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Detail from unpublished O'Gorman travel narrative, describing Skye

A significant aspect of researching or working with archival material is the connection that forms between items from the past and individuals looking at them in the present. Reading through collections of personal papers especially develops a sense of familiarity and understanding, if not empathy, with past lives. People reach out from past times through journals, memoirs, letters, photographs and artifacts. Learning about others’ lives is always fascinating; but it is even more delightful to discover a shared experience.

So it was when I read this haunting description of the Isle of Skye by the poet Ned O’Gorman, which took me back to my own visit there. His graphic prose uncannily recalls images from my own memory.


The Isle of Skye is an invention of the subconscious. There are places there of salty light and terrifying natural grace. It is the interior of the land, the assembly of rocks and trees, streams and clouds, that brought me to thoughts of genesis and prehistory. It answered the call of my spirit that hung like a fragile bridge over the new worlds I blustered through.

Beauty is mated on Skye with terror. I wrapped myself in a scarf and wandered inland. The farther I got from the sea the colder and more remote the mainland became. Ocean and islands fell like Ice Age scars and long dead plants in the distance; I was surrounded by ceremonies merely held in suspension until the second coming of some past time. A storm gathered. Beasts seemed to watch behind the trees and rock strewn fields. I walked through a forest of three-foot, stunted pines that would never grow taller for they had been pelted the day of their planting by hail and freezing rains.

I fled back to the mainland and took a train to London.

 --Excerpt from the unpublished manuscript of
an autobiography-cum-travel journal by Ned O’Gorman,
in the Ned O’Gorman papers 4,
GTM050910, Box 1, Folders 98-99.

 Manuscript Archivist on the Isle of Skye

Archivist "lost" in the gorse
on the Isle of Skye.

Ned O'Gorman was born Edward Charles O’Gorman in New York City on September 26, 1929. He received a B.A. from St. Michael's College in 1950 and later an M.A. from Columbia University. Winner of Guggenheim fellowships in 1956 and 1962, O’Gorman was also awarded the Lamont Poetry Selection Award in 1958. These early achievements culminated in the first publication of his collected poems, The Night of the Hammer (1959).  From 1962 to 1965, O’Gorman was editor of the Catholic literary magazine Jubilee. He also taught at Iona College in New York (1957), and Tougaloo College in Mississippi (1965-1966).

In 1966, O’Gorman founded the Children’s Storefront School in Harlem, New York. Inspired by philosopher and social critic Paul Goodman, the privately funded school is a lasting and innovative contribution to the education of disadvantaged children, accepting any who wish to attend, and providing a place where O’Gorman believed “the senses of children [can] thrive…or, at the very least, exist.”  Development and his involvement with the school are recorded by O’Gorman in The Storefront: A Community of Children on 129th Street and Madison Avenue (1970). His critically acclaimed book, The Children are Dying (1978), represents his unflinching advocacy of children in Harlem.

Ned O’Gorman died in 2014. The Ned O’Gorman papers Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are available for research at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. A commemorative exhibition, Ned O’Gorman: through a poet’s lens is currently on view (through January 2018) at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections.

--Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist

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Detail from tuition ledger 1792

Classes began on the Hilltop in January 1792 when William Gaston, the son of a doctor killed during the War of Independence, enrolled. He was soon joined by Georgetown's second student, Philemon Charles Wederstrandt (the subject of an earlier blog post) who went on to serve in the Navy and to fight in the War of 1812.

George Peter tuition ledger entry 1792Another early student and our first veteran was George Peter, whose father, Robert Peter, was the first Mayor of Georgetown. George enrolled in April 1792 at the age of 13. In the fall of 1794, he ran away and joined Maryland troops sent to Pennsylvania to quell the Whiskey Rebellion. George’s family managed to discover where he was and dispatched a messenger after him; George Washington sent him home. He re-enrolled at Georgetown in 1796 and entered the Army as second lieutenant in the Ninth Infantry in July 1799. After fighting in the War of 1812, he was elected to Congress in 1815. There he joined his old classmate William Gaston, who had been elected to the House of Representatives from North Carolina in 1813. Peter died in 1861 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown.

--Lynn Conway, University Archivist


College Journal article about George PeterCollege Journal article about George Peter

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Detail from Dore engraving for Milton's Paradise Lost.

October 31 marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s distribution of his 95 Theses. Their publication is commonly considered the founding event of the Protestant Reformation. He may or may not have actually nailed the Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, but in the end it really doesn’t matter. However he chose to make them public, they hastened a process that would revolutionize Western Christianity and permanently transform the politics and culture of Europe.

But the 95 Theses hastened those changes; they didn’t create them ex nihilo all on their own. Luther was inspired by men, ideas, and events that by 1517 had been in circulation for decades, even centuries. John Wycliffe had translated the Bible into Middle English in 1382, and the movement he led, Lollardy or Lollardism, promoted beliefs and practices that would later become core tenets within Protestantism: the use of vernacular languages, predestination, the unique authority of the Bible, the authority monarchs over the priesthood, and the rejection of purgatory, the papacy, clerical celibacy, pilgrimages, the selling of indulgences, and the intercession of saints. Wycliffe in turn inspired Jan Hus, the Czech dissident cleric who challenged the papacy’s position on the nature of the Church and the Eucharist. He was burned at the stake at the Council of Constance in 1415, almost exactly a century before Luther issued the 95 Theses.

On the other hand, tracing an intellectual line of descent from Wycliffe to Hus to Luther shouldn’t cause us to overlook the diverse and winding paths that Protestantism took. The Reformation was anything but straightforward. It is probably more accurate to speak of the Protestant Reformations, in the plural. The major figuresLuther, Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, to name just a few—each had distinct perspectives on what “reform” entailed, and the practical effect of their ideas depended upon the particular settings in which they acted. This led to some ironies, like Pope Leo X’s awarding Henry VIII with the title of Defender of the Faith in 1521 for the latter’s Defense of the Seven Sacraments. Henry wrote it as a refutation of Luther’s criticisms of the Church—when he was still a loyal member of the Roman Catholic Church. Just twelve years later, Pope Clement VII would excommunicate Henry after his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder for Dat Nye Testament Martini Luthers

Woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Dat Nye Testament Martini Luthers, Wittenberch [Wittenberg], 1530.

This year’s anniversary of the 95 Theses was marked by commemorations throughout the Christian world. Not surprisingly, German tributes were particularly numerous, with religious and political dignitaries marking the occasion with services and ceremonies throughout the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, herself the daughter of a Lutheran minister, was on hand at religious services at All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, on whose door Luther is said to have posted the 95 Theses.

We here at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections wanted to mark the occasion as well (albeit on a smaller scale). The Reformation was an important event both for the development of the printed book and in the history of art, two of our primary collection areas. It provided a massive stimulus to the printing industry, as the debates between rival visions grew more intense and called forth ever-increasing numbers of books, pamphlets, and prints.

Gustave Dore engraving in Milton's Paradise Lost

Engraving by Gustave Doré
in John Milton’s El Paraíso Perdido [Paradise Lost], Barcelona, 1873.

Georgetown’s rare books collection is especially rich in Jesuit and Roman Catholic history, naturally, but it also has an impressive collection of Protestant works. They include the two works depicted here: John Milton’s Paradise Lost with stunning wood engravings by Gustave Doré, and an edition of Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible enriched by nearly three dozen woodcut prints by Lucas Cranach the Elder. We invite anyone interested in these or any of our other books relating to the Protestant Reformation (pro or con!) to come visit us and take a look.

--Kevin Delinger, Rare Books Intern

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Rare Books
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Detail from Ambrose Burnside photograph

Ambrose E. Burnside (1824-1881) is remembered in American history as a noteworthy Northern general during the American Civil War. In the annals of American popular culture, he is known as the originator of sideburns, a distinctive form of facial hair whiskers running down each side of a man’s face. The Barnes Publishing Company Photographic Archives, a collection in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections, contains two photographs of Ambrose E. Burnside late in life depicting his muttonchop hair style.

Burnside graduated from West Point in 1847. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Union forces. At one point during the war, he commanded the Union’s Army of the Potomac. He produced mixed results as a military leader. 

After the Civil War, Burnside entered politics. He served three terms as governor of Rhode Island from 1866 to 1869, and went on to represent Rhode Island as a Republican in the United States Senate from 1875 until his death in 1881.

Ambrose Burnside Photo by W. Kurtz, Madison SquareThe Barnes Publishing Company was based in the nation’s capital. It specialized in providing photographs and biographical sketches of members of Congress in the late 1800s. The Barnes Collection at Georgetown consists of 501 photographs dating approximately to the 1870s. Two of those photos depict Ambrose E. Burnside. W. Kurtz of Madison Square took a photograph of Burnside and his famous sideburns. That particular photograph is designated as photograph number 1 in the Barnes Collection. Someone wrote “Ambrose E. Burnside, R.I.” on the bottom of the photo. The signature does not match Burnside’s signature, however. Burnside’s true signature is reproduced below.[1]

Sample of Burnside Signature

Burnside Photo by W. Kurtz, Madison SquareC.M. Bell of Washington, D.C. took the second photograph of Burnside preserved in the Barnes collection, photo number 187. Both photos date from Burnside’s tenure as a U.S. Senator. Burnside’s characteristic sideburns are readily apparent in both photographs.

William Marvel, Burnside’s biographer, described Burnside’s appearance in the last year of his life in 1881 by writing that Burnside’s “wraparound whiskers and the thick fringe of hair over his ears gleamed so white he looked older than his fifty-seven years.”[2]

--Scott S. Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist

[1] George Sanders et al., The Sanders Price Guide to Autographs (Alexander, NC: Alexander Books, 1994), 444.

[2] William Marvel, Burnside (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 1991), 419.

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Detail, Lady Mary Bentinck sketch

It isn’t often one comes across an overlooked album of original landscape sketches by a noble-born lady who revolved among the circle of the Romantic poets.  The Library recently received one such treasure with a generous donation of books and manuscripts from Stephen R. Graubard, an emeritus professor of history at Brown University and former editor of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. An inscription inside the front cover traces its provenance to George Bentinck’s sale in 1891 and from thence purchased at a secondhand shop at Ridlers in 1892. Unfortunately, four of its pages were cut out by a previous owner.

Cover of sketchbook

Nevertheless, the remaining images are thoroughly enchanting. The album measures approximately 9 by 5 inches with 18 landscape views and studies of trees, along with some minor faint sketches on facing pages. Most of the pages are individually titled. The area depicted is Lowther in the Lake District in Cumbria, the region inhabited and popularized by poets William Wordsworth, Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  According to the inscription noted above, the sketches are by “Lady Fred Bentinck.” The artist was born Lady Mary Lowther (1785-1862) daughter of Sir William Lowther, the first Earl of Lonsdale and Lady Augusta Fane, daughter of the ninth Earl of Westmoreland. Sir William had Lowther Castle built between 1806 and 1813 on lands held by his ancestors over hundreds of years. The Earl and Countess of Lonsdale often hosted William Wordsworth and Robert Southey at Lowther, and both poets composed poetical tributes to the castle in honor of their friendship with its noble occupants. The Lowthers were active art patrons and commissioned J.M.W. Turner to paint two distant views of their estate which were both proudly displayed at the castle.

Lady Mary married Lord Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck in 1820, a Major General in the British Army who was later active in Parliament. Lord Frederick was the fourth son of the third Duke of Portland. Their marriage ended after eight years upon his untimely death while in Rome.

Sketch from Lady Mary's sketchbook
(Click to enlarge)

Lady Mary was tutored in art by Joseph Farington, who wrote favorably of her skills in his copious diaries, published by Yale University Press in 1982.  She was also instructed by Peter De Wint, an English landscape painter patronized by her father. Wordsworth wrote a sonnet to Lady Mary which he presented to her in 1819 along with an anthology of English verse which he assembled specifically for her, the year prior to her marriage at the age of 35. Her landscape sketches, created that same year, are drawn in ink wash and charcoal with highlights of Chinese white on blue paper. They evocatively convey the environs surrounding Lowther, including Haweswater, Askham Bridge, Askham Mill and Elysian Fields. Some of the scenes are populated by tiny figures with sheep and a few lone canines as they appear to amble sedately along the paths and fields. Here and there, the artist added effective touches of white to convey the foam of the River Lowther or the wool of the herds.  Next to a study of the water as it poured over some rocks, she commented, “Southey came up suddenly when I was attempting this little study. I left off drawing for a walk with him.”

Sketch from Lady Mary's sketchbook
(Click to enlarge)

The Wordsworth Trust’s collection at Dove Cottage in the Lake District includes a more finished pencil and wash drawing of Lowther Castle by Lady Mary, dated 1810 and on larger paper. It would be exciting to view that work together with the album and compare their varying technique and stylistic nuance. From the image online, the drawing at the Trust appears an accomplished architectural rendition. Perhaps it was a gift from Lady Mary to Wordsworth. The drawings in Georgetown’s album are informal onsite sketches, more purely Romantic in their interpretation of the beauty of nature. If the artist had been born of the opposite gender, I venture to speculate he would have enjoyed a successful career in the orbit of Turner and other landscape painters of the period.

--LuLen Walker, University Art Collection Curator

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Paleography, the study and interpretation of ancient or historical handwriting, is a skill often required when doing historical research in an archive. More and more these days, as handwriting is replaced by typing, even the reading of modern handwriting can become an obstacle—due to the quality of the writing as much as to the historical forms it takes. Many people today have difficulty reading cursive forms of writing since most of what is read today is in the form of printed block letters; this is the reason why forms generally instruct us to "please print."

We shouldn’t feel too bad about this difficulty, though, because it is far from new. Throughout the modern period, as handwriting became common in an increasingly literate population and the letterforms of professional scribes disappeared, people had to deal with reading bad handwriting. No wonder the typewriter was such a success before the digital age!

One of my favorite letters in the collections at the Booth Family Center well illustrates this point; I stumbled across the letter in the David Rankin Barbee papers while assisting a researcher, and it never fails to make me smile. The letter was written by Rankin Barbee in response to a postcard from Mr. Lewis Chase, who had a question about some point of Tennessee history for Barbee, a native Tennessean, historian, and an inveterate and gifted writer of letters. Given the amount of writing that Barbee did, as a journalist, a PR man, a historian, and as a correspondent, it is no surprise that most of it was accomplished with a typewriter.

Postcard from Lewis Chase to David Rankin Barbee

At first glance (and second, third, and so on…) Chase’s postcard might appear to be illegible, but Barbee’s reply would indicate that he was at least able to make out enough to get the gist of it. Well, I can confirm that Chase’s postcard is not unreadable—I have read it. I would transcribe it here as proof, but that would ruin the fun of trying for oneself (and it would simply take too long).

Letter from David Rankin Barbee to Lewis Chase

There are several things I love about Rankin’s letter, including his horror at only responding after more than two weeks and his description of the bookseller who "curled up and went to heaven." Above all, though, is his humorous and (somewhat) gentle response to Chase’s handwriting, down to the oblique reference to Spencerian script which was the standard for American business writing before the typewriter, still seen today in the logo for Coca-Cola.

--Ted Jackson, Manuscripts Archivist

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In my last blog post, I mentioned that archivists frequently discover information about their collections serendipitously while working to find the answer to reference questions. Another way we learn new and sometimes surprising things about the records we house is from the researchers who work with them. Recently, a researcher examining Georgetown College financial records mentioned that an expense book from the early 1800s contains a recipe for spruce beer. And indeed it does, along with recipes for preparing calf's entrails and feet and dressing calf's head. Clearly the College, as financially challenged as it was in its first decades, fully embraced the concept of nose-to-tail cooking long before that concept had a name (other than being frugal). But spruce beer? I had never heard of that. I do find the occasional gin and tonic refreshing in the summer, however, and the idea of a spruce-based drink seemed no odder than a juniper-based one. And a little research showed that spruce beer has a long history (due apparently to its high vitamin C content and scurvy-preventing properties) and is still produced today.

I provide the recipe for adventurous souls who might be tempted to try it:

Recipe for spruce beer

(Click image to enlarge)

To make Spruce Beer

Take 10 Gallons Water, 1 Gallon Molasses, 1 Gill Spruce, 1/2 pint Yeast & Some Hops & Ginger Boiled. mix all together in a large tub. then put it in a Cask leave the Bunghole open so as it may work over. let it stand in the Cask for 24 Hours. then Bottle it off and in 24 Hours its fit for use.

NB Keep the Bottles in a cool Cellar or the [word missing?] will be apt to fly.

You can email me for the step-by-step instructions for preparing calf's entrails, instructions which if you follow them and then add drawn butter and parsley before serving will, apparently, make them fit for use . . . 

--Lynn Conway, University Archivist

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Marchand Endormie

Marchande Endormie [Market Woman, Asleep]
John W. Winkler
188 x 113 mm
Gift of Carol Johnson and John Aronovici
(Click to enlarge)


A private moment captured by master etcher Winkler, who stood in a Paris street sketching straight onto the printing plate with a needle.

In a quirky game of cataloging “telephone,” our copy of this print was labeled as “Marchande Endorme,” a simple typographical error. The record went into our database, however, as “Marchande Enorme,” which seems an unwarranted editorial comment. The record has now been corrected.

--Christen Runge, Assistant Curator, University Art Collection

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Chester Promotional Materials detail

Travel experiences can be captured in a myriad of ways, as seen in this series of armchair travels through manuscripts collections. Scrapbooks and writings in journals and letters provide wonderful perspectives on faraway places; however, these might be rivalled by views through the camera lens.

Take a look at some of the stunning images of Saudi Arabia offered by Dorothy Miller’s photographs!

Dorothy Miller arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1947 to work in the law department of the oil company Aramco. She became interested in photography after meeting chief Aramco photographer Tommy Walters in Dhahran, in 1949. Eventually, Miller learned to do her own developing, and by 1959 had garnered enough attention for her hobby that she decided to take an intensive six‐week professional photography course at the Brooks Institute in San Francisco.

Miller returned to Aramco in 1967 as treasurer. Her passion for photography unabated, she continued to take hundreds of stunning photographs ranging from Aramco staff and facilities to the people and countryside of Saudi Arabia. Locations depicted include Abquaiq, al‐Khobar, Dhahran, Dammam, Hofuf, and Qatif. Miller retired from Aramco and returned to the U.S. in 1977. Since then her photographs have been exhibited at Georgetown University Library in 2007 and at the Saudi Aramco Heritage Gallery in Dhahran in 2008. (Click images to enlarge.)

Arabian Desert Miller photograph

Saudi Arabian desert, 1970s. (Dorothy Miller photographic collection, GTM.060125, Box 4)

Date Picker Miller photograph

Date picker in Qatif, 1976. (Dorothy Miller photographic collection, GTM.060125, Box 5)

Saudi Arabian girl Miller photograph

Little girl in a black dress, Yemen, 1977. (Dorothy Miller photographic collection, GTM060125, box 6).

There are also in-person recountings by inveterate travelers such as Clarence L. Chester, back in the day when it was a popular pastime both to travel for pleasure and to share the experience via public talks. In 1907 and 1908, Chester’s travel talks on his experiences in Panama and the Isthmian Canal drew much admiration, and presumably, interest at the clubs where he presented. According to the pamphlet issued by the Lyceum Bureau, New York City (circa 1907): “Travel is always considered the finishing course in one’s education. But as the majority of people do not have time to do all the experiments they wish to study about in the sciences, so neither do they have time to do the necessary amount of traveling requisite to complete their education. It is here where the Lyceum steps in and brings the outside world to the people.” According to another notice, no one was more suited to do this than Chester, whose presentations were illustrated with “pictures taken by himself and…used as photographic aids to the word painting of the speaker”. He was so “thoroughly imbued with his subject, his language so graphic, his description so picturesque, and his incidents so real, one journeys with him everywhere he leads, thoroughly content and always interested." [Clarence L. Chester – “Travel Talks Illustrated” promotional publications, 1907-1908, in Miscellaneous Manuscripts collection, GTM170101]

Chester travel talk promotional materials

I hope you have enjoyed these vicarious summer travels, and that you may find the time for a trip to the Booth Family Center for Special Collections, where your own journeys of adventure and discovery await.

Bon voyage!

--Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist

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Detail of Mosher letter

On July 1, 1898, Theodore Mosher, a captain in the 22nd U.S. Infantry during the Spanish-American War, commanded Company G as it entered the Battle of El Caney in Cuba. He was badly wounded in the fighting, and lost consciousness. He did not regain consciousness until a few days later, when he awoke in a field hospital close to the site of the conflict.

Mosher letterMosher soon realized that some army supplies he had taken with him into battle were missing. Specifically, he had lost a field glass and its case, which had been the property of the Signal Service. A field glass is a binocular device used to view distant objects. Mosher made a good faith effort to find the glass and case, but could not locate them.

The Americans won the Battle of El Caney against Spanish soldiers. On the same day, the first of July, the Americans also won a victory at the Battle of San Juan Hill, in which Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders made their famous charge. The Spanish troops in Cuba laid down their arms on July 17, 1898.

Mosher letterOn March 7, 1899, months after the war had ended, Mosher wrote a letter from the Portland Hotel in Washington, D.C. to E. O. C. Ord II, 1st Lieutenant and Acting Signal Officer of the 22nd U.S. Infantry at Ft. Crook, Nebraska. Ord had issued the glass and case to Mosher on April 12, 1898. Mosher attached a letter in triplicate claiming that neither he nor Ord should be held accountable for the loss of the items because they had been lost in the heat of combat. He called the loss “an incident of battle.” (Box 4, Folder 24, Ord Family Papers 2). Unfortunately, the outcome of Mosher's appeal is not documented in the Ord Family papers.

E.O.C. Ord II was the son of Edward Otho Cresap Ord (E.O.C. Ord I), a Union general in the American Civil War. The elder Ord won the battle of Dranesville, Virginia early in the war. He was also present with General Ulysses S. Grant at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. The younger Ord was a longtime soldier like his father.

The Booth Family Center houses the Ord Family papers: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

--Scott Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist

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