, you decide, but there’s at least one prominent rainbow in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Washington, D.C. Collection. The rainbow is one of many pieces of Irish imagery featured on the cover of the 1984 Parade Magazine. (St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Washington, D.C. Collection, Box 1, Folder 13.)

Speaking of rainbows, Father Hartke, and Mercedes McCambridge—who, coincidentally, was born on St. Patrick’s Day (McCambridge, 1981, p. 105)—the St. Patrick’s Day Parade [of] Washington, D.C. Collection now has an online finding aid. The collection contains particularly strong documentation of the first twenty-five or so years of the D.C. St. Patrick’s Day Parade—which has been held annually since 1971, traditionally on the Sunday before the holiday (March 17th). As such, Carole McNally points out that “The St. Patrick’s DAY Parade” is somewhat of a misnomer (1982, p. 19); a few times, however, such as on its twentieth anniversary in 1991, the parade has been celebrated on the actual holiday when March 17th happened to fall on a Sunday.

Although St. Patrick’s Day parades had been held in other large American cities (namely Boston) since the 1850s, D.C. was “a real latecomer” (“Twenty Five Years,” 1996, p. 6). Moreover, the timing of the first march, which roughly coincided with the onset of The Troubles in Northern Ireland (1968–1998), was regarded with suspicion by both the Metropolitan and Park Police. According to the histories that appear in the 1982 and 1987 Parade Magazines, the police feared that the marchers—whose original route went along Embassy Row, from Dupont Circle up Massachusetts Avenue—would end up demonstrating in front of the British Embassy (McNally, 1982, p. 18; McNally-McCarthy, 1987, p. 20). Their fears were not totally unfounded; in 1971, the marchers rallied at Robert Emmet Memorial Park, where there is a statue of the Irish patriot who was hanged in 1803 for leading an armed rebellion against British rule. In 1972, the marchers again strode from Dupont Circle to the Emmet statue; as Washington Post Staff Writer William R. MacKaye reported, the St. Patrick’s Day festivities “Lack[ed]” Their Usual Frivolity”; with the events of Bloody Sunday (January 30, 1972) barely past, the marchers bore placards decrying “British tyranny,” and demanding “Give Ireland back to the Irish” (MacKaye, 1972, D2).

Despite the tensions and political overtones of the early years, the parade has generally been billed as a “family day,” an “Irish community endeavor,” and “a day when people come together to enjoy the sharing of culture” (McNally-McCarthy, 1987, pp. 20–21). In 1974 the St. Patrick’s Day celebrants began parading down Constitution Avenue NW, along the Mall, between 7th and 17th Streets NW—the traditional route to this day. Regrettably, the collection does not include any materials pertaining to the 1974 parade (or the 2010 one for that matter). It was at this point that the parade grew larger and more sophisticated, incorporating floats and a reviewing stand (situated on the Ellipse, between the White House and the Washington Monument).

Father Hartke (right) pictured at the D.C. St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 15, 1981, the year before he was appointed Grand Marshal. [The note reads: “Padre—The Dominican is on the left—[signature].”] (Rev. Gilbert Vincent Ferrer Hartke Collection, Box 28, Folder 4.)
Also beginning in 1974, prominent Washingtonians of Irish descent were selected annually to serve as Grand Marshal and Gael of the Year. Some noteworthy Grand Marshals over the years have included: George Meany, President of the AFL-CIO (1977); Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics (1985); House Speaker Tip O’Neill (1986); actress Helen Hayes (1987); NFL Washington [Redskins] running back John Riggins (1990); and John Hume (1995), hailed as one of the architects of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

On two occasions the Grand Marshal has been a figure from The Catholic University of America. In 1982 it was the legendary founder of Catholic University’s Speech and Drama Department, the Reverend Gilbert V. Hartke—perhaps better known today as “the guy with the Dorothy dress.” In 2016 it was University President John Garvey. That year also marked the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. As it happens, this month marks the centennial of the end of the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921); a truce was declared on July 11, 1921.

Although for more than two decades the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee celebrated the fact that it had never rained on their parade, in 1993 the luck of the Irish ran out. Over the weekend on which the parade was originally scheduled, a wintry mix of snow, sleet, rain, and hurricane-force winds pelted the capital region. (St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Washington, D.C. Collection, Box 1, Folder 22.)

Although for more than two decades the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee celebrated the fact that it had never rained on their parade (McNally-McCarthy, 1987, p. 21; Barry, 1991, p. 28), in 1993 the luck of the Irish ran out. On Sunday, March 14th, the front page headline of the Washington Post was “Fierce Snowstorm Overpowers Area.” A wintry mix of snow, sleet, rain, and hurricane-force winds pelted the capital region, causing the parade to be postponed until the next weekend. As Washington Post Staff Writer Serge F. Kovaleski reported, “The postponement took a toll on the annual event,” drawing only a fraction of the number of spectators as in previous years, featuring only 70 of the 110 units initially scheduled to participate, and lasting only an hour and a half instead of the usual two and a half. Worst of all, “the parade’s grand marshal, mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark […] was unable to make the snow date” (Kovaleski, 1993). But, as the saying goes, you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain. The following weekend brought “virtually perfect spring weather” and “savory 57-degree temperature[s]” (Kovaleski, 1993).

References

Barry, Carole McNally. (1991). “The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Story—A History of Sorts.” In Parade Magazine, pp. 28–29.

Kovaleski, Serge F. (1993, March 22). A Fine Day For the Wearin’ O’ the Green. Washington Post.

MacKaye, William F. (1972, March 18). St. Patrick’s Celebrations Lack Their Usual Frivolity. Washington Post, D2.

McCambridge, Mercedes. (1981). The Quality of Mercy. Times Books.

McNally, Carole. (1982). “Parades We Remember…” In Parade Magazine, pp. 18–19.

McNally-McCarthy, Carole. (1987). “1971–1987—The History of Our Parade.” In Parade Magazine, pp. 20–21.

“Twenty Five Years of Saint Patrick’s Day Parades.” (1996). Parade Magazine, pp. 6–8.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Amalia Steinhauser – Housekeeper and World Traveler.

Guest blogger Katherine DeFonzo is a Graduate Library Pre-Professional (GLP) working in the Semitics/ICOR Department at Catholic University. 

Amalia Steinhauser with her brother, Cleophas Steinhauser, and some of his fellow Franciscan friars in Egypt, 1912. Semitics/ICOR Collection

Many researchers have made use of correspondence and other records from the Papers of Professor Henri Hyvernat, a founding faculty member of The Catholic University of America and an early contributor to the collections that now comprise the University’s Semitics/ICOR Library. Less well known is an individual who was ever-present in the Professor’s life and worked closely with him for many years. Miss Amalia Steinhauser served as Hyvernat’s housekeeper while he resided near the University at 3405 12th St. NE in Brookland during the early years of CUA. Amalia’s story comes to life when one examines the years of extant correspondence (1910-1925) between her and Professor Hyvernat, now housed in The Catholic University of America Archives, part of Special Collections.

Amalia was born in Germany in 1868 to William and Maria Steinhauser, née Binig. Census records seem to suggest that Amalia and her younger sister Martha arrived in the United States sometime during the mid-1890s. It is possible that Amalia’s brother Cleophas, a member of the Franciscan order based in Egypt and fellow scholar in the field of Oriental Languages was the one to introduce her to Hyvernat. Because she was his housekeeper and friend, Professor Hyvernat came to know and care for the members of Amalia’s family. Amalia visited Martha and her family in Philadelphia on more than one occasion, and Martha’s children spent the summer of 1921 in Brookland. Although fluent in English, Amalia’s letters (especially her earlier ones) reveal a tendency toward a German pronunciation of certain words. She does not explicitly address whether this caused difficulties for her in the years following World War I, when anti-German sentiment in the United States was on the rise.

Hyvernat’s house at 3405 12th St. NE in Brookland, c. 1900. Semitics/ICOR Collection

While some might assume that the role of housekeeper was a limiting one for Amalia, her position enabled her to travel to an extent that would have been uncommon for many women of her time. Letters written between Amalia and Hyvernat in 1912 illuminate some of Amalia’s experiences abroad. She visited various cities in the Middle East as well as Cairo in Egypt during this year, as well as several major cities in Western Europe before visiting friends in her native Germany and then back to the United States. She returned to Europe in 1923: her letters show that she traveled to Paris in the late summer and stayed there for significant amounts of time throughout the next two years. While Amalia organized travel arrangements for Hyvernat, the professor did the same for her as well: in 1925, he arranged for her lodgings with a group of Sisters during an anticipated upcoming visit to Rome. Amalia also had the opportunity to travel to other parts of the United States. She frequently inquired after the individuals traveling or working with Professor Hyvernat, assuring him of her prayers for their health and providing news related to their many mutual friends in Washington, D.C.

Certain acquaintances of Amalia appear frequently enough throughout her correspondence that they merit special consideration. One such person is Miss Antoinette Margot (1842-1925), a Catholic convert who arrived in Brookland after having served as a nurse alongside close friend Clara Barton, the well-known nurse who would go on to found the American Red Cross. Across the street from Professor Hyvernat’s residence on 12th St NE stands St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, a parish established in 1896 that would grow significantly during the years encompassing Hyvernat and Amalia’s correspondence. Hyvernat and Antoinette Margot were responsible for the founding and construction of this Church, which became a focal point of social life in Brookland during the years when Amalia and Professor Hyvernat resided on 12th Street. Amalia assured Hyvernat that she frequently looked in on their elderly neighbor, sometimes assisting her with household chores. Amalia herself was responsible for cleaning and obtaining household necessities; keeping track of finances; and overseeing the essential upkeep of the house, a task that included bringing coal to warm the house during the colder months of the year. She also took it upon herself to complete various improvement projects around the house.

Antionette Margot, ca. 1870s. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Hyvernat remains such a deeply felt presence in the Semitics/ICOR Library because he donated many of the first items that became part of the Collection and contributed to some of the volumes that continue to be most widely used by students, visiting researchers, and others. Few are aware that other objects became part of the Semitics/ICOR Collection due to the generosity of Amalia. She not only donated items initially acquired by her brother Cleophas but also artifacts that she had selected herself (not necessarily for their scholarly significance). Accession records that reveal which items Amalia obtained provide some insight into her personal taste. For example, she obtained a medieval Arabic lamp from Nazareth while traveling in April 1912 and received a Byzantine lamp from the Benedictine Fathers of Jerusalem that Hyvernat later donated to the Museum. She also donated an elfstone from the Synagogue of Tiberius near Athens; specimens of mosaic from Jericho; and rolled pebbles from the Dead Sea. These records place Amalia as a donor along with the prominent scholars with whom Hyvernat continually corresponded: at one point she mentions speaking with Mrs. Dickens, a fellow contributor to the lamp collection in the Semitics/ICOR Library. In this way, Amalia’s passing references to these individuals in her letters become more than mere observations or polite questions related to their well-being. She was a donor in her own right, one who contributed to the rapid expansion of Catholic University Museum collections during the early years of the institution.

Amalia passed away in October of 1944 in Philadelphia after having lived there for about six months. She was buried in Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in the city along with her other family members, and a service was held at St. Bonaventure’s Church. Amalia’s niece, Marie Baum, served as the executrix of Amalia’s will and made certain that designated funds were used to support the ICOR Library at a time of great transition after the death of Hyvernat three years earlier. It seems of deep significance that Amalia continually signed her letters to Hyvernat with the closing, “Your Humble Servant in Christ.” Perhaps nothing else taken from Amalia’s letters reveals more profoundly the way in which she perceived of herself and the work in which she was engaged for Father Hyvernat.

The Archivist’s Nook: Conservation in Rare Books, Part II

First folio of MS 126. Image of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, often pictured with the devil in chains.

This past academic year, Special Collections staff continued our long-term project of addressing conservation issues within the Catholic University’s Rare Books collection. As “Part I” of the conservation blog post reported, we began by looking at four of our late medieval European manuscripts. While we continue to prioritize our handwritten manuscripts, this time, the date and geographic range of Quarto’s efforts varied from medieval Europe to late colonial Mexico! 

Our goal in Special Collections is to provide both our external and campus patrons with access to the works they need to research and study. And thus, our number one goal in conserving these manuscripts was to render them stable for both eventual digitization and in-person access, without damaging the text or any original materials in the binding.

As this project progresses, we will continue to keep the campus community informed about the ongoing conservation work and what materials are now safe for full access! And thus, without further ado, we present the five most recently conserved works:

MS 115 – Exposed textblock on the top. Bottom: the rebound textblock.

1. Quadriga Spirituale, ca. 1500, (MS 115)

This work faced real challenges with its binding. The original binding had become quite loose, with tears throughout. The conservators stabilized the binding using wheat starch and Japanese tissue. The binding was preserved and stored in a separate box with a foam insert to mimic the original textblock (the pages inside the covers and binding) and support the binding.

The endbands (the cords affixed on a book spine to provide structural support) of the textblock were stabilized, with the spine stabilized through Japanese tissue and new alum tawed (a calf leather prepared with a liquid solution to create a white appearance) sewing supports sown in. The text was covered with a handmade non-adhesive paper binding to protect the spine and text.

2. Instruccion del Estado del Regno de Mexico, 1794 (MS 121)

MS 121 – The exposed textblock (left). After stabilization, the covered work (right).

This volume lacked any binding, leaving the textblock fully exposed. The spine was loose, with tears in the page caused by abrasive iron gall ink used in the original writing. Iron gall ink was a widely used ink in European works until the nineteenth century, made of iron salts and tannic acids. The conservators worked to stabilize the spine and remove – but conserve for our records – some of the abrasive papers and glue in the spine. They cleaned, stabilized, and mended the tears caused by the ink on the first few pages of the text. A paper binding was created to cover and protect the work.

3. Meditationes Beati Bernardi Abbatis, ca. 1400 (MS 126)

The text’s binding and end cover boards (front and back) were loose, with the boards completely detached from the textblock. This binding was a nineteenth-century addition to the original text.

MS 126 – Left: Detached cover boards. Right: Cover boards reattached to the textblock.

The conservators cleaned the spine and end boards, stabilizing them. They then carefully reattached the endsheets (blank sheets often bound at either end of a textblock to protect the text) and end boards to the textblock. Utilizing microscopic analysis, they reviewed the ink of the text to see if any stabilization was required and noted that none was currently necessary. 

4. The interior Christian or a sure guide for those who aspire to perfection in the spiritual life, 1796 (MS 262)

The leather cover was worn along the spine, but the most grave concern about this work was that the binding and textblock was split down the middle of the spine. The work was literally falling in half, with the two halves stiff and difficult to open.

MS 262 – One the left image, the split in the spine is visible. One the right, the mended spine.

The conservators stabilized the leather front and back cover boards, as well as cleaned the interior of the text. They gently lifted the leather spine and added new sown bindings to stabilize the textblock and make it accessible to readers again. The original spine was removed and safely stored with our records, with a new paper spine created to cover the binding.

5. Theologiae polemicae, 1733 (MS 264)

MS 264 – Top shows the red rot damaged cover, with the loose pieces on the spine. Bottom: the new cover.

This work’s leather cover was heavily damaged through red rot. The spine of the cover had completely disintegrated over the years, leaving the threads of the binding exposed. However, the threads were heavily compromised, offering no support to the text and thus rendering the pages loose. Some damage was noted along the pages that had been in close contact with the leather binding. The binding is original to the text, but was so damaged that it needed to be replaced (but with the threads and cover boards kept). 

The conservators unbound the text and carefully paginated the pages to maintain proper order. The spine was cleaned and tears throughout the text mended with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. The textblock was resewn, with new endsheets added to protect the original pages. A historically similar binding with boards was created to protect the text.

To find out more about these books or the general Catholic University Rare Books collection, please contact us at: lib-rarebooks@cua.edu

Our digitized manuscripts may also be viewed at this link.

The Archivist’s Nook: The Dress at the End of the Rainbow

If you were around during the Golden Age of Hollywood, you would have heard of Mercedes McCambridge. She had an Oscar winning role as Best Supporting Actress in the 1949 movie All the King’s Men. She was nominated for the same award in the 1956 film Giant. If you haven’t seen either of those classics or are more into horror, you might have heard her voice the demon Pazuzu in the 1973 film classic, The Exorcist. Indeed, she was renowned for her voice. Orson Welles, who, incidentally, addressed Catholic University’s first class of drama students in 1939, called her “the world’s greatest living radio actress.”

A Mercedes McCambridge publicity photo from the 1949 film All the King’s Men. (Photo: AP Wirephoto.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCambridge was also an artist-in-residence here at Catholic University from 1972-1973, lured, no doubt, by the University’s stellar drama program and its illustrious head, Father Gilbert Hartke (1907-1986). McCambridge once commented on Father Hartke’s sartorial tastes, which extended well beyond the Dominican robes of his order to include a silk Nehru jacket, a six foot long aviator scarf, a Russian fur hat and light blue canvas sneakers, among many other articles of clothing.

Most of these articles were gifts given to him by those who knew he loved clothing and costumes. And were it not for his extravagant tastes, we perhaps might not today have an absolutely precious piece of cinematic history: one of the dresses Judy Garland wore on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Articles in The Tower and The Washington Post allude to it, and rumors have swirled for years that Hartke had the dress, but it wasn’t until recently that Matt Ripa, Lecturer and Operations Coordinator at the Drama Department rediscovered it. I asked Mr. Ripa how he found the dress, and he responded that he too, “had heard rumors that Father Hartke was gifted Dorothy’s dress and that it was located somewhere in the building.” But “I could never get confirmation on exactly where it was located.” He explains:

I had looked in our archives, storage closets, etc. to no avail. I assumed it was a tall tale (of which many exist for Father Hartke). Our building is in the process of renovations and upgrades, so I was cleaning out my office to prepare. I noticed on top of the faculty mailboxes a trashbag and asked my co-worker to hand it to me. On the trashbag was a note for our former chair stating that he had found ‘this’ in his office and that he must have moved it when he moved out of the chair’s office… I was curious what was inside and opened the trashbag and inside was a shoebox and inside the shoe box was the dress!! I couldn’t believe it. My co-worker and I quickly grabbed some gloves and looked at the dress and took some pictures before putting it back in the box and heading over to the archives. I called one of our faculty members and former chair, who always told me the dress existed and that it was in the building to let her know that I had found it. Needless to say, I have found many interesting things in the Hartke during my time at CUA, but I think this one takes the cake.

McCambridge gave Father Gilbert Hartke one of the dresses Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939) when she was an artist in residence in the early 1970s. Though rumors of the dress have swirled for decades, the dress was only recently located by Matthew Ripa in the Drama Department. Father Hartke is pictured here with student Carol Pearson holding the dress, ca. 1975-76. There are several photos of Hartke holding the dress in the University’s Special Collections. (Photo: Special Collections, The Catholic University of America)

As archivists, we were obliged to work on gaining additional documentation for this popular culture national treasure. Objects such as this one might be forged and passed off as authentic because of their cultural and monetary value. So how do we know the dress is the real thing? We do not yet know how Mercedes McCambridge got the dress, though we do know she was a Hollywood contemporary of Judy Garland’s and that they were supposedly friends. McCambridge was friends with many luminaries in the film and radio industry. Garland had died by the time the dress went from McCambridge to Father Hartke. Moreover, we have several photos of Father Hartke holding the dress, and the abovementioned articles from The Tower and The Washington Post referencing it. So the circumstantial evidence is strong.

Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz dress in June, 2021. Judy’s name is written by hand on the inside of the dress, as the second image shows. (Photos by Shane MacDonald and Maria Mazzenga)

 

Nonetheless, we reached out to experts in cultural memorabilia at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The Museum has several artifacts from the Wizard of Oz set, including a famous pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. Curator with the Division of Cultural and Community Life, Ryan Lintelman, an expert in the Museum’s Oz memorabilia, offered a wealth of information he’s gathered on the history of the film’s Dorothy dresses. There were several of them, though it appears that five, excluding the University’s dress, have been verified as probably authentic. All of the dresses have certain verifiable characteristics: a “secret pocket” on the right side of the pinafore skirt for Dorothy’s handkerchief, “Judy Garland” written by hand in a script specific to a single person who labeled all of the extant dresses in the same hand, for example. Apparently, the thin material of the blouse was prone to tearing when Garland took it off after filming, and a seamstress often repaired it before she donned it for the next shoot. The Hartke dress has all of these characteristics, including blouse tears where the pinafore straps sat on the shoulders.

Smithsonian staff members, from left, Dawn Wallace, Sunae Park Evans, and Ryan Lintelman examine the dress, June 2021. (Photo by Maria Mazzenga)

 

 

Lintelman, along with his colleagues at the Museum, Dawn Wallace, Objects Conservator, and Sunae Park Evans, Senior Costume Conservator, paid us a visit to view the dress. Employees at the Museum are not authorized to authenticate objects like this one, but they suggested that the dress was consistent with the other objects from the film, and that the evidence around the dress was strong.

Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz dress, once the province of myth, is now a real object in the University’s Special Collections. We can now preserve it in proper storage in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. By the way, if any of you readers have your own story connected to this dress, drop us a line!

A scene that needs no explaining… (Photo: Silver Screen/Getty)

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Mary Jo Santo Pietro, Father Hartke: His Life and Legacy (Washington, D.C. The Catholic University of America Press, 2002), 201.

“Father Hartke: Kudos from the President, A Look At the Past,” The Washington Post, May 17, 1975, B1. The article alludes to “the original gingham dress that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz,” hanging in his closet.

McCambridge talks about her relationships with various Hollywood figures throughout her autobiography, and specifically mentions her residency at Catholic University in the early 1970s in her autobiography, The Quality of Mercy (New York: Times Books, 1981), see pages 107, 189 for mention of her year as artist-in-residence. See also, Richard Coe,  “Backstage And Back In Town,” The Washington Post, September 9, 1972, C9.