FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY



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Philadelphia Firemen on Tour

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In November 1858, the firemen of Hibernia fire engine company no. 1 of Philadelphia went on tour of New York, Boston, Brooklyn, Charlestown and Newark with their state of the art equipment and a desire to bring the knowledge of this state of the art technology to their fellow fire fighters along the East Coast. Upon their return they created a commemorative volume filled with a history of the company, illustrations of the current members, and recounting the experiences and equipment of the trip; this has now been digitized as part of the Pennsylvaniana Collection.

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The history of the Hibernia fire engine company is interesting. Incorporated in February, 1752, and reputed to be the oldest organized fire company in America, the Hibernia fire engine company no. 1 served as the premier fire fighters of Philadelphia vowing:

“upon hearing of a fire break out repair to the same with our buckets, bags & Baskets & there employ our utmost endeavors to preserve the Goods & Effects of such of us as shall be in danger; and if — more than one of our Goods, Houses and Effects be in danger at the same time, we will divide ourselves as near as may be, to be equally helpful, and such of us as may be spared may assist others in like danger; and to prevent as much as in us lies suspicious persons from coming into or carrying any of the Goods out of such of our houses as may be in danger, two of our Number shall constantly attend at the doors, until all the Goods & Effects that can be saved, are pack’d up and convey ‘d into some place, where one or more of us shall attend until they are delivered to or secur’d for the owner. — And upon our first hearing of Fire, we will immediately cause two or more Lights to be placed in our windows, and such of our Company whose Houses may he in Danger shall place Candles in every Room to prevent Confusion & that their Friends may be able to give the more speedy & effectual assistance. — And further as this Association is intended for General benefit, we do mutually agree, that in case a fire should hereafter break out in any other of the Inhabitants’ Houses and when none of our own Houses, Goods and Effects are in Danger, we will immediately Repair thither with our Buckets, Bags & Baskets, and give our utmost assistance to such of our Fellow Citizens as shall stand in need thereof.”

Notable among the early members of the Hibernia fire engine company No. 1 was John Barry, listed, according to the commemorative volume, on the membership rolls for 1785. Barry was the celebrated Irish naval officer and the first Commodore in the American navy who lived in Philadelphia after the Revolutionary War until his death in September 1803.

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Few print copies of the commemorative volume have survived the vagaries of time but now this rare peek at the daily lives of Americans from 1859 is available to all. One of the first titles scanned and made available in the Digital Library, added September 8, 2006, this title has also just been scanned (August 2008), by the Internet Archive.

The future progression of technology and the advancement of new and superior file formats makes it difficult to be certain that any particular copy of a file will be migrated to the new, usable, and likely superior contemporary format. As few print copies of this work have survived to 2009, making multiple digital copies of works helps ensure the enjoyment of future generations of readers and researchers.

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Captain Rita Ficchi’s WAAC Handbook

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The power of the network can leverage even a small number of personal artifacts and materials on a very specific subject into a visceral and meaningful engagement with history. One such item is the Handbook for the Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Fort Des Moines Iowa, dated 1943. Enclosed in the Handbook is a photograph of the Fort’s First Officer Captain Rita A. Ficci. It was donated to Falvey’s Special Collection by an Augustinian, Father Thomas Roland, in 1962. The Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corp was a division of the U.S. Army for citizens of the female gender, created in 1942 and moved to active status in 1943 during World War II. Women served their country actively in this conflict.

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Reading this Handbook, which was designed to be given to each new arrival at the Fort, brings to mind another time, and gives guidance on the transition from civilian to military life. Specific instructions are given on uniforms, military bearing, what to wear, hair care, saluting, and the military police. Even a map of the post is included.

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Organizations such as the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, collect and display large collections of these resources. While the Fort Des Moines Museum also strives to document the past, in this case the mission is to preserve information about a place; the museum’s online photo gallery of Army Women at Fort Des Moines, Iowa 1942-1945 shows the training and service of women like Captain Ficchi. But in an online environment resources at any one institution, even an institution with a small collection of unique items, can add to the total body of information available about a subject. In the case of primary materials like Captain Ficchi’s photograph and this handbook, small pieces of a puzzle can be added together to create a more complete whole.

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Joseph McGarrity, the Emerald Miner

One project of the Digital Library is to make unique physical objects available to a wider scholarly and public audience by digitization. Letters and personal papers of Joseph McGarrity housed in Special Collections have begun to be scanned into a new digital collection. As these items of Joseph McGarrity are processed and transcribed new connections between photographs and texts can be made, telling a living story.

The year 1927 finds Joseph McGarrity, noted Irish-American, in the rural mountainous region of Columbia seeking to renew his fortune by mining emeralds. As McGarrity ranges across the countryside he keeps in communication with his family by frequent postcards and letters. Here is the text of a recently transcribed letter from McGarrity to his son Joseph written in April 1927 in which he described the rugged yet beautiful countryside and offers some parental advice:

Chapinéro

Bogata, Colombia

April 14, 1927,

My dear Son Joseph

I was delighted to receive your very well written letter and to hear that you are getting along good at school. I advise you when you write letters to use a pen and ink and always try to write your very best and neatest in this way you will find that each time you write a letter it will be better than your previous effort and so on until you will find it as easy to write with a pen as with a pencil. I have been very lonely for you and all your sisters and Brother [...] Mama and Gram. I was very sorry to hear of your poor Uncle Hugh’s death God Have mercy on him pray for his soul every time you Kneel He was a good friend to us when we needed a friend let us now repay his great Kindness by our prayers that God may be Kind to him and take him to His Bosom

Well Joseph I will tell you of my trip to Muzo a place where the beuatiful Green Jewelery Precious stones called Emeralds are dug up from the Earth. It was a weeks trip about 5 days on Horse back and the rest of the time by train. The scenery was wonderful flowers of various colors and shapes many of which I had never seen before, groves of orange trees you could help yourself from your Horses or Mules back, pull them and eat them as you went. Great hills and cliffs that made you dizzy to ride along. If your mule should miss his step you might roll a thousand feet to the valley below

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[...]where no trains nor auto travels. For miles at a time I was forced to dismount and lead my mule along the cliffs and deep gorges. Sometimes the path cut away by fllod from the hill was so deep and narrow that you were forced to raise your feet and stirrups to the mules back or your feet would get crushed by the mules sides as he walked along. My mule climed cliffs of stairs fifty times longer and steeper than any stairs you ever seen Jumping like a good from one rock to another at one time with me on his back He jumped right into a great gulch filled with water down He went all you could see if you were there was the mules head and the upper part of my body I got off and by a great struggle rescued the mule we were covered with yellow mud and dirt and had to go to a pool and wash off and dry in the sun.

But the scenery was so beautiful the Hills and vallies so green and silent. I longed to have mother and you all near me to view and enjoy the beauties of Gods wonderful works Strange beautiful birds piped and sang as we rode along Streams gurgled down the sides of the hills and united with larger streams in the vallies travel and food so cheap that it is cheaper to travel than remain at a hotel [...] cocoa and orange trees every where quaint beautiful and silent villages hid away in the hills beautiful Catholic Churches and plenty of good people praying in them. [...]

Well Joe as I have a detailed description which I will mail to mama or bring home with me I will say no more of it now we were where the > tigers and lions abound and I hope to bring home the skins of some of the wild animals that I may kill before I return

Would not a big tiger or two make a wonderful coat for mama I know you would be proud to see her wearing one. Pray hard Joe for mama Gran your brother and sisters and for my protection and safe return and always for your uncle Hugh who was so good to us. God love and bless you my dear son Joe your loving father Js. McGarrity

McGarrity also documented his journey and explorations with photographs. In this photograph taken in the mountains of Columbia, he sits astride a mule [Digital Library original].

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While in this photograph taken in 1927, McGarrity with walking stick nearby and hat pushed back, sits at the end of the day near Bogota, Columbia [Digital Library original].

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Last Modified: January 16, 2009