Posts with the tag: Egypt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Archivist’s Nook: Numismatic Teaching Tool – Catholic University’s Coin Collection

H197-1: Justin I – Gold – Tremissis; (Wt.) 1.21, (Mod.) 14; (Ob. Type) Bust, facing, wearing helmet with plume and diadem; (Ob. Legend) DNIVSTINVSPPAVC; (R. type) Victory walking, looking r.; (R. legend) VICTORIAAVCVSTORVM in ex. CONOB, 518-527 A.D. Byzantine. Research by CUA Greek and Latin Class in 2013.

The Catholic University of America (CUA) coin collection, part of the museum administered by the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, contains nearly seventeen hundred numismatic pieces, primarily from ancient Greece, the Roman republic and empire, and Byzantium, as well as medieval and modern specimens, including coins from Western Europe, Persia, and China. A Roman poet once said: “Quidquid praecipies, esto brevis” (whatever you want to teach, be brief),¹ so let us begin.

From the late nineteenth century to as late as 1938, there were more than twenty donations, some 1682 coins. With the exception of the Nablus series, the collection was acquired entirely by gift. One of the earliest donations came from Claudio Jannet (1844-1894), a professor of Economics at Paris who also wrote about American political and economic institutions. He was known to be an admirer of the United States and probably interested in the establishment of CUA, hence the CUA Bulletin 1894 description of him as one of the University’s best friends who had donated a large collection of Greek and Roman coins. This donation of 806 coins represents the largest donation of the entire collection. Another early addition to the collection was 72 coins from Professor Henri Hyvernat and Msgr. Paul Muller-Simonis after their trip to India, 1888-1889. Hyvernat traveled extensively throughout the world and donated hundreds of eclectic items to the university museum from five continents.

1058-1: Caesar – silver – denarius; (Wt.) 3.91, (Mod.) 20, (Die axis) 12; (Ob. type) Pontifical emblems: culullus, aspergillum, axe, and apex; (Ob legend) BLANK (R. type) Elephant r., trampling dragon; (R. legend) CAESAR (in exergue); (Mint) Moving with Caesar, 49-48 B.C. Late Republic, military issue. Research by CUA Greek and Latin class, 2010.

The Nablus Collection, numbering 178 coins, came to the university in 1927 from the Samaritan Community of Nablus, Palestine, then under British administration. Due to its unique nature as a coin hoard discovered during an archaeological dig, Rev. Romain Butin, curator of the Museum and a professor of Semitics, had to obtain written permission from the Governor of Palestine, and the Department of Antiquities, Jerusalem, to export the collection to CUA. There were also several other donations between 1916 and 1938.  In 1975, CUA archivist George Hruneni created a preliminary inventory of the coins. In 1977, New York coin dealer Alex Malloy examined the collection, stating the overall quality was not superb, but with many good pieces it would be a valuable teaching aid.  In 1987 a numismatist named John D. Mac Isaac reported that the Roman Imperial material was the overall strength of the collection, illustrating Roman art, economics, and political propaganda for the period 100 B.C. to 450 A.D. He also noted several coins he believed to be Greek forgeries and the presence of over 300 virtually illegible coins. The following year, Stephen Koob, an art conservator at the Smithsonian Institution, recommended improving the storage conditions of the coins. He also believed the collection would be a useful educational tool, providing tangible artifacts for the classroom, and, for some of the more valuable coins in good condition, as items displayed in exhibitions.

1058-669: Ptolemy I – Bronze piece; Head of Alexander the Great with horn of Ammon, wearing diadem, elephant’s skin and aegis. (r) Eagle with wings closed stdg. On thunderbolt with head turned (left). Egypt, 305-285 B.C. George Hruneni. Preliminary Inventory to the Coin Collections of The Catholic University of America, 1975, p. 46. Also, special thanks to Douglas Mudd of the Money Museum.

In 1991, volunteer students began transferring the coins from acidic envelopes and boxes to polyethylene sleeves housed in a series of binders to facilitate better storage and access. A student of Greek and Latin, Daniel Gordon, wrote a number of important notes on accompanying cards to individual coins in the collection. The coins are housed in the binders, usually ten (10) pages each in a covering box. Roman Empire coins dated 27 B.C. to 284 A.D., the accession of Diocletian, are listed as ‘early empire,’ those dated A.D. 284 to 476, the fall of the empire in the west, are designated ‘late empire.’ The first series contains the 806 coins donated by Jannet, collection number 1058, ca. 600 B.C.-1878 A.D., in binders 1-4. These are primarily Roman coins, but with a nice selection of Greek, Byzantine, Carthaginian as well as a few from Carolingian France. The second series has 31 coins donated by Grindell, collection number 2474, in binder 5. These are primarily Roman and Byzantine Coins, with one from Carthage. The third series has 115 coins donated by Pierre Court, collection number 2945, also in binder 5. These are primarily Roman coins. The fourth series, binder 6, has coins donated by Schrantz. The fifth series, binder 7, has coins donated by Ignatius Lissner. The sixth series, binder 8, has coins of poor quality from Luigi Gassi, designation no. 5281, consisting of 148 Roman, Greek, and Byzantine coins plus a no. 5282 Arabic coin. The seventh series, binder 9, has coins of the Nablus Collection. The eighth series, binder 10, has coins donated by Henri Hyvernat. The ninth and final series, binder 11, has miscellaneous coins donated by several sources.

1058-786: Louis the Pious – Christiana religio; Obverse Legend: +HLVDOVVICUS IMP, cross; Reverse Legend: +XPISTIANA RELIGIO, temple, 822/823-840 A.D. Carolingian France. Research in 2011 by CUA Professor Jennifer Davis, special thanks to Dr. Elina Screen, Fitzwilliam Museum, The University of Cambridge, and Dr. Simon Coupland, The University of Oxford.

In the past decade, Professor William Klingshirn of Greek and Latin has organized several classes of students for the purposes of examining specific categories of coins; learning how to properly weigh, identify and catalogue them; and consulting reference tools to compile new databases of portions of the coin collection for a more accurate inventory.² For more information on access, please contact lib-archives@cua.edu.


¹Horace (65-8 B.C.), Ars Poetica, 333.

²See the article by one of the CUA students: Lionel Yaceczko. “The Riddle of the Nablus Collection: An Unusual Hoard of Fourth-Century Roman Bronze Folles,” Studies in Late Antiquity 1.2 (2017), 173-203.