World War I Memorial Door

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1924, University President Rev. Matthew Walsh dedicated the World War I Memorial at Notre Dame before saying a military field mass in front of it.  The memorial is an addition to the east transept of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart designed by Notre Dame architects Francis Kervick and Vincent Fagan.  The professors also designed Cushing Hall of Engineering, Howard Hall, Lyons Hall, Morrissey Hall, and South Dining Hall.

GNDL 28/29: Basilica of the Sacred Heart – Vincent Fagan artists' rendering of the World War I Memorial Door, c1923.
Vincent Fagan artist’s rendering of the World War I Memorial addition to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1923.

The cry for a memorial for Notre Dame’s contributions to the Great War began shortly after armistice in 1919.  The memorial initially was going to have inscribe all 2500 Notre Dame active students, alumni, and faculty members who served.  In that number were two future University Presidents who served as chaplains during WWI – Rev. Matthew Walsh and Rev. Charles O’Donnell.  In the end, the tablets only list the names of the 56 who sacrificed their lives in the war.

GHOP 1/08: Basilica of the Sacred Heart exterior World War I Memorial Door before the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel, c1930s-1944. The statues were placed in 1944.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart exterior World War I Memorial door before the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel, c1930s-1944.  The statues were placed in their nitches through the campus statue project in 1944.

The Notre Dame Service Club worked diligently to raise funds for the memorial through dances, Glee Club concerts, and general petitions in Scholastic.  Notre Dame formed a post of Veterans of Foreign Wars in January 1922, which then took up the efforts.  The VFW disbanded in 1923, as there would be few veteran students left on campus to keep the post going.  They had hoped to have the memorial complete by the end of their run, but it would still be another year before it would be finished.

A moulded Gothic arch in deep reveal frames a pair of oak doors with twisting iron hinges. Each door contains a tiny opening with a list of stained glass, one carrying the emblem of the Tudor Rose and the other a Poppy.  (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

In January 1923, a special committee of Notre Dame’s VFW post approved Vincent Fagan’s design for the memorial to be a new side-entrance to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the idea favored by University President Walsh (see sketch above).  Scholastic noted that “[t]he design is beautiful and appropriate and will add charm to the campus as well as ‘hold the mind to moments of regret'” (Scholastic, March 24, 1923, page 677).

These [sic] is a splay on the outside of the doors and in the masonry of the arch to carry the names of the soldier dead.  The stone lintel above the door bears the inscription:  “In Glory Everlasting!”  Over the lintel is a carved panel with two strong eagles supporting a shield bearing the university seal and it is surmounted by the Chi and Rho of Christ’s monogram:  The eagles carry in their claws a ribbon which reads “God, Country, Notre Dame.” (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)
In the splayed sides about waist high are two projecting corbels on each side [the military figures].  Every Memorial Day these corbels will support the altar table for the military Field Mass offered up for the repose of the souls of those whose names are inscribed above.  Flanking the deepness of the door itself two buttresses rise, shaping themselves into niches with tracery toward the cap.  Over half way up they break back, leaving a supporting ledge for a statue of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael, one on each buttress.  From these ledges there are raised shields bearing the fleur-de-lys and the sword, while high across the facade of the porch from buttress to buttress we read: “Our Gallant Dead.” (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)
When the memorial was finally dedicated on Memorial Day 1924, it wasn’t quite yet complete.  However, it would be finished in time for Commencement.  At the dedication, President Walsh remarked,

 The real purpose of a memorial, from the Catholic point of view, is to inspire a prayer for those we desire to remember.  It is very proper that this memorial should be a part of the Church of Notre Dame.

No one who knows Notre Dame need be told of the spirit of loyalty and faith that has animated this university from its beginning.  We should imitate our dead in that they have shown us the lesson of patriotism.  If only the people of America would follow their example there would be no discrimination because of race or creed.  When Washington said that religion and morality are the basis of patriotism he gave us the definition to every patriotic move at Notre Dame.

It is to the boys of the World War and to the men of the Civil War that this memorial is dedicated.  Let us ask God that this memorial will not only be beauty in stone, but also a reminder to pray for the men to whom it is dedicated.
(Notre Dame Daily, May 21, 1924, page 1)

Inside the doors is a small stone-lined vestibule leading into the church and lighted by two narrow lancets of leaded antique glass bearing medallions of warrior saints. The Memorial is the result of the faithful efforts of the Notre Dame Veterans of Foreign Wars and the cooperation of the university. Its design and construction have been in the hands of Messrs. Kervick and Fagan of the architectural department, and a new spot of interest is created in the northwest comer of the main quadrangle. (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

For many years, the memorial door was the natural place to hold mass on Memorial Day and other military occasions.  With the changes made to altar placement with Vatican II and the academic year ending well before Memorial Day, this tradition has gone by the wayside.  The memorial remains an important corner of campus and the “God, Country, Notre Dame” inscription is often quoted today.

GNDS 5/11: Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I (WWI) Memorial Door, 1925.
GNDS 5/11: Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I (WWI) Memorial Door, 1925.Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I Memorial Door, 1925.
GDIS 29/02: Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart's World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530.
Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530.
GPUB 06/39: Three ROTC students, one member of each military branch (Navy, Air Force, Army), standing in front of the World War I Memorial Door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1960s-1970s.
Three ROTC students, one member of each military branch (Navy, Air Force, Army), standing in front of the World War I Memorial door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1960s-1970s.


Notre Dame Daily
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GNDS 5/11
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Memorial Day

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor the dead soldiers from the Civil War.  However, it did not become a federal holiday until 1967.  When the academic year used to run through June at Notre Dame, students and faculty members participated in local parades and held ceremonies for the fallen military members of the Notre Dame community at the cemeteries.

Notre Dame Military Companies marching in a Decoration Day (Memorial Day) parade in South Bend, 1913/0530

 The ceremonies at Notre Dame included the recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, addresses by students and patriotic songs, and a requiem mass.  In 1925, Notre Dame created a memorial to her students who died in World War I at the east door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which bears the epitaph “God, Country, Notre Dame.”  Through World War II, Memorial Day Masses and ceremonies were held outside of this door.

Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530

The change in the academic year to end in May and the observance of Memorial Day as a national holiday leaves campus rather quiet.


PNDP 70-Me-01
GMIL 2/04
GDIS 29/02


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Students have not always had the luxury to travel home or to other destinations over Christmas break.  Whether due to financial circumstance or University regulations, students and faculty who remained on campus held proper Christmas celebrations — from the traditional midnight mass to ice skating and gift exchanges.  Below is an account from the first volume of the student publication Scholastic of the 1867 Christmas activities at Notre Dame.

Scholastic, December 28, 1867

The University Archives, along with all other Notre Dame administrative offices, will close for the Christmas Celebration on December 23rd and reopen on Tuesday, January 3rd.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest, so food naturally takes center stage on this day.  Enjoy these menus of Thanksgiving Day feasts from years ago.

Thanksgiving Day Menu for the Oliver Hotel, South Bend, Indiana, 11/29/1906


Football has long been associated with Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving Day Menu for the Congress Hotel Company, Chicago, banquet after the
University of Chicago vs. the University of Michigan football game, 1905

The Dining Halls always prepare a special meal for Thanksgiving:

Notre Dame Dining Hall Thanksgiving Day Menu, 11/23/1939

PNDP 30-Me-02
CEDW 22/02

Happy Fourth of July!

GNDS 2/11:  Main Building decorated with American flags for the visit of the Governor of Michigan, 1915.  In the foreground are SATC students in military uniforms.
[It is difficult to be certain, but this may have actually been the visit from
President Howard Taft on Decoration Day, 1914.  See the 1915
Dome yearbook, page 248 for other similar photographs from that event.]

The Father of Mother’s Day

On February 7, 1904, Francis Earle Hering proposed the idea of “setting aside of one day in the year as a nationwide memorial to the memory of Mothers and motherhood” to an audience of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Indianapolis [certificate below].

Certificate honoring Frank E. Hering, signed by those who were present at the English Opera House in Indianapolis on February 7, 1904, when Hering proposed a national day honoring mothers.  This document was signed on 07/24/1930

Frank Hering first attended the University of Chicago, playing football under Amos Alonzo Stagg, from 1893-1894, then took a coaching job at Bucknell for a year, before coming to Notre Dame in 1896.  That fall, Hering played quarterback and was the coach and captain of the football team.  He also coached basketball, baseball, and track, and served as instructor of athletics.  In 1898, Hering earned a bachelors in English (Litt.B.) and a bachelors in Law (L.L.B.) in 1902.  He taught English from 1898-1902 and later served Notre Dame for many years as a Lay Associate of the Board of Lay Trustees and as President of the Notre Dame Alumni Association.  He gave a speech at the dedication of Notre Dame Stadium in 1930 and was on the committee of the Rockne Memorial after Coach Knute Rockne’s death in 1931.

Varsity Basketball Team, 1897, with Frank E. Hering as coach (middle row, second from right).  For an unknown reason, there is a frog on the knee of the player in front of him

Hering’s inspiration for a national Mother’s Day came from Notre Dame students writing home to their mothers:  “[P]ractically every boy has as his sweetheart his mother – and that the surest way to appeal to him for his best efforts in building his character and his grades – those things greatly to be desired – was to remind him of the deep happiness his mother receives” [quoted in Scholastic, 05/09/1941, page 11].

Hering’s involvement with the Fraternal Order of the Eagles gave him an oratory platform to spread this idea of a day specially for mothers.  Others were also campaigning the idea, including Anna M. Jarvis, and Congress passed a resolution in 1914, making Mother’s Day a national observance.

“Throughout history the great men of the world have given their credit for their achievements to their mothers.  [The] Holy Church recognizes this, as does Notre Dame especially, and Our Lady who watches over our great institution” [Frank Hering, as quoted in Scholastic, 05/09/1941, page 11].

Lists of Early Notre Dame Students and Faculty
“Echos:  As ND as football, Mother’s Day and Community Service,” by Jason Kelly, Notre Dame Magazine, Autumn 2009
UDIS 141/19
GUND 10/05
GMLS 7/03

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Skimming the entries for St. Patrick’s Day in a search of the finding aids and the Calendared collection, as well as some articles in Scholastic, it is apparent that St. Patrick’s Day in America was more than an ordinary saint’s feast day.  St. Patrick’s Day celebrations could also be patriotic and political.

Postcard sent to James Edwards from Gene Melady, 1909

In 1846 the Society of the Friends of Ireland in New York sought “to improve the condition and degraded state of their countrymen both in America and in Ireland” [I-3-h, 1846 Mar. 2].  In 1847 they canceled their annual celebration in reverence to those in Ireland suffering from the great famine and diaspora [I-3-h, 1847 Mar. 2].

In 1892, J.M. McDonald stated in his Columbian oration, “To-day however we celebrate an anniversary that brings to Irishmen sorrow as well as joy; for we commemorate the name of the redeemer of a land that is not yet free. … surely, the recital of a struggle for human freedom will ever retain a peculiar charm to allure the American heart” [Scholastic, 03/19/1892, page 474]

Here at Notre Dame, it is said that Fr. Edward Sorin discouraged St. Patrick’s Day celebrations “in the interest of Americanism” [Notre Dame:  100 Years by Rev. Arthur J. Hope, CSC, page 140; however, no citation of source].  If this sentiment was true, Fr. Sorin was not very successful in squashing St. Patrick’s Day festivities as they became quite elaborate and popular in the second half of the 19th century.

The tradition of celebrating the University President’s feast day necessitated celebrations on St. Patrick’s Day for Revs. Patrick Dillon and Patrick Colovin, CSC [click here for the list of University Presidents].  An increase of students and faculty with Irish backgrounds, as well as the involvement of  Notre Dame personnel including Rev. William Corby, CSC, in the Irish Brigade during the Civil War, probably also brought St. Patrick’s Day celebrations to prominence at Notre Dame.

Below is an 1883 letter from student Louis Pour to his parents, recounting the St. Patrick’s Day festivities at Notre Dame.  Beneath the letter is the program of events hosted by the Columbian Literary and Orpheonic Societies from the same year.

Transcription:  “Notre Dame, Ind., March 28, 1883.  Dear Parents.  I take the pleasure of writing to you those few lines to let you know that I am well at present and I hope those few lines will find you the same.  The weather at present is not cold but it is snowing mostly ever day and melting nearly as fast as it falls.  Dear Parents, I will tell you that we had reck [recreation] on St. Patrick day and the boys had a very lively time in the morning we went to church in which one of the fathers preached about 1 ½ hours on the life of St. Patrick and [page 2] The history of Ireland and when church was over the boys commenced playing the band in front of the college and in the afternoon Randolph and myself and four other boys went asked one of the Brothers to take us up in the steeple [of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart] to see the Bells which he did immediately so when we got up their three or four of the boys tapped to see how loud it would sound the bell weighs seventeen thousand pounds and, it takes four men to wring it and after he’d played two or three tones by chains.  And still St. Patrick was not over yet in the evening they all assembled in the Rotunda of hear some of the boys speak in which George Clark delivered a very fine piece of poetry he is the best speaker of the students of Notre Dame and is a resident of Cairo, Illinois.  This is all for the present, so when you receive this letter I suppose you will answer it with more latitude than the last, for I suppose that time are not so hard.  Best regards,
L. Pour.”

In 1941, John Lynch wrote an article for Scholastic, lamenting the lack of activities at Notre Dame for St. Patrick’s Day in comparison with those in the 19th century:

Lynch eventually got his request for a day off — because of the potential raucous nature of current St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, it is probably no coincidence that in recent history March 17th has fallen over Notre Dame’s spring break.

Calendar Collection
Notre Dame:  100 Years by Rev. Arthur J. Hope, CSC
CEDW [XI-2-l]
CNDS 7/32
PNDP 70-Co-01

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

From the late 1940s until the early 1980s, the Notre Dame Mardi Gras celebration at one point ranked “as one of the top three college weekends in the nation.” [South Bend Tribune, 02/21/1963; PNDP 70-Ma-01]

The weekends were student-organized and over the years featured dances, carnivals, and jazz concerts, drawing big names such as Tony Dorset, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and the Four Tops.

Students also sold raffle tickets, whose profits went to support a number of charities, including foreign missions, scholarships for students in countries devastated by World War II, scholarships for Notre Dame students, and a number of Notre Dame social service organizations such as CILA and the Neighborhood Study Help Program.

By selling raffle tickets, students were eligible to win prizes, ranging from desk sets and radio transistors to sports cars and vacation trips.

In the early 1980s, the bishop of the Fort Wayne – South Bend Diocese encouraged Catholic churches and organizations in the diocese to comply with Indiana state law, which banned gambling.  Carnival games replaced the casino element in 1982.  Because of this and other intangible factors, extravagant Mardi Gras celebrations were no longer an annual campus-wide event at Notre Dame.


PNDP 10-Ma-01
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Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Although a French man, Fr. Edward Sorin, founder of the University of Notre Dame, was quick to embrace American patriotism.  It is no coincidence that Washington Hall was named after the first President of the United States.

Notre Dame began organizing George Washington Birthday celebrations shortly after its 1842 founding.  The events often would consist of musical concerts and theatrical productions from Notre Dame student associations and lectures and speeches from faculty and visitors.

Cover of the 1869 Washington Day Exercises program

At the turn of the 20th century, a flag presentation was added to the Exercises.  An American flag was blessed and flown from Commencement throughout the next year.  By the mid-1900s, attendance at the Washington Day Exercises was required by Seniors in order to graduate.

Washington Day Exercises – Students in caps and gowns entering Washington Hall through the second floor entrance, c1930s

In 1954, Notre Dame established the Patriot of the Year Award, presented by the Senior Class.  The Seniors would vote from a list of prominent nominees and the award winner generally would speak at the Washington Day Exercises.  The award winners included Senator John F. Kennedy, Astronaut John Glenn, and Comedian Bob Hope.  See the entire list of winners here.

By the early 1970s, the mandatory, theatrical Washington Day celebrations had mostly subsided and there are no longer grand celebrations on campus.  “The Exercises through the years have aided many students in the formation of firm ideas about their obligations to the community.  The Washington Day Exercises constitute a public and formal acknowledgment of ‘God, Country, and Notre Dame.” [programs from the late 1950s to early 1960s in PNDP 70-Wa-01]

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