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Robert M. O’Reilly

Posted for Susan Ottignon.

Recently the Digital Library completed a digitalization project of the “Robert M. O’Reilly” papers. The collection’s subject, Dr. Robert O’Reilly, was a Philadelphia native, who held a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and had a lengthy and distinguishable career in the U. S. Army which lasted over 40 years, from 1867-1909.

The O’Reilly collection consists of over 300+ items, chronicling Dr. O’Reilly’s personal life and military career, includes his personal letters, a selection of published U.S. Army General Orders, from the United States Adjutant-General’s Office, in 1870, and his scrapbook from the 1906 International Conference for the Revision of the Geneva Convention where he was a delegate for the United States.

There are several unique certificates, in this collection, given to O’Reilly signifying his succession in military rank; the certificates are sizable and elaborate in design and signed and countersigned by the President and Secretary of War. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War under Lincoln and Johnson, signed O’Reilly’s first certificate, with his appointment as a Medical Cadet, in January, 1864. Several certificates display the signatures of Presidents Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt authorizing O’Reilly’s promotion in rank; in most cases the certificate had a stamped Presidential signature, and were countersigned by the Secretary of War as well as recorded in the Adjutant General’s Office.

The Collection is owned by the American Catholic Historical Society and held at the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center in Wynnewood, PA. Be certain to check out the Center’s blog, by Amanda McKnight, entitled, “Robert M. O’Reilly, Surgeon General” which provides a summary of Robert O’Reilly’s life and career.

If you are interested in more information on the role of a Medical Cadet during the Civil War, 1861-1865, I suggest reading this blog: Schmidt, Jim. “Medical Department #36 – Medical Cadets.” Civil War Medicine (and Writing): A blog on Civil War-era medicine and my own historical research and writing. 11 October 2010. Accessed 13 July 2015.

Printed. Military Commission Certificate, To: Robert O'Reilly, Assistant Surgeon, U. S. Army Signed: Andrew Johnson, President of the United States and Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, July 24, 1867.

Printed. Military Commission Certificate, To: Robert O’Reilly, Assistant Surgeon, U. S. Army Signed: Andrew Johnson, President of the United States and Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, July 24, 1867.

Printed. Military Promotion of Rank Certificate, To: Brigadier General Robert O'Reilly, Surgeon General, U. S. Army Signed: Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States and Elihu Root, Secretary of War, December 2, 1902.

Printed. Military Promotion of Rank Certificate, To: Brigadier General Robert O’Reilly, Surgeon General, U. S. Army Signed: Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States and Elihu Root, Secretary of War, December 2, 1902.

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Halloween Special: Manuale Exorcismorum


With it being the Halloween season, now is a good time to highlight one on the unique items in our digital collections.

Pictured to the right is the spine for the Manuale Exorcismorum with a hand-drawn demon embellishing the binding. This book is a how-to guide to exorcisms, written in Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands (modern-day Belgium) by R. D. Maximilien de Eynatten and published in London in 1619. Its entire title is as follows:

Manuale exorcismorum: continens instructiones, & exorcismos ad eiiciendos e corporibus obsessis spiritus malignos, & ad quaeuis maleficia depellenda, & ad quascumque infestationes daemonum reprimendas

This translates to:

Exorcism manual: containing instructions & exorcisms to cast out evil spirits from the bodies of the possessed, & to seek to repel witchcraft, & to repress demonic infestations by whatsoever means

ManualeExorismorumTiltePageThe work itself is broken up into three sections. The first part contains general instructions and preparations for exorcisms: things like how to determine if a person is suffering from demonic possession and not from natural diseases, learning about various symbols and their effects, proper time and place for an exorcism, and various precautions to take against demons. The second part details the methods and practices used in an exorcism, including many different prayers, invocations, and solemn oaths, with selected prayers and exorcism methods included from respected authors. Finally, the third part contains methods and practices to expel various kinds of witchcraft or enchantments from both bodies and other objects, including chapters on exorcising dairy products, cereals and other foods (with specific chapters on milk and butter); exorcising a spirit from a home; exorcising witchcraft from your own body and exorcising witchcraft from the bodies of others; remedies against pests, fevers and other natural diseases; and remedies against love potions, amongst others.

Though old and written in Latin, the text reads very much like a modern-day field guide, written in a no-nonsense referential manner so that it could be easily used during field work.

The Digital Library team (more specifically, this author) is currently in the middle of creating an amateur translation of this work, which on completion will be offered as a companion document in the Digital Library (author’s note: who knew those two semesters of Latin in college would pay real world dividends? Then again, two semesters of Latin from over ten years ago makes translation work on this manual slow going, so publication of the translation may be awhile…)

The manual in its entirety can be seen here:



Thee, Thou, and Ain’t

Posted for: Lisa McColl, Spring 2012 Digital Library Intern.

Philadelphia, November 9, 1880

My dear Lizzie
I received thy postal and in answer say thee would be welcome to the instruments – if there were any to send …

(Letter, To: Elizabeth Sarah Kite From: John Alban Kite, November 9, 1880)

Thus begins a letter from John Alban Kite to his sister, Elizabeth Sarah Kite. Elizabeth Kite’s early letters in this new collection from the Digital Library, came mainly from her Quaker family. The letters’ heavy use of “thee” and “thou,” a common practice of Quakers of that time, gives them a formal tone to our modern ears. The family took care with their writing, sometimes chiding Elizabeth if her letter fell short of their writing expectations. Her grandfather lectured in an 1875 letter to Elizabeth, “I wish to encourage my grandchildren to accustom themselves to the use of the pen in epistolary correspondence for to become a good letter writer is quite an attainment.” (From , Letter to: Elizabeth Sarah Kite, From: John L. (John Letchworth) Kite, November 8, 1875.)

How then could one of John L. Kite’s grandchildren, five years later, use the word that appears at the very top of the first page of that same 1880 letter? It is that ultimate of colloquialisms that will sound the “uneducated” alarm, even in children’s ears, today:

Ain’t this beautiful weather? What would grandfather think? The day after I read this surprising use of slang by a member of the Kite family and seeming anachronism I saw a new book entitled The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner. While the book did not answer my particular questions as to when the word began and if it was considered slang by John Alban Kite and the rest of his family, it chided me to search further.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage the word “ain’t” was commonly used during the time that John Alban Kite wrote this letter and was not quite as vilified for use in casual conversation as it is today. It’s difficult to say if his grandfather would have approved of its use in writing an “epistolary correspondence,” but it’s fun to see in this context today … ain’t it?


Summer Project: Bishops and Lepracauns

Posted for: Lisa Kruczek, Summer 2012 Digital Library Intern.

As the Summer 2012 Digital Library Intern, I have recently completed scanning a portion of the historic papers of Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick, former Bishop of Philadelphia (1796-1863). Villanova is putting them online through a collaborative project with the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center, who owns the collection. Although the papers are largely in French and Latin, PAHRC has already created a finding aid for this collection, so the descriptions helped clarify the meaning of the documents. Some fascinating subjects are discussed in the correspondence of this collection, such as the Riots of 1844 and the beginning of the Civil War and how it was impacting the Catholic Church.

I was also given the opportunity to scan some books and manuscripts, most recently a book of poetry, handwritten by the author. I was able to enter all the metadata for these projects as well, which enabled me to gain more insight into this material. During my time here in the digital library, I have completed transcriptions of 19th century correspondence and created a Wikipedia article on “the Lepracaun Cartoon Monthly” from the Joseph McGarrity collection. I’ve received an education on topics such as Cataloging, Intellectual Property and Social Media, which has been an excellent supplement to my coursework. I’d like to thank Michael Foight and Laura Bang for taking the time to impart some of their vast knowledge so that I too may move on to become a professional and take part in the Digital Library Revolution!


Catholic Colonization in Minnesota in Proofreading

In case you missed your opportunity to proofread the Digital Library in March, another book is now available through the Distributed Proofreaders project. This month’s title is Catholic Colonization in Minnesota, a 19th-century pamphlet full of advice about opportunities for Catholics in Minnesota. If you have the time, stop by and help preserve a little piece of history. If you don’t get there quickly enough this month, don’t worry: more titles are on the way.


Chaos Unveiled: New Exhibit on the Origins of Villanova University

Posted for: Karla Irwin, Villanova University.

When I was presented with the opportunity to curate an online exhibition as the Fall 2011 Digital Library Intern I jumped at the chance. Through the course of my internship I had grown more familiar with the wealth of materials in the Digital Library and I was eager to explore one area in particular: materials related to rioting that occurred in Philadelphia in 1844. Before seeing the items I knew nothing about the riots which was surprising to me because I had grown up in the area and lived in Philadelphia for a number of years. After conducting a little more research I was amazed at the history of the riots and wondered how many people in the area were like me and unaware that the riots had happened. I thought the story of the riots were an important one to share and now it is my pleasure to present to you Chaos in the Streets: The Philadelphia Riots of 1844.

Philadelphia in 1844 was a hotbed of religious and ethnic prejudice, most notably toward Catholics and the Irish. This was representative of a national sentiment and the exhibition looks at a group called the Nativists, who later became the Know Nothing Party, and their role in the rioting. In May and July of 1844 these issues came to a breaking point and the city of Philadelphia saw some of its most violent days in her history. The riots would ultimately have many lasting effects and it can be said that the Philadelphia you see today is partially a result of those violent days.

The Digital Library provides access to quite a large collection relating to the riots including a collection of letters from Morton McMichael who was the sheriff at the time. His letters and personal journal provide a first-hand account of what it was to be like on the streets of Philadelphia in the mid 1840’s. Only a small portion of his entire collection is utilized in the exhibit and so I recommend taking a longer look at the letters as they offer a fascinating window into policing in Philadelphia during that time.

There was no shortage of interesting material on the riots but one aspect that proved especially dramatic to me was the role the Catholic Churches had in the rioting, particularly St. Augustine’s Church. I had visited the church many years ago in the Old City section of Philadelphia and walked by it countless times. What I did not know is that the St. Augustine’s I saw today was rebuilt from the one that had burned down during the rioting. Sadly, along with the burning of the church, a library containing an invaluable collection of theological materials was also destroyed. Imagine my amazement when I found out some of the books from that library ended up in Special Collections in Falvey Library! You will find in the exhibition how the Augustinian community in Philadelphia put major roots down in both center city Philadelphia and, of course, Villanova University. I hope you find the connection, and how it relates to the riots, as interesting as I do.

Finally, I would like to thank Michael Foight and Laura Bang for their valuable guidance, Joanne Quinn for the graphics, Susan Connor, Susan Ottignon, and Chelsea Payne for their informative transcription work, and David Lacy for his work on technical details. Without them the exhibition would never have come to fruition.


100th Year Anniversary of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great

Submitted for: Taras Ortynsky, Descriptive Services Librarian.

The Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great Collection is accessible thru the Villanova University’s Digital Library within the Catholica Collection.

Photograph, Mother Helena Langevich, OSBM.

On May 17, 2011, Villanova University, Falvey Memorial Library received items for the purpose of digitizing and cataloging the collection of the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great, Fox Chase Manor, PA. By October 27, 2011, several Falvey Library staff members had digitized and cataloged the collection. Included in this collection are digital images of photographs, manuscript letters, and realia. All of the items are in the Ukrainian language and are dated from 1911-1916.  The prevailing theme of the letters is spirituality.

Back in November 1911, Mother Helena Langevich, OSBM and three Sister companions came to America from Ukraine at the request of Bishop Stephen Soter Ortynsky, OSBM to serve the Church. The Reverend Stephen Soter Ortynsky, OSBM was the first Greek Catholic Bishop in the U.S.A. The Sisters settled in Philadelphia 100 years ago to care for the Ukrainian orphans and to minister to the Ukrainian immigrants. This November 2011, the Sisters will be in celebration of 100 years in America.

The original materials are available at the Archives, 710 Fox Chase Road, Fox Chase Manor, PA 19406. For more information kindly see

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Roman Catholic High School Partnership Signed

Posted for Darren G. Poley, Outreach Librarian

Villanova’s Digital Library recently signed a digital partnership agreement with the Alumni Association of the oldest free Catholic high school still in operation in the city of Philadelphia, Roman Catholic High School. The impressive Gothic building on the northeast corner of Broad and Vine Streets continues to be the main building of the historic school commonly known as Roman. But Roman is not just another private Catholic high school for boys. Serving the entire metro area, while still staying close to its roots in the center of the city, Roman Catholic High School has the distinction of being the first free Catholic high school for boys in the United States. The partnership between Roman and Villanova University will allow Falvey to scan rare and fragile documents for the sake of preservation and to promote scholarship on urban Catholic education in Philadelphia at the turn of the last century; including, for example, a printed copy of the founders will, the first year book, and the earliest extant editions of the student newspaper and literary magazine.

In fact, as Joe Clark, a staff writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, reported in a Sept. 8, 1989 article entitled “Celebrating the Roman Century,” Roman is “the oldest and first free Catholic high school in North America.” Clark went on to say: “The school was founded and built through the benevolence of Thomas E. Cahill, a wealthy Catholic layman and Philadelphia merchant. When he died in 1878, Cahill left the bulk of his almost $1 million estate to establish a high school for the ‘practical and free education of boys over 11 living in Philadelphia.’” In the same article, Clark also wrote, “On Sept. 11, 1890, Roman Catholic High School opened its doors to 105 boys who four years later would be members of the school’s first graduating class of 1894.”

Known at different times as the Cahill School and Catholic High, it is no longer free, in the sense that it now charges a modest tuition as compared with the other Catholic prep schools in the area, but it continues its proud scholastic and athletic tradition which has produced some of the city’s leading citizens as well as fiercely loyal cohorts of what are affectionately known as “Roman men.” Falvey Memorial Library is now proud to aid Roman in an effort to document and preserve for scholars archival materials held by the Alumni Association at the school related to the school’s founding and it long heritage as a prominent Catholic educational institution.


An Easter Treasure: Letters from Saint Elizabeth Seton.

It is with great pleasure and humble thanks on this Easter that we make available the small but important Elizabeth Ann Seton collection.  This collection includes letters from  Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton to Matthias and Joseph O’Conway.  Matthias, a prominent Philadelphian, especially within the Catholic community, was the father of Cecilia O’Conway, Philadelphia’s first nun and the first woman to join Seton’s order, the Sisters of Charity.  The correspondence is personal in nature and relates to several members of the O’Conway family.  Members of the Digital Library team are working on formatting transcriptions of the letters for increased readability.

This also marks a first for the Digital Library:  the scanning of materials physically owned and of course created by a Saint.   Indeed actually touching and photographing these sheets of paper involved treating the objects with the highest degree of reverence.  Speaking for only myself, handling the letters as a scanner was a sacred experience.






Photograph taken on Easter 2011




Last Modified: April 24, 2011

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