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Lemon encased in acrylycI'm often asked to name the most unusual item in the University Archives collection. My response is sometimes influenced by the records I've most recently worked with but, more often than not, I say it is a lemon. Now as a general rule, fresh produce and archives do not pair well (we have a strict no eating/drinking policy within our spaces, after all).  But this particular lemon is pretty archives-friendly, given that it is entirely encased in an acrylic cube. It is also over 45 years old but looks good for its age, as the acrylic is retarding the decomposition process rather effectively. 

Sadly, there is no documentation in the archives as to who preserved the lemon or who donated it (if you have details, please let us know). It was here when I arrived in 1994. The understanding of the Archives staff is that the lemon played an active role in the lemonstration organized on February 2, 1973. A lemonstration is, naturally, a demonstration involving lemons and during this campus protest, students placed around 6000 lemons against the door to the President’s Office while the Board of Directors was meeting inside. The protest was over proposed increases in tuition and board and also rising enrollments. In case you are wondering how 6000 lemons happened to be available, student vendors organized by the Lemon Day Committee sold them in front of Healy Hall for 5 cents each, with the money raised going to a scholarship fund. These vendors hawked their wares by shouting slogans such as Buy a lemon - Show the Board of Directors your education has gone sour.  Undeterred, the Board approved the increases.  

Lemonstration flyer

Many of the items in the Archives require careful handling because of their age and/or format. Not so the lemon, and its virtually indestructible nature has allowed it to accompany me to many student instruction sessions, presentations, and open houses where it has been passed around, held up to the the light, and closely examined for signs of decay. The presence of the lemon elicits conversation, testifies to the ingenuity and creativity of the Georgetown students who shaped and participated in the protest, and challenges expectations of what you might expect to find in an archives.

Visitors are very welcome to see the lemon "in person" in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections on the 5th floor of Lauinger.

--Lynn Conway, University Archivist


Fresh lemon images courtesy © Hans Hillewaert / CC BY-SA 4.0

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Detail from 1977 German movie poster for The Blue Bird.

While cataloging the University Art Collection’s 509 German movie posters this summer, I came across this 1977 poster for the film The Blue Bird (released in East Germany as Der blaue Vogel). The artistic style makes this poster stand out from the others, and it is also unusual in the collection since it was designed by a woman, Roswitha Grüttner.

1977 German movie poster for The Blue BirdRoswitha Grüttner (born 1939 in Heidebreck, Germany) has worked as an artist, illustrator, and designer from the completion of her degree in design and book art in 1964. Although this poster is more representational and realistic than most of her work, it is less so than most poster illustration of the period.

The Blue Bird, a play in six acts, was first published in 1908 as L’Oiseau bleu. The playwright, Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949), went to a Jesuit school as a child, where he smuggled poetry books into the school grounds.

People have connected The Blue Bird to socialist ideology, and evidence from Maeterlinck’s other writings suggests that he may have done so as well. The connection between this passage and parts of The Blue Bird is not difficult to draw. At the beginning of the play, siblings Mytyl and Tyltyl look enviously out of their window into the house of the rich children who live next door. Mytyl complains that it isn’t fair for her family to go hungry while others have more than enough to eat. After a dream adventure in search of the Blue Bird of Happiness, they return home to discover that the Blue Bird was in their own backyard the entire time. They unhesitatingly give it to their neighbor’s sick daughter, and learn to be content with what they have.

--Isabelle Raposo, 2018 University Art Collection Summer Intern from Wellesley College



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Books detail

The year 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass (circa February 1818 - February 20, 1895). Born into slavery in Tuckahoe, Maryland, Douglass boldly escaped from slavery to the North in 1838. For many years, he was active as a speaker and organizer in the abolitionist movement to end slavery in the United States. In 1845, he published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. During the Civil War era, Douglass published his own abolitionist newspapers and spoke with President Abraham Lincoln on occasion. During Reconstruction, he continued to fight for civil rights for both African Americans and women.

From 1877 to 1881, Douglass served as the U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia. On December 17, 1879, Douglass penned a letter to a Mr. Robinson about an image of himself that appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, a notable newspaper of the time featuring images drawn from photographs and sketches.1 It seems that Mr. Robinson worked for Frank Leslie’s. That particular periodical published an interview with Douglass, accompanied by an etching, on December 13, 1879. In his letter, Douglass informed his correspondent that he “was more than pleased with your reports of the interview published in the weekly,” but then he weighed in on the accompanying image:

The portrait was satisfactory – about as much so as pictures of the sort can well be to those who happen to be pictured. I do not see myself as others see me and therefore I may be pardoned if I fancy myself a little better looking than your picture makes me. Upon the whole however, I like the picture and recognize the justice of the hand that traced it.           

 Letter from Frederick Douglass to Mr. Robinson

Douglass’s letter derives from the John Gilmary Shea papers (box 2, folder 52), a manuscript collection here at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. Shea, the preeminent American Catholic historian of the nineteenth century, worked as an editor for Frank Leslie’s for a time. Shea was also an avid collector of documents and signatures of notable people, so it seems likely that he obtained this letter while working at the newspaper. The document bears the “Shea Col” stamp placed there by an archivist at Georgetown College (now University) after the Shea papers arrived at the Georgetown College archives in 1892.

In the interview in the December 13 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Douglass contends that although some African Americans may find opportunities in the North, others could find opportunities in the South. Douglass was aware of challenges in the South, however, as he said, “There is no doubt that in certain sections of the South, especially in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, violence and intimidation have been resorted to.”  

The image Douglass saw in Frank Leslie’s on December 13, reproduced below, depicts Douglass in his role as U.S. Marshal, seated at his desk in City Hall.

Frederick Douglass image

Douglass’s letter reflects his gentle sense of humor about his likeness. The etching it references, however, represents just one of the many images of Douglass made during his lifetime. Scholars John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier identified Frederick Douglass as “the most photographed American of the nineteenth century.”2  Through their research, the authors discovered 160 distinct photographs of Douglass. That figure does not include all of the engravings, lithographs, sketches, paintings, and other non-photographic images of Douglass over the years. The image from Frank Leslie’s seems to be an etching.

--Scott S. Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist

1Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper is available online from Accessible Archives. In the December 13, 1879 issue, the image of Douglass is on page 257 and the interview is on pages 258-259.

2John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (New York: Norton, 2015), ix.

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Detail from Alexandra David-Neel Letter

Photo of Alexandra David-NeelSeven years ago, I curated an exhibition on women travelers at the Booth Center for Special Collections. During my research I was surprised and delighted by the discovery of the trove of women’s papers held in the manuscripts repository: diaries, letters, and manuscript works that, for the most part, had been forgotten or side-lined by the major collecting areas -- my understanding is that this is not an unusual phenomenon unless an archive has been created with a specific focus on women’s collections.

One of the sub-themes of the exhibition was intrepid women travelers to remote and so-called “exotic” locations. Of course the names of Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark come to the fore – and I was rewarded by finding letters, books and photographs to represent them. Then a helpful colleague told me about Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969), described variously as explorer, Buddhist spiritualist, writer and anarchist, who garnered fame not only by traveling to Lhasa, Tibet in 1924 when it was closed to foreign visitors, but also as the first woman to do so. Needless to say, I was crestfallen not to have come across anything by her in the repository. My exhibition went on without this amazing and fascinating woman traveler.

Last month, I found myself looking into a box of letters written to Marie-Therese Cosme, wife of Henri Cosme, the French ambassador to China in 1939. There, a few folders from the front were two letters written in the neat, legible hand of Alexandra David-Neel. Both are dated during the Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945), at the time David-Neel, aged 69, was trekking through China to Tibet, with all of her research, translation materials and books. The latter items are her primary concern as she appeals in two letters to Madame Cosme for help to locate and secure them at the English and Canadian mission stations in Chansi and Hunan, as well as at her house, where they were stored.

Following are the two letters from Alexandra David-Neel to Marie Therese Cosme. I have provided a rudimentary translation of the first, dated August 1, 1939; you can find the translation at the end of this post. I invite readers to try their hand at translating the other. Better yet, contact me to arrange for a visit to view these in person!

(Click images to enlarge.)

Handwritten letter from Alexandra David-NeelHandwritten letter from Alexandra David-Neel

Handwritten letter from Alexandra David-NeelHandwritten letter from Alexandra David-Neel

Alexandra David-Neel was born Louise Eugenie Alexandrine Marie David in Saint-Mande, Paris, France, on October 24, 1868. She was the daughter of Louis David, a journalist and teacher. Her mother was from Belgium where the family relocated and resided until David-Neel was six. A precocious and intrepid explorer of her own backyard as a child, David-Neel never outgrew her wanderlust.  When she was 17 she took a train to Switzerland, across the Saint Gotthard Pass to Lake Maggiore in Italy. A year later she cycled to Spain and then to London, where she became involved in a study group associated with the Theosophical Society founded by Madame Blavatsky. In 1889, David-Neel moved to Paris to audit courses in Eastern religions at the Sorbonne. Women were not admitted for degrees. In 1890, she travelled to India funded by an inheritance from her grandmother.  When funds ran out, she joined a traveling opera company as a singer. The company performed in North Africa and Algeria where she met and married a railroad engineer, Philippe Neel. As always, ahead of her time, she hyphenated her surname to include both maiden and married names.

By 1911, David-Neel had gained some renown in France through lectures on Eastern religions. She was able to return to India on a grant from the French Ministry of Education to study Sanskrit in Benares. During this trip she met the 13th Dalai Lama, recently fled from Tibet after an incursion from China. David-Neel became the first noted woman to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama on spiritual enlightenment. In 1924, David-Neel visited Lhasa, Tibet, in disguise, with her long-time traveling companion, a young Lama named Aphur Yongden. She remained in Lhasa for two months, although she never renewed her acquaintance with the Dalai Lama.

David-Neel returned to France for some years between 1925 and 1937 when she again traveled to China. Unfortunately, this time she was caught in the outbreak of the Second World War and was unable to return home until 1946.

Along with translations of Tibetan sacred texts, David-Neel wrote over 30 published books on Eastern religion, philosophy and spiritualism. From book sales she was able to purchase a house in Digne-les-Bains, France, where she lived out her life with Yongden, who died in 1955. David-Neel lived to her 100th year. In 1973 her ashes and those of Yongden’s were scattered on the Ganges River near Benares. Her house in Digne is now the Alexandra David-Neel Museum. David-Neel was also recipient of numerous honors, including the Gold Medal of the Geographic Society of France, and was named a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.

--Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist

Image Credits and Citations:

1. [Alexandra David-Neel in Eastern garments]
Fotograf ukjent, Reprofotografi Meyer, Elisabeth
Portrett av Alexandra David-Neels, Tibet 1933. Bildetekst: Vår tids største kvinnelige oppdagelsesreisende, Alexandra David-Neels. Halskjedet er laget av 108 pannebraskstykker og på høire side sees det omtalte magiske lårben. 16 x 10,7 cm Sølvgelatin.
NMFF.003380-3-1. Preus Museum. URL:

2. [Letter 8/1/1939]
Marie-Therese Cosme papers, GTM-940608, Box 1, Folder 3. Booth Family Center for Special Collections.

3. [Letter 5/24/1941]
Marie-Therese Cosme papers, GTM-940608, box 1, Folder 4. Booth Family Center for Special Collections.

Translation of first letter:

Catholic Hospital, Kanting-Tetsienlou (Sikang)
1st August 1939


The difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves in China appear to be appropriate excuse for certain importunities. I hope that you share this opinion and pardon me for addressing you on the subject of my personal affairs, even though I’m not known to you.

Charged with a mission, I found myself in the mountains, in Chansi, collecting interesting information on oriental studies, when war broke out. It was impossible for me to return to Peking, and having reached Taiyuan, I had to flee hastily to avoid finding myself in a conquered [zone?] and to ensure freedom of movement. During the escape I lost a part of my luggage; another part was saved and stored at the English Baptist mission in Taiyuan, while what remains at my house in Peking has been secured by the ambassador and Dr. Bussiere.

These recent events: pillaging of the English mission at Sifeng (Chansi) which led to abandonment by the missionaries, burning of the Canadian mission in Hunan and massacre of several Chinese members, make me afraid for the fate of the English mission in Taiyan and afraid about my belongings there. I wish to convey some instructions [information] to the director of this mission that he will find helpful if he has to leave. You will see for yourself what this is and also know what is in the other letters which will apprise you completely.

It is necessary that these letters are transmitted as soon as possible to the Ambassador of Peking who will give them to Dr. Bussiere. Monsieur F. Lacaste is current on this matter anyway and together with Dr. Bussiere he will know the means to reach Rev. Price, whom this concerns.

I do not dare to disturb the Ambassador about this but I think being a woman permits me to appeal to you.

Once again, I wish, Madame, to be excused of my importunity, and express my best appreciation and devotion,

Alexandra David-Neel



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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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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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