Posts with the tag: Washington

The Archivist’s Nook: From the Rhineland to Washington-Soldier’s Homecoming, 1919

A useful publication for soldiers on occupation duty in Germany: Burger Sprachfuhrer: Burgers Help for The Englishman The American to Learn How to Speak German Without a Teacher, n.d., O’Connell Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University of America.

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.”

First Engineers, Army of Occupation, Wirges, Germany, 7/19/1919, O’Connell Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University of America.

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.”

Letter to Ellen O’Connell from Camp Leach, September 1919, O’Connell Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University of America.

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.

Washington, D.C., 1919. First Division, American Expeditionary Forces. Miscellaneous view of parade. Harris & Ewing glass negative, Shorpy.com

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.

(1) Letter to Sarah O’Connell, February 8, 1919.

(2) Letter to Ellen O’Connell, ca. September 1919

(3) Thanks to TK and MM.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Two Emperors and a Baby: The Strange Journey of the Iturbide-Kearney Papers

Our tale begins with the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. Our key figure is that of Agustín de Iturbide, who reigned as the emperor of Mexico from 1822 to early 1823, following the ten-year period of warfare and instability that culminated in Mexican independence. Iturbide, who advocated breaking away from Spain, also embraced monarchy and strong ties to the Catholic Church. Initially popular and a successful unifier of diverse groups favoring independence, Iturbide I was forced to abdicate in March 1823 as a result of corruption and opposition to monarchism within the government and the general population. He left for Europe with his family, but was executed in 1824 after returning to Mexico in answer to requests from his supporters to free the country from Spanish forces remaining in Veracruz and a possible reinvasion. Iturbide’s overthrow and the abolition of the empire did not prevent his supporters from viewing his family as an imperial one.

Flag of the First Mexican Empire, 1822-23. Agustin Iturbide I designed the flag of the first Mexican Empire in 1821, the colors of which are still used today, while the coat of arms has changed over time. The three colors of red, white, and green originally represented the three guarantees of the Plan of Iguala, the act declaring Mexican independence from Spain: Freedom, Religion, and Union. In the place of the Spanish emblem for Mexico, the first Iturbide resurrected the Tenochtitlan symbol for Mexico City, an eagle perched on a cactus holding a snake in its beak. With it, he hoped to link the upcoming Mexican Empire with the old Aztec version.
Plan de Iguala, 1822, also known as the Plan of the Three Guarantees, was Mexico’s final stage in its war for independence from Spain. The Plan was crafted by Agustín de Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero. The Archives holds many documents related to the Iturbide family and the Mexican War for Independence, including an original copy of the Plan de Iguala. A digital copy of the Plan in its entirety can be found here.

Agustín de Iturbide y Green was the son of Emperor Agustin’s second son, Ángel María de Iturbide y Huarte (1816 –1872), who met his mother, Alice Green, while serving as an attaché of the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. Green (1836–1892) was the daughter of Captain John Nathaniel Green, granddaughter of U.S. Congressman and Revolutionary War Colonel Uriah Forrest, and great-granddaughter of George Plater, the sixth Governor of Maryland.

Born in 1863, Agustín de Iturbide y Green was Ángel and Alice’s only child, which bestowed significance on the boy, at least in the eyes of Maximilian I, the European Habsburg-descended emperor of the Second Mexican Empire installed by France’s Napoleon III in 1864. But Maximilian’s power was unstable from the beginning, with his regime requiring continuous French military support amid repudiation among the local Mexican population. In an effort to curry favor with the Mexicans, he compelled Ángel and Alice Iturbide to cede their two-year-old son Agustín as a future heir, believing that having a child of imperial Mexican lineage as an heir would increase his legitimacy.

An undated photo of Agustín de Iturbide y Green, image taken by a student at Georgetown University.

Timing is everything, as they say—the U.S. was so preoccupied with its Civil War that it barely reacted to the French invasion of its southern neighbor, at least initially. France withdrew the forces propping up Maximilian in 1866 partly because the post-Civil War U.S. beqan asserting the terms of the Monroe Doctrine, and partly for its own reasons, with the forces of Mexico’s Benito Juarez eventually overthrowing the European emperor. Maximilian was arrested and executed in June of 1867.

But what of young Agustín de Iturbide y Green? Perhaps you are wondering about how Ángel and Alice managed to hand over their only son to an emperor installed by the French? Well, first, they were certainly convinced that their son, the grandson of the first emperor of independent Mexico, was part of a new imperial lineage based on European practices of succession. Failing one of Agustin I’s own children succeeding him as emperor (imperial Mexican forces lacked the military power to back up such a claim, while Napoleon III put French troops behind Maximilian), perhaps they saw it as the best option at the time—setting their son up as a future emperor. We do not know their exact thinking for sure. They did receive a pension for handing over the child. However, Alice quickly became distraught by the absence of her son, and went about trying to get him back. She and Ángel were exiled after her pleas for the return of her son fell on deaf ears in Maximilian’s court. They eventually came back to the U.S., where Alice appealed to Secretary of State William Seward, who told her that he could do nothing, as she had signed adoption papers, but nonetheless worked diplomatic channels to arrange a visit in Europe between Alice and Maximilian’s wife, Empress Carlota (Charlotte of Belgium) to return her child. Carlota, too, rejected Alice’s entreaties.

When it was clear to Maximilian that he was doomed, he sent the then four-year-old Agustín to Havana, Cuba, to be reunited with his parents. They returned to Washington, D.C., where Ángel and Alice worked at the Mexican embassy. After his Father died in 1872, Alice raised Agustín, who eventually became a professor of languages at Georgetown University. Two years after Alice died in 1892, Agustín married a British woman, Lucy Eleanor Jackson, though the marriage did not last.

Louise Kearney Iturbide, 1915, photograph taken by Agustín at the time of his marriage to Louise.

As an adult, Agustín lived near the family of Louise Kearney, a D.C.-born daughter of the Brigadier General James Kearney. When he began showing interest in Louise over her sister, Estelle, the latter did everything she could to keep the two apart. Louise writes in her account of their meeting, “there is no trouble like family trouble, and nothing more incurable than the mental disease of jealousy,” the sisters “were too closely united to be pulled apart without pain.”[1] Despite her family’s disapproval, Louise and Agustín married on July 5, 1915. They remained married until his death in 1925 from tuberculosis. Louise would live until 1967.

As for how the papers ended up at the Archives: Louise Kearney loved to travel. Msgr. James Magner, who performed many roles on campus and left the Archives a substantial museum collection and left the Archives a substantial museum collection, often took groups around the world to see a variety of holy sites. Louise accompanied one such group to Europe in 1950 and became friends with Magner. Louise donated the Kearney-Iturbide collection to the Archives via the Magner collection.

Please see the Finding Aid to the Iturbide-Kearney Papers.

For more on Louise Kearney’s family, see our post on her great grandfather, Alexander Louis Joncherez.

[1] “Autobiography,” Iturbide-Kearney Family Papers, American Catholic History Research center and University Archives, see digitized copy of Louise Kearney’s account.

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: 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: T.V. Powderly – Labor’s ‘American Idol’

Group portrait of leaders of the Knights of Labor, with Powderly prominent. T.V. Powderly Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).

January 22 is the birthday of Terence Vincent Powderly (1849-1924), a man not widely remembered in the twenty-first century, but a national celebrity, an ‘American Idol’ if you will, in the tumultuous era of the late nineteenth century. Born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, to Irish-Catholic immigrants, Powderly was a reform minded Mayor of Scranton (1878-1884), head of the national Knights of Labor union (1879-1893), and federal bureaucrat (1897-1924).  He was also a supporter of Irish nationalism, serving in Clan na Gael, a secret Irish independence society, and the Irish Land League, a political organization supporting tenant farmers.

Labor friends and celebrities in old age: T.V. Powderly, Nineteenth-Century ‘American Idol’ with ‘Mother’ Mary Harris Jones, ‘The Miner’s Angel.’ Washington, D.C., 1909. T.V. Powderly Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).

A railroad worker, Powderly joined the Scranton Local Assembly of the Knights of Labor in 1876, assuming the national leadership as Grand (later General) Master Workman, 1879-1893. The Knights came into national prominence during his tenure, in part due to his rousing public oratory, peaking in national membership and influence in 1886. At this point, Powderly was so popular there were babies named for him. However, failures in several labor disputes and a divisive power struggle saw the Knights rapidly decline and Powderly removed by a cabal involving John William Hayes, whose papers are also at CUA. Perhaps Powderly’s greatest achievement, greatly aided by Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore, was to bring about reconciliation between the labor movement and the Roman Catholic Church that distrusted and disapproved of labor organizations due to their secretive and ritualistic activities.

Immigrants, both detailed aliens and regular employees, working in an Ellis Island kitchen, Dec. 18, 1901. T.V. Powderly Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).

Campaigning for the Republicans in the 1896 presidential campaign, Powderly was rewarded by President William McKinley with appointment as Commissioner General of Immigration. Powderly’s efforts to reform conditions at Ellis Island prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to dismiss him in 1902, though he was reinstated in 1906 as a Special Immigration Inspector.  Powderly next served as Chief of the Division of Information, U.S. Bureau of Immigration, 1907-1921, and as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Commissioner of Conciliation, 1921-1924. He was also author of Thirty Years a/Labor (1889) and his posthumous memoirs, The Path I Trod (1940). In 1999 was honored as an inductee into the U.S. Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor, joining figures such as rival Samuel Gompers and friend Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: T.V. Powderly – Labor’s ‘American Idol’”