A Love of All Things Old: The Story of Jackie Clarke

Late in the spring semester last year, I was asked along with another Villanova student if I would be interested in acting as a guinea pig for a brand new two-month internship funded by the generosity of Emily C. Riley of the Connelly Foundation, the department, and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. The internship was a brand new collaboration between Villanova and the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina, Co. Mayo. I jumped at the chance being that I have a passion for Irish history, and it was the perfect professional opportunity for someone just coming out of a Master’s program. It would turn out that this two-month internship would become so much more than a professional opportunity, largely in thanks to the nature of the collection itself.

The Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina, Co. Mayo was born out of one local Mayo man’s love for all things old, and a passion for Irish culture and history. Jackie Clarke was a well-known and loved Ballina local and the son of newsagents and grew to love scrapbooking at an early age, making his first book of news clippings at the age of twelve. From there Jackie’s love grew as he did, culminating in a collection of over one hundred thousand artifacts relating to Irish history, covering a period of four hundred years by the end of his lifetime. Jackie was a fishmonger by trade, and lived above his shop with his wife Anne, and their five sons.


(A young Jackie Clarke)

By the time he had died, Jackie had made his wishes known in his will, asking that his wife donate the collection to the Mayo County Council with the hope that the Council would be able to facilitate the creation of a museum for Ballina. Jackie’s wishes came with several stipulations; the items could not leave Mayo, could not be sold, and any resulting museum had to be free of charge. He had hoped that it could be his gift to Ballina and Mayo.

The building that was eventually chosen to house the museum itself is a revitalized bank in the heart of Ballina, known as the Provincial bank. It is a stately and dignified three story brick and mortar building. It was originally built in 1881, and used as a bank until 1977. After the bank shut down, the building went through a series of different uses before falling into disrepair until the Mayo County Council rescued it in 2008 in order to give Jackie’s legacy a home.

Prior to being housed in the museum Jackie’s collection lived with the Clarke family in their apartment and was tucked into every nook and cranny, wrapped in paper bags and newspapers. After Jackie’s death, and Anne’s decision to adhere to his wishes and donate the collection to Mayo, the collection was placed in the repository above the local library a block away from the bank, where the archives remain today. And, despite the Jackie Clarke being a small house museum, it is flourishing today thanks to a wealth of exhibits, and a beautiful garden that is open to the public, and often used for community programing.

JCC Garden.jpg

(Part of the back garden set up for a civil ceremony)

The character of Jackie’s collection is part of what made the collection and the museum such a pleasure to work with. Each box, each artifact, held the potential for delightful surprise. Because of the inherent variety within the Collection itself, the work I was lucky enough to do was equally as varied. For example, one of our first assignments after starting at the Jackie Clarke was to help photograph and catalog a collection of pipes and other items that came from a pub that had closed in town, but the proprietor had not wanted the items to be separated, so he gave them to the museum for safekeeping.

We also worked reception twice a week where we greeted and helped visitors. It was the perfect balance of archival work and public history that culminated in a joint exhibit between myself and my fellow intern. Our exhibit was a visual exploration of Jackie’s own collection of issues of the Illustrated London News, one of the first illustrated newspapers of its kind:

exhibit photo

If the internship is to become a long-standing relationship between Villanova and the Jackie Clarke, as is hoped, its success will not hinge on what the museum has to offer alone. My time in Ballina was made complete not only by my own work but by the co-workers, neighbors, and friends I met while I was there. Ballina, Co. Mayo and its people have as much to offer future interns as the museum itself does, and I can only hope that it continues.


“Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”: A Look at the History of Women’s Ice Hockey in the United States

2017 is proving to be a busy year right out of the gate for a number of reasons, good and bad – however it is also the year that marks the one hundredth anniversary of the National Hockey League (NHL). Prior to the NHL, there was the National Hockey Association (NHA) also known as the National Hockey Association of Canada Limited, which was founded in 1909, by Ambrose O’Brien in Montreal, Canada. The NHA had teams in Quebec and Ontario, Canada, but when conflict between team owners arose, the NHA was suspended, and the NHL was created to allow hockey to continue while legal suits and resolutions were discussed. However, the conflict was never resolved, despite a number of years having been given to the process. As a result, the National Hockey League absorbed and adopted what had been the NHA and moved forward to create professional men’s hockey as we know it today.

And, while celebrating the one hundred year anniversary of what is arguably the best game on earth, is always worthwhile, and today is also international women’s day, which is a perfect reason to discuss the history of women’s ice hockey. And, although women’s hockey was played quite early on in the sports’ history, in both the United States and Canada, this article will focus on play in the United States.

Interestingly enough, Ivy League schools would be among the first to create programs for female ice hockey players, some dates of importance are below:

1964: Nancy Schieffelin attends a practice for the Brown Bears men’s hockey team with the permission of the head coach. Schieffelin was disguised as a man during the practice in order to show the team that women could play as well as men.

1965-66: Brown created a women’s team, the Pembroke Pandas. The women spent the year fundraising and borrowing equipment. They play their first game in 1966, against the Walpole Brooms.

1971: Cornell starts a women’s team.

1975: Yale’s women’s hockey team is founded.

1978: Dartmouth and Harvard found teams.

Outside of Ivy League schools, it was not until 1994 that girl’s hockey would gain more ground. In 1994 the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) sent out five hundred letters to member schools, wanting to know if there was any interest in making girls hockey into a league recognized sport. Out of those five hundred letters, twenty four schools responded. So, on March 21st, 1994, the MSHSL officially sanctioned girl’s hockey as a varsity high school sport, making Minnesota the first state to do so. Following the sanctioning of women’s hockey as a varsity sport in Minnesota, the American Women’s College Hockey Alliance (AWCHA) was founded in 1997-8, promoting the sport at all NCAA levels.

Both the inclusion of women’s hockey at the high school and collegiate level were and are incredible milestones, however, women’s hockey was not done yet. In 1998, women’s ice hockey was included in the winter Olympics for the first time. The XVIII Olympic Games took place in Japan, and the teams included were: Canada, China, Finland, Sweden, the United States, and Japan. The US women’s team took gold in their first showing, while Canada and Finland took the silver and bronze. Since 1998, the US women’s team has yet to win another Olympic gold medal, taking three silvers and one bronze.

The first attempt at a professional women’s hockey league would come in 1999, and run until 2007. There were seventeen teams spread out over three divisions, at the height of the league. Eventually due to funding and resource issues it disbanded. Most recently in 2015, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) was founded – although is distinctly separate from and unrelated to the old NWHL mentioned above. Instead of seventeen teams, the new NWHL has four teams: the Buffalo Beauts, Boston Pride, New York Riveters, and the Connecticut Whale. What sets apart the new NWHL from the old is that the new NWHL is the first professional/top level women’s league to pay its players, making it the first professional women’s hockey league to run nearly parallel to the NHL. However, work is still yet to be done, as professional female ice hockey players do not make the same amount as their NHL counterparts, nor do they receive the same television exposure.

Links of potential interest:

Ivy League Women 


1998 Winter Olympics





From Rome to Rio: The Paralympic Legacy

Because of the recent improvement in coverage and attendance of the Paralympic games (although there is room for improvement), some fans might be surprised to learn that this year’s summer Paralympic games is only the fifteenth iteration.  While various clubs have existed for people with disabilities since the 1880’s it wasn’t until after World War II that the Paralympic movement found traction in it’s current form. With such a large number of people (both military personnel and civilians alike) having been permanently injured as a result of the war, the demand for rehabilitation centers skyrocketed.


Dr. Guttmann

In 1944, in response to the demand, the British government asked Dr. Ludwig Guttmann to open a spinal injury center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, England. Guttmann’s program initially sought to help the injured rehabilitate, but before long it had evolved into a thing of recreation, and eventually became competitive. As a result, Dr. Guttmann organized the Stoke Mandeville Games. The first Stoke Mandeville Games took place on the 29th of July in 1948, the same day as the opening ceremonies of the 1948 London Olympic Games. Gutmann’s games were for wheelchair athletes, and consisted of sixteen wounded service men and women competing in Archery.

Four years later in 1952, wounded Dutch servicemen joined the competition, and the Stoke Mandeville Games became the International Stoke Mandeville Games. From there, the games would continue to grow, with eighteen different teams participating, including the likes of: the USA, Australia, Israel, South Africa, Malaya and Pakistan. And, while the games were well received, even receiving recognition from the Olympic committee, Guttmann’s international games wouldn’t become recognized under the Paralympic banner for years to come.

That said, the 1960’s international games are now widely considered to be the first Paralympic games, despite still being under their International Stoke Mandeville Games banner. They are considered as such, because the games were hosted in Rome in the Olympic venue following the conclusion of the Olympic Games. From that point on, the Paralympic movement continued to grow and expand, going on to open itself up to athletes with a variety of disabilities.

It is thanks to the legacy of Dr. Guttmann and all athletes involved in the early years of Paralympic sports, that today’s spectators are now treated to demonstrations of incredible athletic prowess time and time again. And, if this year’s events are any indication, the trend will only continue to improve, as was evidenced on September 11th when four Paralympians finished the men’s T12/13 (visually impaired) 1500 m race with times that were faster than the time of the Olympic gold medal winner. The winning time for the Paralympic men was 3:48:29 and was run by Abdellatif Baka of Algeria, while the fourth place finisher, Abdellatif’s brother Fouad, finished in 3:49:84. Abdellatif’s win, a world record, was almost two seconds ahead of American Olympic winner Matthew Centrowitz Jr’s time of 3:50:00, meaning that had those men been running in the Olympic version of the event, they would have kept all of the Olympic medal winners off of the podium.

The men of the 1500 m and their accomplishment are undoubtedly impressive, but they are not alone. Six days into the Paralympic Games, 132 world records and 214 Paralympic records were broken. And it is likely that in the last two days more records will be broken and set. For those interested in following the remaining days, live streams, results and schedules can be found on the US Paralympic website.

Michaela Smith, American History, msmit133@villanova.edu

Newt Knight: The Man, Myth, and Legend of Jones County, Mississippi

The name Newton (Newt) Knight was, until recently, one that wouldn’t have garnered much recognition if it were to come up in conversation. But thanks to Gary Ross’ Free State of Jones starring Matthew McConaughey, it will be more recognizable to the general public. Though this is not to say that Gary Ross suddenly picked up on Knight’s story, and miraculously made it into a Hollywood movie. Prior to the movies release, there were a handful of books published about Knight and his efforts to create his own free state of Jones.

The first being written by his own son, Thomas Jefferson Knight, in 1935 titled The Life and Activities of Captain Newton Knight and His Company, and the Free State of Jones County. Within, Knight’s son portrayed his father as a Robin Hood like figure who was fiercely determined to stand up for his beliefs. Following Thomas Knight’s book was a book by Ethel Knight, a grandniece of Newt, published in 1951 titled, The Echo of the Black Horn. Ethel Knight’s book was a complete departure from Thomas’ previous work in that Ethel saw Newt as a traitorous murderer, and sought to denounce Newt as much as possible. The difference in opinion between Thomas and Ethel’s books reflects a sharp divide within the Knight family, where some saw him as a hero, and others as a traitor to his heritage.

Following the work of his ancestors, Newt’s story wouldn’t be picked up again until 1984 when Rudy Leverett, a writer, set out to capture the legend of Newt Knight on paper in an effort to tell the truest story possible, as a result, Leverett wrote the Legend of the Free State of Jones. The next iteration of Knight’s story would be told by Sally Jenkins, a journalist and John Stauffer a professor of English, American Studies, and African American Studies at Harvard in The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy in 2010. More recent works include historian Victoria Bynum’s The Free State of Jones, Movie Edition: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War published earlier this year, and historian, film consultant, and former dean of Jones County Junior College Jim Kelly’s The Free State of Jones and The Echo of the Black Horn: Two Sides of the Life and Activities of Captain Newt Knight, set to be published early next month. That said, Gary Ross’ interpretation appeared to offer a solid account of Newt and his efforts, and could potentially offer viewers a way to explore history on a more singular level.

The movie itself begins by offering viewers a brief but satisfactorily accurate portrayal of what it was like to be a soldier during the Civil War as the movie begins with Newt as a soldier, and certainly does not shy away from gore, although it is not unnecessary. I appreciated it, even if it was an unexpected part of the film, because it helps to introduce potentially unaware viewers to the reality of the Civil War, while also staying accurate to the time period. The real strength of the movie, to this viewer at least, was the way that Gary Ross chose to approach the issue of Reconstruction. Of course, with a two and a half hour limit, not all aspects of Reconstruction were going to be explored, but I thought that all the major and relevant points of Reconstruction as they related to the film were nicely illustrated.

In very general terms, to me it felt like Newt Knight and his story, while (obviously) important featured within a broader timeline of Reconstruction, and functioned nicely as a way to illustrate to movie goers, the issues and stages of Reconstruction and its overall impact on our history as Americans. While I by no means loved the movie, I did find it to be a surprisingly refreshing approach to history, particularly of the Civil War coming out of Hollywood. Much of this likely came from Gary Ross’ having worked with Eric Foner prior to producing the film in order to better understand the subject. Overall, I would recommend the movie to everyone who is willing to tolerate a little gore, and is interested in the story of Newt Knight and the process of Reconstruction.

Michaela Smith, American history, msmit133@villanova.edu

“Do You Believe in Miracles?!” Thirty Six Years Later

Tonight at five o’clock marks the thirty six year anniversary of the meeting of the 1980 US and Soviet men’s hockey teams in Lake Placid, New York. The matchup would go on to become one of the most storied and memorable moments in sports history.

In the summer of 1979 head coach Herb Brooks, a native of Saint Paul Minnesota, opened tryouts to create the roster that would eventually be sent to Lake Placid to represent the US in the 1980 winter Olympics. Hockey players from all across the country flocked to the tryouts, many of them amateur or collegiate level players looking for a chance to leave their mark on hockey history. The final roster would end up being comprised largely of men from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Massachusetts, all with an average age of twenty one years old.


Herb Brooks

The Soviets were a known threat to any team making a bid for a gold medal, having been a dominant force since roughly 1964, but the political relationship between the US and the USSR created a rivalry that was un-matched elsewhere. Cold-War tensions between the two countries caused both hockey teams to see any of their meetings as much more than just a hockey game – it had become political.

Prior to the Olympic Games the US team was involved in a series of exhibition games. Their final game was against the Soviets. On February 9th, the same day that the US was expected to face off against the USSR in their exhibition game at Madison Square Garden in New York, the US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance denounced the summer games at a meeting of the IOC (International Olympic Committee). Vance’s declaration was likely a result of President Carter’s potential boycott of the 1980 summer Olympics, to be held in Moscow, Russia, and deepened the rivalry between both teams. That night, the Soviets beat the young US team 10-3, unwittingly setting the stage for their final meeting.

At the beginning of the Olympic Games, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and Sweden were the favorites to advance to the medal round, but the US men’s team prevailed, narrowly beating Sweden in their first game (had they not beat Sweden, but won the rest of their games the USSR would have taken home the gold based on a goal differential). They would go on to defeat Czechoslovakia (silver medal favorite), Norway, Romania, and West Germany to advance to the medal round. While Russia would coast to victory handily defeating Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Finland, and Canada.

Come game night, the atmosphere was likely palpable as a large part of 8,500 fans sang patriotic songs, and waved American flags. For fans at home the situation was a little more complicated as the game wasn’t aired on ABC in the US, so fans close enough to the Canadian border could pick up the Canadian broadcast of the game, while those farther away had to rely on a delayed broadcast or the radio for their coverage.  


1980 US Men’s Olympic Team

The game itself was a flurry of action, with the Soviets scoring the first goal early in the first period as the US fought to even the score, their effort would see the first period end 2-2. The biggest surprise of the second period was not goals scored, but rather the decision of the USSR’s coach Tikhonov to replace his starting goalie Vladislav Tretiak (thought to be the best hockey goalie in the world at that time) with his backup, Vladimir Myshkin. And although Myshkin didn’t allow any goals in the second period, the Soviets only scored once, leaving the period to end 3-2 in their favor.

The third period opened up with a rare power play opportunity for the US, and they capitalized, tying the game 3-3. The biggest goal of the game wouldn’t come until there was just ten minutes of the game remaining as Boston native Mike Eruzione took advantage of being undefended, and scored making it 4-3 in favor of the Americans. As the clock continued to tick down, the Soviets began to panic and lose their composure, while the US held themselves in check. With less than twenty seconds left on the clock, there was a loose puck in front of the net, a last minute battle for both teams. As the US was able to secure the puck, the crowd began their countdown, and broadcaster Ken Dryden spoke his famous words “11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!!!”


The US men’s hockey team of the 1980’s Olympic Games played a hockey game that was charged by both sports rivalry, and political implications to leave behind a legacy all of its own. Even though the Cold War wouldn’t end until 1991, the tensions that had stacked themselves on top of this legendary hockey game had been diminished, even if only slightly. The team would go on to win gold that year after coming back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Finland 4-2.


  1. Fox
  2. Wikimedia
  3. Empire Sports Council
For Fun:
– Check out Disney’s Miracle if you haven’t seen it before.
– Cute kid recites Brooks’ famous speech:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CdJTfGiRCI

Presidents’ Day: The Forgotten Legacy of Slavery

George Washington's Cook (traditionally identified as Hercules) *oil on canvas *76 x 63.5 cm *ca. 1795-1797

A Bit of History:

Scholastic first began in 1920 as a simple magazine titled The Western Pennsylvania Scholastic and was created by Maurice “Robbie” Robinson who hailed from the town of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. Mr. Robinson started the magazine after graduating from Dartmouth College where he had served as editor the schools newspaper.Over the years the small four page magazine morphed into Scholastic as it is known today – a publishing powerhouse that is immensely popular among teachers, librarians, and parents alike.

The self-prescribed pledge of Scholastic is “to uphold the basic freedoms of all individuals; we are unalterably opposed to any system of government or society that denies these freedoms. We oppose discrimination of any kind on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, age, or national origin.” Along with this pledge, Scholastic says they believe in “constitutional, representative government, and even-handed justice that maintains equality of rights for all people.” And for many years, the company has had great success in carrying out and promoting these values, but lately the popular company has missed a step.

Scholastic Today:


Hercules & Delia making the cake

Scholastic recently published a book aimed at children in grades 1-3 titled A Birthday Cake for George Washington written by New York Times food columnist Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. The story depicts the trials and tribulations of Hercules, an enslaved chef, and his daughter Delia. Hercules must make a cake to celebrate Washington’s birthday, but when he realizes that there is no sugar left in the pantry, he must enlist the help of his fellow slaves to find a replacement.

At the end of the book, after Hercules and the other slaves are successful in finding a replacement for the sugar, Washington congratulates him, to which Hercules replies that it was “an honor and a privilege, sir.” In addition to this rosy portrayal, at the back of the book in an addendum Ganeshram reveals that Hercules later was able to escape slavery, but that his daughter Delia remained a slave for life. Accompanying the text are rosy and cheerful depictions of slavery that reinforce an all too rosy depiction of life as a slave.


Mrs. Washington in the kitchen with Hercules

All companies make mistakes, but rather than owning up to their misstep, Scholastic initially failed to apologize. Instead they chose to defend the book – claiming that because the happiness depicted in the books illustrations was not directed at slavery, but at Hercules’ culinary expertise, it was not in the wrong. Though, shortly thereafter Scholastic did release a statement that explained that they were recalling the book, and accepting all returns. In this statement Scholastic noted that the book lacked enough historical background to be appropriate for publishing.

While the publishing of such a book is troubling, what is more troubling is that prior to the public outcry and subsequent backlash that resulted in the eventual recalling of the book –consumers were buying and sharing the book with their children. This occurrence is an unsettling sign of the state of our understanding of slavery and American history at large as a society. And, although the book has since been taken off the shelves, it leaves the proverbial door open for questions about the state of our education system, and how a book like A Birthday Cake for Washington would have been able to slip through the cracks in the first place.

Currently the book can still be purchased from Amazon.com for roughly $51.00, through third parties, and does allow viewers to ‘look inside’ the book, while also offering a wide variety of reviews (which are quite telling by themselves) for those looking for more context.

Original source material:

Book About George Washington’s ‘Happy’ Slaves Shelved

Further reading:

Hercules himself – general information about Hercules


  1. Forbes
  2. Wonkette
  3. Hercules (chef) wikipedia



Red Sky at Night, Sailors’ Delight – Red Sky at Morning, Sailors Take Warning: The Eerie Significance of November 10th in Maritime History

Forty years ago today the iconic 729 foot Edmund Fitzgerald sank on a run from Superior, Wisconsin to Zug Island on the Detroit River. This is a fact that many people are familiar with thanks to the likes of Gordon Lightfoot’s song titled “The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald” and news coverage that continues to pop up as the years go by. There is much speculation surrounding the sinking of the monstrous ship, but that is not the goal of this particular post. The angle of this post in particular is to give brief nod to the ship and crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald and to draw attention to the uniqueness of November 10th in maritime history.

November 10th is not only the day that the Edmund Fitzgerald sank, it is also the advent of what is known as the “white hurricane” of the Great Lakes. In 1913 a storm first hit Lake Superior and would go onto visit lakes Huron and Erie as well. According to one source winds reached eighty miles an hour equaling the fury of a tropical storm and caused swells that reached heights of thirty five feet and higher.1 But unlike a tropical storm, the storms that plague the Great Lakes in November are far from tropical in nature as temperatures on average hover around 40 degrees Fahrenheit- and drop as the seasons change. For example, today’s lake wide temp for Lake Superior is just 44 degrees3. Throw in a storm like the white hurricane and the storm that sunk the Fitz, and the water was an unkind place to be.

When it was all said and done, a total of “twelve freighters were lost beneath lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan and Erie. Thirty-one more vessels had been pounded to pieces on rocks or driven onto land. The official death toll was [a loose] 248.”2 And conditions on land were said to be no better with bitter cold snowfall and ravenous winds sweeping through lakeside towns without warning.

Even though it happened over a hundred years ago this hurricane like storm is still said to be the deadliest storm in Great Lakes history. For more in-depth information on both the Fitzgerald and the white hurricane check out the links below.

Sources & Further info:


1 & 2 http://www.lakesuperior.com/the-lake/great-lakes/frozen-fury-the-1913-white-hurricane/

3 http://www.glerl.noaa.gov/res/glcfs/glcfs.php?lake=s&ext=swt&type=N&hr=06

Further info:

The Edmund Fitzgerald:

S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald Online

Rogue Waves on Lake Superior

The white hurricane of 1913:


Potential 1913 hurricane shipwreck found