Treasures of the Archives
Peek inside the Holy Cross Archive and you’ll find mementos that prove Purple Pride has a long shelf life.

By James Dempsey

An archive truly is an institution’s memory. It’s a place where the history and the culture of a community may be stored, preserved and retrieved. It’s a place for not only the exotic and the curious, but also for the ordinary. Here you will find the lowly invoice, the poet’s revised manuscript, the book, the political poster, the personal diary, the learned journal, magazines, scrapbooks, newspapers, financial accounts—the list is endless. These details of daily life in toto make up the history—the romantic might say the soul—of an institution.

Aside from the word, printed or otherwise, archives are also the repository of artifacts: time machines that can transport one back in history. Here is a small selection of items from the College archives. Some tell the story of a time or of a person or of both. Others simply remind us that school spirit, in any form, is a lasting treasure. And all are a part, no matter how large or small, of the long and rich story of the College of the Holy Cross.

Clockwise from top left:

These two glass paperweights, dated about 1900, show views of the College. One features an elevation showing Holy Cross as seen from South Worcester, suggesting to archivist Mark Savolis that the photo may have been executed from the tower of St. Matthew’s Church at the junction of Southbridge and Cambridge streets.

Powder compact
Favors such as this brass powder compact were often given to ladies attending dances at Holy Cross. This one, with its mirror and pink blush still intact inside, was given by Frederick L. O’Neill ’38 to his sister, Helen Chandley, on the occasion of the Senior Prom at the College. Chandley’s daughter, Mary Beth Pappie, periodicals assistant in the Dinand Library, recently donated this item to the archives after finding it among her mother’s jewelry.

Temperance medals
During the Temperance Movement in the 19th century, organizations such as the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America gave out medallions such as these in return for a pledge to abstain. Although the history of these temperance medals is unknown, in the early days of the College, excessive drinking was discouraged not only for moral reasons but also to protect the institution’s community image. In 1880 Father John Murphy, prefect of discipline, made an example of a group of students who returned home late, two of them “manifestly out of trim,” by expelling them.

Collectible spoon
Archivist Mark Savolis speculates that this sterling silver collectible spoon was produced in the late Victorian period. Embossed in the bowl of the spoon are the Fenwick and O’Kane buildings, landscaped with trees, and the legend “H.C.C. Worcester Mass.”

This postcard of the Dinand Library’s Levi Browsing Room, circa 1930, is just one of a series of Holy Cross postcards that have been digitized by assistant archivist Sarah Campbell. To see the full collection, titled “Greetings from Mt. St. James! Post Cards from Holy Cross,” visit holycross.edu/magazine and click on Web exclusives.

James Dempsey was a columnist for The Evening Gazette and The Telegram & Gazette in Worcester, Mass. for 18 years. The winner of awards from the Associated Press and United Press International, he now teaches writing, journalism and literature at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Clark University.