An inventory of The Patrick Henry Callahan Papers at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives
Patrick Henry Callahan, profound Catholic, staunch Prohibitionist and co-creator of the Ryan-Callahan Partnership Plan, was born in October 1866 in Cleveland, Ohio to John Cormic and Mary Anna (Connolly) Callahan. After an education in Cleveland parochial schools and at the Spencerian Business College in Cleveland, Callahan had a short-lived career as a baseball player for the Chicago White Stockings. Under advice from evangelist William "Billy" Sunday, Callahan left the team to become a salesman at the Glidden Varnish Company in Cleveland. The varnish business became his career. Soon after his marriage to Julia Laure Cahill on January 20, 1891, the couple moved to Louisville, Kentucky. Callahan managed the Louisville Varnish Company and eventually became its president in 1908.
Just four short years later, Patrick Callahan and John A. Ryan of the Catholic University of America produced a profit sharing plan that was implemented in Callahan's plant. Callahan was very active in industry and labor during these years, organizing the Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems, participating in industry and labor conferences and speaking out against child labor. The success of the Ryan-Callahan Plan became widely known and Callahan soon implemented other labor-friendly measures such as a fund for employees to purchase homes, group insurance and so on. The friendship between Ryan and Callahan continued for many years. Though the two clashed over Prohibition measures, they worked together on progressive labor plans.
During World War I, Patrick Callahan became co-organizer of the National Catholic War Council and chairman of the Knights of Columbus Committee on Religious Prejudice. Callahan grew into a strong opponent of religious prejudice through the years, and the topic surfaces repeatedly in his correspondence. During the war, Callahan also was appointed the chairman of the Knights of Columbus Committee on War Activities and was put in charge of organizing the Knights of Columbus Training Camp. Woodrow Wilson offered him a position on the Federal Tariff Commission, but because of his busy schedule with the Knights of Columbus, Callahan had to refuse. His interest in these affairs and his point of view led him to establish a close relationship with William Jennings Bryan that continued until the latter's death in 1925.
About the same time as his Knights of Columbus war work, Callahan began to mimeograph and mass-mail parts of his personal correspondence to interested parties. The circulation was called the "Callahan Correspondence" and was sent to his employees as well as to newspaper editors, friends, acquaintances and Catholics from around the country. Awarded the honorary title of "Colonel" by Kentucky Governor James B. McCreary, Callahan used his correspondence to comment on national affairs regarding Catholics and prohibitionists. From his association with and support for William Jennings Bryan, to his adamant opposition to the Democratic nomination of New York governor Alfred E. Smith for President, to his fierce backing of Prohibition, Callahan publicized his opinions and thoughts and became nationally known for them.
A strong supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Callahan worked hard to get him elected. "Colonel" Callahan became a key liaison between the FDR administration and both Catholics and businessmen. His opposition to Father Charles Coughlin, the "Radio Priest," and his backing of Ambassador Josephus Daniels in Mexico brought Callahan much criticism from fellow Catholics, but many thanks from FDR's White House. In return, Callahan, publicly endorsed many of FDR's programs like the New Deal, offering support for its policies and legislation. Though nominated for national posts in the Public Works Administration and on labor administration panels, Callahan preferred to work locally, instead becoming a member of the Advisory Committee of the Loan Agency for the Louisville office of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and of the National Labor Relations Board for Kentucky.
After twenty-five years of the "Callahan Correspondence" and countless years of public service, "Colonel" Patrick Henry Callahan died on February 4, 1940. To the end he was a devoted Catholic, staunch prohibitionist and a true advocate against prejudice and for labor.
The Patrick Henry Callahan Papers consist of correspondence, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and miscellaneous publications.
The series "Correspondence" contains both mimeographed copies of the "Callahan Correspondence" and personal handwritten correspondence. Organized chronologically by date, the series ranges in years from 1922 to 1940. The correspondence includes letters sent to and received from various newspaper editors, judges, statesmen, priests and other figures who played a part in the topics of interest to Callahan. The subject matter runs the gamut from politics, labor and anti-Catholic sentiment to Prohibition, the possible nomination of New York governor Alfred Smith as the Democratic candidate in 1928 and the New Deal. Additionally, Callahan addresses topics such as William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes Trial, the Ryan-Callahan Plan for Profit Sharing, Catholics in Mexico and the organization of the varnish trade. At times, this correspondence was accompanied by newspaper clippings or excerpts from speeches. Undated correspondence is alphabetized at the end of the series. Undated correspondence that was contained within a dated folder is alphabetized and placed at the end of that time period.
The series "Clippings" is a collection of newspaper clippings that pertain to the topics of discussion within Callahan's letters. Mainly consisting of articles written about Prohibition, labor concerns or anti-Catholicism, the series includes a number of published editorials written by Callahan to various newspaper editors. The articles are arranged chronologically by date and cover the years between 1910 and 1940.
"Publications" as a series holds published booklets from assorted groups on the subjects of Prohibition, child labor, labor and industry and inter-religious goodwill. The booklets are arranged chronologically by release date and range from 1911 to 1935.
The "Miscellaneous" series contains odds and ends from the Callahan papers. From a piece of music written for and about Patrick Callahan after his death, to a leather-bound booklet of the Knights of Columbus Committee on Religious Prejudice, the series includes articles from Callahan's life. The items are arranged in approximate chronological order.
The Patrick Henry Callahan Papers consists of four series:
Restrictions on Access
There are no access restrictions.
The Callahan Papers came to the Catholic University of America in two accessions. The first in May of 1952 was the result of an inquiry from Father James Higgins of the Redemptorist Fathers of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, to donate materials. Father Higgins donated two boxes of Callahan's papers, dated 1927-1935, and also contacted Callahan's family to prompt them to do the same. In December of 1952, Father Augustus Zeller of the same Redemptorist Fathers sent on another carton of manuscript papers that had since been sent to him by Callahan's daughter, Edith. There is no note as to whether further materials were donated after this point.
Sometime after these donations were made, the materials were processed and a finding aid written. Upon investigating this collection in May 2001, however, additional processing appeared to have been done after the original finding aid was written; approximately two-thirds of the dated correspondence was intermingled with undated materials and left in what appeared to be original order. To reduce confusion, chronological order was used to arrange all correspondence within the collection.
Processing completed in 1979 by Sister Anne Marie Crowley with revisions completed in May 2001 by Rebecca Hurley. Data entry completed by Rebecca Hurley. EAD markup completed in February 2006 by Cathey Dugan and Jordan Patty.
The American Catholic Research Center and University Archives:
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Daniels, Josephus, 1862-1948
Ryan, John Augustine, 1869-1945
American Federation of Labor
World Alliance for International Friendship
Bryan, William Jennings, 1860-1925
Catholic Church Mexico
Fire, Louisville Varnish Plant - 1937
Flood, Kentucky - 1937
Great Commoner, The
Living Wage movement United States
New Deal, 1933-1939
Scopes, John Thomas Trials, litigation, etc.
Smith, Alfred Emanuel, 1873-1944
Bartman, R.J. "Patrick Henry Callahan," New Catholic Encyclopedia 3, (1967): 1077.
Broderick, Francis L. Right Reverend New Dealer: John A. Ryan. Macmillan Company: NY, 1963.
Ellis, William E. "Catholicism and the Southern Ethos: The Role of Patrick Henry Callahan," Catholic Historical Review 69, (1983): 41-50.
Ellis, William. "Patrick Henry Callahan: A Kentucky Democrat in National Politics".
Green, Joseph. Patrick Henry Callahan (1866-1940): The Social Rule of an American Catholic Lay Leader. CUA PhD Dissertation, 1963.
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