Monday, November 30, 2015

Genealogical secrets

The last chapter of the Gospel of Mark and beginning of  Luke in Dutch.
This is a guest blog by MSMU Archives Asst. Nancy L. Steinmann, MLIS. Nancy has been working on a project to prepare some of  MSMU's oldest books for formal cataloging. 
A HIDDEN TREASURE surfaced in the Mount Archives last week during some routine assessment of special collections volumes. The rare 1878 Bible in Dutch revealed family genealogical information written on the flyleaves and on inserted loose leaves in the volume.

The entries for the families DeGries and Hoverleden document births and deaths ranging from 1843 to 1940. Few clues for the origin of the Bible exist except for a small note tucked inside the leaves saying that it was donated by “Sister St. Michael.” She later went by Sr. Michael Flaherty, CSJ, of the Los Angeles Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 86.

The Bible was in a very poor state of preservation, with the pages crumbling due to natural acids (lignin) in the wood-pulp paper. While rare, it had little monetary value due to its condition. However, the family information preserved in the context of the volume provides priceless evidence for genealogical research. But first it must be made available to potential users.

In accordance with our deaccession policy, the MSMU Archives searched for a repository with similar materials to house the volume. A centralized national repository would allow the materials and their historic information to be easily located. The National Genealogical Society (NGS) in Arlington, Va., happily responded.

Organized in 1903, the NGS exists to provide education and training to the genealogical community, promoting access to and preservation of genealogical records. The organization will scan the family information and add the names to their extensive database of Bible records The volume itself will be stored in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library in Washington, D.C., with the rest of the NGS Bible collection.

In its new home, this rare Bible will add to the growing treasure of genealogical information available to online users, connecting families to their past, and preserving the gracious donation of Sister St. Michael for future generations.

For further information about these genealogical resources, please see:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgivings at the Mount

MOUNT STUDENTS HAVE long been a grateful bunch, and the Thanksgiving holiday has always been a major milestone in the academic calendar. Browsing the Mount's literary journals and newspapers of the past 90 years reveals some endearing stories, prayers, poetry and opinions devoted to the annual feast and counting of blessings.

Ann Hall '48.
An echo from almost 70 years ago, barely two years after the end of World War II, still resonates today:
This Thanksgiving the word "vacation" on the college calendar and the sight of the pumpkin and turkey orders on the grocery list tell us that Thanksgiving time is here... We think of the many gifts for which we must remember to give thanks ... for the comforts so many are in need of today... for the one-day cessation of wind that came on the day of the Sepulveda fire... for all the times we prayed and [God] said "Yes" ... for the times we asked "if it's for the best" and [God] said "No" ... and thanks that all the people who said last Thanksgiving, "Another year and we'll be at war again" were wrong.  (Ann Hall '48 in the November, 1947, View)
Shirley Burke '54.
A possibly homesick alumna studying in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1956 writes back to her modern languages professor Sr. Aline Marie Gerber, CSJ:
 On Thanksgiving Day the Swiss-American Society gave a party for all the American students at one of the local hotels. Each of us was invited to dinner at the home of one of our professors. I received an invitation from my major professor. I hadn't known him too well before, and I was usually terrified by him in class. However, I found him meek as a lamb at home. Now we're good friends. (Shirley Joan Burke '54 in the June, 1956, Inter-Nos.) 
Closer to home, a student in 1975 advises her peers not to gripe so much about cafeteria food in a paragraph titled "A Thanksgiving":
It seems as if it has always been a tradition among student living in college dorms to gripe about the food. But I don't really feel that anyone is justified in complaining about food here at the Mount. Granted, there may be times when the London Broil is under- or overdone, but some college food services would never consider serving steak.... With Thanksgiving here, I think that it is important for everyone to realize just how fortunate we are. Some people are not so lucky. (J.C., November, 1975, View)
In the fitness-minded 1990s, students were thankful for the opportunity to lose a few pounds after the holiday. Camille Maldonado '96 (?) , writing in the December, 1995, Oracle, mentions the Monday-After-Thanksgiving "Turkey Trot," which draws 25 students and staff who opt to exercise off some of the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

Sister Ignatia Cordis, CSJ.
The astonishing historical tidbit that the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet raised turkeys comes to us from Helen McCarter, writing when the Mount was lodged at St. Mary's Academy.  Her short article "Gobblers Start for College Girls" in the November, 1929, Inter-Nos describes a drawing class during which the professor, Sister Ignatia Cordis, CSJ (1887-1986), threw a fit because none of her students knew what the head of a turkey looked like. Apparently they were familiar only with the headless, roasted kind and produced drawings of "buffalo heads, mustaches, drooping eyelashes, etc." Not deterred, Sister took the class over to research the community's turkey pen, after which students completed their assignment.

Finally, we are personally thankful for "E.E." writing in the View in November, 1962. "This year," she opines, "it seems especially fitting that we include the library in our thanksgiving."  Yes, indeed, there is much to give thanks for at MSMU.

Classic musing on an all-American holiday tradition, View, November 1946..
Would you like to browse the journals, newspapers, and yearbooks? Just click here and start reading.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lighting the holidays

The Circle is lit and cookies and hot cocoa await. (2013)
IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS on our two beautiful campi. With the end of the semester looming, there won't be time later to create and enjoy the holiday environment, so even as we're looking forward next week to turkey and pumpkin pie, the Associated Student Body is putting the finishing touches on Christmas wonderland at Chalon and Doheny.

Circle fountain in ribbons and bows.
Tonight is the traditional Lighting of the Circle at Chalon. Everything from the hedges to the fountain is festooned with little white lights, ribbons and ornaments, ready for the the Flipping of the Switch at 6 p.m. sharp. (Our heroic electrician Haig Papelian has been wiring up for days.) The Campus Ministry Band will be accompanying carols, Santa Claus will put in an appearance, and ASB will be ready with hot chocolate and cookies.

Over at Doheny, the celebration is tomorrow, with more cocoa and cookies and a Christmas-themed photo booth. Theannual Christmas Magic at the Mansion will be celebrated after Thanksgiving, a party for all the staff and faculty of MSMU. The already amazing Doheny Mansion is even more exquisite in its Christmas finery. Here's a preview.

Doheny Mansion at sunset with Christmas lights aglow.
We recently unearthed a Christmas tradition from yesteryear at MSMU. There's an undated, un-labeled photo of students in pajamas, bathrobes and topcoats trooping down the Grand Staircase at Chalon. They're carrying candles and everyone's mouth is open. From there we got as far as guessing "Christmas caroling," but didn't know the context until we tripped over it in the 1960 yearbook.

Mystery photo at last explained. 
The caption explained what was going on.
 Warmly dressed and lighted candles in hand, the resident students begin their traditional custom of Christmas caroling to the Sisters. The girls walk from the Mount campus down to the House of Studies [now Carondelet Center], where they exchange songs with novices and postulants. Hot chocolate and doughnuts are served when they return.
(Those CSJ novices and postulants would be about the same age as the Mount students, and some of them might even be classmates and friends.)

Here's to  90 years of Christmas traditions at Mount Saint Mary's University. May these coming hectic days of shopping, cooking, and preparation all be merry and bright.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Doheny books go home to No. 8

Ned Doheny's bookplate showing No. 8, the "Ranch"
in Beverly Hills, the oil well
Casiana and the family
yacht of the same name.
ESTELLE DOHENY WAS A WORLD-CLASS collector of rare books, something that may have rubbed off on her stepson, Edward L. “Ned” Doheny Jr. (1893-1929).

Ned left behind a run of collectibles printed by the Bibliophile Society that occupied a dozen feet of bookshelf in the Doheny Mansion, from the family’s first years there to Estelle Doheny’s death on October 30, 1958. In early 1959 they came to the Mount libraries’ Archives & Special Collections.

But now after months of planning they’re back in their original home of 100 years ago. To accommodate an influx of historic books in the Chalon Library, the decision was made to use Estelle’s glass-fronted bookshelves in her personal library at No. 8 Chester Place as a permanent place of honor for this collection of Doheniana.

The Boston-based Bibliophile Society was a sort of book-of-the-month club for well-to-do readers. Classics and new titles were issued in limited press runs of letterpress on handmade linen- or cotton-rag paper. The spines are almost all vellum with embossed gold, the various bindings made of leather, paper or cloth. Inside each cover is Ned’s personal bookplate, which depicts four of his five children and vignettes from the family’s history – including No. 8 itself, Edward Doheny Sr.’s first oil well and the Dohenys’ yacht, both called “Casiana.”

Estelle Doheny added her own bookplates opposite Ned's.
After Ned’s tragic death in 1929 the books remained with Estelle, who placed two of her own ex libris (from the library) plates opposite Ned’s. When the Mansion became a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet shortly after Estelle's death at the age of 83, the books were given to the Mount's Charles Willard Coe Memorial Library. And there they remained for the next 56 years.

The relocation project wouldn't have happened without our excellent library volunteers Dianne Plou Schautschick ’65, Emily Deutsch Keller ’66 and Vivian Santibáñez, who did all the packing up at Chalon and shelving at Doheny. H/T to Mary Uganskis for her numerous rounds of inventorying and to Samantha Silver and Terri Fresquez of the library staff for quickly re-cataloging 139 volumes. It’s gratifying to see Ned’s books restored to their historic home.

Emily and Vivian critiquing the final arrangement.
(iPhone 6 photo by Dianne Schautschick)