As indispensable and central to Catholic University as Caldwell Hall, the School of Theology and Religious Studies has been an inseparable part of the identity of the University from its first days. But what makes up a good Theology School? The only way to ensure the proper cultivation of our future scholars and clergy is to provide them with the most distinguished professors.
The Johannes Quasten Medal for Excellence in Scholarship and Leadership in Religious Studies is awarded to those who dedicate their lives to the study of religion and who demonstrate unparalleled leadership within their respective fields, both within Catholic University and in the wider theological world, It is only fitting to explore the life of the man behind the award to fully understand the impact that he has had both on the School and the study of Christianity.
Johannes Quasten was born on May 3rd, 1900 in Homberg-Niederrhein, Germany. After his years in primary school, Monsignor Quasten attended the University of Muenster where he earned his Doctorate in Christian Archaeology in 1927. Only the year before, in 1926, Msgr. Quasten was ordained a priest, thus beginning his scholarly and priestly journey all at once. Ever the jet-setter, in 1929 Father Quasten trekked to Rome to study at the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology. It was this further specialization that allowed him to go on research digs and participate in projects in Italy, North Africa, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland, and Croatia.
It was during an archaeological dig in North Africa that Msgr. Quasten was approached about joining the faculty of The Catholic University of America. In 1938, our intrepid globe-trotting priest joined the Catholic Cardinal family! A tough but fair professor, Msgr. Quasten wrote prolifically about his specialty — early Christian history, liturgy, and patristics. He churned out book reviews, articles, and papers, but none compared to his magnum opus Patrology. Showcasing his expert knowledge and years spent in the field, this three-volume mammoth outlines the writings and contributions of the Early Church Fathers.
Msgr. Quasten served as the Dean of the School of Sacred Theology from November 1945 until 1949. He was also awarded a Cardinal Spellman Medal in 1960 and was granted a Doctor of Humane Letters in 1976 from The Catholic University of America. It was this same year, 1976, that he was promoted to “Monsignor” with approval from Pope Paul VI. He later returned to his native Germany where he died on March 18th, 1987.
Msgr. Quasten’s adventures took him all around the world, but his legacy is very much alive here at The Catholic University of America. He has made his mark by teaching countless academics and clergy, but the most tangible result of that legacy is the Johannes Quasten Medal which is given out each year. First established in 1985, the Medal is “the only academic award given by The Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies” (trs.cua.edu). On January 27th of this year, the School held the annual ceremony, granting the Medal to Dr. Mark Smith of the Princeton Theological Seminary.
If you’ve been in the campus library this semester, you may have noticed that many of the museum pieces on display were quietly christened in recent weeks.
But since a four-by-six inch exhibit label can only accommodate so much information, the following is meant to give you a glimpse of the proverbial iceberg—of which each little white rectangle is only the tip.
ONE: JOHN LANCASTER SPALDING
John Lancaster Spalding (1840-1916) was one of the masterminds behind The Catholic University of America. A strong advocate of parochial schools, he played a decisive role in securing funds for the establishment of a national Catholic university in the United States—persuading the twenty-one-year-old heiress Mary Gwendolen Caldwell (1863-1909) to pledge $300,000 to the cause.
The bust of Spalding once gleamed in the niche where the smaller, darker bust of John K. Mullen has since been installed (apparently against the wishes of Spalding’s donor). Describing his intentions for the donation, Spalding’s nephew specifically requested on July 4th, 1935 that the University “place the bust in the niche in the library, there to remain.”
The prominent placement of the bust was important to the proud people of Peoria, where Spalding was appointed first bishop in 1876. Concerned that “[m]any priests have at different times and places commented on the fact that there is no memorial to him [Spalding] to be found in any of the main buildings of the University,” Spalding’s nephew—the Rev. Martin J. Spalding (1891-1960) of Chillicothe, Illinois—pulled some strings. Waiting around for the fireworks to start, he hatched the following plan in the same July 4th letter:
I have a brother, Mr. John L. Spalding, of Chicago, who for over thirty years has been connected with the Daprato Statuary Co. of Chicago, New York, Montreal, and Pietrasanta, Italy. With him I took up the matter of the cost of a life-size bust. […] Upon his death, my Most Reverend Uncle willed to Spalding Council, Knights of Columbus, in Peoria, the bust of himself and of which I know that he approved. The bust […] would be an exact copy of the one in the Knights of Columbus Hall in Peoria and made of Bianco P. Carrara marble. […] [It] would be made in Italy from a cast taken in Peoria.
Thanks to Sister Lea Stefancova (at the Archives and Museums of the Diocese of Peoria), we’ve established that the Spalding Council bust (from which CUA’s bust was copied) was executed by the Italian-born sculptor Leopold Bracony in 1900.
P.S. The Spaldings were fond of family names. The donor’s brother (with the Daprato Statuary connection) seems to have been named after John Lancaster Spalding. Meanwhile, the donor, Martin J. Spalding, was presumably named after his uncle’s uncle: Archbishop of Baltimore Martin J. Spalding (1810-1872), who in 1834 became the first American to earn a doctorate in theology.
TWO: JOHN K. MULLEN OF DENVER
The white whale of my exhibit label project, the bronze likeness of the library’s namesake—John K. Mullen of Denver (1847-1929)—has proven to be a paradoxical alloy of the obvious and the obscure.
First, a little insight into my process. As I set about drafting each exhibit label, my first stop was always our internal museum collection database. In the case of the Mullen bust, though, the data fields for the donor, maker, date of gift, and date of execution had all been left blank. My next stop was the hard file—the physical folder with paper records, shelved in the climate-controlled closed stacks of Aquinas Hall. Oftentimes, the hard file will yield details (usually in the form of newspaper clippings or correspondence) which may not have been germane to the catalog record, but which nevertheless lend perspective. Not so with Mullen. Ironically, the hard file contained only the print-out of the electronic database record (with the same four blank fields) and some photographs of the bust in its current location.
So I went back to the source. Upon closer inspection of the bust—with flashlights—my colleague and I found that the underside of Mullen’s right shoulder bears the following inscription:
Fisher Leys 8/29/27
What seemed like a breakthrough, however, petered into a dead end—or a mostly dead end. Thanks to local historian Robert Malesky, we have a new lead on the sculptor; we have reason to believe she was a woman by the name of Eleanora Fisher Leys. According to Malesky, Leys also sculpted a bronze bust of Herbert Hoover around 1928. Census records—listing her occupation as “sculptress”—indicate that Mrs. Eleanora Leys (née Fisher) was born around 1905, which means she would have only been about 22 years old when she was working on the busts of Mullen and Hoover. She died in 1995, according to the Social Security Death Index.
Although we might assume the acquisition of the bust coincided with the construction of the new library (between 1925 and 1928)—especially since the date inscribed on the bust falls within that time frame—I haven’t found any records to support that assumption. Yet.
With the Dante bust, we have the exact inverse of the predicament with the John K. Mullen bust; in this case, the donor and the date of the gift are well-documented, but clues as to the maker and the date of execution are mired in a series of coincidences.
According to the April 2, 1930 issue of CUA’s student newspaper, The Tower, the same Italian club gave away a bust of Dante the year before; that bust was presented to Director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra Maestro Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) on March 25, 1930, during Georgetown University’s Founders Day celebration. The Tower article continues:
Following the reception, the members of the Il Circolo, through their Secretary, Mr. John Del Vecchio, presented to Signor Toscanini a beautiful Italian marble bust of Dante, executed by the prominent Florentine sculptor, Carlo Romanelli.
This coincidence has led some at CUA to speculate that our bust of Dante was also sculpted by Carlo Romanelli. Some online sources indicate that Carlo Alfred Romanelli (1872-1947) was the son of Italian sculptor Raffaello Romanelli (1856-1928); he studied with his father and with Augusto Rivalta at the Royal Academy of Art. According to the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS), Raffaello Romanelli sculpted the bust of Dante on Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan.
Today, Il Circolo Italiano survives through its “daughter organization,” The Italian Cultural Society of Washington, D.C. (ICS). In an April 2007 issue of the ICS’s paper, Poche Parole, then-president Mr. Luigi De Luca mentions the “gift of a beautiful bust of Dante Alighieri.” He says, “Thanks to that gift, Dante keeps me company during my studies of Ancient Greek on the third floor of the John Mullen of Denver Library.”
Robert Lincoln O’Connell (1888-1972), a World War I Connecticut army engineer of Irish-Catholic heritage, was the subject of two of my previous blog posts. They explored his letters home to family while training for the military in Washington in 1917, and his active service on the western Front in France in 1918. The third and concluding post of this trilogy looks at his experiences in the U.S Army’s brief postwar occupation of the Rhineland, as well as victory parades in New York and Washington in 1919. As with previous letters, they are written by “Rob” primarily to his mother and his sisters, Ellen and Sarah, who lived in their hometown of Southington, Connecticut. O’Connell’s archival papers, which have also been digitized, are housed in the Special Collections of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
O’Connell served in the U. S. Army of Occupation in postwar Germany. His First Engineer Regiment was part of the First Infantry Division (later immortalized in the Second World War as ‘The Big Red One’). They crossed the Moselle River into Germany on December 1, 1918, and arrived at Coblenz, along the Rhine River, on December 12. During the occupation, which lasted until August 15, 1919, the engineers constructed shelters, improved sanitation, built pontoon bridges, and repaired roads. With ample recreation time, O’Connell engaged in hiking and sightseeing tours where he collected many colorful postcards. In one letter home he wrote(1):
“It took about an hour to reach the river near Coblenz” and “the place was crowded with 2nd Division men, mostly Marines, it seemed, and one of them threw a snowball into our truck. As we were jammed in and had no top, that ball couldn’t miss and we could only yell back, which started a barrage of snowballs…. I got one on the ear and we all had snow down our necks. I didn’t care much for the game because the mud made the ball slippery– and the 1st Division team needed a lot of practice. The score was 6 to 0 in favor of the second team.”
Unlike the aftermath of World War II, the U.S occupation of German territory in 1919 was short lived. O’Connell returned stateside with main elements of the First Infantry Division at Brest on August 18, and arrived at Camp Mills, New York, on August 30. He took part in victory parades in both New York City on September 10 and in Washington on September 17. The final (undated) letter in the collection, addressed to his sister Ellen from Camp Leach, part of the campus of American University in Washington, was probably written a few days after the parade in New York (2):
“This is a camp of 8-man tents on frames and they had been dumped on the floor…We got there at 10:30 and never was there such a disgusted bunch. About four o’clock some ice cream was brought around and the cook managed to get supper at 8:15…Now we are getting plenty of good eats and passes into town 7 c carfare and the K of Cs especially are doing all they can, lots of cigarettes, matches, hand kerchiefs, sightseeing trips around the city in busses and free beds. The papers and the posters rave about the famous or glorious First Division and the recruiting officers are making the most of it.”
The campus of American University was also the base of the Army’s Chemical Warfare Unit, which also had a sub-unit at nearby Catholic University. These facilities developed deadly chemical munitions, especially Lewisite Gas. This weapon of mass destruction was invented by C.U. student-priest Julius Nieuwland, though it was not ready in time for use during World War I. However, O’Connell’s visit to Washington had nothing to do with poison gas. It was his final military march. The soldiers paraded to great ovation from the Capitol along Pennsylvania Avenue. Marching past the White House, they were reviewed by the Vice President and members of the Cabinet, who were representing President Woodrow Wilson, while he was away canvassing the country on a doomed mission to sell ratification of the Versailles Peace Treaty. From Washington, the men were shipped to Camp Meade, Maryland, where many were demobilized. O’Connell went on to Camp Devens, Massachusetts, where he was mustered out on September 27, 1919.
After the war, O’Connell briefly returned to Southington, where he worked as a machinist in a bottling mill. He eventually settled in New York City where he married and worked in an auto garage. His story is quintessentially American, yet represents a slice of Catholic Americana depicting the struggles of soldiers and their families during war-time. In comparing O’Connell’s letters with those of soldiers from other wars, certain universal themes emerge, such as longing for home and excitement for new places. There are also references to music, movies, and opinions on race and gender that are very specific to place and time. War is essentially a young man’s game, but O’Connell, who turned thirty during the conflict, was relatively older. His account shows a maturity that is often absent in the surviving letters that were written by younger soldiers.
“When Father Dutilly returned from the Arctic last year, he brought a polar bear skin with him, which, I understand, was to have gone to you.”
-John Murphy to Rev. Joseph M. Corrigan, Catholic University Rector, 1940
In 1940, an office on the fourth floor of McMahon – room 405 to be specific – became known as the “Igloo” in official University correspondence. It is in this space that the Arctic Institute of the Catholic University of America operated. Fittingly this site was a hive of activity in the winter months, with scholars cataloging botanical, geological, and anthropological specimens collected from the Arctic Circle. But come the summertime, its faculty would disperse to the North, hitching rides on canoes, seaplanes, and icebreaker ships in search of new Arctic plant life and soil samples.
Beginning in 1895, Catholic University became a center for botanical research. In that year, the Langlois Herbarium was donated to the University by the estate of August Barthelemy Langlois. This collection consisted of over 20,00 specimens. This massive collection served as foundation for the Herbarium, with additional deposits occurring through the 1930s. One such scholar who donated to the collection was Danish Arctic explorer and botanist, Herman Theodor Holm. One of the earliest laypeople to earn a doctorate at Catholic, Holm would teach briefly at the University and donate some of his own library to the campus upon his death in 1932. Based on the strength of its collections, Fr. Artheme Dutilly (1896-1973) would join Catholic University in 1937 as a research associate in the Department of Biology.
Born in Quebec in 1896, Fr. Dutilly (1896-1973) was an Oblate Missionary priest and celebrated botanist with a particular interest in Arctic flora. In 1933, at the behest of Pope Pius XI, he was appointed Naturalist of the Oblate Arctic Missionaries. Dutilly would spend his summers traveling within the Arctic Circle, collecting soil, plant, and anthropological specimens to be prepared and sent to the Lateran Museums in Rome. He accompanied Oblate missionaries working in the Arctic, hitching rides on their motor ship M. F. Therese and, later, their seaplane, the Santa Maria. In both cases, Dutilly was not merely a collector of samples. He was also a radio operator, plane mechanic, and fighter of bears.
In one harrowing event, a polar bear overtook Dutilly’s boat with the priest fending it off. He also served as the mechanic during many of his flights, from soldering broken pieces to spending two days in the wilderness rigging a failing engine to continue on with his fieldwork. (Despite working, the plane still needed to stop every two hours to replenish its leaking oil supply!)
Even after relocating to Washington, Dutilly did not change his fieldwork operations and instead brought along several other Catholic University faculty and students with him. Scholars such as Fr. Hugh T. O’Neill and Fr. Maximillian Duman, OSB, were also prominent figures in the history of the Arctic Institute and accomplished researchers. During the summer, they would be off to various points in the Arctic. (It was reported that in 1941 Dutilly traveled over 15,000 miles across the Canadian Arctic!) And in the winter, he would return to Washington to inventory the materials for shipment to the Lateran Museums, as well as keeping some in DC at the Smithsonian and Catholic University.
With the formal founding of the Arctic Institute in 1940, the “Igloo” contained more than 50,000 mounted Arctic plants, over 900 volumes on Arctic vegetation, and numerous samples of soil, fossils, rocks, and minerals. Dutilly even worked with the Inuit populations to collect philological texts on indigenous languages. It was the single largest collection of Arctic material in the Americas…well outside the Arctic that is!
In 1947, the Department of Defense began to provide additional funding for Dutilly’s research, with an added emphasis on Alaska and Greenland. The expressed purpose of this research grant was to explore ways to study the soil and plant life of the Arctic to better understand how to develop agriculture in this otherwise inhospitable zone.
Dutilly remained a faculty member of the Biology and Geography departments until 1967. He served as the Director of the Arctic Institute (1939), Curator of the Department of Biology Herbarium (1947), and as a Lecturer in the Department of Geography (1947). Not long after his departure, the Arctic Institute melted away. The collections of the Institute and Herbarium were donated to other institutions in 1985-1986.
While we have yet to find the “polar bear skin” Dutilly allegedly sent to the University’s rector, the Archives does maintain examples of Dutilly’s anthropological materials, as well as the papers of Herman Theodor Holm: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/holm.cfm
The Knights of Malta were among the earliest military or chivalric orders, founded as the Knights Hospitallers in Jerusalem in the 11th century to care for and protect pilgrims in the Christian Holy Land. After the fall of the Crusader States in 1291, the Knights were in Cyprus, then on the Isle of Rhodes, which they stubbornly defended until ejected by the Turks in 1522. Strategically located near Sicily, the island of Malta was given in 1530 to the Knights by Holy Roman EmperorCharles V. They were based there until driven out by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798. The British expelled the French and ruled Malta until granting independence in 1964. The Knights were fragmented after the French expulsion with a complicated constitutional history. Centered in Rome in the twenty-first century they are widely recognized as a sovereign entity in international law, maintaining diplomatic relations with over 100 countries and with a permanent observer mission at the United Nations. The Order has over 13,000 members and employs over 40,000 medical personnel assisted by over 80,000 volunteers worldwide, regardless of distinction, to assist sick, homeless, and otherwise distressed persons.
Foster W. Stearns (1881-1956) was a native of Massachusetts and graduate of Amherst College, Harvard University, and Boston College. He was a librarian at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and State Librarian for Massachusetts prior to military service in World War I. Thereafter, he worked for the U.S. State Department until 1924 when he returned to librarianship at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts. He served as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1939-1944, was also a Privy Chamberlain of Sword and Cape to Pope Pius XI, and a Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. His collection, donated to Catholic University in 1955, covers over 800 years of history from the founding of the Order in Jerusalem in the 12th century, containing two hundred eighty one items described in a 1955 catalog by Rev. Oliver Kapsner, O.S.B. Materials include Order statues and early papal privileges, member lists, chronologies, and histories of the Order as well as of Rhodes and Malta. As an addendum to the Stearns Collection, Catholic University added nearly one hundred additional items, such as maps and periodicals, via gift and purchase.
The Carol Saliba Family Collection was gifted to CUA in 1999 by Dr. N. Alex Saliba of Louisville, Kentucky, a retired physician born in Malta. He inherited this collection of letters and documents from his father, Carol, a longtime Commander of the St. John Ambulance Brigade of Malta (an English branch of the Order). The Saliba Collection consists of one hundred forty two manuscripts, including autograph letters and documents, both originals and copies, primarily from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. The material has a focus on the Order’s internal affairs as well as their involvement in European politics, especially the Napoleonic era when they lost Malta and were unable to elect a Grand Master. Included are Maltese stamps and coins, memorabilia of Carol’s service in the Ambulance Brigade, and a seventeenth century water color of the flag and coat of arms of the Order.
Most of the Foster Stearns collection is cataloged and both collections were the focus of the 2015-2016 collaborative digitization project with the Malta Study Center at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Access to original Malta and Order materials at The Catholic University of America is by appointment only, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on CUA Rare Books in general please see the earlier blog post by my colleague, Shane MacDonald.
 Officially the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (Latin: Supremus Militaris Ordo Hospitalarius Sancti Ioannis Hierosolymitani Rhodiensis et Melitensis), commonly known as the Order of Malta.
 Oliver L. Kapsner, O.S.B. A Catalog of the Foster Streans Collection on the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Called, of Malta. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Library, 1955.
 In this case, meaning original, handwritten documents.
This week’s post is guest-authored by Ronnie Georgieff, a graduate student in Library and Information Science at Catholic University.
Reverend John Talbot Smith LL.D. may have had a common name, but this Irish-American priest was anything but. He was a large, broad, solid figure. Over six feet tall, he was a “woodsman in a cassock,” some even calling him “the human icicle.” He is described as “utterly lacking in softness, never employed a caressing tone or phrase, and his impersonal Catholic viewpoint never relaxed or slackened or compromised.” Despite his intimidating figure, Smith was a practical joker, had a rather playful side to him, and a classic wit that could not be mistaken.
Smith was born in Saratoga, N.Y. on September 22, 1855 and was educated in the schools of the Christian Brothers in Albany, N.Y. and studied divinity at St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Canada. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 17, 1881. He was pastor of St. Patrick’s in Watertown, N.Y., pastor of Rouse’s Point, chaplain to the Christian Brothers at De La Salle Institute, chaplain of the Sisters of Mercy as well as pastor of Dobbs Ferry. Within the last year of his life, his health began to fail and on September 24, 1923, he passed away at the age of 68.
Outside of his priestly duties, Smith enjoyed the outdoors, which often inspired his writing. In his youth, the physicians had discovered in Smith a marked tendency of tuberculosis and prescribed a life in the pine woods and sleeping in a tent. So he became a missionary in the Adirondack region where he was well known by the woodsmen and lumberjacks. Soon after, he established The Boys Camp in Cliff Haven in 1898 as an adjunct to The Catholic Summer School of America. The Boys Camp was one of the first recreation camps for youth, which was greatly supported and highly revered by all who attended. Smith was also the president and trustee of the The Catholic Summer School of America for a number of years.
The outdoors, particularly the Boys Camp in Cliff Haven, in addition to the Catholic faith, Irish-Americans, social concerns especially in labor relations, housing and the theater, were big influences for his writing. He published many works, most notably “A Woman of Culture,” “Solitary Island,” “Saranac,” His Honor the Mayor,” “The Art of Disappearing,” which was reprinted under the title, “The Man Who Vanished” as well as “The Boy Who Came Back,” The Black Cardinal” and “The Boy Who Looked Ahead.” He also published articles in a number of prominent journals and newspapers such as the Dublin Review, the Catholic World, the Ave Maria, the Columbiad, and the Catholic Review of New York. He also succeeded Patrick Valentine Hickey, the editor and founder of the Catholic Review of New York, for 3-4 years. In addition, he was the founder and chaplain of the Catholic Writers Guild of America in 1919. His written works also include two volumes of sermons, short stories, histories, lectures for on literature at Notre Dame University, Indiana and plays.
Smith had quite a passion for theater, and unfortunately, lived during a time where there was tensions between the theater and the Catholic Church. He wrote columns on the theater in the Catholic Review of New York which sparked the beginning of the change of attitude in America towards the stage from Puritan to Catholic. He was also very important in the organization of The Catholic Actors Guild of America which would be very important to the Catholic community. It was dedicated to taking care of the religious need of individuals involved with the theater, and was in accord with Catholic discipline and morality.
This semester, we said goodbye to Dr. Timothy Meagher, University Archivist and Curator of the American Catholic History Collection at The Catholic University of America. In addition to his service as University Archivist, Meagher was Associate Professor with the Catholic University History Department, where he regularly taught Irish-American and immigration history. Though we will miss him at the Archives, we know he will be happily plugging away at his magnum opus in his “retirement”: a comprehensive history of Irish America.
Provenance is a word archivists love. It refers to the origin of a collection of archival materials, yes, but embedded in those origins is identity. For this reason, archivists use provenance as an organizing principle for their records and collections. In other words, we try to maintain and organize materials as faithfully as we can to the intention of the original creator and/or organizer of the collection, in order to preserve the integrity and identity of the collection itself.
Meagher’s own origins are manifest in his career. Certainly, his own Irish and Catholic ancestry inspired his study of Irish America. But he also occupied a unique position as both an academic historian and a public one. While completing his Ph.D. in history at Brown University in the early 1980s, he taught history in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. But after four years, that job ended and he found himself unemployed. “There were no historian jobs,” he says of the time. So he improvised. There was a position as Assistant Archivist at the Archdiocese of Boston Archives. “Jim O’Toole was there, a historian himself getting a Ph.D. from Boston College.” The two formed a lasting friendship, with O’Toole becoming a prominent scholar of both archival practice and American Catholicism and who in fact, has served on our archives’ advisory board since its inception in 2002. For Meagher’s part, he saw that there were potentially multiple uses for the skills of a historian.
In the late 1980s, Meagher made his way from Boston to Washington, D.C., where he had years earlier graduated with his Bachelor’s in History from Georgetown University. His interest in public history was now heightened by both his work in archives and a concurrent rejuvenation in the museum field, especially in the area of exhibition and public programming. He speaks fondly of his work with the National Endowment for the Humanities, where he served as Program Officer until accepting his post at Catholic University. The NEH required those who worked in public history institutions to work directly with relevant scholars in the academy, “we had historians and museum people coming in and evaluating the quality of the exhibits we funded—there were some great conversations.”
Having spent seven years making humanities scholarship accessible to broader audiences, Meagher decided it was time to move on. He was particularly interested in the museum collection at the University Archives when he began working here in 1997. From the start, his primary mission was using the archival materials in our collections to teach history to a variety of audiences. “There was a move within the Catholic Church at that point to save material culture.” At the time, few in the field of Catholic archives knew much about preserving sacred objects, so Meagher organized the Saving Sacred Things conference in 1999 to address the matter.
Drawing from his experiences working with professionals in a range of cultural institutions, Meagher expanded the Archives’ outreach and educational programming dramatically. “I was aware that there were other places doing public outreach in archives. I knew people at NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] and other places who put together educational packets using their archival materials.” So he worked with staff and teachers to put together packets related to a variety of aspects of Catholic history for Catholic high school students with materials from our archive. These formed the basis of the now fully digital American Catholic History Classroom an online education site featuring hundreds of digital documents, photos, and teaching resources. “We were trying to teach young people how historians solve historical problems. To look at source material and figure out what happened. We tried to do it with this material related specifically to Catholic life. No one else was doing it on a broad basis. A whole dimension of American life, we wanted to fill it with good history. Our collections lend themselves to understanding national Catholic history.”
Today, the Archives’ outreach and educational programming is thriving. Thank you, Professor Meagher!
“Library Too Heavy! Will Sink in 10,000 Years!” exclaimed a tongue-in-cheek Tower article from 1927, calling on all students to help relocate the library building to a more stable location. The Library the article was referring to was the John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library, then under construction. With its marble and limestone edifice and ability to hold one million volumes, the students were perhaps only half-joking when they stated that it may sink! For Catholic University students of the time were used to a far more humble library.
For nearly a century, Mullen Library has been a hub of campus life, so it may be hard to imagine a time when it was not a fixture on the campus. While the Library as an institution – and not just its current building – has existed since the day the University welcomed its first students, it has not always possessed such a beautiful home all to itself.
First located in the basement of Caldwell Hall (then called Divinity Hall), the Library started life humbly. But as the University expanded, so did the need of its students and faculty for books. It quickly outgrew its Caldwell offices and relocated to the ground floor of McMahon Hall in 1908. But even with this move, the Library was finding itself continuing to encounter issues with space. By the early 1920s, the University Librarian Joseph Schneider was storing excess books in the basement of the gym. Fortunately, a new chapter in the Library’s history was about to begin.
In 1921, the founder of the Colorado Milling and Elevator Company, John K. Mullen, provided a donation of $500,000 to construct a new home for the Library. A committee was organized in 1924 to select the designs for the building, with construction beginning in 1925. The building itself would open during the fall of 1928.
The construction of this new central library fit in with the fourth rector Thomas J. Shahan’s vision for Catholic University. Known as the “Builder Rector,” under Shahan’s tenure (1909-1928), the University experienced an explosion of construction, including Graduate Hall (now O’Connell), Maloney Hall, Salve Regina, the gymnasium (today’s Crough Hall), and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Murphy & Olmsted Architects was selected to design the new library Frederick Vernon Murphy – the “Murphy” in the firm’s title – was the first professor of Catholic University’s Department of Architecture. Starting at Catholic in 1911, Murphy would become the unofficial “University Architect” in helping make Shahan’s vision a reality. He had lent his expertise to the design of all the buildings mentioned above, save the Shrine!
The new Library building would be constructed of Kentucky limestone and Massachusetts granite, with concrete work performed the prolific John J. Earley. The Library’s cornerstone was laid on April 22, 1925. The ceremony included introductory remarks by Shahan, Patrick Cardinal Hayes, and Rev. Dr. Peter Guilday. Emphasizing Shahan’s monumental vision for the campus – and the new library’s role in it – Guilday drew attention to the symbolic alignment of the library with the National Shrine, then also under construction:
“The sun going down to rest in the evening casts across the greensward of our campus a last ray of splendor that falls athwart two buildings…At one end of this golden axis is the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception now being raised to the glory of the Blessed Mother of God by her loving children of the United States, and at the other, this enduring monument.”
While originally planned with wings for the stacks, funding issues necessitated the building be opened in 1928 with only the front and central portions and the basement levels complete. The additional wings were not completed until 1958, three decades after the library first opened its doors. Interestingly, this project was part of a second wave of construction blossoming on campus, including McGivney, Pangborn, McCort-Ward, and additions to Caldwell and Curley Halls.
It is best we bookend this post with the original 1927 Tower article. While Mullen Library would not open for another year, the students were already playfully reflecting on its promise of alleviating the space and storage issues of the long-standing library facilities. While an elaborate parody piece, it showed that the students wished to see this palace to knowledge survive for 10,000 years, even if it meant they had to carry it across campus to more secure spot!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
[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.