The collections of the Misericordia Archives are a microcosm of women’s lives in the twentieth century United States. This service-learning project in the fall of 2017 enabled students to situate the rich history of campus life within broader events taking place in the United States. The entries below comprise students’ reflections on this experience.
Misericordia regularly sends our students out into the community to build their professional experience and serve others. Since 2016, MU has sent several students to internships in Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; Scranton, PA; and Eckley, PA. Read more about our students’ work in area historic sites, museums, and other related public history endeavors below.
Throughout this week at the Luzerne County Historical Society, I have cataloged a part of the Welles Collection that has a large assortment of letters Edward Welles wrote to family members, friends, and acquaintances. Most of the letters I came across were written in an elegant style that was difficult for me to read. Thus, I could not understand what Edward Welles wrote to his wife, Stella Welles. However, there were typed letters Edward Welles wrote to acquaintances, friends, and family members. Many of the typed letters I came across pertained to business, property, and so on.
I hope by next week, I will be able to do another task related to interactions with the public, if I complete the task of cataloging the Welles Collection, that is. I find doing tasks, such as researching for the public, particularly interesting because you get to learn more about a topic that you may not have studied in the past. Additionally, doing that specific task excites me because I would get to work in the archives, rather than only cataloging. I do enjoy cataloging artifacts, but I prefer to have a variety of tasks rather than only one. In all, fingers crossed that I will do a small task next week before I end my internship at the Luzerne County Historical Society.
This week at the Luzerne County Historical Society, I continued cataloging the Welles collection and came across two interesting books. One small book I came across was titled “Twenty-Two Years of Protection” by Henry V. Poor, written in September 1888. In his book, Poor discusses the transitions of America’s financial history from the colonial period to the late 1800s, dividing the transitions into three distinct phases: ‘The Period of Construction’ (1789-1829), ‘The Period of Attempted Destruction’ (1829-1865), and lastly, ‘The Period of Restoration’ (1865-1887). Throughout the book, Poor discusses each phases of America’s financial history, but focuses on the last phase extensively. I thought the book was appealing because of the title, even though I don’t have much interest in its topic. On the other hand, if any readers are interested in America’s financial history, they should not hesitate to take a look at it.
The other interesting book I came across was titled “The Right and Left Hand Blessings of God: Designed as a Cure for Covetousness” by Rev. Nathaniel West. The book got my attention as I was reading the title and its claim that it can cure one’s greed. Inside the book, there are excerpts of scripture, right hand blessings, and so on. These components highlighted by West were, and possibly are presently, believed to be a way to heal a greedy individual’s spirit. Due to time restrictions, I unfortunately could not look further into the book. However, when I do have the time I would like to read it, because the “right hand blessings” highlighted in the book, such as the ‘Length of Days’ and ‘Riches and House’, seem interesting to me. Anyhow, as the semester is coming to an end, I am going to continue cataloging the Welles collection until mid-December. Thus, I wonder what I will find next week in the collection!
This week at the Luzerne County Historical Society I unfortunately did not have a new assignment, so I was back to inventorying the Welles collection. Some things I came across in the collection were interesting, such as paper money that represented 25 cents, 15 cents, etc. The paper money sparked my interest because it was paper money, not coins identical to what we have today. Also, what was unique about the paper money was the different colors and designs on them. One 25 cent bill had a bright orange and yellow colors on it and an elegant design. Another interesting objects I came across were vintage gift tags from the 1800s. Some were with people, men, women and children or them individually, and others had flowers or birds. The flower and bird gift tags were charming and had nice colors.
In the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to interview the individuals from the historical society on their positions and gain more insight into the organization and their specific careers. I had an interview with the librarian and archivist of the Luzerne County Historical Society, who shared information about the process to get to where she is now. She informed me that there were specific tests she had to take. For instance, a test the librarian/archivist had to take was the Civil Service exam. She discussed with me that it is an exam in order to work for the state. Additionally, she advised me that for jobs in this career to check the state website first before anything else. She said that the state website is simpler than other ways to locate a position that I am looking for.
Another individual I had the opportunity to interview is the Executive Director of the Luzerne County Historical Society. She discussed with me her history that led up to her position here and it was quite interesting. She has a bachelor’s degree in history, one master’s degree in history, one doctorate degree in history (both the master’s and doctorate are with specializations), and now is working on her second master’s degree in business. She is well-educated in history and now business which is obviously well-suited for the position she is in. She worked at various small and large historical societies and museums. Thus, she advised me to decide whether I would want to work at a small or large society or museum. Making the decision to work at a small or large location is important because in a small location an individual would have more responsibilities in contrast to a larger one. In all, I am very grateful for both the librarian/archivist and the executive director willingly assisting me in my path towards a career choice.
This week at the Luzerne County Historical Society, I was assigned something new to do. I was assigned to go through the Luzerne County Historical Society’s Vulcan Iron Works collection. In the collection, I had to locate anything that would be useful for a research request. The specific individual was looking for information pertaining to a gentleman named Theodile Guibar, an inventor from Belgium. Theodile Guibar made many fans and other ventilators that the Vulcan Iron Works used in their locomotives in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The individual was looking for any letters between Theodile Guibar and engineers who worked for Vulcan Iron Works or any other documents mentioning him. Unfortunately, there were no letters between an engineer and Theodile Guibar or documents that mentioned his name. Many of the documents and books in the Luzerne County Historical Society’s collection consisted of sales records, books with records of executive meetings, inspection records, and any information related to the locomotives. Even though I could not assist the individual with any documents that had his name or letters, the archivist/librarian at the Luzerne County Historical Society stated that she would refer him or her to another historical society that has a Vulcan Iron Works collection.
During the few days I researched that collection, I came across some interesting information about the location. The Vulcan Iron Works was founded in 1849 by an individual named Richard Jones. Richard Jones was an engineer whose focus was to build iron machinery for mines. Before he founded the Vulcan Iron Works, Jones was an employee of another company named Riddle, Chambers, & Company. Subsequently, The Riddle, Chambers, & Company went bankrupt because of a depression in the early 1840s. The rising demand of the mining industry in the 1800s made the Vulcan Iron Works a financially successful company. The 1870s primarily was the pinnacle point of the Vulcan Iron Works’ financial success. One way this occurred was by the demand of machinery that made vertical shafts in mines. Thus, Vulcan Iron Works’ hoisting engines, elevator cages, and related items were in great demand.
In all, this assignment reminded me of the Luzerne County Historical Society’s willingness to assist an individual in his or her research project in any way they can. Also, the assignment was another way to utilize previous archival skills I learned from my last internship, which is great. I am excited to find out what new assignments I may acquire next week.
Similarly to my post last week, I came across another booklet recently concerning mineralogy that I found interesting to read. The booklet is an excerpt of the journal named The American Journal of Science and the article is titled “On Bixbyite, A New Mineral, and Notes on the Associated Topaz”. The article was written by S. I. Penfield and H. W. Foote, regarding Bixbyite and Topaz, minerals that Maynard Bixby discovered. Penfield and Foote discuss the physical features of bixbyite, the hardness of it, and the different mathematics to studying the mineral. Additionally, Penfield and Foote explore the method they used to analyze the mineral. Penfield and Foote laid out the procedure of the chemistry used, such as a thallium-silver nitrate mixture, and the addition of other chemicals, such as chlorine, in order to conclude that the mineral can dissolve; even though the mineral’s hardness is high (6-6.5). Furthermore, Penfield and Foote go on to discuss the other mineral, topaz. During their analysis, Penfield and Foote state that some topaz minerals can be over four centimeters long and can be either transparent, white, or a light wine color. Towards the end of the article, Penfield and Foote continue to discuss the chemistry behind their study of topaz.
I found this booklet to be quite interesting. I found it neat that there is a mineral named after Maynard Bixby. I would estimate that if a mineralogist found a new mineral and had it named after the individual, it would be quite rewarding. I think it would be rewarding to the individual because all of their hard work and determination paid off. However, I was not keen on all of the chemistry behind it, only due to my disinterest in the chemical components of a mineral and the chemical procedures. In all the discovery was a fascinating find and I learned a lot about these two minerals that I have not heard of previously.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s, Misericordia offered an array of sports, available for women to participate in. Such sports include archery, tennis, basketball, soccer, ice skating and many more. I know this because of several photos I viewed in the archives. In theses photos, they show a group of women shooting arrows at targets, one woman shooting an arrow at a target while others watch, and a group photo of women holding their respected sports items such as the basketball, ice skates, and so forth. This makes me wonder what happened to these sports teams and when and why they started to fade out. I do not believe there is an archery team or ice skating team anymore; but was it because they weren’t popular, there was no one to teach it, or was it pushed out on purpose? These photos are more examples of women breaking the gender norms, and in the 1930’s at that. I wonder if things changed or became offered in light of the previous war or the upcoming war that occurred in the time period.
Misericordia, “Sports Heads,” media “photograph” (1939). University Photo collections, RG905, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.
Misericordia “Archery,” media “photograph” , (1940). University Photo collections, RG905, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.
Misericordia, “Unknown,” media “photograph” , (1920). University Photo collections, RG905, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.
May Day is a ceremony recognizing and crowning a senior woman on campus that embodies true religious qualities. It appears that all of the other seniors wore generally simple white dresses, and the “May Queen” wore a dress along the lines of a wedding dress. In addition, the underclassmen attended the ceremony wearing caps and gowns. Personally, I think the whole concept of May Day was a combination of homecoming, a wedding, graduation, a garden party, and a coronation. In addition, May Day made me feel uncomfortable. I have realized that today, students are not that engaged in the traditional crowing contest, such as prom and homecoming. My generation has adopted a nonchalant attitude towards these competitions, and realized it is only 15 minutes of fame. Furthermore, today’s society has been trying to push “everybody is a winner” ideal, and to break down the stereotypical characteristics of those who seem to win these competitions. However, I did appreciate the dresses the other seniors wore. Their dresses were all long, loose fitting, and that ruffles, bows and frill was a common trend during that time. Lastly, the women were all wearing big spring hats that you would typical see women wearing to church or at a derby race.
May Day, 1950-1960. University Photo Collection RG905, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.
I found this one newspaper article in the archives from 1955. Dr. Bella Dodd came to Misericordia to discuss her time in the communist party. She came to discuss her book ‘School of Darkness’ and how she differed from her religion and chose the communist party. I found her interesting because she quit the party pretty close to the end of the war in 1948. She decided to stay in the party through the war. I wonder if she was forced to stay or believed in what was happening. I would like to do some research on her, like her beliefs, why she joined the party, and why she stayed. It would have been very interesting to be there and listen to her talk. I would like to listen in on the questions asked and ask her questions about the party itself. I find the whole communist story line fascinating so hearing it from someone who was in the party would be a dream come true.
“Ex Communist to Lecture: Will Address students,” Miss Recordia (April 26,1955). University Newspaper collections, RG830, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.