Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools records, 1890-1932 (MC 92)

hallahan high school

Catholic Girls’ High School

The parochial school system in Philadelphia officially began in 1852 under Philadelphia’s fourth bishop, John Nepomucene Neumann. However, the first Catholic schools in Philadelphia can be traced to the mid- to late-18th century under the purview of local parishes, and early expansion occurred unsystematically until the 1850s. Since few parishes had the resources to provide a K-12 education, many Catholic households chose to send their children to Philadelphia’s public schools. Due to several factors (including doubts about the suitability of a public education for Catholic children and growing anti-Catholic sentiment and the nativist riots of 1844), Bishop Francis Kenrick began pushing for separate parochial schools for Philadelphia’s Catholic families. By 1850, nearly every parish had a free school. By 1852, Philadelphia had a parochial school system administered by a central school board. Consistent policies were established in 1890, when the central board voted to create an administrative staff to develop a cohesive curriculum and standardized policies regarding personnel, attendance, grading, and examinations. In 1894, Archbishop Patrick John Ryan selected Father John W. Shanahan as the first superintendent of Catholic schools in Philadelphia. His successor, Reverend Philip R. McDevitt, was appointed in 1899. McDevitt advocated for the creation of new high schools with practical curricula to attract Catholic families away from public high schools, and systemized the supervision of each school. Operated on a citywide basis, these schools would act to upgrade and standardize the curriculum and practices of the decentralized feeder parish schools. In 1895, the board established a group of inspectors to oversee the schools, and in 1901 the power to appoint principals and teachers was transferred from local priests to the central board.

The Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools records date from 1890 to 1932, with bulk dates of 1910 to 1926, and document the administrations of Philip R. McDevitt, superintendent from 1899 to 1916; John K. Flood, superintendent from 1916 to 1922; and Joseph M. O’Hara, superintendent from 1922 to 1926. While the collection mainly pertains to McDevitt, Flood, and O’Hara, it also contains a small amount of records associated with the administration of John J. Bonner, superintendent from 1926-1945.

9.6 linear feet, 23 boxes

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Bartholomew F. Fair papers, 1906-1966 (MC 24)

Bartholomew F. Fair (circa 1963)

After receiving his doctorate in canon law from Catholic University, Bartholomew F. Fair became a professor at St. Charles Seminary (Overbrook, Pa.) from 1946 until his appointment as pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort parish in 1967. During this time, he also served as assistant pastor at several other parishes within the Philadelphia Archdiocese. He was also a member of the Commission for Sacred Liturgy and served as Spiritual Director for the Children of Mary at the Academy of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Rittenhouse Square.

Fair served as president of the American Catholic Historical Society from 1957 until 1966. He was then named to the newly created post of executive director. He had been active in the Society for over 23 years, also serving as its librarian and curator. He supervised the move of the ACHS to its present headquarters at 263 South Fourth Street and was also responsible for moving the Society’s collection to its present location at St. Charles Seminary.

This collection contains correspondence and writings, including Fair’s dissertation, as well as other miscellaneous materials. Some minutes, annual reports, and treasurer’s reports of the American Catholic Historical Society are also included. Some of the correspondence and writings are in Italian and Latin.

2 boxes, 0.8 linear ft.

Catholic Club of Philadelphia records, 1871-1923 (MC 23)

Proposed in May 1875, the Catholic Club of Philadelphia, formerly the De Sales Institute of Philadelphia, was organized January 2, 1877. The club, one of many founded in major cities throughout the country during the late 19th century, offered wealthy men of a certain socioeconomic background cultural, intellectual, and social opportunities. These clubs sponsored balls, concerts, lectures as well as other events and activities that raised large sums of money for local church charities.

This collection contains administrative records, including by-laws and reports, as well as general correspondence. Programs, souvenirs, and ephemera related to club-sponsored events and events sponsored by other local Catholic societies are also included.

2 boxes, 0.8 Lin. Ft.

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Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute records, 1870-1950 (MC 26)

Established in Philadelphia in December 1850 by Father Edward J. Sourin, the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute serves, and continues to serve, as a social, literary, and charitable organization. Father Sourin started the organization as a way for Catholic men to continue their educational and cultural development beyond formal schooling.  The Institute frequently sponsored balls, concerts, theatrical productions, and lecture series. Philopatrians quickly became a significant presence within the city as they became involved in both religious and secular affairs.

The collection includes constitutions and by-laws, reports, ledgers, bulletins and newsletters published by the Institute, handwritten histories, and ephemera, such as invitations and circulars.

1 box, .4 linear ft.