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Detail of Healy architecture

In honor of absolutely nothing in particular, I'm using this blog post to share one of my favorite photos from the University Archives. We have probably close to 200,000 images, so picking favorites is tricky but this image of the 1901 Junior Yard is always going to make it onto my top five list. I love it because in contrast to an abundance of staged and staid group photographs in our collection, this one exudes a more informal air.

Junior Yard 1901

(Click to enlarge.)

For anyone wondering about the age of the students portrayed, until 1919 when Georgetown Prep moved off campus to its present location in Garrett Park in Montgomery County, Maryland, there were always younger students at Georgetown. Our first student, William Gaston, enrolled at the tender age of 13. 

The Junior Yard was the athletic association for the prep students—the Yard was the comparable organization for the collegiate division. Their functions were to oversee athletic and recreational activities on campus. Over time this role broadened into other aspects of student life, and by 1920 the Yard President also served as the head of student government.

--Lynn Conway, University Archivist

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Detail from Georgetown shoe shop ledger, 1844

The staff in the University Archives recently installed an exhibition on the history of Georgetown football from 1830-1951. Curiosity abounds whenever we open up the cases and change out the exhibitions on display, so many of our researchers ask questions about what is going in next. As luck would have it, a regular researcher at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections happened to notice an entry in the Shoemaker’s Shop ledger from 1843-1845 that was highly relevant to the football exhibition. That ledger contains an entry on October 5, 1844, that reads as follows:

Detail from shoe shop ledger regarding leather for football

“Leather for foot ball (paid) 37 ½ cents”

We know that football, in some form, was played on campus as early as 1830, thanks to a letter from student John Carroll Brent. Brent wrote to his sister Emmy on October 7, 1830:

Detail from 1830 letter from Georgetown student John Carroll Brent to his sister Emmy

“We play football at present. What I mean by football is that it is a kind of leather bag in which is placed a bladder filled with air which causes it to bounce up very high and is kicked about by the boys. I have had my feet skinned and bruised by it very often.”

The sport obviously seems to have remained popular on campus if, 14 years later, University officials were fashioning their own footballs from leather found in the shoe shop. As this particular ledger isn’t used very often, it is not likely that staff would have come across this interesting entry. Kudos to our eagle-eyed researcher!

To learn more about the history of football at Georgetown, stop by the 5th floor of Lauinger Library to see the exhibition, which is on display until mid-September, 2018.

--Ann Galloway, Assistant University Archivist

Page from Georgetown Shoe Shop ledger, 1844

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Detail from Dolley Madison letter

Dolley Madison (1768-1849) revolutionized the role of the First Lady in American politics by hosting an astounding number of social functions during the presidency of her husband, James Madison, from 1809 to 1817. After James’ death in 1836, Dolley moved back to Washington, D.C., from their home at Montpelier, Virginia and continued her social engagements.

On June 8, 1846, Dolley penned a letter from Washington, D.C. to General Zachary Taylor in Matamoros, Mexico, during the Mexican War (1846-1848). Dolley’s stylish handwriting is immediately apparent. She wrote the bottom of each word precisely on a horizontal line flowing from left to right. Moreover, she extended many of the last letters of words in a straight line to the right of the ended word. In the text of the letter, Dolley wished General Taylor well and praised him for his “mercy” and his “Patriot’s glory.” She signed this letter as “D.P. Madison,” a reference to her maiden name “Payne.”

Letter addressed to Gen. Zachary Taylor from Dolley Madison

Dolley also noted that Rev. John McElroy, S.J., a Jesuit priest, would bear this letter to General Taylor in Matamoros. She described Fr. McElroy as a “respected  and good chaplain” whom she had known for a long time. Today, the letter is preserved with several pieces of Fr. McElroy’s correspondence in box 10, folder 12 of the Maryland Province Archives of the Society of Jesus, which documents the Province and Jesuit activities in Maryland and elsewhere dating back to the 17th century. It is unclear why Dolley’s letter remained with Fr. McElroy or whether the general replied to her missive. (The Library of Congress houses the Dolley Madison papers; the Dolley Madison Digital Edition is an effort of the University of Virginia to present her papers digitally for research.)

Letter from Dolley Madison to Gen. Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) served as one of the top American generals in the Mexican War. He established a base at Matamoros early in the war.  President James Madison was a second cousin of Taylor. Thus, in the letter in question, Dolley signed off as “Your friend and relation.” Dolley died on July 12, 1849 in Washington, D.C. Taylor, who served as U.S. President from March 4, 1849 to his death in office on July 9, 1850, lined up with his cabinet and Congressmen to honor Dolley at her funeral.

Rev. John McElroy, S.J. (1782-1877) served as an American military chaplain during the Mexican War. He was assigned to the base camp at Matamoros and tended to wounded soldiers. He had been at Georgetown College (later University) for a time prior to the war. Later, Fr. McElroy helped found Boston College in 1863.

--Scott S. Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist

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Detail from Mark Mulfinger's color print "Print Room"

On February 28, the Art Collection was invited to participate in a Maker Hub workshop on linocut printing. The Library’s Maker Hub provided the tools and materials, printmaker and graphic designer Lauren Emeritz ( provided the expertise, and the Art Collection brought examples of linocut blocks and prints from the collection to inspire. 

The clear favorite was Mark Mulfinger’s Print Room, a large color print made using the reduction method. This technique uses only one block; with each successive color printed, more of the block is cut away, Mulfinger says, until only “the final darkest skeleton lines remain.”

Mulfinger's color print "Print Room"

Print Room
Mark Mulfinger
450 x 670 mm
Fairchild Endowment Fund purchase
(Click image to enlarge)

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Art Collection
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Detail from Helen Keller note

In honor of this year’s theme for Women’s History Month, I created an online exhibition representing a few amazing and persistent women whose works and writings comprise the small yet significant (persistent!) women’s archives here. In making my selections, I reflected that to be women making their way in the world, even into the 20th century, took persistence and courage! Some of the women in the exhibition are exemplary for their accomplishments despite cultural, physical or racial impediments. However, I discovered that there are also those who boldly sought challenges and voluntarily put themselves in the line of fire. These women were the entrepreneurs and pioneers who owned businesses, challenged government, founded hospitals and schools for the underprivileged, and explored hazardous terrain.

You are invited to discover more about these women by visiting the online exhibition.

More information about women’s manuscripts collections is available in this research guide.

--Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist


Photo of Helen Keller

Helen Keller. Photograph, dated 1938. Credit: Haas, N.Y.  
Lisa Sergio papers GTMGamms172, 14:58


Helen Keller note

Helen Keller. Signed autograph note, no date.
John S. Mayfield papers, autograph series, GTM830101a, 3:34

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Detail from C. D. Broad manuscript in the Montague Summers Papers.

During the processing of the Montague Summers papers, recently opened to researchers at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections, I came across an unusual manuscript in unidentified handwriting titled “The Necromantic Tripos,” written on seven sheets of letter-paper signed “C.D. Broad, in the Trinity Magazine, Dec. 1926.” Because the occult was a particular field of interest for Montague Summers, I immediately noticed the word "necromantic," and decided to take a closer look; for starters, what is a necromantic tripos? For that matter, what is a tripos? And who is C.D. Broad?

C. D. Broad manuscript detail

These questions, as it turns out, are easily answered. “Tripos” is a word only commonly used in English in regards to the undergraduate curriculum at Cambridge University, referring to the tripod or stool on which candidates were historically examined for their degree. Today, tripos still refers to a specific course of study at Cambridge, such as the Geographical Tripos or the Linguistics Tripos, including the examinations required to attain a bachelor’s degree. This reveals a connection to our manuscript by C.D. Broad. Charlie Dunbar Broad (1887-1971) successfully completed his tripos in 1906, became a lecturer at Cambridge in 1923, and in the year our manuscript was published in the university’s Trinity Magazine he became a lecturer in the faculty of philosophy at Cambridge. In the course of his career, Broad authored several works on epistemology and the philosophy of science; later in his career Broad took an interest in the philosophical aspects of psychical research.

So what is a “necromantic tripos”? Historically, necromancy referred specifically to the summoning of, and communication with, spirits of the dead or spirits more generally; over time the term came to be generally applied to any practices associated with sorcery or “black magic.” C.D. Broad’s article for the Trinity Magazine meticulously sets out a full curriculum for the study of magic, high and low, theoretical and practical. According to Broad, the university’s plans to “establish a Tripos on the Subject of Necromancy” were the result of “the munificent gift of a benefactor who prefers to remain anonymous”; he then sets out a course of study in 2 parts, the first being a series of papers on the subjects of astrology, alchemy, the elements of magic, etc., and the second being "sections" of courses on the theory and practice of a multitude of topics, including divination, magical potions, curses, and supernatural locomotion—including the aerodynamics of the broomstick.

C. D. Broad manuscript detail

C. D. Broad manuscript detail

Certain rules are mentioned with some specificity. For example, while permission is necessary for a student to keep a familiar spirit in his room, if it is in the form of a cat or tortoise, permission is generally given, while a Spectral Hound kept as familiar would be barred under the general rule against dogs. ‘Homunculi’ are likewise permitted in the students’ rooms, but only in “stout and properly stoppered bottles”. In some instances, Broad’s injunctions appear more credible than the rules imagined at Hogwart’s, as we find that “No undergraduate in his first year may keep a broomstick for purposes of equitation, or borrow a broomstick for such purposes.” In a similarly reasonable vein, Broad states that “Hands of Glory count as oil-lamps, not as candles, and their use as illuminants in college rooms is absolutely forbidden.” Thus ends the Necromantic Tripos.

C. D. Broad manuscript detail

Why did C.D. Broad write this? Was it for entertainment only, or was there another context for such an article? Can the handwriting of the manuscript be identified, and is it Broad’s? Can the original, published article be found? These questions, so far, are not so easily answered.

C. D. Broad manuscript detail

--Ted Jackson, Manuscripts Archivist

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Detail from Hoya story on the Knickerbocker Theatre disaster

The Knickerbocker blizzard brought 28" of snow to D.C. between January 27 and 28, 1922. Ranked as the largest snowstorm in Washington history, it is named for the Knickerbocker Theatre, which was located in Adams Morgan.  This was the largest movie theater in D.C. at the time and seated 1700 people. By the evening of January 28, the storm was winding down and people were beginning to venture out on foot, although many streets were still impassible to vehicles. The Knickerbocker opened for an evening showing of the movie Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford. During the intermission, the theater's flat roof collapsed under the weight of accumulated snow. Ninety-eight people were killed, including five Georgetown students. 

Francis Tondorf in 1916 YearbookThe student body came to believe that Father Francis A. Tondorf, S.J., known on campus as "Tondy" (seen here as pictured in the 1916 yearbook), had somehow sensed the disaster before it occurred.  Father Tondorf was director of the University’s Seismological Observatory as well as Professor of Biology in the College and Professor of Physiology in the Medical and Dental Schools. Tondorf Road, which runs between Prospect Street and the medical campus, is named for him. Clarence J. Schweikhardt, D’1923, recalled in a 1966 compilation of alumni reminiscences that Tondy taught us that the true purpose of learning is not to pass a test but to stimulate the mind. [He] showed us the importance of remaining open, receptive to all sources of information. Most of all he tried to impress us with the tremendous power of the mind .  .  .  He spoke to us of  . . .  extrasensory perception. He believed we can influence the world outside us and, in turn, can be influenced by outside forces . . . One day apropos of nothing, he told us to stay away from the movies and keep out of crowds. We shrugged it off, thinking that the priest in him suddenly had decided movies were bad. Day after day he reminded us urgently, "Don't go to the movies. Stay out of crowds". We wondered why he hammered away so insistently on his theme, but when the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater [sic] collapsed, crushing hundreds within, we rejoiced we had not been at the movies . . . Tondy never claimed any foreknowledge of the accident, but he never again told us to stay away from the movies either. From that day, we took his advice more seriously . . . 

--Lynn Conway, University Archivist

Hoya issue February 2 1922

February 2, 1922 issue of The Hoya with a front page story of the Knickerbocker disaster. Click to see the entire issue online.

Tribute to Knickerbocker Theatre disaster victim in 1922 yearbook

Tribute to Knickerbocker disaster victim Ivan White in the 1922 yearbook. Click to enlarge.

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Campus in snow 1943

You made it! Finals are over and it is now time for some rest and relaxation! To help get you started on this path, the University Archives presents the following festive images for your enjoyment.

Ice skating on a frozen Potomac River, ca. 1900

Ice skating on a frozen Potomac River, ca. 1900

Campus blanketed with snow, 1943

Campus blanketed with snow, 1943

Georgetown College Journal Cover 1946

Georgetown College Journal cover, December 1946

Nursing School students in the snow, 1961

Nursing School students having fun in the snow, 1961

Heading to class in the snow, ca. 1977

Headed to class, ca. 1977

Sledding ca. 1979

Sledding, ca. 1979

Dahlgren Chapel in the snow 1979

Dahlgren Chapel, 1979

German Club page from the program for the SLL Caroling Contest, 1982

German Club page from the program for the School of Languages and Linguistics Caroling Contest, 1982

Jack the Bulldog with antlers, 1999 (image from University Photographer’s files)

jack the Bulldog with Santa, 1999

Jack the Bulldog makes friends with Santa, 1999 (image from University Photographer’s files)

Healy Hall in snow, 2000

Healy Hall, 2000 (image from University Photographer’s files)


--Ann Galloway, Assistant University Archivist

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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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