In order to understand the members of the nineteenth-century St Ignatius College community, we have to appreciate their hybrid identities. Some, such as Pierre Jean De-Smet, literally straddled two worlds. He made multiple trips across the Atlantic on fundraising missions to support his pioneering work spreading the gospel to Native Peoples of the Rocky Mountains. Most Jesuits were born elsewhere, but had no chance to return to the lands of their nativity. Most students were the children of immigrants and reminded of the Old World in the homes in which they grew up. Chicago Catholics declared their submission to the Pope nearly five thousand miles away. But they also joined organizations like the Lincoln Law Club, pictured above, where they demonstrated their allegiance to their nation.
Jesuit libraries abundantly reveal this double consciousness of nineteenth-century Roman Catholics. Their shelves are filled with works of European theology and philosophy. But the History and Literature sections had a strong number of imprints related to the United States. Over the next few days we will be highlighting some of these publications, works like Benson Lossing’s two-volume The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution; or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence (1855) and James Parton’s Life of Andrew Jackson (1860). Through these works, students at St Ignatius College learned about what it meant to be an American citizen. How they negotiated and ultimately reconciled these competing demands likely varied from person to person, but helpfully reminds us of the complex position in which they found themselves.