The Archivist’s Nook: Friends I’ll Never Meet

This semester I had the pleasure of processing the Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, a set of papers donated to the Archives by Tierney O’Neil via Robert Andrews last year. We call this a collection, by the way, because these are not a full set of papers related to Cecilia Woodson, rather, they are a set of materials she, deceased 79 years now, curated herself.

Did I write Cecilia Parker Woodson? I meant to write Cecil. Cecil was what her husband, Walter, and all of her friends called her, because that is what she wanted to be called. And now, after reading the hundreds of letters written to her between 1891 and 1920, I feel like I know her too, though she died decades before I was born. The first set of letters Cecil saved were the love letters sent to her by her traveling salesman husband Walter, and they offer a wonderful window into late nineteenth century courtship practices and social life in their native Virginia and Washington, D.C.

A letter from Lottie to “Dear Little Mama,” announcing her arrival in Peru, 1916.

 

One thing I would not call Cecil is “Dear Little Mama,” though most of the letters addressed to her in this collection open with just that salutation. The most voluminous correspondence in these collected papers are from Cecil’s daughter, Charlotte “Lottie” Virginia Woodson. Lottie left the family nest over on Monroe Street here in Brookland for Lima, Peru at the age of twenty-one. Cecil’s best friend Mary and her husband William Montavon, better known to Lottie as Aunt Mayme and Uncle Will, asked Cecil and Walter if they could take Lottie to Lima when Uncle Will was assigned a two-year diplomatic post there in 1916. Lottie was terribly eager to take the trip, and sailed off from New York City to Lima in February of that year. Her letters home chronicle the life of a young woman living in the foreign diplomatic set just before and during the First World War. There were teas, dinners, dances and decisions about the most appropriate footwear for the occasion, and Lottie writes “Dear Little Mama” about all of it. She even coyly describes her own courtship with another young diplomat, Victor Louis Tyree, who happened to also hail from Washington, D.C. The two were married in 1918 in Lima and made plans to move to La Paz, Bolivia afterward, when Victor was offered a better paying job with Denniston and Company after their marriage.

 

Lottie met Victor soon after she arrived in Lima in 1916, and they were married in October 1917. Here they pose, center, on their Wedding Day. Aunt Mayme stands next to Lottie, and Uncle Will stands mostly hidden behind Aunt Mayme.

Dear reader, this story does not end well. I’ll admit that I teared up when I read the telegram dated July 31, 1918: “BABY GIRL TWENTY THIRD CHARLOTTE DIED TWENTY EIGHT PULMONARY HEMORRHAGE CAUSED BY MEASLES.” Charlotte was pregnant soon after her marriage and she died in La Paz, just after giving birth to Merle Virginia Tyree. Not a week later, baby Merle died as well. Victor writes a long letter to Cecil describing the birth and death in heartbreaking detail. The letter had been read so many times it is falling apart. After a handful of condolence letters, Cecil’s collection of correspondence pretty much ends, as if she just didn’t have the heart to save any more letters, or perhaps she received so few after that it didn’t seem worth it. She lived twenty-two more years, however, dying in 1940 at the age of 76.

 

Did you know there was an observatory established by Harvard University in Peru in 1889? This is the Boyden Observatory, where William Henry Pickering discovered Phoebe, a moon of Saturn. Cecil loved getting stories and postcards from Mayme, and later, Lottie, during their travels. Mayme sent this one from Peru in 1917. The postcards are in the collection, along with many family photographs.

 

 

Cecil saved the letters others wrote her, and she saved many beautiful photos of her family, as well as those Lottie sent her from Peru. But there is only one letter handwritten by the collector herself. And it appears to be a draft of a note she was going to send to her daughter to congratulate her on her engagement. “How can I relinquish my claim on you my own darling little girlie?,” she writes, “God bless you both and if your lives are spared, may you both in the years to come be as happy in each other as now.” There isn’t even a photograph of Cecil herself in the collection. Still, the strength and generosity of the woman emerge in the letters written to her and her life was a full one, tragedies and all.

Victor Tyree sent this telegram to Lottie’s brother at his workplace, as he feared that sending it directly to Mama would bring on a heart attack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can view the finding aid to the Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection here:

http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/woodson.cfm

You can view the finding aid for the papers of William Montavon here:

http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/montavon.cfm

The Archivist’s Nook: Introducing Students to Rare Books

Stacks of the Clementine Library. I would best describe its scent as warm and toasty.

Think back to the last book you read. How old was it? Were the pages brittle or waxy, thick or thin? How did the cover and pages feel in your hands? Was there a smell to the book – freshly printed or a musty odor? Did the book catch the eye with its cover, type, or images? Did it make a sound when opened – a crisp snap of a never-before-opened spine or the dull groan of well-worn binding? Was picking up this book an experience of all the senses?

While we certainly do not taste our books, there is no way to avoid having an otherwise full sensory experience when entering Rare Books and Special Collections. Contained within its stacks are 70,000 volumes, spanning 10 centuries. The collection includes a wide range of materials from medieval legal texts and early modern musical pieces to twentieth century textbooks and first edition novels. The aroma and sights immediately catch one’s attention, and the feel and sound of each book as you open it offers a reminder of its age.

This past academic year, the Archives staff has been assisting in Rare Books. In addition to answering reference questions and exploring the materials contained within its stacks, we have hosted three classes in the space. Each class came from a distinct program and reviewed different materials with varying learning goals in mind. Much as we are whenever a class comes to handle archival documents for the first time, we were excited to provide the students with their potential first experience of accessing rare books.

Tafsīr wāsiʻ ʻalá al-taʻlīm al-Masīhī (Translation of a Catechism for Confession and Communion), 1770.

In the fall, we hosted students from the School of Theology and Religious Studies as part of a “History and Theory of Catechetics” course. During their visit, the students were able to work with dozens of catechisms spanning several continents, numerous languages, and six centuries. Tapping into the collections of sixteenth-century folios and assorted Catholic theological and lay devotional publications, we were able to create an evolutionary display of catechisms from the fifteenth century to the present. Among the highlights were an Arabic catechism from 1770, a Navajo catechism from 1937, and a series of pocket catechisms from the nineteenth century. Supplementing this collection with materials from the Archives, we were able to bring the students from the Council of Trent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

As the new semester began in the cold of January, our staff prepared to host another visiting class, this time from the School of Philosophy. Entitled “Before Printing: The Establishment and Transmission of Ancient and Medieval Texts,” the course’s professor wished to expose her students to the physicality of the manuscripts they would study over the coming months. From our medieval manuscript and incunabula collections, we provided several Thomistic philosophical and theological treatises. Through a partnership with the Semitics/ICOR Library, the class was also able to review Arabic philosophical texts. While the students would primarily continue to work with facsimiles and digital copies of manuscripts this semester, having that initial opportunity for a full sensory experience is key to both contextualizing the sources and eliciting excitement.

Lectionarium, ca. 1200 (MS 158). Some of the volumes have intricate bindings and clasps, added by much later owners. This particular binding is seen in numerous manuscripts in our collections.

My own first exposure to manuscripts was in Rare Books at Catholic University. Working with a medieval copy of Gratian’s Decretum as part of a class project helped me appreciate the beauty and wonder of these texts, and solidified my excitement for curation and historical research. I would never have guessed I would be helping provide access to these same materials years later!

Finally, our most recent academic visitors came as part of a Greek and Latin course, “Latin Paleography.” In addition to two codicology workshops held in Rare Books, the students will each work closely with a medieval manuscript in our collections to create a catalog entry. The manuscripts held by the University are thus providing valuable tools for the students to better understand the materiality and scribal norms of the medieval written word.

In addition to its strengths in Catholic history, Rare Books contains several unique collections, including a Malta collection, the Clementine Library, the Connolly Irish Collection, the Richard N. Foley Modern English Collection, its American Catholic Pamphlets and Parish Histories Collection, and much more.

Book of Hours, ca. 1460 (MS. 136b)

Fundamentally, the collection’s value to the Catholic University community and broader scholarly world lies in its ability to provide students and scholars with opportunities to connect with the history of the written word as well as the contexts and ideas provided by each text. Plus, as the class visits illustrate, it is a wonderful source of collaboration for its sister special collections on campus!

For more information on Rare Books, see: http://libraries.cua.edu/rarebooks/index.cfm

Questions may be addressed to: lib-rarebooks@cua.edu

The Archivist’s Nook: Soaring Sister Spike, The Flying Nun of CU

Actress Sally Field as Sister Bertrille in the ABC television series, The Flying Nun, 1967-1970. Courtesy of ABC Photo Archives via Getty Images.

For people of a certain age, or a taste for vintage television, the term ‘Flying Nun’ evokes memories of youthful actress Sally Field bedecked in an elaborate nun’s habit flying through the skies like a super heroine in a zany television series of same name during 1967-1970. The original Flying Nun, a 1926 graduate of Catholic University who became a licensed airplane pilot and World War II aeronautics instructor, bore little resemblance to the former Gidget star. Mary Ann Kinsky (1894-1985) of Zanesville, Ohio, daughter of George Kinsky and Scholastica Kiel, became a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity, based in Mantowoc, Wisconsin, and achieved national fame as ‘The Flying Nun’ in the late 1930s. She was also known privately as ‘Spike.’

Sister Aquinas, Kinsky’s religious name, graduated from St. Nicholas High School, Zanesville, making her first vows in 1914 and perpetual vows in 1923. She earned a bachelors’ degree at the Catholic Sisters College of The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., in 1926, with a major in Physics and a minor in Mathematics. In 1943, she obtained a masters’ degree in the same fields from Notre Dame University. Teaching was her vocation as she spent over three decades in the classroom, including over twenty years at St. Ambrose High School, later Ironwood Catholic, in Michigan, which closed in 1985.

Sister Aquinas, ‘The Flying Nun,’ with a model P-38 in her classroom at Catholic University where she taught a summer Civil Aeronautics Authority course in 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In addition to teaching, she served as a science expert writing junior high textbooks for the Commission on American Citizenship at Catholic University, 1945-1950, while also writing elementary school text books for the Green Bay Diocese, where she also served as Supervisor, 1948-1969. In the 1960s she authored a series of science textbooks for grades 1-8, known as the Christian Social Living Series-Science with Health and Safety. She served briefly as Science Education Consultant for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, 1969-1971, and then returned to teaching in Zanesville at St. Nicholas Elementary School, suffering a stroke in 1977. She retired to Holy Family Convent, Manitowoc, where she remained active until her death in 1985.

Catholic University Class Announcements, Summer Session, 1943, listing Sister Aquinas ‘Air Age’ Courses. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Most notably in a long and full life of ninety one years, Sister Aquinas received her pilot’s license in 1938 from the airport manager at Manitowoc, the first nun in history to do so. Inevitably, newspapers dubbed her ‘The Flying Nun,’ a moniker she kept ever after. In 1942, at Ironwood, a state school inspector reviewing courses decided she would be an asset in the national war effort and asked her to go to Washington to instruct recruits in pre-flight training. Over the next two years, including the summer of 1943 at her Alma mater, Catholic University, Spike taught aerodynamics, navigation, radio operation, meteorology, maintenance, and physics to hundreds of trainees.

U.S. Air Force T-33 training jets, 1949. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thereafter, military officials praised her with awards and citations, in particular was the U. S. Air Force Citation noting her outstanding contributions to national security and world peace presented to her in 1957 during a ceremony in Washington, DC. That same year she became the first nun to ride in an Air Force operational jet in a North American Air Defense Command T-33 trainer, along with co-piloting other Air Force planes. Finally, CBS Television profiled her in a play, ‘The Pilot’, which aired November 12, 1957. So, the next time you hear a U.S. Air Force plane screaming through the sky imagine the spirit of Sister Aquinas aka Mary Ann Kinsky aka ‘Spike’ aka ‘The Flying Nun’ soaring alongside.

The Archivist’s Nook: A Rocky Road to Reconstruction

The year 1919 could be termed a grim one. The First World War had ended in November, 1918, true, but the combatants were still taking measure of that frightful conflict. With more than 70 million people mobilized to fight, more than 16 million had died as a direct result of the war, with another 50 to 100 million dying as a result of the 1918 influenza pandemic. A “Red Scare” gripped the United States, as fear of communist agitation rippled through the country in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Two women lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris. The war was over in 1918, but U.S. Catholics believed its ravages warranted proposals for social reconstruction.

These more immediate happenings occurred in the context of long term changes in social and economic life that had accelerated during the previous century. The industrial revolutions transformed the nature of work, the landscape of cities, and the lives of peoples displaced by the changing economy. Pope Leo XIII had addressed the meaning of such changes for Catholics in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, noting that “new developments industry, new techniques striking out on new paths, changed relations of employer and employee” had led to “a decline of morals and caused conflict to break forth.” Many Catholics in the United States and elsewhere sought to address how their religion might address social and economic transformation.[1]

When the National Catholic War Council led by the United States bishops formed in 1917, their chief aim was to assist the millions of Catholics mobilizing for the First World War. However, when the war ended it became clear that a national Catholic organization designed to coordinate activities among the nation’s faithful would prove useful. In 1919 the bishops changed the name of their young organization to the National Catholic Welfare Council and began discussing a Catholic plan for postwar America.[2]

The National Catholic War Council, like many social and religious groups of the time, was eager to offer a Catholic plan for postwar America of its own. In April of 1918 the bishops established a Committee for Reconstruction. The war ended on November 11, 1918, however, sooner than the Committee could forge their plan. The Committee’s secretary, Catholic charity expert Rev. John O’Grady had only the vaguest notions of what its plan should look like at that time. O’Grady, panicking in early December because he needed a plan immediately, turned to Father John A. Ryan, who had written a book on living wage issues and studied social reform extensively, to write a program. Ryan at first resisted then agreed and dictated the Program to a typist two days later. Ryan’s program was pushed quickly through the administrative structure of the War Council and approved by the Committee’s bishops. The program called for government insurance for the sick, unemployed and aged; labor’s participation in industrial management; public housing; unions’ right to organize, and a “living wage” for all workers. The Program’s publicist, Larkin Mead, set a release date for it: February 12, 1919, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

Initially reluctant to write the Program, Ryan eventually came to view it as his most important work up to that point. Above is Ryan’s own inscribed copy.
Father John Ryan (1869-1945), author of the Bishops’ Program for Reconstruction, attended The Catholic University of America from 1898 until 1906, receiving his Doctorate in Sacred Theology in the latter year. He taught at the University from 1915 until his retirement in 1939.

The Program was called then, and forever after would be called, the “Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction,” the implication being that it represented the entire church’s views on the remaking of America in the postwar era. That claim was disputed by some, because the War Council’s authority to issue such a sweeping statement on behalf of the whole church was questioned. Some Catholic prelates and business groups opposed the bishops’ plan on the grounds that it was too radical. William Cardinal O’Connell of Boston, for example, believed some aspects of the plan were “socialistic,” a word often used to describe what was viewed as too much government involvement in American society and the economy. Many Americans were inclined to share O’Connell’s suspicions; the Red Scare in particular heightened fears of “Bolshevik” plots. As the 1920s progressed, Americans’ lost their appetite for Progressive reform, and critics of the Bishops’ plan gained traction. The kind of reformism advised in the Bishops’ Program would not find an audience again until the economy slid into the Depression in the 1930s.

Read the entire Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction here

Visit the website related to the Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction here

A finding aid to the National Catholic War Council can be found here

A finding aid to the papers of John A. Ryan can be found here

_____________________________________________________

[1] Quote from Rerum Novarum is on the American Catholic History Classroom website, Catholic and Social Welfare, 1919:  https://cuomeka.wrlc.org/exhibits/show/bishops/bishops/1919bishops-intro2.

[2] “Council” would be changed to “Conference” in 1922, with the organization serving as the forerunner of today’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Archivist’s Nook: CU’s Labor Chiefs


Catholic University Faculty: Carroll D. Wright, first U.S. Commissioner of Labor (1885-1905), courtesy of the U.S. Labor Department, and Charles P. Neill, second Commissioner of Labor (1905-1913), University Photograph Collection, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Several previous posts from The Archivist’s Nook explore the rich American labor history resources at Catholic University, especially those that have been digitized. Of course, labor history is intertwined with the history of business, economics, and government. One recent post focused on the first U.S. Secretary of Labor, William B. Wilson, who served 1913-1921 in the presidential cabinet of Woodrow Wilson (no relation). While not a Catholic, William B. Wilson was nevertheless closely allied with Catholic labor leaders John Mitchell and T. V. Powderly.  Remarkably, long before Catholic University held the collections of Mitchell and Powderly or was home of the ‘labor priest,’ its founding faculty of Economics were the first two federal labor commissioners, Carroll D Wright (1840-1909) and Charles P. Neill (1865-1942), who headed the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1885-1913, predecessor to Wilson’s U.S. Department of Labor.

Wright and Neill met at Catholic University where Neil was full time Instructor in Economics (later Professor) and department chair, 1896-1905, while Wright was a part-time Lecturer on Social Economics, 1895-1899, then honorary professor of Social Economics until 1904.[i] Among the early courses taught by Neill and Wright were Special Topics in Economics and several related to Statistics and Labor,[ii] many of which are still offered in 2019 in the Economics Department, part of the School of Arts and Sciences. Since 2013, Catholic University has also been the home of the Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics offering a wide range of coursework in Accounting, Business, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Management, and Marketing.

McMahon Hall at Catholic University, home of the Economics Department where Wright and Neill taught classes. Year-Book of the Catholic University of America, 1898-1899. Washington, D.C., 1898, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

After the Civil War, amidst calls for a national labor agency, the first state bureau opened in Massachusetts in 1869. However, accusations that early officials promoted labor activism induced the governor to appoint Wright as new bureau chief in 1873. A war veteran, patent attorney, and former state senator, Wright‘s inexperience with statistics and labor problems was overcome by his renowned impartiality.[iii] In 1884, Congress created and the President approved a federal Bureau of Labor. President Chester Arthur passed over several candidates for commissioner from various labor organizations, most notably Terence V. Powderly of the Knights of Labor, and selected Wright in January 1885. Reappointed by successive presidents over the next twenty years, Wright built a reputation as a famous social scientist by focusing on factual investigation to create innovative reports on such issues as tariffs, unemployment, strikes, and wages as well as the condition of women, children, blacks, and immigrants. In 1893, he was also made Superintendent of the Census. Late in his career Wright taught at Harvard and was President of Clark College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

President Theodore Roosevelt, facing a major coal strike in Pennsylvania in 1902, appointed a commission to investigate, including Carroll D. Wright as Records, Charles P. Neill as Assistant Recorder. Another member was John Lancaster Spalding, Bishop of Peoria and a founder of Catholic University. Photographs courtesy of Raleigh DeGeer Amyx and Wikicommon.

The second Commissioner of Labor, Charles Patrick Neill, a child of Irish immigrants born in Illinois, graduated from Georgetown University in 1891, earned a doctorate in economics and politics from Johns Hopkins University in 1897, and, as mentioned above, was on the CU faculty, 1896-1905. In 1902, Neill was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to serve as assistant recorder (Wright was recorder) of the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission addressing a major strike in eastern Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter, in 1905, Roosevelt selected Neill to succeed Wright as Commissioner of Labor. President William Howard Taft reappointed him in 1909 and Woodrow Wilson appointed Neill Commissioner of Labor Statistics in 1913 when the Bureau of Labor Statistics was established within the new Department of Labor. Neill provided federal mediation services in railroad labor disputes and his investigation of the meat packing industry, prompted by Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, resulted in a federal inspection law in 1906. In addition, his detailed report on child labor provided a basis for congressional legislation.

Letter from Wright to Neill about his prospects of becoming next commissioner, December 15, 1904. Charles P. Neill Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

After his departure from the Department of Labor later in 1913, Neill specialized as an arbitrator working for the Southeastern Railways, 1915-1939, and the United States Railroad Board of Adjustments, 1919-1921. He also promoted industrial safety and workmen’s compensation laws. His charitable work included serving as a member of the Board of Charities of the District of Columbia, and was Director of the National Catholic School of Social Service, 1921-1922. He had positions of leadership in professional societies like the American Statistical Association and was honored by Notre Dame with the Laetare Medal in 1922. A small collection of Carroll D. Wright’s Papers can be found at Cornell while the Archives at Catholic University houses the Charles P. Neill Papers while records of the U.S. Department of Labor and predecessor Bureau of Labor are at the National Archives. 


[i] Hooker, John J. ‘Seven Decades of Economics,’ The Catholic University of America Bulletin (33: 4), April 1966, pp. 11.

[ii] Annual Report of the Rector of The Catholic University of America, March 1896, p. 35; Year-Book of the Catholic University of America, 1896-1897, pp. 52-53.

[iii] Goodberg, Joseph P. and Moye, William T. The First Hundred Years of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985, p. 7, 11.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


The Archivist’s Nook: CU Classicist James Marshall Campbell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Archivist’s Nook: “Practical Wisdom”-The Origins of the National Catholic School of Social Service at Catholic University

“The need of the Catholic Social worker no one will question. There should be no question of the need of the TRAINED social worker. Social Service is today a PROFESSION.  Motive and intention can inspire—but without KNOWLEDGE they can never achieve.”

National Catholic School of Social Service pamphlet, 1932

In researching the history of the National Catholic School of Social Service at Catholic University (NCSSS), I came across a pamphlet, from which the above quote jumped out at me. The words “trained,” “profession,” and “knowledge” were all capitalized, as if to emphasize that those who performed in the social work field required these elements of preparation in order to practice their work properly. Today, of course, we know this to be true, as do the many students and faculty who form the University’s prestigious school of social service. But in 1932, social work was just coming into its own as a profession.  The earliest settlement houses were founded in New York and Chicago in the late nineteenth century to address the problems of poverty engendered during the Industrial revolution. By 1913, there were hundreds of settlement houses across the United States toward addressing social problems.  But the question of training individuals as professional social workers was still being hashed out. When, Dr. Abraham Flexner claimed in 1915 that social work was not a “profession because it lacked specific application of theoretical knowledge to solving human issues,” the professionalization of social work began in earnest. Catholic University’s NCSSS is an important part of that history of professionalization.

National Catholic School of Social Service pamphlet cover, 1932.

The advent of the U.S. involvement in the First World War in 1917 saw large scale mobilization of a variety of social groups toward addressing wartime problems, Catholics among them. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops organized specifically to address wartime needs of Catholics. They immediately realized that wartime workers—especially women who served to provide services to soldiers and those dislocated by war—needed training to perform effectively both overseas and stateside. The origins of NCSSS lay in the training of women for war and reconstruction efforts both at home and abroad. It would have been simple to train these women on the campus of Catholic University here in Washington, D.C., but the University still did not admit women in 1918, when it was decided by the U.S. Bishops that a training school for wartime social service would be created. So “Clifton” was established through the efforts of Fathers John J. Burke and William Kerby in 1918 in the Georgetown Heights area of Washington, D.C. for this purpose. Run by the National Council of Catholic Women, the school’s first dean/director was Maud Romana Cavanaugh, an ambitious and energetic woman who managed to open the school on November 25, 1918. Cavanaugh served as early faculty, along with Catholic University faculty members, such as Father John Ryan, Father John O’Grady, and Father Kerby, all well-known for adapting Catholic teaching to American social problems. The earliest classes included “Catholic Principles in Social Work,” “Relief of Poverty,” and “Public Health.” Kerby, in particular, worked on creating a body of teaching and thought that wove the emerging theory in social service with Catholic social thought.[1]

Students at White House. Caption: National Catholic School of Social Service students visit the White House, 1922.

It became clear that the school would have to move, as the Clifton lease was running out, and the location was nearly two miles from any transportation line, making travel to and from the house difficult. A second site was found by Father Burke and faculty member Agnes Regan in the Mount Pleasant section of Washington, D.C., and the new National Catholic School of Social Service was established there in 1921. With the move, the brief training sessions at Clifton were replaced with a two year graduate program in social work.  Under the directorship of Anne Nicholson, a curriculum review took place and a standardized course was developed for the school. After NCSSS was admitted to the American Association of Schools of Social Work, enrollment began to rise.[2]

Keep in mind that the students lived at the school. This was by design: faculty believed that the students would develop a deeper sense of community if they resided in the same house. These years were especially festive and sought to be inclusive toward the broader community. At Christmas, for example, the students held a party for dozens of children from local institutions, many from where the students had done their field work. The parties featured and afternoon of games, candy, toys, and a visit from Santa Claus. Groups of students often gathered around the parlor piano and sang. Teas, picnics, and barbecues were common. Guests were almost always present for Sunday evening candle-light suppers, and the school was known for its delicious and nutritious food. The faculty at the time, Agnes Regan, Fathers John Ryan and John Burke, loved to gather and play bridge in the evenings.[3]

Faculty and students of the National Catholic School of Social Service, 1926.  Father William Kerby can be seen standing in center with CUA Rector, Bishop Thomas J. Shahan and Father Thomas V. Moore, Father John Ryan, standing 4th from right, and Agnes Regan, 9th from right.

NCSSS held a formal connection to Catholic University’s graduate school, and students received their degrees from the University, but by the late 1930s, the connection became more explicit. A separate School of Social Service was established at Catholic University in 1934 for priests, religious and lay men.  Laywomen were admitted into the University’s graduate programs in 1930. This resulted in a revamping of the school’s policies that ultimately integrated the administration and degree-awarding structure of NCSSS into the broader University academic policies. While the two programs in social work ran parallel for a number of years, conferring slightly different degrees to its graduates, in 1939 NCSSS merged with Catholic University’s School of Social Service. From that year forward, graduates of the program received the same degrees. Though the two entities remained physically separate for several more years, in 1947, they merged and took the name of the National Catholic School of Social Service.  NCSSS found its new and current physical home in Bishop Shahan Hall, which was dedicated in 1950.

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[1] Loretto Lawler, Full Circle: The Story of the National Catholic School of Social Service (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1951), 17-24.

[2] Lawler, Full Circle, 57-69.

[3] Lawler, Full Circle, 81-89.

The Archivist’s Nook: “We are all Spiritual Semites” – American Catholics Condemn Kristallnacht

The anti-Nazi protest album of November, 1938. The album bore a deep scratch that made it unplayable for many years. After we sent it to a sound engineer, who had the skills and equipment needed to digitize the recording, we found the content remarkable.

November 9-10 of this month marks the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, also known as the “night of broken glass.” The Kristallnacht pogrom against Jews by German Stormtroopers and German civilians took place across Germany in 1938, and is often viewed as the beginning of the Holocaust for its escalation of Jewish social and political persecution into overt physical brutality. More than one thousand synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed, at least 91 Jews were killed, and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. The pogrom was condemned by many around the world, from politicians to representatives of all faiths. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt summoned home the American ambassador to Germany as a sign of U.S. disgust, saying he “could scarcely believe that such things could occur in a twentieth-century civilization.” 

Not all Americans were critical of the Nazis’ activities against Jews. The German American Bund, for example, was a pro-Nazi organization established in the U.S. in 1936. More than 20,000 people attended a pro-Nazi rally organized by Bund leader Fritz Kuhn in February, 1939. Among Catholics, Father Charles Coughlin, the “radio priest,” was an anti-Semitic supporter of Nazi Germany with many millions of followers in the late 1930s. Anti-Judaism was in fact, widespread in the United States at the time.

Generally speaking, American Catholics were not known for coming to the defense of Jews in the U.S. in the 1930s, though the two religious groups could certainly sympathize with each other given that both anti-Catholicism and anti-Jewish sentiment were quite widespread in the U.S. at the time.

In fact, Archives staff were surprised about a decade ago to find a damaged album labeled “Catholic Protest Against the Nazis—November 16, 1938.” The album was badly damaged and the audio could only be retrieved by employing a sound specialist, which we did, in 2007. The recording turned out to be a 27-minute condemnation of the Nazi actions against the Jews during Kristallnacht by several American Catholic bishops, the rector of Catholic University, and a former Democratic presidential candidate. The broadcast took place a week after the pogrom, with both CBS and NBS networks carrying it across the United States, and The New York Times reprinting its text on its front page. Now we know that while Coughlin’s anti-Semitism existed and flourished in the 1930s, there was also another group of Catholics, including several members of the Catholic hierarchy, who found the actions of the Nazis toward the Jews reprehensible and stated it publicly.

Father Maurice Sheehy of Catholic University’s Religious Education Department organized the anti-Nazi broadcast. In his introductory remarks to the broadcast, he noted that “the Catholic loves his Jewish brother, because, as Pope Pius XI has pointed out, we are all spiritual Semites.”

The Broadcast was organized by Father Maurice Sheehy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Education at Catholic University and assistant to the Catholic University rector. Sheehy was an adept organizer who managed the university radio station, possessed many contacts within the church, in the Washington, D.C. community, and in national politics. Sheehy was joined in the broadcast by Archbishop John J. Mitty of San Francisco, California; Bishop John M. Gannon of Erie, Pennsylvania; Bishop Peter L. Ireton of Richmond, Virginia; former Democratic Presidential Candidate and Governor of New York, Alfred E. Smith, and Catholic University Rector, Monsignor Joseph M. Corrigan. The participants were selected to represent both lay Catholics (hence Smith’s inclusion) and clerical leaders’ unified view that the violence unleashed on Jews and Jewish property in Germany was immoral, contrary to Christian teaching and against American ideals of religious and civic freedom. They also compared the treatment of the Jews by the Germans to the persecutions of Catholics in Spain and Mexico.

This letter from Arthur Klopstock to Catholic University Rector Joseph Corrigan expresses appreciation for the broadcast.

Four days later, Father Charles Coughlin, the hugely popular Catholic “radio priest” from Michigan, went on the air to deliver a broadcast titled “Persecution – Jewish and Christian.” Claiming he would add his voice to those protesting the Nazi pogrom against Germany’s Jewish population of several days earlier, Coughlin instead offered a justification of the Nazi persecutions as a natural defense against an alleged Jewish-dominated communist movement. Coughlin also mocked the Catholic University-sponsored address of Archbishop John J. Mitty, referring to him sarcastically as the “Most intellectual Archbishop” and suggesting that the Catholic University broadcast participants cared more about the persecution of Jews than the welfare of Catholics.

The reactions to both broadcasts was substantial and intense, with hundreds of stories appearing in the media on each. The American Catholic History Classroom explores the broadcast, Coughlin’s response, and other documents here.