Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Friday, March 15, 2013

Saint Patrick's Day in the Archives Center

Greeting card collections in the Archives Center contain primarily cards for Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day, but they also include cards celebrating other holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day.  These large collections of older cards, some dating back to the 1850s, include visual and poetic delights, and many are humorous.   Large numbers of greeting cards can be found in the Division of Domestic Life Greeting Card Collection, ca. 1854-1975, and the Norcross Greeting Card Collection, mostly ca. 1880-1900 and 1920-1981.

Cards also can be found in family scrapbook collections and other personal papers.  Obviously, visual manifestations of holiday themes may occur in other types of documents and ephemera.  St. Patrick’s Day—coming up soon, on March 17—constitutes one of the most enduring connections to the Irish and Irish Americans in American culture. 
I’d love to show some examples of our St. Patrick’s Day cards to you—too bad we haven’t scanned any of them yet!   Feel free to send us your requests and we’ll be happy to invoice you.  However,  our collections contain additional references to St. Patrick’s Day.
Sheet music cover for "St. Patrick's Day Parade," from the musical, "The Military Girl."
Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated American Sheet Music, Archives Center

Certain holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, inspire parades.  Above is the cover of sheet music for “St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” a song from the 1912 musical play, “The Military Girl,” first produced at the Ziegfeld Theatre in Chicago.  Co-star Florence Holbrook was the wife of Cecil Lean, the multi-talented writer, composer, and star of the show, and they are shown together in the center of the cover.  However, they subsequently divorced and he married Cleo Empy (or Empey), known onstage as Cleo Mayfield.  According to “Variety” (February 25, 1914), which pronounced Lean “one of the most ardent lovers on and off the stage,” he had met Mayfield when she was in the cast of “The Military Girl.”  She took Holbrook’s place as the character “Miss Understood” during the long run of the show.

Cover of program for anniversary dinner for The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, 1919.
John D. Crimmins Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
But I digress!  Cecil Lean’s marriages have nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day.  Let’s consider Irish organizations and Irish cuisine, embodied in the pages of a program for an anniversary dinner sponsored by the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, held in New York in 1919, appropriately on St. Patrick’s Day.  The menu is shown directly below.  The celebration was held within very recent memory of the end of World War I.  Note the appeal to Irish-American patriotism on the last page below.

I'm on the lookout for other items in our collections which relate to Irish themes and/or St. Patrick.  Meanwhile, have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

David Haberstich
Archives Center, National Museum of American History  

No comments:

Post a Comment