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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.


New Online Exhibit: Torn Between Brothers: A Look at the Internal Divisions that Weakened the Fenian Brotherhood

Posted for Jean Turner (Digital Library Intern, Spring 2011)

I had no doubt in my mind when I began to work on an online exhibit for Villanova’s Digital Library that the online content of the Fenian Brotherhood  collection would prove full of interesting pieces of 19th century military history.  Villanova’s Digital Library houses over 450 items for the American Catholic Historical Society that relate to the Fenian Brotherhood’s failed invasions of Canada.  I was caught off guard by the evidence of dramatic divisions and personal quarrels that plagued the Irish American organization and so I chose to highlight those along with the Fenian Brotherhood’s efforts to defy British rule.


(Title banner by Joanne Quinn; click for full size.)

When the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood fought overseas for an independent Ireland they sponsored an organization called the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States.  Originally intended to raise funds and materials for activism on Irish soil, the leaders of the Fenian Brotherhood surprised many with their repeated hostilities against British North America.  The first leader to propose attacks on Canada reasoned that they would create problems for Britain, but as the aggressive plan divided Fenian membership in two, subsequent military actions seemed more congruent with the desires of Fenian leaders to assert their authority over rivaling factions.


The Fenians Progress (New York, John Bradburn, 1865), cover. (1)

The letters and published circulars of Villanova’s Digital Library collection tell the story of several of these factions and their efforts to win authority over the membership as a whole.  Amidst preparations for military attacks leaders accused each other of mishandling the treasury, illegally printing bonds, and even resorting to violence against a fellow Fenian Brother.  The majority of the papers highlighted in this collection and exhibit come from Fenian Senator Frank Gallagher of Buffalo, New York.  Because he engaged in correspondence with members of multiple factions over a period of several years, Gallagher’s papers show the efforts of many to sway his personal opinions and allegiance.

'Battle of Ridgeway C.W.' Graphic. New York: Major C. Donahue and D. Egan, 1869. From Library and Archives Canada: Peter Winkworth Collections of Canadiana. (2)

Check out the online exhibit to follow the Fenian Brotherhood through its inception, three failed invasions of Canadian soil, one murderous plot to cover up inconsistencies in their treasury, and many schisms in the membership until the organization finally discontinued itself in 1886.

Curated by Jean Turner (Digital Library Intern Spring 2011), with graphic design by Joanne Quinn.  Additional and indispensable  contributions to the project were made by student scanners and several transcribers including Susan Ottignon and Mimi DiLenge; David Lacy for his work on the technical details; and Laura Bang and Michael Foight for their advice and guidance.

(1) Digital Library @ Villanova University.

(2) Library and Archives Canada.


Ireland with Mr. and Mrs. Hall

A behind-the-scenes look at part of the exhibit “Rambles, Sketches, Tours: Travellers & Tourism in Ireland.”

Over the summer I did a fair amount of research on Irish travel writing for my exhibit and I quickly learned that you simply cannot discuss Irish travel writing without mentioning the Halls.

Samuel Carter Hall (1800-1889) met Anna Maria Fielding (1800-1881) in 1823 and they were married in September of the following year in London. Although both had been born in Ireland to Anglo-Irish families, they pursued their careers in England. Samuel Carter was a journal editor and writer who participated in a dizzying array of activities from 1823 to 1830, at which point he suffered a brief nervous affliction. He soon recovered and rejoined the editorial game, eventually finding some level of stability as sub-editor/editor at the New Monthly Magazine. Anna Maria’s career as a writer took off in 1829 with the publication of her first book, Sketches of Irish Character, which contained reminiscences of her childhood in Ireland. She subsequently published a number of children’s tales, novels, plays, essays, and more Irish stories.

Title page of Halls' Ireland (186-?).
Title page from the Halls’ Ireland (1860s).

The Halls made many tours of Ireland and penned an initial account of their travels that appeared in three volumes from 1841 to 1843. Ireland: its Scenery, Character, &c. was hugely successful in Great Britain. The Halls continued to tour Ireland after the publication of their account, and continued to update information in subsequent editions. In the 1850s, they capitalized on the popularity of their work even further by breaking it into regional sections—such as, The North and Giant’s Causeway—and publishing them separately. These regional guides were a much more manageable size, fitting right in with the popularization of “handbooks.”

Falvey Library’s Special Collections owns two multi-volume editions of the Halls’ Ireland (from the 1860s and 1911), as well as two of their regional guides, and I used all of these in my exhibit. “Rambles, Sketches, Tours” features eight images from the Halls’ works—can you find them all?

Further Reading:

Hall, Mr. and Mrs. S.C. Ireland: its scenery, character, &c.. 3 vol. Philadelphia: Gebbie & Barrie, [186-?].

Mandler, Peter. “Hall , Anna Maria (1800–1881).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. [, accessed 11 Nov 2010]

Mandler, Peter. “Hall, Samuel Carter (1800–1889).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. [, accessed 11 Nov 2010]


New online exhibit featuring Augustine’s Confessions

November is Augustinian Heritage Month here at Villanova and there are many events going on. One of the events is a marathon reading of Augustine’s Confessions, which began here in the library’s coffee shop at 9am this morning and will continue until about midnight. Stop by if you have the chance!

But if you can’t make it, don’t worry! The Digital Library has launched an online exhibit of editions of the Confessions held in Special Collections. The exhibit is called “Tolle lege: The Confessions of St. Augustine”.

Engraved title page of an edition of the Confessions from 1646.
Engraved title page from a 1646 edition.

Editions are arranged by century, with items that are particularly noteworthy and/or available in the Digital Library getting their own sub-pages. Each edition has at least one image associated with it and brief notes where applicable, creating a sort of visual bibliography of holdings of the Confessions in Special Collections.

This is not a complete listing of our holdings, but additional items will be added over time, so be sure to check back.


Take a tour of Ireland in our new online exhibit

I am pleased to announce the debut of our new online exhibit, “Rambles, Sketches, Tours: Travellers & Tourism in Ireland.” The exhibit can also be seen in person on the second floor of Falvey Memorial Library through the end of the semester. The display was featured on the main library news blog last week.

Rambles exhibit poster
Promotional poster by Joanne Quinn.

“Rambles, Sketches, Tours” highlights Irish travel narratives and related materials, primarily from the Joseph McGarrity Collection. The site is broken into sections that highlight the methods of travel to and within Ireland, the motives of some of the most influential and popular writers, and the development of the tourism industry. In addition, there are five sections that look at some of the most popular travel destinations.

Custom House, Dublin
The Custom House in Dublin from A View of
Ancient and Modern Dublin… (1796) by John Ferrar.

Many of the works included in the exhibit are available in full-text versions online, either at our own Digital Library or at the Internet Archive. Links have been provided throughout the exhibit pages and on the exhibit bibliography, which also includes the materials I used in researching Irish travel and tourism.

I had a lot of fun researching this exhibit and selecting items to include—I hope you’ll find some enjoyment, too. I’ll be posting a few behind-the-scenes tidbits over the next couple months, so stay tuned!


New Online Exhibit: Jack B. Yeats Drawings and Illustrations

Posted for: Róisín Corry Roche (Digital Library Intern, Fall 2009).

Jack B. Yeats: Drawings and Illustrations, the latest exhibit of Falvey Memorial Library Special Collections is now on display on the second floor of Falvey or online at

Jack B. Yeats, in his twenties.
Jack B. Yeats in his twenties, frontispiece, in Arnold, B. (1998). Jack Yeats. New Haven: Yale University Press. Falvey Memorial Library General Collection.

This exhibit focuses on the drawings and illustrations of Jack B. Yeats found in Special Collections materials. It also highlights the historical backdrop of Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century, as well as Jack’s involvement with his sister’s publishing company, Cuala Press.

In Falvey’s Special Collections, Jack’s drawings are found in children’s book, novels, plays, and broadsides. One of the highlights of the collection is A Broadside. Jack was the editor of the first series and provided over 250 drawings. While a handful of issues are discussed here, the complete first series is available online through the Digital Library.

Lament For The Death of Owen Roe O'Neil
Lament For The Death of Owen Roe O’Neil, February 1910 in Yeats, J. B. A Broadside for… Dublin: The Cuala Press, 1908-1915. Special Collections: McGarrity Collection.

As curator of this exhibit I had the rewarding experience of delving into the life of Jack B. Yeats. Prior to my research, my knowledge of the Yeats family was limited to his poet brother, William Butler Yeats, and his artist father John Butler Yeats. I had thought the artist Jack Yeats was the same person as his father. It was a mistake that I came to realize is often made when it comes to the art of Jack Yeats, both during his lifetime and today.

Preparing and researching the exhibit was a wonderful experience. Having an undergraduate background in history and graduate degrees in Irish Studies and Library and Information Science, the internship provided me with the unique opportunity of combining skills learned from all fields. The ability to handle rare and old materials on a daily basis was an adventure that can best be likened to being a kid in a candy store.

One of the most surprising aspects uncovered during the research phase was the large number of rare materials available in Special Collections. Among the items I was able to use were books signed by well-known Irish authors and rare volumes that are only held by a handful of libraries in the United States.

The most exciting moment was uncovering a letter written by a former president of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, taped inside one of his books, The Religious Songs of Connacht. The letter was written to a critic I could only determine to be named Bernard. The review this person wrote is taped inside the back cover of the same book.

Hyde letter from Diadha Chúige Connacht (The Religious Songs of Connacht
Hyde, D. (1906). Abhráin Diadha Chúige Connacht (The Religious Songs of Connacht). London: T.F. Unwin. Special Collections: McGarrity Collection.

Finding such unique materials on the shelves of Special Collections often made it difficult to stay on task. Despite the temptations, I managed to complete the exhibit in time for the start of the spring semester. I would like to thank Michael Foight, Bente Polites, Joanne Quinn, and David Lacy without whom this project would not have been possible.

Visit the exhibit on Falvey Library’s Second Floor or online at


Oh, the Humanity!: Time travel and the search for the “human” in the “history” within the pages of S. A. Lane’s autobiography

Posted for: Johanna Hibbs, (Father Thomas Middleton Digital Library Intern 2008):

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Johanna Hibbs and I was the 2008 Fall Father Thomas Middleton Intern for the Falvey Memorial Digital Library and, boy, what an internship it turned out to be!


From handling rare manuscripts to writing Wikipedia articles, my time spent here at Falvey was never rife with tedium nor was it forgettable. I had always pictured the life of an intern to be that of toting hot beverages to the “higher-ups” and making friends with a copy machine for four months, but I would soon realize that this internship was not only a chance to gain experience within an academic, therefore intellectually charged, setting, but I was also able to do something most of my peers miss out on: Time Travel.

Yes, here, at Falvey Memorial Library, one is able to travel through time and witness living, breathing history as I did during my hands-on involvement with the transcription and digitization of one 19th century American: Samuel Alanson Lane and his hand-written autobiography.


This leather bound manuscript of former mayor and local historian of Akron, Ohio was graciously lent to the Digital Library this past year. As a former graduate student who had been recently graduated from the Humanities program at Arcadia University, this project was pure intellectual gold! Fully transcribed and scanned in color at 600 dpi , this 450 + page manuscript offers a “slice of life” look at 19th century life through the eyes of an average American man, who lived in a not-so-average time and is available for the public on the Digital Library’s website.

My journey back in time started with small steps as I was initially given the task of transcribing the words of Lane’s manuscript into a reader-friendly Word document.


At first, deciphering Lane’s handwriting was somewhat challenging as his style of script was, at times, confusing, with some letters appearing as others but as I would soon discover, reading his writing would become as natural as reading my own. This growing sense of familiarity towards Lane’s writing would soon trickle over to the man himself, as I became more and more engrossed in his life’s tale. What started as mere word-for-word transcription became more of a weekly fix of Americana to satiate my hunger for history and quench my thirst for a touching narrative. Therefore, it was not the least bit shocking when I decided to devote my semester long online exhibition to S. A. Lane; transporting myself back to the America he witnessed during his 90 years on this planet, from 1815 to 1905.

Acting much like a time portal, the exhibit’s aim was to highlight some of the major events and marvels that peppered the years of Lane’s life. The topics I chose were:

Railroads, Slavery, Politics, Temperance Movement, California Gold Rush, Telegraph, Photography, Invention


and were based both on Lane’s experience with each topic as well as the overall impact these facets had on America during that time. My goal in this exhibit is to discuss each topic based on my own academic research while simultaneously displaying, through Lane’s own words, how these major historical events and marvels wove themselves into the fibers of an average American’s tale. If Lane did not discuss a certain event within the pages of his manuscript (i.e. the Civil War) in any great detail, I did not include it in the exhibit. Similarly, it was impossible to research every aspect of Lane’s life. Topics like Mormon and Native American Life as well as 19th century health issues were aspects of American society represented in Lane’s writing, but limited time did not afford them a place in the final cut. It was my hope to have the exhibit act more as a doorway into the life of Lane rather than it be the entire homestead; allowing each visitor to customize their own entrance into his life and perhaps become as entranced as I was in his entire first-person narrative.


Looking back at the many weeks I spent “living” in the 19th century, I have found myself most intrigued with the “human” aspect of this venture. I found it difficult, if not impossible, to read the lines I transcribed without being reminded that at one time, Lane was scribbling down his own personal thoughts and remembrances, perhaps in hopes that someone like myself in the future would find his life events interesting enough to preserve and, above all, appreciate. In many ways, this project served as a way to immortalize a man whose achievements and thoughts could have easily been swept away in the tides of time. Lane’s endearing anecdotes and genuinely kind character helped anchor his memory in the tumultuous current of history and it was no wonder that I found myself cheering for his successes and sympathizing with his tragedies. These emotions I felt during this project made Lane’s life in America during the 19th century almost tangible, proving that I did indeed “travel back in time”.

I would like to thank the following collaborators and supporters of this project. Without their help and devotion, I would not have been able to accomplish so much: Ward Barnes, David Burke, Brittany Dudas, Michael Foight, Sue Ottignon, Teri Ann Pirone, Andrea Reed and Stephen Spatz.


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Last Modified: July 15, 2009