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Guide to the Captain Francis O'Neill Papers

MSN/MN 0502


Collection Summary

Title: Captain Francis O'Neill papers
Dates: 1918-ca. 1933
Collection No.: MSN/MN 0502
Creator: O'Neill, Francis, 1848-1936
Extent: 7 folders; 16 items
Language: Collection material in English.
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: A collection of papers relating to the donation of the personal library of Captain Francis O'Neill to the University of Notre Dame, including correspondence with the university and an inventory of O'Neill's library.

Selected Search Terms

Folk music--Ireland--History and criticism
Folk dance music--Ireland
Irish Americans--Illinois--Chicago--Music

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: Captain Francis O'Neill Papers, Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The papers in this collection were received by the Library in connection with the donated library of Captain O'Neill, which was acquired in October/November 1931.

Biographical Note

Francis O'Neill (1848-1936) was born in Tralibane, County Cork, Ireland. He excelled as a student in local schools, and went to sea in 1865, working on a number of ships and travelling widely over the next few years.

After working as a shepherd in the Sierra Nevada and qualifying as a teacher in Missouri, O'Neill married Anna Rogers, also an immigrant from Ireland, and settled in Chicago where he joined the police force in 1873. He distinguished himself in the police force, rising through the ranks and becoming Chief of Police from 1901 to 1905.

Throughout his career, he was involved with Irish music, playing the flute, the fiddle and the uileann pipes, and over time he became increasingly interested in collecting, studying and preserving Irish tunes. He collaborated with fellow Irish immigrant, James O'Neill (1863-1949), also a police officer, who transcribed many of the tunes that were collected. Francis O'Neill published O'Neill's Music of Ireland in 1903. This contained 1,850 melodies, a larger collection than any published before. He subsequently published five more music collections and two other books, Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby (1910) and Irish Minstrels and Musicians: with numerous dissertations on related subjects (1913). O'Neill continued to live in Chicago after his retirement in 1905, and remained very active in the Chicago Irish music community.

His personal library, built over his lifetime, consisted largely of Irish historical and antiquarian works (his "Hibernicana") and a collection of music books. In 1931 he donated this library to the University of Notre Dame.

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes correspondence (1931-ca. 1933) between Captain Francis O'Neill and the University of Notre Dame; an inventory of the personal library of O'Neill dated 1919, with additional pages, and a letter from O'Neill to the Rev. Seamus O'Floinn dated 1918.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged into three series, as follows: 1) Correspondence regarding O'Neill's Library; 2) O'Neill Library Inventory; 3) Miscellaneous Letters.

Container List

  • Series 1: Correspondence regarding O'Neill's Library 
    • Folder 1 (MSN/MN 0502-01) Correspondence: Francis O'Neill and the University of Notre Dame, 1931 September. 3 letters (3 pages).
      Folder includes: O'Neill to Rev. Charles L. O'Donnell, C.S.C., 1931 September 18 (ALS); Rev. Charles L. O'Donnell, C.S.C. to O'Neill, 1931 September 28 (TLS, with O'Neill's response in manuscript); Rev. Charles L. O'Donnell, C.S.C. to O'Neill, 1931 September 28 (TL, carbon copy of previous item).
      • Folder 2 (MSN/MN 0502-02) Correspondence: Francis O'Neill and the University of Notre Dame, 1931 October. 3 letters (3 pages).
        Folder includes: Rev. Charles L. O'Donnell, C.S.C. to O'Neill, 1931 October 2 (TL, carbon copy); Rev. Charles L. O'Donnell, C.S.C. to Paul R. Byrne, 1931 October 2 (TLS); Paul R. Byrne to O'Neill, 1931 October 6 (TLS, with O'Neill's response in manuscript).
        • Folder 3 (MSN/MN 0502-03) Correspondence: Francis O'Neill and the University of Notre Dame, 1931-ca. 1933. 6 letters (6 pages).
          Folder includes: Paul R. Byrne to O'Neill, 1931 November 17 (TL, carbon copy); Paul R. Byrne to O'Neill, 1931 December 5 (TL, carbon copy); O'Neill to Paul R. Byrne, 1931 December 31 (ALS); O'Neill to Paul R. Byrne, 1932 January 4 (ALS); O'Neill to ND Library, [1933?] (ALS); ND Library to O'Neill, [1933?] (TL, carbon copy).
        • Series 2: O'Neill Library Inventory 
          • Folder 4 (MSN/MN 0502-04) Manuscript inventory: "Hibernicana. Library of Capt. Francis O'Neill, Chicago, Ill., 1919", 1919. Typescript. 1 item, 35 pages.
            • Folder 5 (MSN/MN 0502-05) Manuscript inventory: "List of material on music contained in the Francis O'Neill Collection, in the Notre Dame Library", ca. 1931. Typescript. 1 item, 5 pages.
              • Folder 6 (MSN/MN 0502-06) Manuscript inventory: "Additional Heberniana", ca. 1931. Typescript. 1 item, 3 pages.
              • Series 3: Miscellaneous Letters 
                • Folder 1 (MSN/MN 0502-07) Letter: Francis O'Neill to Rev. Seamus O'Floinn, 1918 October 15. 1 letter, 5 pages.