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Rare Books & Special Collections

Guide to the Pittsburgh Outsider Journals

MSN/MN 8013

 

Collection Summary

Title: Pittsburgh outsider journals
Dates: 1922-1932
Collection No.: MSN/MN 8013
Creator: Unidentified
Extent: 3 volumes; .33 linear ft.
Language: Collection material in English and French
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: Three idiosyncratic manuscript journals of deeply cynical leftist political commentary, written by an unidentified Irish-American resident of Pittsburgh, ca. 1922-1932. The journals treat local, national, and international affairs, contemporaneous and historical: there is much on World War I, Ireland, and American politics generally. The volumes are illustrated with some 750 drawings, many of them portraits.

Selected Search Terms

World War, 1914-1918 -- Anecdotes.
World War, 1914-1918 -- Ireland.
World War, 1914-1918 -- Great Britain.
Irish wit and humor.
American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- Politics and government.
United States -- Social conditions -- 1918-1932

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection

Preferred Citation: Pittsburgh Outsider Journals, [Collection and folder no.], Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The journals were purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries in May 2015, from Brian Cassidy of Silver Spring, Maryland. Arranged and described 2015, by George Rugg. Finding aid 2015, by George Rugg.

Biographical Note

The creator of these journals cannot be identified. The volumes themselves contain no hard biographical information. From the content, it is evident that the author was an Irish-American male of leftist sympathies, perhaps born in County Wexford ca. 1880. At the time the journals were written he was apparently living in or around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Scope and Content Note

The text of these idiosyncratic volumes consists mainly of commentary on public persons and events, some contemporaneous, some historical. Occasionally this commentary is couched in straightforward prose; more often, it appears as verse, as mock dialogue, or in the form of stories, jokes, and riddles. How much of this material is original to the books' creator is unclear. Some of it is in Irish dialect. The author's world-view is deeply cynical, and his commentary tends to be acerbic, attacking and mocking a substantial range of targets: England, first and foremost; American political establishments of both parties, from the Pittsburgh wards to the White House (Wilson, Harding, Hoover); military establishments; wealthy capitalists like Rockefeller, Andrew Mellon, and J. P. Morgan; the temperance movement and Prohibition; and many others. Some persons and subjects are treated sympathetically, even reverentially: Ireland and the Free State; figures from the left like Mother Jones, Debs, and Pancho Villa; Native Americans. The textual entries, printed in an extremely fine hand, are often accompanied by drawings. These are mostly portraits, apparently traced or otherwise copied in pencil from newspapers and finished in ink and crayon. The faces of the author's villains are typically colored yellow, to mark them as "yellow dogs" (8013-3-B, 1r). Heroes are colored naturalistically. There are also allegorical figures, caricatures, and images of other kinds, many of them colored and some quite appealing. The books are densely illustrated, with perhaps 750 drawings in the three volumes. The text runs to perhaps 100,000 words. Ellipses in dating suggest that these three volumes were but a part of the author's total output. The books are informed and witty and, at the same time, an exercise in obsession, evident both in their eccentric graphic qualities and in their dark and repetitious social commentary.

Arrangement Note

Volumes are arranged by date.

Container List

  • Unidentified author. Journal, 1922 September-1923 February. Item 1 (MSN/MN 8013-1-B).
    1 volume, 22 cm., 161 leaves, with 322 pages of content. Illustrated.
    The volume is titled, on 1r, "Aftermath of ye Great War Vol 3." It contains regular dated entries from 3 September 1922 to 8 February 1923. Often, these entries begin with snippets from the press, relating to local (Pittsburgh), national, or international events. Or the point of departure may be a newspaper portrait or other image. In any case, sardonic commentary often follows, in prose or verse. The opening of the preface (1v) sets the tone: "It is now nigh onto 4 years since the bloody Butchers in Europe called a halt to the Christian slaughter and nearly 2 years have past since the American Nero [Wilson] resigned his throne to the easy going golfer from the Buckeye State [Harding]. They have been long and weary years years of famine and darkness with the same old ruffians running the Government for the benefit of the few." Topics of recurring concern are Ireland and the Free State; the Ruhr; the Greeks and Turks; Prohibition; and American politics generally (with much on Pittsburgh).
    • Unidentified author. Journal, 1931?. Item 2 (MSN/MN 8013-2-B).
      1 volume, 20 cm., 94 leaves, with 190 pages of content. Illustrated.
      Both this and the volume following lack the clear chronological organization of 8013-1-B. From around p. 138 to the end of the book, there is a good deal of content from 1930, some dated. But most of the content in the book relates to 1915-16, and the First World War. It seems most likely that this was copied from earlier material, in the manner of 8013-3-B, but this is not altogether clear.
      • Unidentified author. Journal, 1931 December-1932 March. Item 3 (MSN/MN 8013-3-B).
        1 volume, 20 cm., 94 leaves, with 190 pages of content. Illustrated.
        The volume contains regular dated entries from 31 December 1931 to 31 March 1932. These entries are typically on the rectos of the leaves, and often consist of lists of contemporaneous events derived, presumably, from the day's newspapers. There is a clear emphasis on the tragic, from incidental crime to wars and disasters. The versos of the leaves generally contain text and drawings relating to older events, going back to the First World War. Many of these are dated, to the 'teens and 20s. This material may have been copied from earlier volumes of the author's journals, or it may be original to this volume. The author touches on the rationale for this organization on 1r, with characteristic sarcasm: "This litle book is started on the last day of the old year so that, the author shall refresh his mind on the stupendous progress of this country in science and art and religion and humanity and all the blessings that a government of the people can confer on its citizens also its extraordinary freedom from the outrages of monarchical rule exemplified by the total absence of such crimes as lynching, bootlegging, racketeering, bombing . . . . Every second page in this volume reveals our rapid advance in culture and I trust the perusal thereof will drive from your mind any foul thoughts of our beloved president or his ideal advisers or his patriotic cabinet . . . ."