October 19, 2015
by library

A Very Chatham Halloween

The Ghosts of Chatham

As Halloween approaches, again comes the time of year for trick-or-treating, gorging on candy, and costume parties. It’s also the time of year that we are especially conscious of spooky things. Among various ghoulies like black cats, vampires, and witches, the most popular creatures of the night that dominate our imagination around Halloween are ghosts. It’s a great time for telling ghost stories, everyone knows at least one, and even Chatham has several that have been passed around over the years. Here is some history on “our” Chatham ghosts.

PCW students gathered on the lawn of Berry Hall I in 1914. Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

PCW students gathered on the lawn of Berry Hall I in 1914.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

The Ghost of Berry Hall

There are two versions of the Berry Hall Ghost (also known as the PCW Ghost) story, but they both are equally disturbing. The first version was published in the Chatham newspaper, The Arrow in 1926.

Back before the existence of Woodland, Laughlin, and even Dilworth Hall, the Berry family lived in the Berry mansion. George Berry was a member of the first Board of Trustees, and at the time his home was said to be the largest private residence in Allegheny County.

One night the nanny was sitting in the house’s tower with the family baby. There was a storm, and lightning struck the tower. The nanny screamed with fright, and jumped, dropping the baby. As the story goes, the baby rolled down the stairs and died. The departed baby was said to return occasionally, floating around and crying. Supposedly it used to visit the girls in what was then Room O, directly beneath the tower.

A view of the Berry Hall I tower.  Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

A view of the Berry Hall I tower.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

The second version of this story was actually part of the first year handbook in 1948. In this sanitized version, the nursery was in the tower, and the nanny heard a scream, only to find the infant missing from his crib. The infant was never found, and the tower was locked and boarded up. In this version, the ghost is a prankster, putting splinters in chairs to rip nylons, draining the soda machine, and clanging the radiators. There is even a joke about him playing a dirge on the organ. While creepy, this later tale is almost funny, and it’s interesting to see how the tale evolved from chilling to entertaining over the 20 year period.

Other Chatham Ghosts

Some of the other Chatham ghosts seem to have their grounding in location rather than fright. It is still a popular tale today that Andrew Mellon roams the Mellon building. The previous Laughlin House also was known for its resident ghost. As another story goes, one night a man had a flat tire in front of the Spencer House, and as he stopped heard the voice of an old woman screaming his name.

Portrait of Michael Late Benedum overlooking Benedum Hall.  Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

Portrait of Michael Late Benedum overlooking Benedum Hall.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

One of the more popular stories took place at Benedum Hall. The Benedum’s oldest son, Claude, was killed in World War I. Claude was thought to haunt the home, and then when it became a dormitory, pestered the girls living in the dorm. Some of his hijinks include turning the water off and on in what used to be his bathroom, curtains moving with no wind, and doors slamming open and closed. Typical ghost fare. One story even goes that a group of students were working on tutorials on the history of Benedum Hall when the marble table they sat at collapsed beneath them.

Students conversing in one of the Benedum Hall dorm rooms.  Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

Students conversing in one of the Benedum Hall dorm rooms.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

It’s unclear which of these stories have basis in truth, and which were made up to scare incoming first years. Nonetheless, the stories of ghosts on campus continue, so if you experience something a little spooky over the next few weeks, don’t worry. It’s just our longstanding residents, coming out for a visit.

Benedum Hall Gardens and Fountain.  Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

Benedum Hall Gardens and Fountain.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

August 28, 2014
by library

Eden Hall Historical Collection Now Available

In 2008, the Eden Hall Foundation gifted Eden Hall Farm to Chatham University. Located in Gibsonia, PA, Eden Hall Farm was originally developed and built by H. J. Heinz, Co.  executive Sebastian Mueller (1860-1938) to serve as a convalescent home and vacation retreat for the female employees of Heinz. In his later years, Mueller dictated his express wishes for the continuation of his project in his Last Will and Testament and appointed trustees for the farm. Other than minor bequests, the entirety of Mueller’s estate went to establish Eden Hall Farm.

Eden Hall founder, Sebastian Mueller

Eden Hall founder, Sebastian Mueller

Although Eden Hall Farm was officially created in 1939, the farm did not open to guests until 1951 after construction was delayed due to the country’s involvement in WWII. The farm operated for the next thirty years as a non-profit corporation and any female employee of H.J. Heinz Co. could spend vacation and convalescent time there. In 2008, the Eden Hall Foundation gifted Eden Hall Farm to Chatham University with a mission to promote sustainability and empower women. Today, the Eden Hall Campus is undergoing significant changes from the retreat home of Heinz employees as work is underway to renovate and build a campus dedicated to sustainability that will serve more than 1,500 students. Following in the footsteps of one of Chatham’s most noted alumnae Rachel Carson, the Eden Hall Campus will incorporate sustainable designs which will render it a net-positive energy campus with natural water management strategies.

Mueller and young women at Eden Hall Farm

Mueller and young women at Eden Hall Farm


The Eden Hall Collection housed in the University Archives includes the history of Eden Hall Farm from its creation by Mueller until its donation to the University. The material covers a range of items, including the original land deeds of purchase by Mueller and his wife that comprise the area of Eden Hall Farm, the Last Will and Testament of Mueller, architectural and landscape designs of Eden Hall Farm, materials related to the estate of Mueller, numerous photographs of both Mueller in his lifetime as well as Eden Hall Farm and its female guests, and the creation of Eden Hall Upper Elementary School in 2007.

June 5, 2014
by library
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Jerry Caplan 1923-2004

Jerry Caplan (1923-2004) waCaplans a Pittsburgh native and a beloved artists in the community.  His art career begin in the US Army as a member of the 84th Engineer Battalion where he and other artists constructed dummy boats, planes, and tanks as military camouflage.  After the war he was employed in the pipe industry, manufacturing large clay pipes.  Here Caplan gained inspiration for pipe sculptures and ceramics, which led to the creation of some of his seminal works.  Such works include Metamorphosis, a sculpture on the Chatham University campus located outside Mellon Hall.

Caplan greatly contributed to the Chatham community.  He was a well-loved art professor who inspired students and faculty alike.  He believed “the purpose of teaching…should be to help the student first, to think creatively, second, to see rather than just to look, third.”

Professor Jerry Caplan’s life and achievements are currently featured in a University Archives display on the first floor of the Jennie King Mellon Library.  The display includes one case devoted to a sketchbook and photographs of Caplan with Chatham students.  A second case focuses on Caplan’s military experiences and includes photographs and an excerpt from his unpublished memoir.  The final case highlights publications that discuss Caplan’s devotion to teaching and his creative work.

Jerry Caplan, 1979

This display complements the current exhibition in the Chatham Art Gallery, Jerry Caplan and Donna Hollen Bolmgren: Partners in Art.  The exhibition opens tomorrow, June 5th, for Reunion Weekend and runs through August 22nd.  Featured are works of art in the Chatham University Art Collection, including self-portraits and other subjects in oil, drawings in charcoal and pastel, handmade paper, and sculpture in ceramic and plaster.

Following the close of the exhibit, materials from the collection will remain accessible through the Chatham University Archives & Special Collections.  A full finding aid for the collection is accessible here and here.  The Chatham University Archives & Special Collections welcomes researchers and research visits by the general public, artists, students, and faculty.


March 5, 2014
by library

Not Just Rachel: Women’s History Month Display

IMG_3841Everyone knows about Rachel Carson, but what other successful women have graduated from Chatham? Find out all about them in the display, “Not Just Rachel: Profiles of Successful Chatham Graduates,” located on the first floor of the JKM Library.

The display features graduates from the ‘50s through the ‘90s with careers in international affairs, the sciences, literature, art curatorship, education, journalism, social service, politics, law, and religious leadership. Each of the twelve graduates has a current photo and their yearbook photo displayed for a before and after look at Chatham grads throughout the years.

“Not Just Rachel” is a celebration of successful Chatham graduates and the achievements of graduates for years to come.

April 17, 2012
by library

Celebrate University Day with Memories of May Days Past

The Jennie King Mellon Library and the Chatham University Archives are celebrating University Day 2012 with a first floor display of photographs and programs from one of our institution’s most elaborate spring festivals, May Day 1920, which also served as the college’s 50th anniversary pageant and a celebration of the end of World War I. Titled, Victory Through Conflict, the play drew thousands of spectators to the campus over the two day event. Performers included not only faculty and students but also alumnae, local music clubs, children, and live animals. 

The following is an excerpt of an account of the production published in The Pittsburg Press after the first performance on June 8th.

You can view additional images of the pageant and other May Day festivals on our Historic Pittsburgh Image Collection.


 “Historical Pageant Given By Students”

A pageant of stupendous proportions depicting in three parts, each with a number of episodes, the history of the world to its spiritual significance, from the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites, down to the close of the great war, was given by the Pennsylvania College for Women yesterday as the climax of its jubliee celebration.

The pageant, given with elaborate detail, and with scenes, songs and speeches of much beauty, closed with Love triumphant, advancing from the lifting clouds of the past, attended by Faith and Hope, and accompanied by Prophecy foretelling the time when liberty shall be proclaimed to the captives, when the waste places shall be rebuilt, and when violence shall no more be heard in the land. The pageant closed with Charles Wesley’s hymn of praise, “Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth come down,” in which the audience of thousands of persons occupying the seats which lined the slopes of the hillside in the natural amphitheater of the college grounds joined.

January 20, 2012
by library

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Silent Spring

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring and the Jennie King Mellon Library is celebrating this milestone with a first floor exhibition of archival first editions, photographs, and papers from the Rachel Carson Collection housed in the Chatham University Archives. From now through January 30th, you can view images of Carson when she was a student at Pennsylvania College for Women in the late 1920s, a signed first edition of Silent Spring, a letter written by Carson, and materials documenting the book’s impact. The display also includes copies of Silent Spring available for checkout.

One of the most important works of the twentieth century, Silent Spring was first serialized in three issues of The New Yorker beginning in June of 1962 and was published in book form later that year. Many cite the publication of Silent Spring, which called attention to the destructive impact of pesticides on our air, land, and water, as the foundation of the modern environmental movement. In response to the public outcry the book created, President John F. Kennedy formed a special government group to investigate the use and control of pesticides, and Carson testified before Congress in 1963 about new policies to protect the environment and the population. As a result of these efforts, DDT, a pesticide discussed in the book was banned in the United States in 1974, and the importance of conservation and environmental protection gained greater recognition in American life.

December 21, 2011
by library

Arthur G. Smith Collection on Flickr

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a student at Chatham during the 1800s or travel back in time to walk through downtown Pittsburgh? Well now you can! Come down memory lane and view images from the The Arthur G. Smith Collection, hosted on the Chatham University Archives Flickr page.

Chapel and the Original Dilworth Hall. View from the bottom of Chapel Hill, c. 1952, Arthur G. Smith Collection, Chatham University Archives

With help from undergraduate intern, Blair Abraham, over 200 slides from the Smith Collection were digitized this semester. Arthur Smith was a professor in Chatham’s history department from 1963-1993 and author of the popular local history title, Pittsburgh Then and Now, first published in 1990. Many of the more modern images available in the Archives Flickr collection were photographed by Smith himself. Subjects include major Pittsburgh skyscrapers, campus buildings and landscapes, and other examples of local architecture.

October 13, 2011
by library

“The Age of Protest”: Chatham During the Vietnam Era

Student Vietnam protest, 1969

Now on display on the Library’s first floor art wall is an exhibition of selected archival photographs and newspaper articles highlighting life at Chatham during the years of the Vietnam War. All of the materials were culled from the Chatham University Archives and specifically emphasize student and faculty opinions on U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The title of the display, “The Age of Protest”: Chatham During the Vietnam Era, comes from the 1966 commencement address of Robert S. McNamara, who served as Secretary of Defense from 1961-1968. McNamara, a major player in the escalation of the war, was the father of Kathleen McNamara Spears, who graduated from Chatham in 1966, the year her father was invited to speak at graduation and receive an honorary degree. Also included in the exhibition are images of student protests, campus peace groups, and evidence of student involvement in demonstrations for women’s liberation and civil rights. While prepared for the upcoming Alumni Reunion Weekend, the display will remain on view throughout the Fall semester.

June 23, 2011
by library

University Archives Publications Now Available Online

Interested in Chatham history? If so, you’ll want to check out Chatham’s new Internet Archive page. This collection contains publications from the University Archives, including the long-running alumni magazine, campus literary magazines, select issues of the student newspaper, yearbooks, course catalogs, and a history of the institution’s first ninety years.

Page from the 1964 Cornerstone Yearbook

This exciting project was made possible through the LYRASIS Mass Digitization Collaborative—a Sloan Foundation grant-subsidized program that has made digitization easy and affordable for libraries and cultural institutions across the country. Chatham received additional support from the Archives Cummins Fund.

Through the Collaborative’s partnership with the Internet Archive, all items were scanned from cover-to-cover and in full color. The archive can be viewed through a variety of formats—page through a book choosing the “read online” option, download the PDF, or search the full text version.

If you have any questions about this project or the Archives in general, please contact the archivist, Rachel Grove Rohrbaugh at 412-365-1212 or rrohrbaugh@chatham.edu.

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