You are exploring: VU > Library > Blogs > Blue Electrode: Sparking between Silicon and Paper

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:


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


[…]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].


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].



Irish Film features Digital Library Images

The 2008 film, Cromwell in Ireland, also marketed as Cromwell: God’s Executioner, features numerous images, plates and maps from Villanova University’s Digital Library. In 2007, writers and researchers working on the script of the film were looking for archival images depicting individuals, locations, and events pertinent to the story of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland in the 4 year period from 1649 and 1653, an event in which an estimated 500,000 people, one quarter of the population of Ireland, died from war, disease and starvation making this the greatest catastrophe ever to befall the country.


After browsing through the Joseph McGarrity Collection of the Digital Library they noted several specific images that were of interest for their educational enterprise. The writers, after contacting the Digital Library staff for permission to use these images, asked for assistance in locating other images which were proving difficult to find. An extensive search of the print Joseph McGarrity Collection and the Early European Rare Book Collection found a considerable number of rare sources with plates and maps that fit the needs of the film makers. These materials were soon digitized and added to the Digital Library for use by the international film makers and for scholars studying these tragic events.

The film produced by Irish national broadcaster RTE and the UK’s History Channel aired on Irish television in September 2008 and is scheduled to be broadcast on the UK History Channel in November of this year. The film makers hope that the series will be broadcast on a North American channel such as Smithsonian Networks or the History Channel in 2009. Directed by double IFTA Award-winning director Maurice Sweeney, the cast includes a host of international stars and features commentaries by leading historians of this period of Irish history including: Micheál Ó Siochrú, John Morrill, Professor of History at University of Cambridge, Jane Ohlmeyer, Professor of History at Trinity College, Dublin, Pádraig Lenihan, Lecturer in History at University of Limerick, Nicholas Canny, Professor of History at NUI Galway, and Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at University of Bristol.

Cromwell in Ireland is presented and largely authored by Dr. Micheál Ó Siochrú, a vibrant young Irish historian who has just published a full-length study of Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland: God’s Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland. Throughout the film, he and the other historians guide the viewer through the historical narrative and action, offering challenging new insights into the war and its legacy.

The historical figures that feature most prominently in the film are: Oliver Cromwell, England’s greatest general and a Puritan deeply inimical towards the Irish Catholic Church; Henry Ireton, his second-in-command and successor; Sir Charles Coote, his uncompromising lieutenant in Ulster; Owen Roe O’Neill, Gaelic Ireland’s greatest leader; his kinsman Hugh Dubh O’Neill; and the Marquis of Ormond, the ineffectual leader of the doomed Royalist coalition.

The film consists of 2 52 minute episodes, each episode including credits featuring the contributions of Villanova University’s Digital Library.


World War I Pro-German Newspapers Published in America

World War

Joseph McGarrity, the Irish-American revolutionary who lived in Philadelphia area during the era of the First World War was an active collector of books and periodicals about Ireland. Within this collection, now housed in Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections, are a number of rare pro-German books and newspapers. These were largely published in Philadelphia and New York and chronicle the viewpoints of Imperial Germany and German-Americans in the United States, as war raged in the trenches of Europe and the sealanes of the Atlantic. At the same time as Germany warred against Great Britain, McGarrity and many members of the Irish-American community were actively raising funds to foment Irish independence from Great Britain. In 1916 these effort would help start the Easter Rising in Dublin. McGarrity’s collecting of German materials can thus be seen as an actualization of the proverb: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Vital Issue

Villanova’s Digital Library has completed the digitization of these newspapers collected almost a hundred years ago by McGarrity, and which consist of nearly complete runs of 3 titles: The Fatherland; Vital Issue; and World War. These titles are rich in articles ranging from hortatory arguments about continued American neutrality and perceived war crimes of the British to narrations of current events from an “unbiased” source, like the armament carried by the Lusitania. These titles also contain elaborate photographic spreads and polemical illustrations as well as pro-German advertisements including specific ads for German war bonds, war trophies, and aid packages (The Fatherland Needs Coffee); even games and apparel (Iron Cross Stick-Pins) were included. On noteworthy advertisement from 1916 for the “Deutschland Game”, claimed that this “game will interest grown-ups as well as the children. Two German submarines try to reach the United States and return to Germany in safety.” Indeed some of the ads are not so much pro-German as pro-Irish with titles such as The Gaelic American featured.


As an effort to publicize these titles Digital Library staff have composed a Wikipedia entry about the most notable of the three titles: The Fatherland; in edited form it is here reprinted :

“The Fatherland was a World War I era weekly periodical published by poet, writer, and noted propagandist George Sylvester Viereck (1884-1962). Viereck reputed to be the child of the Kaiser William I, was born in Munich, Germany, and moved to New York City in 1896, Viereck graduated from the College of the City of New York and directly entered the world of publishing.

Viereck outspokenly supported the German cause at the outset of World War I, and his poetry reflected his pro-German zeal. Drawing on experience gained while working on his father’s German-language monthly, Der deutsche Vorkämpfer (The German Pioneer), later called Rundschau Zweier Welten (Review of Two Worlds), the younger Viereck now channeled his German sympathies into his own publication. He founded The Fatherland in August 1914, a weekly publication in English that reached a circulation of 75,000, by some estimates, and 100,000 by others, to promote American neutrality in the war and give voice to German support. The Fatherland was advertised on the cover of its first issues as a magazine devoted to “Fair Play for Germany and Austria-Hungary.”

Three German-American banker friends helped Viereck with the fifty dollars needed to start up The Fatherland. The first edition of ten thousand copies sold out quickly in New York. The publication grew to thirty employees almost immediately and “took upon itself the task of exposing the malfeasance of the Allied countries, of revealing the prejudices and distortions of the American press, and of rallying German-Americans in their own defense.” The weekly received part of its funding from a German propaganda cabinet set up in New York Society, with which Viereck worked closely.

Viereck was accused by the New York World of receiving German subsidies for propaganda purposes, but the Department of Justice was unable to prosecute. Still, Viereck faced social censure, being driven from his house by a lynch mob and expelled from the Authors League as well as the Poetry Society of America.

Surely, Viereck’s personal circumstances affected the publication life and reception of The Fatherland. He continued the publication’s German bias until 1927. However, after America entered the war, he subdued the publication’s tone of German sympathy and changed its title. It was New World and Viereck’s: The American Weekly in February 1917, Viereck’s American Monthly in August 1918, and American Monthly in October 1920.”

The Fatherland

« Previous Page


Last Modified: July 25, 2008