Irony in the Archives


Envelope addressed to the GU president with charred edges

Researching in the University Archives can be a serious business but now and then I come across something which makes me smile. Here's a recent example. I was looking at records of Father John Creeden, who was Georgetown's President from 1918 to 1922, when I noticed a damaged letter. It was the charred edges of the envelope which caught my attention but what amused me was the stamp at its top right corner which reads Before You Leave A Camp Fire Be Sure It's Out.

The partially surviving letter inside is from the Diocese of Salt Lake City and appears to request to a scholarship for a student from the Diocese.

A note from the postmaster glued to the back of the envelope explains that the letter was damaged by fire which occurred in a mail car near Sterling, Ohio, on July 26, 1921, so no actual blaze sparked by a camp fire was apparently involved. Further details of the fiery event appear in a short article published in the Medina Sentinel, July 28, 1921. This reports that, while numerous parcels were destroyed in a mail car explosion of unknown origin, no one working in the car was injured.


--Lynn Conway, Georgetown University Archivist