Historic edition returned to The Pilot

BRAINTREE -- In 1930, the Jazz Age was ending, the Great Depression was beginning, and The Pilot was celebrating its 100th anniversary with a specially printed Centenary Edition.

A copy of that issue was gifted this summer to The Pilot by West Roxbury native Elizabeth Wilson, after she found it tucked away while cleaning a family member's house. The issue had apparently been in her mother's side of the family, surnamed Kelly, for years.

"The family, being very religious, always subscribed to The Pilot, always went to Mass," Wilson told The Pilot, July 28.

The issue, in near-pristine condition and still in its original cardboard mailing tube, commemorates The Pilot's 1829 founding with letters of congratulations from high profile figures including then-President Herbert Hoover and Pope Pius XI. A letter of congratulations was sent to the Archdiocese of Boston on the pope's behalf by Cardinal Eugene Pacelli, who was then the Holy See's Cardinal Secretary of State. He would later become Pope Pius XII.

"The Holy Father congratulates Your Eminence and the Archdiocese of Boston that this, the oldest Catholic Journal in the United States, has finished its hundredth year of life in a flourishing condition," the letter reads.

It later continues, "The Holy Father prays that The Pilot will continue to fulfill its mission, and will continue also to exercise a powerful influence for good wherever it is circulated."

Other congratulatory messages in the issue come from Boston institutions that that are no longer -- such as The Boston Braves, Shawmut Bank, The Boston Post and The Jordan Marsh Company -- and some that still endure including The Boston Bruins, the Gillette Safety Razor Company and the Boston Globe.

The full-page message from the Globe greets The Pilot as an "old and ever-kindly neighbor" which was "already in middle age when The Globe was born."

"The Pilot gave the newcomer a welcome that was afterward gratefully acknowledged by the builder of The Globe, the late Charles H. Taylor," the message reads.

Articles in the issue detail the life and accomplishments of Archbishop William O'Connell, the archbishop of Boston at the time, as well as the history of The Pilot, the Archdiocese of Boston and many of its parishes, schools and institutions.

"We are so grateful to the Wilson and Kelly families for returning this piece of history to The Pilot," said Pilot managing editor Gregory L. Tracy.

"Sadly, because The Pilot has relocated several times in the 20th century, many of these historic issues were lost or simply discarded. For example, no one on the staff had ever seen this issue other than in reproductions," Tracy said.

"Our hope is to digitize and make available as much of the issue as possible," Tracy continued, "The content is just fascinating for anyone who has an interest in the history of the archdiocese, The Pilot, or just the city of Boston in general."