Friday, February 26, 2010

Lovecraft Misses Religious Occasion

[To Galpin, Tuesday, 30 September 1917]

The neighbourhood is quite honoured today. His Emminence Cardinal Mercier of Belgium being entertained in the McElroy mansion only four houses west of Castle Theobald {i.e. Lovecraft's then home} on Angell Street. My Aunt is now there at the reception being given in his honour.

The extensive grounds are all fenced off to deter curious crowds, and awnings cover the long drives whereby the mansion is reached from the street. His emminence will sleep there tonight,then depart of the lawless town of Bosting {Boston}. I should like to see the Cardinal, but feel to confoundedly miserable today to breast any bustle, formality, or excitement. {...}

The McElroy home is the only stronghold of Hibernianism. It was built by the late Joseph banigan, sometimes called the "Rubber King", who was Mrs. McElroy's father. He was a poor Irish peasant who suceeded in business and lived to found afamily whose inante good qualities gave them a definite social standing hereabouts. He married an American lady, and gave his children the best education obtainable, so that they are rather influential in the community. One of our principal skyscrapers - whre my grandfather had his office the last two years of his life {1902-1904} - was named the "Branigan Building" - though Providencepride has led it to its recent renaming as the "Grosvenor Building" ...

My mother and aunts knew the daughters of Joseph Branigan from childhood, and found them really worthy in every respect. The grandchildren were my earliest playmates, though it made me shudder in my British soul to know "Dicky Banigan", "Robert McElroy", "Edmund Sullivan", wtc!

However there is some consolation in the fact that Dick, Joe, and John Banigan, who live nearest me (next house to #454 Angell) were only a quarter Irish. Their father had followed the example of his own father and married into an old American family. Still, I wished they could have been solidly Saxon! The Banigan heirs are the recognized heirs of catholic circles here, and have entertained all the visiting Popish dignitaries such as cardinal Sarton of Italy, Gibons of baltimore, and now Mercier. Mercier, by the way, is rather Galpinesque in altitude {i.e. tall}. My aunt went to the college exercises this morning to see him obtain his LL.D., and says that the tallest professor was selected to confer on him his academic cap. The registrar (whose wife told my aunt) is supposed to perform this ceremony, but is such a pygmy that he felt he could not do it graceflly, so called in more assistance!

The Banigan or McElroy Mansion, where Mercier is now receiving the homage of local society, is one of the "show places" of the neighbourhood, and excited Klie's {Rheinhart Kleiner} vast admiration when he was here.

It is a gothic maor-house of brick and stone, such as its peasant builder may have seen and admired at a distance in his boyhood in Ould Oireland {i.e. old Ireland}. The grounds are extensive and beautifully kept, with hedges, trees, and stables of pleasing architecture. It lies almost exactly half way betwixt the house where I was born, and the one which I inhabit. Altogether, fancy the Irish have helped rather than harmed the locality!

From a New York Times Notice:

October 1, 1917, Wednesday
Page 7, 363 words
Plan to Raise Purse Is Launched at Dinner for the Belgian Cardinal.
Bishop Burch Pays Tribute to Guest of Honor--Cardinal Leavesfor Providence.
On the eve of his departure yesterday for Providence, R.I., Cardinal Mercier, Primate of Belgium, was the guest of George L. Duval at a private dinner in the Metropolitan Club, Fifth Avenue and Sixtieth Street.
From Wikipedia: Désiré-Félicien-François-Joseph Mercier (November 21, 1851—January 23, 1926) was a Belgian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Mechelen from 1906 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1907. Mercier is noted for his staunch resistance to the German occupation of 1914.
A local article from: Jewelers' circular, Volume 79, Issue 1, p.103 shows some behind the scenes work, and list of attendees.

From Cardinal Mercier: a memoir By David A. Boileau, p. 225: President Wilson had "an illness in the White House" and could not see the Cardinal. On the 26th of September he visited Philadelphia. On 29th he was at Princeton. New York on the 30th. 1 October he toured Providence. {Which is most likely an error in the book, as Lovecraft dates his letter the 3th September}. Hartford and yale on the 2 October. Springfield, MA thr 4th-7th on the way next to Boston.
Lovecraft is confirmed precise in this pericope from, Journal of the ... annual session of the Rhode Island Episcopal Convention By Episcopal Church. Diocese of Rhode Island. Convention, p.77, which states, "Tuesday, September 30. Providence. Attended Cardinal Mercier at exercises at Brown University, at Providence College and at City Hall. Attended luncheon for Cardinal Mercier and made address of welcome. P. M.: Attended reception to Cardinel Mercier. Evening: Presided at dinner of the Harvard Club for President Lowell of Harvard University."

As to Banigan, here is an historical note of his signifcance, and why he was tied to rubber.

Rhode Island's Irish history is tied closely to Joseph Bannigan, the sole Catholic out of a list of 200 influential Rhode Island businessmen in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Bannigan emigrated from Ireland after the potato famine and became an apprentice jeweler before eventually owning the fledging but growing Woonsocket Rubber Company. In 1882, Bannigan built a companion rubber mill in Millville, Ma. He was well-loved for his philanthropic efforts in the community and his strong loyalty in the hiring of the Irish. Banigan worked to foster the Irish community, but problems arose in 1885 as tough economic times led to a lowering of the wages for his millworkers.

As the Irish grew in their independence and self-confidence, they became indignant that Bannigan did not consult with them before cutting their wages. This led to a thousand workers walking out in the Millville plant creating the first strike in America on June 18, 1885. The Holy and Noble Order of the Knights of Labor was funded from the New York area, and the labor organizing movement started in the Blackstone Valley with approximately 10,000 strikers demonstrating in Millville.

Strikebreakers were sent in to intimidate the workers, yet about 60 workers lay siege to the boarding house where the strikebreakers were staying and a riot and injuries ensued. Anyone found to support these strikebreakers would be shunned and eventually, Banigan appealed to Father Michael McCabe who appealed to workers to accept Banigan's terms. Workers were aware that many of Banigan's foremen were top church leaders and money flowed easily to the Church from Banigan. However, an agreement was accepted in October 1885 in which Banigan compromised on the pay cut but created a list of regulations which included "must attend church on Sunday or be fired." This last rule created another uproar but the State finally ruled in favor of the workers and the antagonism finally subsided though many mill workers progressed to become more independent construction craftsmen and more influential after this debacle.

Eventually, Joseph Banigan went on to become the President of the US Rubber Company which bought out the Woonsocket Rubber Company. His role in history, though eventually controversial, was a milestone for the Irish worker in Rhode Island.

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