“Never, never was such a jam as there was today in the Capitol…”

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James Monroe Meek wrote to his wife, Elizabeth, that the presidential inauguration was a “terrible jam”. In his letter of March 4th, 1869, he describes the pageantry of the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant as President of the United States, and of Schuyler Colfax as Vice President.

… I saw the great peageant of the inauguration today and it was worth the trip. There was in the Senate all the celebrities of the Nation. President Grant, Vice President Colfax, the Supreme Court with Chief Justice Chase and associate Justices, and Senators, the diplomatic core, with their court dresses. You would have been more pleased with the dresses of the Diplomatic members than any thing else. They looked rather fine among our plain dressed people. The gold lace and Stars of honor, plumes epauletts and Stripes dimonds and almost every ornament made quite an imposing and elegant appearance. There was ease grace and brilliancy about it.

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Today’s reader is reminded that there was no sound system for President Grant’s inauguration. Meek tells his wife about the great crowd assembled to hear Grant’s inaugural address. “Not more than twenty persons heard it. He read it as he had it written. It is very good but quite short.”

Meek, however, goes on to tell his wife that he was “so near jammed to death to day at the inauguration that I am tired of Jams” and does not plan to attend the Ball despite having been invited by one Colonel Temple. “Never, never was such a jam as there was today at the Capital during the inauguration.”

Sure enough, his letter of the following day confirms that he kept his resolve not to attend the ball.

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I did not go to the Inauguration Ball. I found it was a humbug, and worse than a humbug. One was in danger of being Suffocated. Several women were carried out fainting from Suffocation. Col Temple and daughter went and the Col told me the only way he could get out was by declaring that his daughter was fainting and by that Means he succeded in getting out. Indeed I expect his daughter was very near fainting.

One gentleman told me he had given ten dollars to get in and five to get out. The men lost hats and over coats the ladies bonnetts, furs shalls and came away without them. The men tying their handkerchiefs around their heads, and the women doing the best they could. The night was very cold. It is said the managers of the Ball made about… twenty thousand dollars. I saw no one that went but what was mad and felt they were swindled.

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The letters are part of the extensive Civil War Collection held by Notre Dame’s Rare Books & Special Collections. James Monroe Meek (b. 1821) had served in the Tennessee State Legislature before and during the Civil War, and was captured and jailed several times by Confederate supporters during the conflict on account of his staunch Union support.

The Meek Family Correspondence has been fully digitized, as have many other letters, diaries, and other documents of the American Civil War held by Special Collections. These materials may be examined online via our finding aids in ArchivesSpace or our Manuscripts of the American Civil War digital collection.

Daily Purchases for a Famine Soup Kitchen

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Ireland’s Great Famine began in 1845 when the potato crop, the main food of much of the population, was destroyed by a potato blight. This blight recurred in the following years, leading to the deaths of over a million people. With the emigration of up to another million people, Ireland lost almost a quarter of its population.

Among the vast range of books and other materials our library has to help us study the Famine, there are a couple of rare or unique items. Such items give insight into various aspects of people and communities. One such item is the notebook shown here, the accounts of a soup kitchen, one of the many set up to give relief during the Famine.

This is the daybook, or notebook, listing all the receipts and expenditures for Drumbo Soup Kitchen from December 1846 to March 1848, accompanied by a sheet of tickets for Drumbo Soup Kitchen (MSE/IR 0100). Of the various places of that name, this is most likely Drumbo, County Down. This has not yet been verified. It was acquired by the Library in 2012.

The expenditure gives us an idea of the ingredients. In January 1st, 1846, purchases included cayenne pepper, black pepper, split peas, whole peas, barley,  beef, cow’s head and carrots.

The 32-page notebook includes the names and amounts of cash subscriptions, and the notebook bears the treasurer’s name — “Dr. James Orr, Treasurer to the Drumbo Soup Kitchen.”

Along with the notebook is a sheet of printed tickets with the following text: “Drumbo: Soup Kitchen: One Ration. Paid, One Penny.”

archivespace.library.nd.edu/repositories/3/resources/2026

Recent Acquisition: A Leaf from the Bohun Family Bible

by David T. Gura, Curator, Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts

This leaf comes from an enormous Bible (447 x 278 mm) produced as a four-volume set in England ca. 1350. A narrower localization to the region of East Anglia is possible. Decoration and chiefly the illuminated miniatures forge a connection to the ‘Bohun group’ of manuscripts, which includes Psalters, Books of Hours, and other books owned by the Bohun family. The Bohuns were the earls of Hereford and their estates in East Anglia were tied to the royal court, so much that their final heiress, Mary, was the wife of Henry IV and mother of Henry V. This particular Bible in its entirety was perhaps commissioned by Edward III’s eldest son, the so-called ‘Black Prince’ (1330-1376).

The earliest provenance of the Bible is to the West in Cheshire, perhaps the Carmelite house in Chester. This Carmelite connection is reinforced by a historiated initial in the Bible which depicts a Carmelite friar. Likewise, the Carmelite house in Chester was endowed by none other than the Black Prince himself in 1353-1358. The manuscript circulated amongst a number of seventeenth century owners as a large number of leaves was already missing by 1678. Beginning in 1927, biblioclasty prevailed over the manuscript’s centuries of resilience. The Bohuns’ Bible was dismembered on Bond Street, London at the hands of Myers & Company and leaves were sold individually.

The story of this illustrious manuscript is the result of Christopher de Hamel’s research. He alone deduced the Bible’s provenance and identified hundreds of extant leaves scattered throughout the world from Chicago to Tokyo to New Zealand.

Bibliography

Christopher de Hamel, ‘The Bohun Bible Leaves,’ Script & Print 32:1 (2008): 49-63.

Lucy Freeman Sandler, Gothic Manuscripts 1285-1385, 2 vols. London, 1986.

Lucy Freeman Sandler, Illuminators and Patrons in Fourteenth-Century England: The Psalter and Hours of Humphrey de Bohun and the Manuscripts of the Bohun Family. Toronto, 2014.

Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, and Archival Collections

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

In honor of Juneteenth (the June 19th celebration of freedom from slavery) and Black Lives Matter (BLM), RBSC highlights several collections about African American life in the United States over the last century. We also reflect on how social and cultural changes—some of them the result of protest movements like BLM—have reformed and are reforming collecting and practices in special collections libraries and archives.

One important collection is the National Ideal Benefit Society records, an African American cooperative and fraternal organization that spanned more than 50 years during the early to mid-twentieth century. Another is a late 1920s ledger book for the Birmingham Black Barons, an elite Negro League professional baseball team, that recorded the team’s financial transactions with players. The collections provide sources about the economic and working lives of African Americans and the unequal labor and social contexts of twentieth-century America.

National Ideal Benefit Society advertisement, 1913.
National Ideal Benefit Society advertisement, 1913.

Advertisement for a concert by the National Ideal Benefit Society's choir, 1914.
Advertisement for a concert by the National Ideal Benefit Society’s choir, 1914.

The National Ideal Benefit Society was an African American insurance cooperative whose benefits supported people through illness, offered cultural events, and provided death benefits for survivors to assist with burial costs. The society was established in 1912 in Richmond, Virginia, by Alexander Watson Holmes (1861-1935). The collection holds correspondence from policy holders, official society publications and records, and letters to Holmes from individuals and institutions.

Convention program for the National Ideal Benefit Society, 1916, with portrait of A. W. Holmes.
Convention program for the National Ideal Benefit Society, 1916, with portrait of A. W. Holmes.

The Birmingham, Alabama, Black Barons were a professional baseball team during the sport’s long period of segregation. The ledger book records the club’s financial transactions with players over five seasons (1926-1930). The accounts include credits (monthly salaries) and debits (cash advances, equipment charges, fines, extra meals, taxi fare, phone calls, and so on). Satchel Paige was one of many notable players on the team.

These collections underscore the shift in collecting that has occurred over the last 40 years in special collections libraries.

Special collections such as ours, and archives also, collect unique and rare manuscripts and books to preserve our society’s cultural record. Until the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States that cultural record largely consisted of the records of elite, white men, mostly from the Northeast with ancestors who came from the British Isles. A number of changes in American society led to a major shift away from this cultural identity in archives and special collections libraries.

Social reform movements that culminated in the 1960s and 1970s—for the rights and full participation of African Americans, women, Native Americans, Latinx, LGBTQ, and others in American life—fueled demands for archival collections that more accurately reflected and included the diversity of American society.

At the same time the rise of social history demanded new sources. Focused on writing the history of ordinary people and changes that came from the many rather than the few (history from the bottom up), social historians relied on documents of everyday life as well as social movements—letters, diaries, ledger books, and scrapbooks of the non-famous, as well as ephemeral printed materials like posters, broadsides, menus, annual reports, and programs.

More recently, archivists and special collections librarians have, as a profession, begun seriously to grapple with questions of power in archives: who is represented and who is left out in our collections? Are collecting decisions made independently, or under institutional or donor guidelines? How are people of color and non-elites and their accomplishments described in catalogs and finding aids? Is the archive open to community members, or are there professional or membership requirements to use the collections? Do staff working in the archive represent the diversity of the collections and their users? As we honor Juneteenth and confront Black Lives Matter’s challenge to truly achieve the promises of American freedom and democracy, these questions become even more sharply relevant.

For reading on Black Lives Matter, see Lauren Michele Jackson’s “What is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?” and the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Black Liberation Reading List.

For archives and power, see the American Library Association’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Section’s Statement on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Randall C. Jimerson, “Archives for All: Professional Responsibility and Social Justice,” The American Archivist, Vol. 70 no. 2 (Fall – Winter 2007): 252-281.

Congratulations to the 2020 graduates!

All of us in Rare Books and Special Collections send our best wishes to all of the 2020 graduates of the University of Notre Dame.

We would particularly like to congratulate the following students who have worked in the department:

Eve Wolynes (ND ’20), Ph.D., Department of History. Her dissertation is titled Migrant Mentalities: Reconstructing the Community Identity and World of Venetian Merchants in the Late Medieval Mediterranean.

Hannah Benchik (SMC ’20), Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College, with a minor in German from Notre Dame.

Jessica Saeli (ND ’20), Bachelor’s, double major in Philosophy and Russian.

Both images: MSE/EM 110-1B, Diploma, University of Padua, 1690

Women’s History Month 2020

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history by celebrating Women’s History Month.

Mary Taussig Hall and Social Reform

by Arielle Petrovich, Outreach & Instruction Librarian and Librarian-in-Residence and Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator of North Americana

In commemoration of Women’s History Month, RBSC highlights Mary Taussig Hall (1911-2015). Hall was a social worker, and an activist for child welfare, civil rights, and peace, from St. Louis, Missouri. Her career spanned most of the twentieth century and shaped social services policy in Missouri and the nation. As a lifelong advocate for peace, Hall’s reach extended internationally: as a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the United Nations Association in St. Louis.

Arielle Petrovich (Hesburgh Library’s Instruction & Outreach Archivist and Librarian-in-Residence) created a Special Collections spotlight exhibition on Hall for Women’s History Month. Because of the Coronavirus that exhibit is currently closed, so we share highlights and photographs from the show here:

    • Women’s Peace Party, St. Louis, secretary’s minutes, 1915-1916

In 1915, Progressive social reformer Jane Addams co-founded the Woman’s Peace Party (WPP), a pacifist organization established in response to the First World War. Florence Gottschalk Taussig, Mary Taussig’s mother, a political activist and a close friend of Addams, chaired the St. Louis chapter of the WPP. Local meetings centered on planning of educational speaking engagements and membership recruitment. (Mary Taussig Hall Papers, MSN/MN 0511, Box 7, Folder 200)

    • Jane Addams letter to Mary Taussig, 10 May 1933

After graduating from Bryn Mawr College in 1933, Mary Taussig was invited by Jane Addams to work as her private secretary and to volunteer at Hull House in Chicago. Addams had established Hull House to support recently-arrived immigrants to the city. Eventually it offered childcare for working mothers, job training, and other services. Mary eventually returned to St. Louis for a graduate degree in social work at Washington University, where she took up the cause of child labor reform among lead miners in Missouri. (MSN/MN 0511, Box 5, Folder 132)

    • FDR telegram to Florence and Mary Taussig, 1936

President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent this holiday telegram to Mary Taussig and her mother to thank them for their support during his reelection campaign that fall. As part of the affluent elite in St. Louis, Taussig and her mother’s social peers generally did not support FDR’s New Deal economic reforms or vote Democratic. Roosevelt applauded both women for maintaining their party loyalty. (MSN/MN 0511, Box 6, Folder 185)

    • The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom pamphlets, 1950s and undated

After World War One the Women’s Peace Party became the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Florence Gottschalk Taussig served on its national board and Mary Taussig Hall eventually chaired a joint committee to commemorate the centennial of Jane Addams’ birth in 1960. After World War Two the WILPF’s work broadened to include world disarmament, racial integration, civil rights, and international peace. (“Billions of Dollars…for What?” Pamphlet, c. 1955; “Integration” Pamphlet, c. 1958; and “The ABC’s of Civil Rights” Pamphlet, undated — all from MSN/MN 0511, Box 7, Folder 210)

MSN/MN 0511-29

The Mary Taussig Hall Papers also document Taussig Hall’s commitments to peace and disarmament in her personal correspondence. In a July 1933 letter to her parents, while she was working at Hull House, Taussig exclaimed, “I want so badly to follow in your footsteps Mum—and really play an important part in the W.I.L. [Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom]. I’m going to work at the Peace booth out at the Fair [1933 Chicago World’s Fair] too—won’t that be fun?”

Typescript letter, not transcribed.
MSN/MN 0511-121

Nearly thirty years later Taussig Hall received a personal note in a letter from Guy W. Solt, a staff member at the American Friends Services Committee in Philadelphia. On 29 June 1960 he wrote, “War is obsolete. But beyond the abandoning of war there remains the far more magnificent achievement of creating a strong spiritual bond between the peoples of the earth, and especially between the white and the colored peoples. Surely it is God’s plan that we live as one people. . . . I close with this quotation from above the door of a Catholic church in Boston: ‘Send forth thy spirit, and it shall be created, and thou shalt remake the face of the earth.’”

Taussig Hall remained active in peace and civil rights work in St. Louis through the early 2000s. RBSC holds a portion of her papers. The Missouri Historical Society holds most of her papers in the Mary T. Hall Papers, 1888-2003.

Recent Acquisition: an Italian Renaissance history of the persecution of Christians, with letters on a wide range of additional subjects

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries is pleased to announce that we have acquired the second edition of Boniifazio Simonetta’s De Christiane Fidei et Romanorum Pontificum Persecutionibus Opus, printed in Basel by Nicolaus Kessler, December 1509. This fascinating work is really encyclopedic in scope; the basic narrative deals with the history of the persecution of Christians, but also includes 179 letters by the author to a wide circle of his contemporaries, including such renowned figures of the Italian Renaissance as Lorenzo de Medici, Ludovico Sforza, Pico della Mirandola, and Pope Innocent VIII. This correspondence, interspersed throughout the text, treats a wide range of disparate subjects, including classical history, mythology, music, geography, botany, agriculture, medicine, physics, astronomy, and astrology. This second edition also includes a dedicatory preface by Jerome Emser, a prominent German theologian and Catholic opponent of Luther.

We have identified only other seven other North American holdings of this edition.

Sample page showing notation.

Front cover, showing binding in manuscript waste over vellum.

Back cover.

Upcoming Events: November and early December

Please join us for the following public events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm | Professor Ege. With the Knife. In the Library. Solving the Murder of 200 Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Twentieth-Century America” by Scott Gwara (University of South Carolina).

This lecture is co-sponsored by Rare Books & Special Collections and the Medieval Institute

Monday, November 18 at 4:30pm | Finnegans Wake: On Infinite Translation’. The event will include a roundtable on the issues of translatability and reading as a modality of “infinite translation,” featuring Enrico Terrinoni (Professor at the Università per Stranieri di Perugia and Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies).

This event is sponsored by the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the Center for Italian Studies.

Thursday, November 21 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – ” ‘In arts it is repose to life: è filo teso per siti strani.’ The Role of Anglophone Culture in Primo Levi and His Times” by Valentina Geri (Ph.D. Candidate, Notre Dame).

The Italian Research Seminar is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

 

The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Touchdowns & Technology: The Evolution of the Media and Notre Dame Football (September – December 2019) and Knute Rockne All American (October – November 2019). Both spotlight exhibits feature materials from the University Archives.

RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break
(November 28 – December 1) and will resume regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm) on Monday, December 2, 2019.

Announcing: The Florence & Richard C. McBrien and Richard C. McBrien, Jr. Special Collections Lecture Series

Rare Books & Special Collections pleased to announce a new lecture series, The Florence & Richard C. McBrien and Richard C. McBrien, Jr. Special Collections Lecture Series, beginning this fall. All events are open to the public and admission is free.

Please join us for our inaugural lecture of the series on Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm in Special Collections, featuring Scott Gwara, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina. Gwara will deliver a lecture entitled “Professor Ege. With the Knife. In the Library. Solving the Murder of 200 Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Twentieth-Century America”.

This lecture is co-sponsored with the Medieval Institute.

 

Scott Gwara is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina, where he is completing his 25th year of service. At South Carolina, Scott regularly teaches graduate Old English and Beowulf, and undergraduate courses as diverse as King Arthur, Shakespeare, the 21st-Century British bestseller, American Apocalyptic fiction, and medieval manuscripts. He is the author of six books and 50 refereed articles. He is perhaps best known for Otto Ege’s Manuscripts, which he calls a “bio-bibliography” on the Cleveland rare book dealer who established the North American market for framed pages of early manuscripts.

Professor Gwara is currently completing a history of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in North America from the beginnings to ca. 1875. Over the past decade he has established a teaching collection of early manuscripts at his university, and his efforts were recognized in October by a “Fresh Voices in the Humanities” award from the Humanities Council of South Carolina. As part of his effort to publicize the South Carolina collection, and manuscript culture more broadly, he has been filming a series of 20 podcasts for release in 2020.

Upcoming Events: October and early November

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, October 3 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “Reading the Medieval Mediterranean: Navigation, Maps, and Literary Geographies. Questions, Approaches, and Methods” by Roberta Morosini (Wake Forest).

The Italian Research Seminar is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm | Professor Ege. With the Knife. In the Library. Solving the Murder of 200 Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Twentieth-Century America” by Scott Gwara (University of South Carolina).

This lecture is co-sponsored by Rare Books & Special Collections and the Medieval Institute

 

The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Touchdowns & Technology: The Evolution of the Media and Notre Dame Football (September – December 2019) and Knute Rockne All American (October – November 2019). Both spotlight exhibits feature materials from the University Archives.

RBSC is open regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm)
during Notre Dame’s Fall Break (October 19 – 27)