Essays from the University Archives

Historical Sketch of Georgetown University

In 1789, John Carroll and the directors of a proposed "Academy at Georgetown" received the deed to the property on which they were already constructing a school building. Planning for the school had begun as early as 1783; fund-raising in 1786; construction in 1788; the building was completed and the instruction of students begun in 1791. This school was the first institution of higher learning opened under Roman Catholic auspices in the new republic; indeed, without the fruits of the American Revolution, the school would have been impossible, since under colonial law, Roman Catholics were forbidden to conduct schools or to celebrate the mass in public.

History of the Georgetown University Library

Georgetown's third president, Louis Guillaume Valentin DuBourg, a Sulpician, later the first bishop of New Orleans and after that archbishop of Besançon, advertised Georgetown's willingness to accept students of other religious faiths and styled the school a "college." As might be expected, enrollment increased and the college began to prosper. DuBourg, an exile from the revolutions of the early 1790s in what is now Haiti, was an educated and sophisticated man, and to him Georgetown owes the beginnings of its library. He brought with him from Baltimore in 1796 more than a hundred volumes, many of which were his own--others had belonged to a fellow Baltimore Sulpician. Many of these volumes still survive in the library.

Georgetown, The Library, The South, Atlanta and The Olympics

In this century, it has been easy to forget that Georgetown was, at its founding, a largely southern institution, and that Washington was, until very recently, a southern city. Our founders were all products of the Maryland plantation economy, and Georgetown was a tobacco port, located well south of the Mason Dixon Line.

The S.S. Georgetown Victory

The 7000 ton Victory-class troopship was the 53rd in her class built at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyard at Baltimore, and launched April 28th, 1945. The Victory-class ships were an improvement on the famous Liberty ship design, providing greater tonnage, speed and comfort.

The Unknown Women of Georgetown

In 1789, the separate education of men and women, and indeed the idea that women needed but few educational opportunities, was taken for granted. John Carroll thus did not need to specify that his academy was for the education of young men, and in modern times, the admission of women on the basis of full equality was considered a thoroughly revolutionary development.

Fr. Barnum on Linguistic Research

Rev. Francis Barnum, S.J., (1849 -1921) was, at various times, a world traveler, Alaska missionary, student of Inuit linguistics, and the first to attempt to manage the Georgetown University Archives. A man of rare wit and good humor, it was said that he was sometimes reassigned with the express purpose of cheering up the other community.

Fr. Barnum's Practical Jokes

Rev. Francis Barnum, S.J., (1849 -1921) was, at various times, a world traveler, Alaska missionary, student of Inuit linguistics, and the first to attempt to manage the Georgetown University Archives. The following vignettes show there was, at times, more than a little edge to his humor; perhaps the Provincial moved him before the sisters would have a chance to poison 'im.

Provenance Lost

The University Archives includes a few documents that are unsigned, untitled, and that over time have lost all indication of where and why they were created. Archivists call this a loss of provenance. One such stray is a remarkable document beginning: "The Revolution which has lately taken place in this Institution must have been attended with very unpleasant consequences."


Last January, the Main Campus Finance Committee approved an 18 percent increase in the undergraduate tuition for 1982-83, bringing the estimated minimum cost of a year at Georgetown to a staggering $10,750. The figures reflect the fact that the cost of doing business for educational institutions has increased even faster than the consumer price index. Even so, it is sobering to realize that the cost of a Georgetown education is now beyond the means of most of the middle class.

The Dogs of Georgetown

The noble dog has shared man's adventures since prehistoric Times. His is thus a suitable figure to lead the Hoyas into athletic battle, exemplifying as he does the virtues of patience, stubborn courage, stamina, and loyalty. This is the story of Georgetown's canine collegians, be they blue blooded or blue collar, athletic or otherwise.

They Came to Georgetown: The Italians

During the 19th century a large number of men came directly from Italy to Georgetown. More than a few of them achieved distinction, as have many of those men and women of Italian extraction who came later. But three Italian Jesuits especially had a great impact on the college and on the course of Catholic life and education in America.

They Came to Georgetown: Immigrant Musicians

Gloetzner and Perabeau were the culmination of a long line of immigrant musicians who brought to Georgetown most of its musical life in its first century. What little we know of these men must be gathered from the college ledgers, records of payments to "hired men," and a few scraps of music that remain in the Archives.

They Came to Georgetown: The Irish (Part I)

From about 1820, Irish-born Jesuits and laymen played an important role in the development of Georgetown. This initial article will examine the character and contributions of three who each served twice as president of the college: Fr. James Ryder; Fr. Bemard Maguire; and Fr. John Early.

They Came to Georgetown: The Irish (Part II)

The college bakery was housed until 1908 in the basement level of a nondescript building near the southwest corner of Dahlgren Chapel. The college store was one flight up, and the shoemaking shop occupied the top of the house. The building was constructed in 1814 for $890.93, not including excavation, carpenter work and plastering on the upper floors. It was torn down upon the completion of Ryan Dormitory with its modern kitchen facilities.

They Came to Georgetown: The French Sulpicians

In its first two decades, Georgetown drew heavily on the abilities—and availability—of French Sulpician priests and seminarians.

What it was was Football!

"We play football at present, what I mean by football is that it is a kind of leather bag in which is placed a bladder filled with air which causes it to bounce up very high and is kicked about by the boys. I have had my feet skinned and bruised by it very often. I am lame with one I have received today."

The Hoya: A Brief History

The Hoya has been Georgetown University's newspaper of record since 1920. The digital collection of The Hoya in DigitalGeorgetown contains back issues for the period 1959-1980, and reflects Georgetown students’ perspectives on campus events and, at times, local and national events during the 1960s and 1970s.