Archive for February, 2015

Building a Collection: Fr. Paul Prucha and the Bureau of Catholic Indian Mission Records

Or: How his Leadership—plus Serendipity and “Star Alignment”—led to Marquette becoming a national center for Catholic Collections about Native Americans

By Mark G. Thiel

MU archivist and guest blogger Mark G. Thiel tells the story of how the Marquette library archives obtained its largest and most-used collection with the help of a powerhouse researcher, an idiosyncratic philanthropist, and savvy librarians.

First-time visitors to the Marquette University Department of Special Collections and University Archives (MUA) discover that its third-floor reading room in the Rev. John P. Raynor, S.J., Library is named in honor of the Rev. Francis Paul Prucha, S.J., Professor Emeritus of the Department of History. His prolific research delved into many aspects of U.S. policy about Native Americans, and is best known for The Great Father, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, and is regarded as a classic among professional historians. His reading room portrait oversees a bookshelf filled with his many publications, because more than anyone else, his archival research and advocacy affected the development of the department’s special collections.

In 1970, after several years of extensive research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., Father Prucha addressed a conference there titled, “Research in the Administration of Public Policy.” He admitted that he found its vast holdings on federal administration of American Indian policy intimidating. But he reiterated the importance of thorough and extensive research and pointed out the need for more of it in many areas, including education, which was the realm of his own study. In conclusion he said, “It would take many researchers, each one digging in some special section of the files, before these riches are properly exploited. Yet books and articles of a purportedly scholarly nature keep appearing on Indian history matters, written by men who have seldom if ever set foot in the National Archives.”

At that time, his research focused on the political and legal battles between the Catholic Church, the Protestant churches, and the federal government over education, which would culminate in his illuminating book, The Churches and the Indian Schools, 1888-1912. Besides the National Archives, his commitment to thorough research required visits to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, which held the records of the Indian Rights Association, a Protestant organization, and the records of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions (BCIM) in Washington, which since 1874 has represented the Catholic Church in its business with the federal government with respect to Native Americans.

In about 1970, the BCIM Executive Director, Rev. John Tennelly, S.S., granted Fr. Prucha access to its records. Fr. Tennelly led him to a side room with four four-drawer cabinets holding about 30 cubic feet of records, which were its central files with correspondence of church leaders and federal officials that was essential to his research. Fr. Prucha was impressed with the quality of the records, but also their poor condition. Unknown to him, there were not four, but over forty such cabinets with over 425 cubic feet of mission correspondence, photography, reports, and rare publications dispersed from the basement to the attic above the third floor.

Nonetheless, Fr. Prucha correctly recognized that these brittle records were valuable and needed archival custody. By 1972, he began to share his concerns about them with historians, archivists, and administrators at Marquette and The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington. In so doing, he further noted that the BCIM director was aged and in poor health, the adjacent George Washington University coveted the property, and while he believed that Marquette would be a good place for the records, his main interest was to make sure that they would be preserved somewhere with access for scholars.

Desiring growth for the university’s special collections, Marquette archivists and administrators soon heeded Fr. Prucha’s concern, and they did so with his misconception that the BCIM holdings comprised just four file cabinets of church-state correspondence. During the next three years, they formulated a plan to justify and fund their acquisition. They believed that these records would fit well for three reasons: Fr. Prucha’s distinguished scholarship on the history federal Indian policy, Marquette’s Jesuit identity and namesake, and its previous acquisition of national collections on Catholic social action, a number of which focused on the concerns of ethnic minorities. Also, they had reason to hope that de Rancé, Inc., which funded several Catholic Indian missions, might provide the necessary funding.

Founded by its president, Harry G. John, Sr., Milwaukee-based de Rancé, Inc., was then the largest religiously-oriented foundation in the United States. John was an enigmatic past family president of Miller Brewing who financed de Rancé grants with first the dividends and later the proceeds of the sale of his 47 percent or 1,900 shares of Miller’s stock. Overall, his funding decisions were highly motivated by his religious concerns, which Marquette Jesuits had apparently influenced.

During the fall of 1975, Marquette archivists developed and submitted an ambitious proposal to de Rancé, which became the first of two that it funded with grants totaling $85,000. It called for a national Catholic Indian mission archives project with multiple goals, one of which was to enable Marquette to become the BCIM’s archival repository. That goal called for funds to acquire, preserve, and microfilm the BCIM records with Dr. Herman J. Viola named as project consultant. Dr. Viola was a Marquette History alumni and protégé of Fr. Prucha’s, who since 1972, had served as a curator at the Smithsonian in Washington.

From his Smithsonian post and on Marquette’s behalf, Dr. Viola wrote to the BCIM’s Board of Directors about the de Rancé grants during the first half of 1976. They included John Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia, the chair, and John Cardinal Cooke of New York and Archbishop William Borders of Baltimore, the members. In addition, Marquette’s President, the Rev. John P. Raynor, S.J., recruited Milwaukee Archbishop William E. Cousins, who in writing, formally presented Marquette’s offer to Cardinal Krol.

On July 1, Msgr. Paul A. Lenz succeeded Fr. Tennelly as executive director of BCIM, and over the next three weeks, he carefully reviewed all related correspondence to and from Cardinal Krol. On July 22, Msgr. Lenz wrote to Cardinal Krol with his assessment, prefacing it by acknowledging that, while the final decision rested with the board, he believed “the records should be given to Marquette University at the earliest date possible.” Viola warned Msgr. Lenz that the de Rancé grants were a rare and “golden opportunity” that would expire in a year. Then he suggested to Marquette Archivist Fr. Robert Callen, S.J., that Marquette invite Msgr. Lenz to visit. He came to Milwaukee within the month. Following tours of campus and the archives – then located in the basement of the Memorial Library– a group including Fr. Callen, Vice President Rev. Michael G. Morrison, S.J., and Dr. Viola, explained Marquette’s evolving vision. Through de Rancé, they had the necessary financing to preserve the records and they planned to coordinate with Marquette’s recruitment efforts to attract more Native American students and develop a study center focusing on Native – Catholic history. Furthermore, they noted that in a previous collaborative archives project, CUA had failed to perform as promised. In conclusion, Msgr. Lenz assured them that his recommendation would be that Marquette receive the records.

The board met to make its final determination in May. Despite some concerns about whether or not Marquette was “truly Catholic,” Msgr. Lenz’s views prevailed. Within six weeks an agreement had been negotiated and signed designating Marquette as the repository (although BCIM retained ownership), contingent upon ongoing de Rancé funding. The agreement also required Marquette to microfilm the records and supply a copy of them to Catholic University. Furthermore, if Marquette ever ceased to be a Catholic and Jesuit university, the BCIM retained the right to take back the records.

The records were relocated to Milwaukee in mid-July 1977. Under Dr. Viola’s supervision, professional movers moved ten tons of records in a sixty-five-foot semitrailer from the BCIM to Memorial Library. In his report, Dr. Viola noted, “Aside from being dusty and dirty… the BCIM collection does not pose major preservation problems… The major problem is the high acid content of the paper. Many of the letters have turned dark and are exceedingly brittle.”

MeanwhilFr Prucha & Msgr Lenz @ BCIMe, Fr. Prucha finished the research and hunt for illustrations for his manuscript on Native American education and submitted it to the University of Nebraska Press. It was published in November, 1979.

Fr. Prucha presented a copy of the The Churches and the Indian Schools to Msgr. Lenz while they stood in front of the BCIM building (the vegetation in the picture on the left suggests the meeting took place in the spring of 1980). By this time, the Marquette Archives had nearly finished preserving the original records and photography. It had refiled the materials with archival quality boxes and folders and had adjusted the overall arrangement scheme, and then in progress was its selective microfilming of textual records and associated rare periodicals along with the creation of additional written descriptions, most of which are now online.

The collections preserved at Marquette continues to grow. With BCIM support, the Marquette Archives has become a magnet for more Native American, primarily Native Catholic, collections. Now numbering over fifty unique collections, they comprise over 900 cubic feet of holdings with descriptive inventories on the Raynor Memorial Libraries’ website, A large number of them have been digitized and can be examined at

Mark Thiel is archivist at Raynor Memorial Libraries, where he is responsible for Acquisition, administration and reference service of special collections and digital initiatives pertaining to Catholic Native America and Catholic Broadcasting. He drew this essay from documents found in the collections he describes. Fr. Francis Paul Prucha, SJ, was a long-time professor at Marquette and the author many books on government policy toward Native Americans; find out more on his Wikipedia page:!


The Crusades are in the News Again

Lezlie Knox introduces some of the issues raised whenever a political leader confronts history–especially when that history is fraught with meaning to the present (of course, that could be said for most historical events!).  In this case, the history is the Crusades and the issue is the use of religion to justify violence.

The Crusades are in the news again. Last Thursday President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, with one passage from his remarks drawing particular attention:

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

 So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.

Unsurprisingly, especially in this era of extreme political partisanship, the president’s critics were quick to criticize his remarks as anti-Christian and even anti-American, while other voices have defended the context and emphasized that acknowledging religious motivations or justifications is hardly the same as asserting causality. To some degree the dispute breaks down along liberal and conservative lines (with the exception of David Brooks, who spoke in defense of a gospel of humility).

Nonetheless, as a medievalist who sometimes hears that her field lacks relevance, this story and its expanding commentary represent clear evidence that events that happened over nine centuries ago on a separate continent still matter. Indeed, this heated response is especially pertinent for the twenty-one undergraduates and three Marquette alumni who are studying the Crusades with me this semester.

bnf-fr-22495f154v  Guillaume de Tyr, Histoire d'Outremer,  XIVe siècle, France (Paris)

William of Tyre, Histoire d’Outremer, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale MS 22495, f. 154v

The source of the illustration to the left indicates that the Crusades sparked complicated meanings and attitudes within European society almost as soon as they were over.  This vernacular translation of an earlier text called History of the Deeds Done beyond the Sea, dates to about 1337 and shows how medieval authors and illustrators already were representing the Crusades as a racialized a clash between Christianity and Islam.  Here the well-armed European knights attack a group of darker-skinned Muslim warriors who lack armor. Interestingly, the knights are not cruciferos–bearing a cross, a sign of having vowed to crusade, but are instead identified by their heraldry. This manuscript image may be “medieval” in the sense that it dates from the fourteenth century, but it has nothing to tell us directly about events that occurred during the First Crusade (1095-1099) much less life in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1291).  Rather, it speaks to the memory of such events and their contemporary uses (a subject for another blog).

The discussion on the internet engages directly with the assumptions that this class seeks to complicate. Were the Crusades a clash of civilizations? Should they be understood as a defensive response to an Islamic threat to Europe? To what degree(s) did religious faith underscored the decision to crusade? I’m not going to weigh in here on these specific issues—not the least because my students have a midterm coming up in which they will have to assess such questions in light of the evidence drawn from the medieval sources they have been reading.

The following articles and blogs are particularly recommended for those who want to learn more about how historians of the Crusades understand these events as well as how they respond to appropriations of these events for modern political debates.

Lezlie Knox is Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies.  She is the author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008).

First Journeys: Interview Stories

With the history department in the middle of two searches—we’re hiring a colonial US/Native American historian as well as an ancient historian—we thought it would be fun to share a few interview stories. Everyone has one; the excruciating sequence of AHA screening interviews (now often conducted via Skype) and the nerve-wracking, two-day on campus interviews are rites of passage for any historian. They can be memorable; they can also scar you for life! But to commemorate the “hiring season,” here is a little trifle of a blog post about interviews past and present from faculty members and former graduate students alike. A few names have been changed to protect the hapless.

Faculty member Alison Efford starts with a cheerful story about interviewing here at Marquette several years ago: On my flight to Milwaukee for the on-campus, I sat next to a person who I now know is a member of the political science department. He saw me reading over materials and worked out that I was on my way to an interview. Of course, he didn’t know anything abbot the search, but he gave me a very welcoming introduction to the university. We’ve hardly ever talked since, although we did catch up at a reception when he won a research award.

Before arriving in Milwaukee in the early 1980s, Julius Ruff held several jobs and endured countless interviews. Here’s a story from one of them: In 1977 I had an on-campus interview for a one-year job at a New England university where budgets must have been tight; I was housed in the chairman’s basement, sleeping on a convertible couch. The basement had a bathroom complete with a metal shower stall. During my stay, I also learned that the chairman’s wife vacuums the living room carpet directly above the basement room at 6:00 AM.

Ann Ostendorf, another of our former PhD students, tells about an interview she experienced: During the part of the process when I was being interviewed by the full department, a (rather senior) member of the department asked if I was into the whole Annales School philosophy [the early and mid-twentieth century French social history movement], (remember this was 2009). I looked around the room and could tell everyone else was embarrassed by this question, so I randomly made up some stuff that sort of talked around the question.  As soon as I finished, he promptly fell asleep for the rest of the department interview, and the rest of the department seemed quite relieved.

From PhD alum Ed Schmitt (now associate professor of history at UW-Parkside): I have a funny hiring story that my colleagues and former students have never let me forget. It was my first year at Parkside and we were interviewing for a second Americanist. I was running late for a candidate’s 8:00 am research presentation, so I parked in an unauthorized spot that was going to save me quite a few steps. When I went back out to get my bag that had lecture notes for a new course I was teaching, I found that my car was gone. It had been towed to an impound lot, and the only one available to give me a ride there was the candidate. And that candidate didn’t end up getting the job!  So I felt kind of terrible about the whole situation, but hopefully the candidate found happiness, better parking, and more responsible colleagues elsewhere.

Lezlie Knox has two stories featuring cars: On one interview, I was picked up at the airport by a faculty member in a pick-up truck that had seen much better days.  I had to enter through the driver’s side door, since the passenger door was tied shut with a rope connected to the gear shift.  This situation raised a lot of questions about faculty salaries, but I didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask her why she drove that particular vehicle (she had it the next day too).  Once she had a job, at a school in California, she witnessed the worst job interview ever: Two colleagues took a candidate out for coffee off campus.  Coming back, they were stopped in a turn lane on the Pacific Coast Highway and were rear-ended by a driver on a cellphone.  The candidate could only be extracted from the back seat by using the “jaws of life.”  She wasn’t hurt too badly, but when she stood up, the force of the accident had stretched the fabric in her suit so that her skirt fell off.  She also had two black eyes—which she took to the Rhode Island campus where she interviewed the next week. She ended up getting that job.

Ken Shonk, who completed his PhD at Marquette several years ago and has held tenure-track positions at two different universities, has had more than his share of interviews, and offers several stories from both sides of the interview process (warning: these are not for those easily offended by officious or clueless academics!): I was interviewing at an east coast university that was located about 25 miles from a major international airport. I was instructed to take a bus from the airport to a bus terminal, from which I was to take a cab to hotel (where I had to make reservations myself). What they did not tell me was that the bus ran every 90 minutes, resulting in my waiting in the cold for well over an hour. Shivering, I arrived at the bus station where I had to wait another 45 minutes for a cab to arrive. The cabbie took the long route to the hotel and drove off without providing the requested receipt. The interview was fine, but when it came time to return me to the airport, I witnessed members of the faculty doing their best to get out of giving me a ride: ‘I don’t want to do it, you should do it. It’s your turn.’ ‘I gave [full name of another job candidate] a ride the other day.’ Etc., etc. Transportation aside, my teaching demo—for a secondary education position—was given to a classroom full of elementary education students.

In another on-campus interview, I was given the day’s itinerary and noticed that there were large chunks of downtime. After a 45-minute job talk in which two faculty attended, I sat in a dusty office for roughly two hours so that other faculty could meet with me. Nobody bothered to show. This was followed by a 90-minute block of time in which I was to meet with a number of undergraduate majors. The chair of the committee warned me that he expected at least 35 students, and it was important to hold the meeting in a large room. He was readied with four-dozen donuts and a large vat of coffee. Not a single student showed up. The chair spent much of the time apologizing and making excuses for the students. I don’t know who ate all of the donuts. Later that evening, I was given a city tour by another member of the committee who sought fit to point out every steakhouse that the city had to offer. I politely shared with him that I was a vegetarian—a fact to which he took great offense and sarcastically stated he’ll be sure to turn away when eating the big steak that he was planning to order. At dinner he continued to make snide comments prompting a series of odd looks from his colleagues.

Bonus high school story: I was interviewing for a high school teaching position. While waiting for my turn, the candidate before me was escorted out of the office by the school’s principal, and I overheard him say, “We will definitely be in touch soon. . . . [The job’s] as good as yours.” Obviously, this did not go over well with me, and I entered the interview with a chip on my shoulder. During the interview, neither the principal nor the department chair seemed in any way interested in my answers, as the principal made doodles on my CV. At one point the department chair fell asleep and proceeded to snore quietly.

A correspondent we’ll call Bob [not his real name] offers this example of how colleagues are sometimes not particularly helpful members of search committees: Two years ago I served as the chair of a search committee for a scholar specializing in non-western history. . . . The search resulted in our interviewing a number of international candidates, which caused [one senior member of the department who we’ll call “X”] great consternation, for X felt that the students at our university would not be able to handle anybody with an accent. When it came time to conduct phone interviews, X insisted on reading the longest of the scripted questions [state schools, especially, insist that all interviewees are asked identical questions]. When we interviewed native English speakers X affected a pseudo-British accent (“What classes would you like to teach in your shed-dule?”) and read the question just once. When we interviewed an international candidate—or one with a non-European name—X insisted on reading the questions in a very loud fashion, sounding out the long word, and was sure to read the question twice. More than once a candidate audibly sighed at X’s tone. Fast forward to the on-campus interviews: both of the candidates we brought to campus had become parents within weeks of their visit to the university. In each of the candidates’ teaching demos X asked—in front of an audience of 35 undergraduates and nearly a dozen faculty—how each candidate was doing with their recent fatherhood/motherhood. On a separate note, another faculty member [let’s call her “Y”] asked each of the candidates to say something in his/her native language. At the post-interview dinner, X and an intoxicated Y dominated the conversation, with the former spending much of the time listing every Asian restaurant and market within a 200-mile radius. Rounding out the evening was Y asking the candidate what he/she thought of Y as a person. These are but the highlights of a surreal and ridiculous experience.

Finally, on a happier note, Steve Avella recalls a chilly night during an interview here at Marquette from several years ago: Kristen Foster and I took Irene Guenther–one of our candidates for a German history position– out to a lovely Italian restaurant on the lower east side. The snow piles were mammoth and the icy wind whipped around that night–chilling us all to the bone. Poor Irene was freezing (her home state of Texas never got this bad.) Nonetheless, once inside, we had the best time: talking about everything from art to Nazis to movies to MU politics. We laughed so loud that the other diners gave us fish-eye looks and we ended up closing the restaurant.  Kristen and I were so impressed, but we both felt those damned snow piles doomed our chances to get this vivacious scholar to join us. When we drove her to the hotel and said our farewells, Kristen and I almost simultaneously remarked–“She’s never gonna come here!” Imagine how happy we were when she accepted our offer. Irene was a great colleague, but she eventually returned to Houston. But the night of entertaining the life-long Texan among the mountain-high snow-piles is my best interview memory.

Interviews can be uncomfortable, funny, rewarding—and sometimes they’re all three!


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