Love in the Archives: Stories Captured Across Collections
Love stories are sometimes hiding in plain sight in the archives. Recent research in DePaul's University Archives unexpectedly revealed a DePaul romance between two Chicagoans in post-World War II Lincoln Park. Their story, coincidentally uncovered around the Valentine's Day holiday, is just one example of how intersecting collections and media formats can tell a larger story.
While researching early campus life in the Student Affairs Ephemera collection, archives workers came across a series of dance booklets that belonged to Virginia "Jean" Haas. Dance booklets are small cards or books listing event details and the dances to be performed, with space to pencil in the name of one's partner or recap the evening. Although most popular in the nineteenth century, dance booklets were still common keepsakes into the early 1900s. In more than a dozen booklets from 1945-1948, Haas tracked her social calendar and budding relationship with fellow student Angelo Christopher.
Haas entered DePaul's Liberal Arts College in 1943, when women dominated student life as many college-age men served in World War II. Her active schedule included running multiple dance planning committees, working at the WAIT radio station and acting as president of the Pie Are Squared Fratority, a coed fraternity-sorority later known as Delta Upsilon Pi, meant to keep student events running while fraternities paused for the war.
Haas kept her dance invitations and booklets, where the name "Chris" begins to appear among her partners in 1946. While she thought the music at the Freshman-Sophomore Cotillion was only "OK," her date appears to have made a stronger impression. By the following year, Chris was leaving loving messages in her dance booklets, and in the fall of 1948 friends left the pair enigmatic good wishes in their dance keepsakes.
A variety of University Archives collections helped illuminate Haas and Chris' story. Yearbooks provided the final clue to solving the identity of the mysterious Chris. The 1949 "DePaulian" noted Angelo "Chris" Christopher as chairman of several dances and member of the Delta Upsilon Pi fratority, activities that surely placed him and Haas together. The "DePaulia" confirmed the couple's connection when the Spillway social column noted the impending engagement of Haas and Christopher, vice president of the Student Activities Council, in 1947. The Lorraine Bond Photographs collection was an unexpected link, as the 1940s student photographer proved to be a close friend of Jean. Candid photos show the bespectacled Haas in her first years on campus at DePaul, with Christopher present in some of Lorraine's photos.
Haas and Christopher were married in May 1948. Friends' well-wishes in their dance books from the following semester were likely nuptial congratulations as the couple entered Haas' final year at DePaul. After Christopher's graduation the following year, the pair eventually made their way to Colorado, working as public school educators.
Their story is an example of the ways a variety of archival media can intersect to form a larger narrative. The keepsakes, newspapers, photographs and print records in the University Archives help preserve the multi-faceted nature of life at and beyond DePaul.