A few years back our blog featured covers for New Year’s editions from the digital version of our Young Catholic Messenger collection. It was a premier title from Catholic publisher, George Pflaum, located in Dayton, Ohio, between the years 1885 to 1970. In the nineteenth century, Protestant Americans were not very welcoming to the millions of newly arriving Catholics. By the 1880s, these immigrants created a network of parish and parochial schools which taught their own religion and culture. Catholic schooling naturally necessitated having a Catholic educational publishing system. Pflaum, being a pioneer publisher in this field, produced the Young Catholic Messenger, the Junior Catholic Messenger, Our Little Messenger, and, following later the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book, from 1946 to 1970.
In celebration of Christmas, please see highlights and select examples of YCM Christmas covers culled from several key decades during its existence. The first, created in 1891, featured both a poem and an engraving. Philadelphian author, Eleanor C. Donnelly (1838-1917), was a well-known Catholic writer of her time and created the poem ‘The Babe of Bethlehem.’ Known as ‘The Poet of the Pure Soul,’ she was quite prolific, having over thirty books and pamphlets, and hundreds of poems to her name. She also edited a magazine called Our Lady of Good Counsel, as well as The Catholic Standard and Times, the weekly Philadelphia diocesan newspaper. A collection of her works is held by Villanova University. The engraving, by O. Weimar, depicts sleeping children exhausted from playing with their presents while protected by angels.
The second cover, published in 1909, is in much the same vein as that of the one nearly twenty years earlier, consisting of both a poem and a painting. This poem, titled ‘Happy Christmas’ is relatively unknown. The painting is a work created by William Dobson (1817-1898), the English painter known for his religious scenes. Not only was he associated with the Royal Academy and the Royal Watercolour Society, he also spent time on artistic pursuits in Germany, France, and Italy. The third cover, created in 1935, presents ‘The Carol of a Star,’ by Alice C. Clark, and is illustrated with a ring of various related scenes from the first Christmas, while the fourth and final cover, dated from 1965, reflects the turmoil that existed during the 1960s. The theme pertains to the Biblical question that asks if there is room at the end for weary travelers. This contemporary rendition connects the cover art with a short story about the plight of refugees arriving from totalitarian communist regimes like Cuba and Vietnam.
Special Collections at Catholic University is currently seeking The Young Catholic Messenger volumes 1-6, 1885-1890; volumes 8-24, 1892-1908; volumes 26-28, 1910-1912; and volumes 32-40, 1915-1925. We would be pleased to receive either individual issues or full volumes as a donation, loans for scanning, or links to copies that were scanned elsewhere. We would be happy to discuss fees required. For more information, please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional Christmas blog posts, please see ‘A Merry Treasure Chest Christmas to All,’ ‘A Very Merry Christmas from Fathers Hartke and Magner,’ and ‘The American Christmas Songbook’ series by Thad Garrett. Best wishes for a COVID free Christmas and 2021!