Reproducing Independence Day

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

Vicksburg, Mississippi’s most famous Independence Day, July 4, 1863, marked the surrender of its Confederate forces to Union Major General U. S. Grant during the American Civil War. After a 47-day siege of the city, which sat atop a high bluff on the Mississippi River, Grant accepted a negotiated truce from Vicksburg’s Confederate Lt. General John C. Pemberton on July 3. He surrendered the next day. This victory marked a turning point in the war. The Confederacy lost control of the Mississippi River as well as access between the eastern Confederacy and the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy of Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana. At nearly the same moment, Union forces defeated Confederates at Gettysburg, a loss for Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia that decisively checked Confederate encroachment northward.

1863-07-02-VicksburgMS_Daily Citizen_a

1863-07-02-VicksburgMS_Daily Citizen_bJ.M. Swords, publisher of the Vicksburg Daily Citizen, fled the city but left the July 2, 1863 edition partially finished on his press. Occupying Union soldiers completed it with an addendum dated July 4. Paper supplies in the besieged city, however, were long depleted so they printed the newspaper on what they had—wallpaper. Swords had earlier resorted to the same measure, creating so-called “wall-paper editions” on June 16, 18, 20, 27, 30, and July 2.

The last line of the July 4 note proved correct: the paper became a valuable curiosity. More than 30 reproductions have been identified, including this one. The Library of Congress holds two originals and two reproductions and offers guidance on identifying copies. Although of little monetary value, reproductions nevertheless are significant historical documents. They surfaced very soon after the war, probably as souvenirs at soldiers’ reunions.

Although many copies of its famous Fourth of July newspaper exist, after its defeat and surrender the city of Vicksburg did not officially celebrate Independence Day until 1945.


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Spotlight Exhibit: The Catholic Pamphlet Collection

June 2016

SM-rbsc-june-spotlight-2016The Catholic Pamphlets Collection in RBSC includes more than 5000 pamphlets, published from the 1840s to the present. This extensive collection includes pamphlets on saints and sacraments, daily Catholic life, moral issues, and Catholic social thought and action—as highlighted by the thirteen pamphlets featured in this exhibit.

On display for just one more week (through June 24), this month’s spotlight exhibit is curated by Jean McManus, Catholic Studies Librarian, and is open to the public 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday.

“Vestigia Vaticana” Exhibit Opens

Frag_I_39-1r-cropped-v2Manuscripts, incunabula, seals, maps, engravings, and printed books from the thirteenth century to the present highlight how the Holy Father has left his mark on society. These materials from RBSC, together with a great bull on loan from Saint Mary’s College, are featured in the new exhibit “Vestigia Vaticana.” The exhibit’s opening coincides with the conference The Promise of the Vatican Library, being held May 8–10, 2016, at the University of Notre Dame.

These materials are like the Vatican’s footprints. They provide a trail for us to follow to get a glimpse of the official acts of the Holy Father, of books that belonged to popes, of events the general public wasn’t privy to. Take a stroll through the exhibit to see these papal bulls, apostolic briefs, a papal conclave print, a ground plan of Rome, and various other pieces.

“Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion” Exhibit Opens

This year marks the centenary of the Easter Rising, the rebellion that led to the eventual establishment of an Irish Free State. The University of Notre Dame’s Keough-Naughton Institute is at the forefront of the impetus to re-examine the events of 1916, with Professor Bríona Nic Dhiarmada’s three-part documentary, 1916 The Irish Rebellion which will be shown on public television in Ireland, the U.S. and at screenings throughout the world.

Notre Dame will also be the center of Irish studies for five days this spring as host to ACIS (the American Conference for Irish Studies). Over a thousand visitors are expected at this conference.


In Hesburgh Libraries Rare Books and Special Collections, a special exhibit to mark this centenary is on display from February 12th until April 28th.

The exhibit draws from the Hesburgh Special Collections and includes books written by people involved in the events as well as contemporary accounts of the rebellion. Letters on display include one from Roger Casement. An extremely rare first edition of W. B. Yeats’s poem Easter, 1916 is part of the exhibit.

From the University Archives, a book recording the subscriptions of South Bend residents to an Irish government bond will be on display.

The exhibit is open to the public from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.

Leap Day

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII reformed the Julian calendar in order to bring the date for celebrating Easter closer in line with the date the early Church had celebrated it. He removed 10 days, skipping from October 4 to October 15, 1582, established February 29 as the official day to be added during a leap year, revised how leap years were determined, and also set January 1 as the first day of the year.

Although most Catholic countries adopted these reforms after they were enacted in 1582 by the papal bull Inter gravissimas, Protestant and Orthodox countries resisted. England and her colonies did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until almost two centuries later as this excerpt from the 1752 edition of Poor Richard Improved, an almanac published by Benjamin Franklin, explains.



Thanksgiving and football

by George Rugg, Curator, Americana

Thanksgiving Day was instrumental to the growth of American football. A season-ending game between the previous year’s top two college teams was first scheduled for Thanksgiving in 1876. In 1880 the contest was moved to New York, where it evolved from game to social event, inaugurating the city’s winter season.


By the time the 124-page “memento program” shown here was published, in 1893, the Thanksgiving game was attracting 40,000 people and earning the participating schools (in this case, Yale and Princeton) upwards of $10,000. It was also providing ample fodder for the dozens of New York dailies, whose exhaustive coverage brought college football to broad new constituencies. Many faculty and trustees had misgivings about all this attention, about the loss of old Thanksgiving traditions, and about students’ postgame celebrations in the city; these factors and others led to the abandonment of New York after 1897.

Football-shaped programs were published with some frequency in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the case of this 1893 Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving program, the rectos of each leaf contain athletic and school information of various kinds, while the versos contain decidedly upscale advertisements.


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