Posts tagged Washington DC
One of my favorite blogs is the photography blog Shorpy, which specializes in posting glorious, high-resolution photographs largely from the Civil War through World War II, many of which come from the Library of Congress’ online databases of stock photos, government photographs, and newswire shots. They really do fantastic work, and I’ve long looked for a reason to link them here on OrthodoxHistory. Now, opportunity knocks.
A little while back, Shorpy’s editors posted a somewhat morbid, but oddly engaging photograph of a burial near Washington, DC circa 1925, which came from the Library of Congress. The picture had a rather minimal caption, so we have to go by what we see. What appears to be a group of well-dressed immigrants are gathered graveside around a casket. This is all pretty normal, except for the fact that the casket is propped up, and the head and shoulders of the deceased are visible through an opening in the lid. Yikes.
What immediately jumped out at me when I looked closer, however, was the fact that peeking out of the back of the crowd is a priest. Bald, bearded, and wearing a stole and pectoral cross. The wheels started spinning. It certainly looked Orthodox to me, but how could I prove it?
My research interests tend to be with Russian communities during this era, and this priest didn’t look familiar. Nor did the group of people look particularly Slavic to me. I suspected they may have been Middle Eastern, which is a bit out of my expertise. So I dispatched an email to my SOCHA colleague Matthew Namee, and after comparing notes for a little bit, we struck gold. The priest in question is Fr. Job Salloom, who was the pastor of St. George Syrian (now Antiochian) Orthodox Church in Washington, DC. And these, presumably, are some of his parishioners.
There is a surprisingly large amount of information online about Salloom, much of it being oral history by his descendants (including some photographs). Job Salloom came to America in 1904, and was ordained a priest in 1912. He served the St. George parish in Washington for over twenty years, and served itinerantly when needed to communities throughout the general region during that period as well. Fr. Job was apparently kind, well-liked, and had a lively sense of humor. He was beloved by his family, and apparently his congregation as well. According to the 1920 Census, Fr. Job and his wife Deby had five daughters and a son. This picture captures him around halfway through his ministry in America, when he was a little older than 50, and about a decade before his 1936 death.
This little discovery has led to a different project Matthew will be introducing in a few days. We’ve been on the phone about it constantly for the last few days, and I really think it’s going to be something our readers will enjoy. Stay tuned here at the SOCHA blog for that, but in the meantime, do yourself a favor and poke around Shorpy for a while. It’s well worth your time.
Tsar Alexander III of Russia died on November 1, 1894. A week later (and 116 years ago today), on November 8, two memorial services for the Tsar were held in America. Both were of note, for various reasons.
New York had no Russian church in 1894, so the Russian consul and numerous other dignitaries converged on the Greek church of Holy Trinity, on West 53rd Street. Here is how the New York Times described the event the next day:
The church was draped in black and white, and the walls were covered with a background of white, relieved at intervals with white crosses. Flags of Russia, Greece, and the United States hung in the forward part of the church, and in front of the altar was a canopy of black crepe, with a wreath of violets on one side, and another of white roses on the other side.
Father Matrofani, a Russian monk, conducted the services, partly in Greek and partly in Russian, and Father Agathadora, the pastor of the church, assisted him. An introductory prayer in Russian opened the service, and then Father Matrofani appeared before the altar clad in full golden sacerdotal robes, accompanied by Father Agathadora, who wore a black surplice.
Both priests carried lighted candles, and Father Matrofani led the chant choir, which consisted of Mme. Eugenie Lineff, Mlle. Chacquin, and Peter Popoff. Two Greek gentlemen who stood to the left of the altar responded to some of the Greek chants.
A portion of the service which seemed queer to the Americans present was the eating of a portion of rice and a raisin by Father Matrofani at the conclusion of the singing. This is an old custom in the Greek Church, commemorative of the early Christianity, when the priests were fed by their congregations.
Following the Russian custom, the women were separated from their escorts upon entering the church, and were conducted to their seats in the aisle to the left of the altar by Consul General A.E. Alarovesky of the Russian Consulate.
The Times went on to list the many notable people who attended the service, including Russian officials, representatives of numerous countries, the granddaughter of the last Tsar of Georgia, and future St. Nicholas Cathedral founder Barbara MacGahan. The article concluded, “Father Matrofani, who is on his way from San Francisco to Russia, sailed on the Columbia yesterday. Before going he expressed the hope that a Bishop of the Greek Church, now on his way to this country, would establish a Russian congregation here.”
The Times was slightly misinformed, as the bishop in question, Nicholas Ziorov, was already in America and had, in fact, conducted a memorial for the Tsar in Washington, DC on the very same day. This service is especially notable because it was attended by the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland. The following account is reprinted from the Daily New Mexican of Santa Fe (11/9/1894):
Profoundly impressive ceremonies were held at the Russian legation to day in memory of the late czar, Alexander II [sic]. President Cleveland and his entire cabinet, except Postmaster General Bissell, attended, accompanied by Mrs. Cleveland and the cabinet ladies. Foreign ambassadors and ministers, with their extensive suites, wearing their rich official and court costumes, were present in a body, lending a brilliant color to the solemn occasion. Ambassador Bayard and ex-Secretary of State Foster were also there. The service began at 9 o’clock with mass celebrated by Bishop Nicholas, of the Russian Greek church, assisted by a Greek monk and two attendants. These services lasted until 10 o’clock and were held in private, being attended only by Prince Count Cresene, Russian minister, his daughter and the officials of the Russian legation. At 10 o’clock, chants and prayers for the repose of the czar’s soul began in the presence of the president, the members of the cabinet and the diplomatic corps. Each participant held a wax candle throughout the service.
I’m not certain, but this may be the first Orthodox church service ever attended by a US President. When the previous Tsar, Alexander II, died in 1881, Fr. Nicholas Bjerring held a memorial in Washington, but President Garfield was unable to attend (Washington Post, 3/16/1881).
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Regular readers of this website have no doubt noticed that I am really interested in early American converts to Orthodoxy. There weren’t too many, but the handfuls of people who did join the Church in the late 19th and early 20th century almost always present fascinating stories. The most notable converts, in terms of visibility, tend to be clergymen from other Christian groups, e.g. Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine or Fr. Raphael Morgan. But I would guess — and I don’t have any hard data on this, but I think it’s a reasonable theory — that most of the American converts to Orthodoxy at the turn of the last century were women.
The vast majority of Orthodox Christians in America in 1906 were male. In fact, we’ve got some solid numbers on that — according to the Census of Religious Bodies conducted that year, only 14.8% of American Orthodox parishioners were female. Among the Greeks — by far the largest group — that number was 6.1%. As you might expect, a lot of those Greek men were single, and many of those Hellenic bachelors found American brides. And while those American wives didn’t always join the Orthodox Church, many of them did. I would guess that the majority (and perhaps the overwhelming majority) of early converts were American women marrying ethnic Orthodox men.
St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Washington, DC was founded in 1904. By 1906, its priest was Fr. Joachim Alexopoulos, who later became one of the first bishops in the Greek Archdiocese. In June 1906, one of the DC Greeks, Nicholas Pappajohn (who had Anglicized his name to “Davis”) married a German-American girl named Helen Mohr in an dual Lutheran-Orthodox ceremony.
The whole thing took place in a local hall, rather than a church. An improvised altar was set up, and a local Lutheran pastor married the couple in a standard Lutheran ceremony. At the close of the service, the pastor left, and Fr. Joachim Alexopoulos entered, and celebrated the Orthodox wedding service from beginning to end. He certainly didn’t concelebrate with a Lutheran minister, but this compromise was apparently deemed acceptable to all parties. (Details from the Washington Post, 6/25/1906.)
Another, more complex, scenario played out the same year. In January, Nicholas Pappajohn/Davis’ good friend, a Mr. Anagost, married a German-American woman named Mollie Dietz. Although Ms. Dietz was of German ancestry, she was an Episcopalian, and the couple was married in an Episcopal church. But they didn’t turn around and celebrate an Orthodox ceremony, as did the Davis couple in June. Instead, the new bride spent the next nine months studying the Orthodox faith, preparing to be baptized into the Orthodox Church. The Washington Post (9/17/1906) reports, “Although it is not required, it is considered desirable that all who receive the Greek sacrament of marriage should be baptized according to Greek rites, so Mrs. Anagost, after study and preparation, decided to give up her old church affiliations and cast her lot with her husband’s church.”
Mollie Anagost was thus baptized in September, and she and her husband were then wed in an Orthodox ceremony. Her godfather was the aforementioned Nicholas Davis. The godmother, according to the Post, was Helen Davis, the newlywed Lutheran. It’s not clear whether Mrs. Davis converted to Orthodoxy shortly after her marriage and thus was actually the godmother, or whether she was merely on hand to provide assistance.
The whole Greek congregation was present at the beginning of the baptism. Mr. Anagost translated the priest’s words into English for his wife, and she swore that she was joining the Orthodox Church not out of compulsion, but by free choice and out of a sincere belief in the teachings of the Church. It was up to the godfather, Nicholas Davis, to decide the baptismal name of Mollie Anagost, and he chose “Sophia.”
The Post reports that, when the time came for Mollie to be immersed, “the congregation moved toward the kitchen, leaving Mrs. Anagost with her mother, husband, and priest. The real baptismal service was not performed in public, for only a night robe is worn, and the body is entirely dipped in the consecrated water.”
Once Mrs. Anagost was initiated into the Church, she joined the rest of the congregation, who crowded around her and congratulated her. The Post reporter, Elizabeth Ellicott Poe, writes, “The Post reporter was called back and a silver quarter presented to her in observance of the ancient Grecian custom of giving coins to the witnesses, especially those who left first… With hearty congratulations, these friendly Old World people prepared for an evenign of festal enjoyment.” The following Sunday, Mr. and Mrs. Anagost were married in an Orthodox ceremony.
I am interested in the contrast between the two couples, the Davises and the Anagosts. As I said, the Anagosts were married in the Episcopal Church back in January, but waited to have an Orthodox ceremony until after Mrs. Anagost was baptized in September. The Davises, on the other hand, had back-to-back Lutheran and Orthodox services, one right after the other. I can’t tell whether Mrs. Davis became Orthodox or not, but if she did, it wasn’t until after her wedding(s). Thus, in one parish, we see two very different approaches to “mixed marriage.”
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Last week, I introduced Archbishop Dionysius Latas of Zante, a Greek hierarch who visited America in 1893. When we left his story, he had arrived in New York City and was en route to Saratoga Springs, where the Episcopalian Bishop Henry Potter had invited him. We’ll pick up the story there.
Abp Dionysius arrived in Saratoga Springs just as another international visitor, a Sikh Maharajah, was leaving the resort town. “Since the Maharajah’s departure the reigning foreign favorite has been the Archbishop of Greece,” the New York Times reported (8/6/1893). The paper went on, “The distinguished prelate is as approachable as his recent predecessor in Saratoga, and all who meet him find him most companionable. He is a man of fine physique, with a strong, intellectual face. He speaks excellent English and fluent French, which latter language he likes to use.”
By all accounts, the 57-year-old archbishop had a great time. “He has a keen eye,” the Times said, “which twinkles with humor.” He gave the New York Mail and Express his initial impressions of America (quoted in the New Orleans Picayune, 8/7/1893):
My impression of your country? Well, I started long before the date of meeting in Chicago, because I was so anxious to see America, and the longer I stay here the more I congratulate myself on this resolve. There is just one way to sum up my ideas as impressed upon me by this great city [New York City], and that is you Americans travel along much quicker than we do in Europe. Your rate of progress has not only enabled you to catch up in the comparatively short existence that the United States has enjoyed, but you have outdistanced us.
Within a few days, Abp Dionysius had made his way to Washington, DC, where he hoped to meet President Grover Cleveland. As it turned out, Cleveland was out of town. A Washington Post reporter caught up with Abp Dionysius, and observed that he had “a jolly face, a hearty laugh, and although he cannot always understand questions in English, he is quite communicative” (8/12/1893). He had decided to write a book about his experiences in America, and aimed to publish it upon his return to Greece. The Post reporter watched as the archbishop’s “scribe” (presumably his deacon) copied his Greek text.
Here are some more of Abp Dionysius’ observations, courtesy of the Post:
“It is very hot here,” said the archbishop, as he mopped his perspiring forehead. It was hot enough for him in his native land, he added, but there he spent his time in the country. He thought the country the best place in America as well, and with evident delight told of his visit to the Catskills in company with Bishop Potter of New York.
The archbishop spoke in high terms of America and Americans, and he evidently meant what he said. He had been impressed by the hospitality and “good heart” of the people in this country.
“Americans and Englishmen are different,” he said. “The Englishman is like this,” and then he drew in his head and put on a stiff, gloomy, and morose expression, which was comical in the extreme. “But the American,” he continued, changing his mood, “is always this way,” and the archbishop burst into a hearty laugh to illustrate what he meant.
“How long will you be in America?” he was asked.
“Perhaps three months,” was the reply, and the perhaps possibly meant if he did not go broke before that time, for he added that it cost a great deal more to travel here than elsewhere, and explained that what took a franc across the ocean requires a dollar here.
From Washington, Abp Dionysius returned to New York and then departed for Chicago, to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions.