“Washington was thronged with visitors from every part of the world…”

by Sara Weber, Special Collections Digital Project Specialist

Living as we do in a world of live broadcasts and instant social media, it can be hard to remember just how long it could take information to reach parts of our nation in earlier days.

In last week’s post, we shared two letters from Special Collections written by James Monroe Meek to his wife Elizabeth in March 1869, focusing on his description of the events surrounding the first inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant as President of the United States. At the start of the first of these two letters, Meek indicates to his wife that he had received on the previous evening (March 3rd) a letter that she had written February 28th. This transit time is as good as—or perhaps better than—what we would expect today.

For those without a family member or friend to write home, there were of course various serial publications that conveyed the news of the world to the world. By the second half of the nineteenth century, newspapers typically covered such a significant event as an inauguration fairly quickly, thanks to recently expanded telegraph lines and railways—at least for those living in a city served by those technological advances.

Those who relied on magazines for their news might be in for a rather longer wait. For example, a write-up of Grant’s inauguration appeared in the March 20th issue of Harper’s Weekly. In our own collection, we find an even later description. The inauguration of March 1869 did not appear in the “Current Events” section of Putnam’s Magazine: Original Papers on Literature, Science, Art, and National Interests until their May 1869 issue!

“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.

Great Expectations for 2021

Happy New Year!

We look forward to working with students, faculty and other scholars in 2021, and we look forward to a time when visitors may wander in on a whim rather than by appointment.

Our new year’s resolutions include making more of our collections accessible digitally as well as adding finding aids to the Archivesspace tool, making it easier to learn about manuscript and other collections from afar.

Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion — only one of a number of digital exhibits that curators plan to complete in the coming year.

Curators will continue their plans for this year’s exhibits, and we hope that later in the spring it will be possible to visit and enjoy the suffrage exhibition, “Men and women should stand as equals: American Women and the Vote”.

But for the moment and for the foreseeable future, we have the same protective conditions in place that we had in the fall semester.

The Hesburgh Library remains open to current students, faculty and staff of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross College. Please see the Hesburgh Libraries Service Continuity Page for up-to-date information on access and hours.

Members of these communities may request appointments to access Rare Books & Special Collections materials. Please email Rare Books & Special Collections for research and course support or to make an appointment. Research requests by non-ND-affiliates are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, per the University’s Campus Visitors Policy.

Visit the Hesburgh Libraries Service Continuity webpage for up-to-date information about how to access expertise, resources, services and spaces.

We are happy to work with students and faculty to find solutions to access problems during this pandemic.

Happy Holidays from Special Collections!

Rare Books and Special Collections is open by appointment only through this Friday (December 18, 2020). After that, we will be closed for the Christmas and New Year’s Break (December 19, 2020 through January 5, 2021).

Special Collections will reopen on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, again by appointment only. Visit the Hesburgh Libraries Service Continuity webpage for the most up-to-date information about both the Libraries in general and Special Collections in particular.

This is the last blog post for 2020. Happy holidays to you and yours from Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections!

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

40th Anniversary of the Polish Solidarity

by Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections and Curator, Russian and East European Collections

Forty years ago Solidarity (Solidarność) was born in Poland. It became the first Soviet bloc’s independent self-governing trade union and the seat of Polish opposition during the 1980s.   

The Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired a Solidarity ephemera collection (MSE/REE 0041) documenting a wide range of activities carried out by Solidarity leaders and supporters. The represented materials include samizdat (unofficial self-published and distributed) books, posters, broadsides, and handbills. For the most part, these were produced in response to specific events, often by hand on poor quality paper, and circulated in small quantities at great risk to their authors, distributors, and readers. The collection captures such inherent qualities of the Solidarity movement as spontaneity, commitment to democratic values, and sacrifices of the Polish people in their struggle for civic and political freedoms. 

This popular samizdat comic book tells the story of the Solidarity’s first 500 days beginning with a peaceful strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk in August 1980 and ending with the tragic events of December 1981, when the Polish government declared Martial Law and arrested many of its leaders and supporters. The movement continued underground until the fall of the communist regime in 1989. 

The authors claim that all dialogues in the book represent fragments of actual conversations and speeches. On page 8, the book features events from “difficult January 1981”. Included here is an image of Pope John Paul II, with words of encouragement and support to the Solidarity members, following his meeting with the Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa in Rome on January 15, 1981.

Photograph of the Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa (on the right) with two Solidarity Catholic priests, Father Jerzy Popiełuszko (in the middle) and Father Henryk Jankowski (on the left), November 1980.

Markowski, S., Bujak, Adam, & Szot, Jerzy. (1984). Wystawa fotografii pt. “Księdzu Jerzemu” : Mistrzejowice XI-XII 1984 rok. S.n.

This self-published booklet reproduces photographs by Adam Bujak, Stanisław Markowski, Andrzej Stawiarski, and Jerzy Szot depicting the funeral and protest marches following the murder of the Solidarity priest Father Jerzy Popiełuszko (1947-1984). He was kidnapped and savagely murdered by agents of the Polish Security Service, and has since been recognized a martyr by the Catholic Church. The booklet also reproduces Pope John Paul II’s words on the death of Fr. Popiełuszko.

This small hand-made handbill (7 x10 cm) features an image of the popular Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa with an anchor as a symbol of strength, and the word razem (“together”). 1980.

This small hand-made handbill (10 X 14 cm) is one of the earliest versions of the Solidarity logo with a national red and white Polish flag on the letter “N”, denoting “national” unity. Designed by artist Jerzy Janiszewski in August 1980, the Solidarity logo was quickly adopted by the movement members and sympathizers and used on banners, posters, handbills, and graffiti during demonstrations, strikes, and protests. The logo became a powerful symbol of the Solidarity movement. 1980.

These small samizdat handbills (7 x 10 cm) were published and distributed by Solidarity with calls for boycotting (“not to vote” in) communist elections. Elections in communist Poland were undemocratic and manipulated by the ruling totalitarian government. Circa 1980.

Happy Thanksgiving to All Our Readers

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

Americans might be seeing fewer turkeys on their tables this Thanksgiving, due to the demands of social distancing during the pandemic. No matter what holiday fare you get to enjoy this year, we offer a reminder of our unofficial national bird. This illustration of wild turkeys comes from American Ornithology; or, The Natural History of Birds Inhabiting the United States, Not Given by Wilson, a four-volume work by French scientist and ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte (1803-1857). He worked on the project while he lived in the United States in the 1820s and it was published between 1825 and 1833.

An armchair ornithologist, the aristocratic Bonaparte did not do fieldwork himself, as this print shows. It was engraved by Alexander Lawson (1773-1846) from an illustration “Drawn from Nature” by Titian R. Peale (1799-1885). Bonaparte’s strengths lay in his abilities to classify and name birds, and he directed his talent to supplementing work by an earlier ornithologist, Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), whom Bonaparte referenced in his title.

Rare Books and Special Collections holds only the plates from Bonaparte’s multi-volume work; it is part of the library’s history of science collection and complements our Edward Lee Greene collection on the history of botany.


Notre Dame’s fall semester concluded on November 20, 2020, but the campus remains open during the much of the Winter Session (November 21, 2020 – February 2, 2021). Rare Books and Special Collections will be CLOSED on the following dates:

November 25-29 (Thanksgiving Holiday)
December 19-January 5 (Winter Break)

Our health and safety protocols continue to include limiting our building population to those people essential to the teaching and research of our current students and faculty. To that effect, we are not encouraging visitors or patrons who are not current, active members of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College communities.

Members of these communities may request appointments to access Rare Books & Special Collections materials. Please email Rare Books & Special Collections for research and course support or to make an appointment. Research requests by non-ND-affiliates are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, per the University’s Campus Visitors Policy.

Visit our Hesburgh Libraries Service Continuity webpage for up-to-date information about how to access expertise, resources, services and spaces.

Poetry, Art, and Plastic: The Imprints of Ediciones Arroyo

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

Over the past two years, Rare Books and Special Collections has acquired a series of unique chapbooks produced by Ediciones Arroyo, a small and specialized press located in the town of Arroyo Leyes, Argentina. An exciting addition to our collections, each “book” is small and lightweight, bound in black recycled plastic, and features the work of a contemporary poet from Argentina or elsewhere in South America. 

Ediciones Arroyo is the brainchild of Alejandra Bosch, founder and owner of the press and a writer in her own right. A proponent of a thriving literary community and an advocate for recycling, Alejandra pursues these dual interests in the creation of her books. Each one includes between two and ten poems by a single poet. A short biography and whimsical illustrations, often by Julián Bosch, Alejandra’s son and collaborator, accompany the text. 

The book covers are aesthetically bold, each bearing the name of its poet in bright, colorful letters. The black plastic that once packaged milk – something that might otherwise be considered garbage – is cleaned, cut and sewn by Bosch, to create artistic editions of a roughly uniform size.  

Inside, readers find new, previously unpublished pieces, often by young, up-and-coming poets of diverse backgrounds. These imprints, coupled with literary festivals that Alejandra sponsors and organizes, offer support and a creative space for writers. 

RBSC’s collection of Ediciones Arroyo imprints currently includes more than 100 editions and is growing. We are proud to be the first North American institution to collect Ediciones Arroyo and to serve as a repository for the poetry of a dynamic group of South American writers. 

I recently asked Alejandra what it means to her to see her work, and the work of so many contemporary Argentine poets, here at Notre Dame. She expressed pride and also enthusiasm for the idea that young people here in the U.S., linguistically and culturally distant from Argentina, are now able to read these poems as they learn Spanish. “For me as a writer, it is fabulous, also, that these poets are in the university, when we trained by reading and translating the great North American poets. It is beautiful,” she said. Julián, a tattoo artist and poet as well as illustrator for Ediciones Arroyo, is also motivated by the idea that others are reading the poetry that he and others have worked so hard to create and disseminate. This contact with Notre Dame, “makes me want to forge ahead, beyond this pandemic year and all of the negative,” he states.   

Ediciones Arroyo began in 2016, with 9 poets. Today, the press’s catalog includes more than 80 poets, “and they’ve all traveled to Indiana!,” Alejandra notes. Alejandra and Julián have recently begun working on bilingual editions with a number of Brazilian authors. They both aspire to bring their work, and the contemporary poetry of South America, to other university libraries in the near future. 

Recent Acquisition: Early Book on Women Religious Leaders

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

The Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired a very rare illustrated volume entitled Images des fondatrices, reformatrices ou principales religieuses de tous les ordres de l’eglise (Paris, 1639). It features engraved portraits of 88 female founders of religious orders by the artist Michel van Lochom, an Antwerp native.

The collection includes portraits of such famous women as St. Scholastica, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Teresa of Avila; among those also portrayed is St. Jane Frances de Chantal, whose spiritual director was St. Francis de Sales and who was still living when the book went to press. The fact that the women are often depicted with items and clothing appropriate to their role in the history of spirituality is of particular interest.

While the engraved plates include captions in Latin, the Table of Contents (Table des Image contenues au present Livre) for the book lists each women with a description in French. Here, as a comparison, are the first page of the Table and the first illustration of Mary, Mother of God, and “Founder of all Women Religious” (Fondatrice de toutes les Religieuses).

We have verified only three other copies of this title among North American library holdings.

“He never dodged a vote”: Lincoln and the 1860 Campaign

—Election 2020—
—Remember to VOTE!—

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

Today’s elections, nearly everyone agrees, have become fiercely, even bitterly, partisan. In 1860, as southern states teetered toward secession, the presidential race divided along partisan and regional lines. Republicans, who were from the north and west, supported Abraham Lincoln, while Democrats split north and south; the former followed Stephen Douglas and the latter John Breckinridge. John Bell, the third party Constitutional Union candidate, took a few states in the upper south. Yet, in what was a bitter contest, the rhetoric of one of Lincoln’s campaign biographies was deliberately calm and unabashedly high-minded.

Rare Books and Special Collections holds a scarce piece of campaign literature from the 1860 presidential race—The Lives and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin—a book of more than 400 pages that introduced many Americans to Lincoln and his running mate for the first time. Our copy has an original cover and several illustrations, one of which is an engraving of Lincoln based on a photograph taken by Mathew Brady, the New York City photographer.

The volume appeared immediately after the June Republican convention in Chicago, where Lincoln had been chosen as the party’s presidential candidate. It contained a short biography of Lincoln written by a very young William Dean Howells (1837-1920), who would in later years, become a writer, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and arbiter of American literature. The Lives and Speeches also held selected speeches of both men, including Lincoln’s February 1860 speech at the Cooper Institute in New York City, where he laid out his argument that slavery must not extend into the western territories. He ended with the stirring refrain, “Let us have faith that right makes might . . . let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” (p. 213)

Howells, who was at the time a 23 year-old journalist in Columbus, Ohio, interviewed people close to Lincoln to create a portrait of the candidate that emphasized the party’s Free Soil ideas. From friends who knew Lincoln since he was in his early 20s, Howells offered a narrative that included Lincoln’s self-made story, but also impressed on readers that the candidate had been supported along the way by people who recognized his abilities and character. After explaining in some detail how Lincoln had honored a financial debt as a young (and still poor) man, Howells summed up the incident with partisan boosterism, “that the old neighbors and friends of such a man should regard him with an affection and faith little short of man-worship, is the logical result of a life singularly pure, and an integrity without flaw.” (p. 43)

A few pages later Howells summed up his research by assuring his readers, “by the testimony of all, and in the memory of everyone who has known him, Lincoln is a pure, candid, and upright man, unblemished by those vices which so often disfigure greatness, utterly incapable of falsehood, and without one base or sordid trait.” (p. 48)

Howells also took pains to reassure readers, for whom Lincoln was relatively unknown outside of Illinois, that his opposition to slavery was long-standing, clear, and aligned with the Republican party’s 1860 platform. As proof, Howells pointed to an 1837 protest Lincoln had voiced in the Illinois Legislature against a resolution for suppressing abolition societies.

As a campaign piece must, Howells’ biography painted Lincoln as the principled candidate. Howells declared, “throughout his Congressional career, you find him the bold advocate of the principles which he believed to be right. He never dodged a vote. He never minced matters with his opponents.” (p. 57) Howells underscored Lincoln’s exemplary public record through his speeches, which gave the impression that “he has not argued to gain a point, but to show the truth; that it is not Lincoln that he wishes to sustain, but Lincoln’s principles.” (p. 65) To drive home the point that the candidate’s character connected to the presidency, Howells quoted Lincoln directly. “[Slavery],” Lincoln said, “forces so many really good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty—criticising the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.”’ (pp. 75-76) For Lincoln, the Declaration of Independence, in which “all men are created equal,” was the nation’s foundational document and this ideal drove his ambition and service.

In a four-way race, Lincoln won less than 40% of the popular vote but 180 of 303 electoral votes, a decisive victory.

Remember to VOTE!