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Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick: Puzzle Poems

Puzzle Poems from Golden Days for Boys and Girls

This popular children’s story paper (published from 1880 to 1907) featured a weekly section titled “Puzzledom.” The editor solicited puzzles and published solutions submitted by readers. Finding the solution to puzzle poems typically involves rhyming riddles, in which words have more than one meaning, clues that hint at a keyword or phrase, and anagrams that require rearranging the letters of a given word or phrase.

Example Puzzle Poem and Solution

Puzzle No. 5 A Transposition.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 36, August 6, 1887.

Answer: Talent, latent.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 37, August 13, 1887.

Try your hand at solving these Villa Nova (T. A. Daly) puzzle poems

Answers will appear in next week’s blog post!

Puzzle No. 7 Charade.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 37, August 13, 1887.

Puzzle No. 9 Anagram.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 40, September 3, 1887.

Puzzle No. 5 Charade.  

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 44, October 1, 1887.

Puzzle No. 9 Double-Word Enigma.  

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 22, April 30, 1887.

Golden Days poem featured in HBO series Boardwalk Empire

Golden Days for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 25, May 21, 1887.

The first episode of the final season (e1s5) of Boardwalk Empire opens with the main character having a flashback to himself as a boy in 1880’s Atlantic City. The scene opens and closes with a voiceover of the poem “Be Honest and True” by George Birdseye read aloud from Golden Days for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 25, May 21, 1887. This episode of Boardwalk Empire illustrates the incredible popularity and influence of Golden Days story papers during the late 19th century.



19th century “Villa Nova” puzzle poems

“Villa Nova” poetry featured in Golden Days

Golden Days for Boys and Girls was a weekly children story paper published from March 6, 1880 through May 11, 1907. The paper was produced in Philadelphia by James Elverson (originally intended as a companion to his adult story paper: Saturday Night—also available in our Digital Library) but circulated widely from coast to coast.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 1, December 4, 1886.

Thomas Augustine (T. A.) Daly

Daly was a student at Villanova from 1880 to 1887. Daly went on to have a prolific career publishing many books of his dialectic poetry. But before he was a renowned author, he submitted original “puzzle poems” to Golden Days for Boys and Girls under the pseudonym Villa Nova. Today, Villanova holds issues of Golden Days from 1887 containing Daly’s puzzle poems, as well as his personal notebooks where he crafted the cryptic poetry.

Notebook, Thomas A. Daly’s Villanova Notebook v. 2, 1886-1887.

For more on Daly’s Villanova legacy and Irish American dialectic poetry, check out Distinctive Collections Archivist Rebecca Oviedo’s digital exhibit: Rediscovering T. A. Daly: Immigrant Voices in Poetry

Puzzle Poems

Puzzle poems combine logic puzzles with poetic language, requiring an aptitude for English and mathematics to both create and solve the riddle. Types of puzzle poems featured in Golden Days include numericals, charades, anagrams, enigmas, and forms (such as pentagon, square, diamond, inverted pyramid, etc.) Finding the solution to puzzle poems typically involve rhyming riddles where words have more than one meaning, clues that hint at the answer, and rearranging letters of a given word or phrase.

Puzzledom section. Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 1, December 4, 1886.

Golden Days for Boys and Girls solicited reader submissions of puzzle poems with the following call in each weekly issue:


Original contributions solicited from all. Puzzles containing obsolete words will be received. Write contributions on one side of the paper, and apart from all communications. Address “Puzzle Editor,” Golden Days, Philadelphia, PA.

Stay tuned!

The Falvey Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement staff will be producing a Spare Change podcast episode on Golden Days puzzle poems to complement the spring exhibit “Poetic License”, coming to Falvey Library next month. Solutions to a selection of Daly’s puzzle poems will be featured in next week’s blog post.


eBook available: Kwasa the Cliff Dweller

The latest Project Gutenberg release created by the Distributed Proofreaders project from scans in our Digital Library is another entry from the Instructor Literature Series of primary school readers: Kwasa the Cliff Dweller by Katherine Atherton Grimes. Like the author’s earlier Bolo the Cave Boy, this is a story imagining life long-ago, though this time, the subject is the Ancestral Puebloans.

The book is a coming of age story, following the titular Kwasa as he must leave behind childhood games to take on difficult challenges for the sake of his people. One might expect a book from this era to present either a condescending or romanticized view of Native American life, but Grimes takes the approach of depicting her characters as regular, identifiable people who happen to be living in a different historical context. She also manages to balance the jobs of conveying historical information and telling a story about as well as could be hoped for in this type of book. Of course, the text is unlikely to fully live up to 21st century standards, if only because historical understanding has moved on in the century since it was written, but it is an interesting effort for its time, and it is certainly possible to imagine its original intended audience enjoying it.

You can find the full text of the book at Project Gutenberg, where it can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats.


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks

This week’s blog post highlights one of the newly digitized Distinctive Collections materials published in 1927, which now makes it public domain. For more on Public Domain Day 2023 see last week’s post.

The Chronical of the Northern Baptist Caravan

This daily devotional was published by The Northern Baptist Convention Board of Missionary Cooperation in 1927. Each section represents a single day, meant to be read aloud as a family for the duration of one month.

The Land of Adventure: a virtual journey

This imagined caravan journey through the “Land of Adventure” includes a variety of virtual modes of transportation such as car, boat, camel, and even elephant. Baptist missionary destination highlights from the “Land of Adventure” include: The Castled Walls of Carcassonne, Shanghai China, Burma, El Salvador, and New York City.


A Book Sewn Shut

The introduction gives explicit instructions for its intended use, “Each day’s discoveries will be disclosed by cutting the corners of one page of the book.”

These books were sold with the pages sewn together. The cutting of the thread each day in order to discover the daily devotional was an important aspect of the spiritual reading practices of this particular text. The material evidence of the holes where the book was previously sewn shut appear in the top and bottom corners of each page.




Newly Digitized Public Domain Materials from 1927 in the Digital Library

In addition to the Northern Baptist Caravan, here is a list of some of the materials in the Distinctive Collections that are now available in our Digital Library:

150th anniversary of the battle of Germantown, October 1st to 4th, 1927 : programme

Neddie Burd’s Reading letter: an epic of the early Berks Bar / by J. Bennett Nolan

Anthony Comstock, Roundsman of the Lord

Irish medieval monasteries on the continent : a dissertation / by Joseph Paul Fuhrmann, O.S.B.

Mysteries of the missing / By Edward H. Smith  


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks

Public Domain Day 2023

Happy New Year! January 1 is Public Domain Day in the United States. On the first day of the year 2023, US copyrights expire for works produced in the year 1927 and these materials enter the public domain. In celebration of Public Domain Day, here is a list of some of the materials in the Distinctive Collections that are now available in our Digital Library.

The Chronicle of the Northern Baptist Caravan


The wonder smith and his son : a tale from the golden childhood of the world


Coaster captain : a tale of the Boston waterfront by James B. Connolly


Diamond Dick’s red trailer : or, A hairbreadth escape by W. B. Lawson


Pirates of the Prairies by Kilpatrick Mason (Texas Pat)


Famous Media from 1927

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes the final set of 12 Sherlock Holmes short stories by British author Arthur Conan Doyle

To the Lighthouse a philosophical novel by Virginia Woolf set in early 20th century Scotland

Metropolis a German expressionist sci-fi film direct by Fritz Lang and written by Thea von Harbou, based on his novels by the same name

Music by the jazz studio group Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven from the Okeh Records recording session

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eBook available: Nuts to Crack

Our latest Project Gutenberg release (assembled by the Distributed Proofreaders team from images found in our Digital Library) is Nuts to Crack, a tiny, 16-page chapbook from A. B. Courtney’s Multum in Parvo Library series.

This book is a collection of jokes (such as: “Why is a dog biting his own tail like a good manager? Because he makes both ends meet.”) and puzzles (including both word games and math problems). As is typical for this series, a variety of advertisements are woven in with the other content. Given that a lot of assumptions and conventions have changed since 1895, the modern reader is unlikely to find most of the jokes funny, or to understand all of the puzzles; however, a certain amount of the content still seems to work as originally intended. In any case, it offers a glimpse into 19th-century diversions.

You can read the entire book online (or download it in popular eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.


Rare 1914 Greek-English, English-Greek Dictionary Added to Digital Library

The Villanova Digital Library recently added a title that had not been previously digitized elsewhere: a 1914 edition of Divry’s vest-pocket English-Greek and Greek-English dictionary, published in New York by Demosthenes Constantopoulos Divry (1877-1927). An introductory letter, written in the formal “katharevousa” form of Greek prevalent in writings of the time, describes the book as “a necessary and trustworthy advisor to the Greek in America.” To that end, the dictionary includes not only translations from English to Greek and vice versa, but also useful appendices on irregular English verbs, major holidays, units of measurement, currency exchange rates, epistolary conventions, USPS mailing conventions, and more.


Title page of Divry's dictionary

Title page of Divry’s dictionary

Introductory letter in Divry's dictionary

Introductory letter in Divry’s dictionary


It is evident that the book was heavily used by a previous owner, likely the “Andreas” mentioned in an inscription on the rear pastedown. As other inscriptions on the front pastedown and elsewhere indicate, a reader added words that were not already present in the dictionary. Moreover, the US map listed on the table of contents was seemingly torn out by a reader who presumably found it useful. It is uncertain whether the book was primarily used by a Greek immigrant adjusting to American society or a student of English in Greece. Inscriptions on the rear pastedown mention two streets located at the heart of Athens: Ermou and Papagianni. Ermou cuts through the Monastiraki neighborhood, which is adjacent to historic sites like Hadrian’s Library, the Stoa of Attalos, and the Acropolis of Athens. Monastiraki is known for its flea markets and shops that sell historical materials; Divry’s 1914 dictionary was found in one of these shops.


View of Monastiraki Square

View of Monastiraki Square, Athens, Greece. Courtesy of Aggelos1357 via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

The Villanova Digital Library preserves and offers access to rare materials that shed light on human experiences during various periods of history, such as Divry’s 1914 dictionary. The book joins the growing number of titles on the Digital Library that relate to modern Greek history, like the recently digitized early-twentieth-century souvenir album with photographs of Corfu.


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick

Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick: Christmas: Its Origin and Associations,…

Christmas: Its Origin and Associations; Bringing in the Yule Log.

For the month of December the blog will be featuring holiday themed materials from Falvey’s Distinctive Collections.

Christmas: Its Origin and Associations, Its Historical Events and Festive Celebrations During Nineteen Centuries is written by W. F. Dawson and first published in 1902. The long title describes the contents spanning 1900 years of Christmas traditions from all over the world. The chronological chapters are illustrated by reprints of pen and pencil drawings of holiday festivities and traditions, spanning the Origin and Associations of Christmas to Modern Christmases at Home and Abroad.

Christmas in Provence


Calabrian Shepherds Playing in Rome at Christmas.

“At home, at sea, in many distant lands, This Kingly Feast without a rival stands !”


Royal Party Dining in State. Christmas to the End of the Wars of the Roses.

Home for Dawson meant turn of the century England, and his history of Christmas is indeed centered around royal traditions of the English crown. Politics frequently influenced the national holiday traditions of England. One such example is the practice of decorating the Christmas Tree. First popularized in England by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, who brought this tradition from his homeland of Germany as a way to incorporate his own culture of celebrating Christmas.

How is Christmas celebrated around the world today?

Take a glimpse into the diverse cultural practices of the Christmas season from countries around the globe:


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick

“Christmas Eve” in Bright Flowers: Choice Stories for Little People

For the month of December the blog will be featuring holiday themed materials from Falvey’s Distinctive Collections.

“Christmas Eve” is the first story in the children’s book Bright Flowers: Choice Stories for Little People, published in New York in 1889. This 19th-century illustrated children book is formatted with a short story on the left page with a corresponding image adjacent to the text.

“Christmas Eve”

In the story “Christmas Eve”, three children (Alice, Clarence, and Grace) worry that Santa won’t be able to visit them on Christmas Eve because of the snow. The eldest of the children, Alice, assures her younger siblings that the snow will actually assist Santa’s sleigh pulled by reindeer in their travel. However, she cautions her siblings against being greedy children only concerned with receiving presents during the Christmas season.

The History of Santa Claus in America

American folklore around Santa Claus came out of New York in the 19th-century, which is when and where this book was published. Washington Irving, the author of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, led a movement to create a Santa who was family-friendly and cheery in response to the carnivalesque Christmas celebrations that occurred during this time. This version of Santa Claus was inspired by the Dutch Sinterklaas. When adopted to an American tradition Santa Claus diverged from Sinterklaas by wearing a bright red fur coat rather than a bishop’s robe, is plump not thin, and drives a team of flying reindeer instead of traveling by flying horse.

Illustration of Santa Claus for “Christmas Eve”

“Christmas Eve” and the depiction of Santa in Bright Flowers is an attempt to circulate this new image of Christmas and Santa to American families. This and other 19th-century popular literature books can be found in our Dime Novel and Popular Literature Collection, many of which are available in the Digital Library.

How will you be celebrating the Christmas season at Villanova?

Take a trip back in time to Villanova Christmases of yore and glimpse how Villanova alumni celebrated the holiday season with Santa Claus and friends in the Belle Air yearbooks, available in our Yearbooks Collection.

Belle Air Yearbook, Villanova Class of 2000


eBook available: The Shoemaker

Once again, scans from our Digital Library have been converted into a new Project Gutenberg eBook by the Distributed Proofreaders project. The latest release is another dime novel based on a popular play, taken from J. S. Ogilvie’s Play Book Series: Olive Harper’s adaptation of Hal Reid’s The Shoemaker.

The novel follows Morris Goldberg, a Jewish immigrant who works as a shoemaker in New York until his daughter is kidnapped, forcing him to travel west in search of her. Along the way, he survives some “fish out of water” situations, and his kindness and persistence inspire those around him.

This book marks a striking contrast to the previous book released from the same series, The Shadows of a Great City. While that book featured a one-dimensional villain in the form of the familiar antisemitic stereotype of the evil Jewish pawnbroker, this story features a cast of sympathetic Jewish characters who are portrayed in an almost entirely positive light (particularly by the standards of turn-of-the-20th century melodrama).

You can read the entire book online, or download it in popular eBook formats, through Project Gutenberg.


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Last Modified: November 23, 2022