Posts with the tag: Brookland

The Archivist’s Nook: Keeping Up With The Woodsons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Archivist’s Nook: 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: Giving Brookland the Edit-a-thon It Deserves – Community Building Through Wikipedia

Come edit with us!

Join us at Mullen Library on September 16th for CUA’s first Wikipedia Edit-a-thon! In conjunction with the Know Your Campus guided tour taking place later that evening (which you should totally hang around for), the library will be opening its doors to students and the wider community to usher in the Fall semester, eat some free food (thanks, AGLISS!), get to know one another, and get to know our neighborhood. The subject matter – Brookland, the experts – you!

So what exactly is an edit-a-thon? In short, it’s an event where a group of people get together with the goal of editing Wikipedia content for a specific topic in a short space of time. Subjects can have significant cultural importance (like Asian-Pacific American Artists, or closing the Wikipedia editor gender gap by expanding content related to art and feminism), but we’re starting a little smaller. We want to improve content related to the Brookland neighborhood right here in Washington, DC, and will be adding articles about landmarks and famous residents, copyediting existing pages, inserting links to other Wikipedia pages, and adding and checking citations to ensure that information is reliably sourced. The point is, though, that we all have something unique to contribute. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Giving Brookland the Edit-a-thon It Deserves – Community Building Through Wikipedia”

The Archivist’s Nook: What Do the Semitics Department, the Franco-Prussian War, and this Dashing Cat All Have in Common?

Tommy, loyal friend to Clara Barton and patient model, 1885 (Courtesy: National Park Service)
Tommy, loyal friend to Clara Barton and patient model, 1885 (Courtesy: National Park Service)

Now that I have the undivided attention of the cat-hungry Internet, I will admit that the charming cat pictured is not the subject of this post. Alas! I will instead be introducing you to one of my favorite Brookland figures and the painter of this furry portrait, Antoinette Margot. Margot was an artist, humanitarian, and Brookland fixture in the early twentieth century.

Born in 1843 in Lyons, France, she was raised in a strict Protestant Huguenot household. Her early life was devoted to painting, at which she excelled. (It would continue to be a lifelong hobby, as she created images of family members and saints.) Margot, however, wanted to help people, and with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, she volunteered as a nurse with the then-new International Red Cross. It was in this capacity that she met an American by the name of Clara Barton, the legendary Civil War nurse and future founder of the American Red Cross. Over the course of the next several years, Barton and Margot would forge a close relationship, as they witnessed the horrors of the conflict and became roommates after the war. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: What Do the Semitics Department, the Franco-Prussian War, and this Dashing Cat All Have in Common?”