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Joseph A. Breig Papers

Identifier: BRI

Scope and Content

Correspondence, manuscripts, and printed material including clippings and offprints of articles, columns, and book reviews; representing Breig's interest in Catholicism, the Garabandal Apparitions, abortion, and Humanae Vitae; with samples of editorial work and promotional material, cartoons by Earl Wolf based on ideas suggested by Breig, and poems by Breig's friends; also a small quantity of photographs, certificates and drawings by Breig, including material from both his private and professional life.

The collection consists of seven series: correspondence, chronological file, writings, editorial work, personal material, restricted material, and miscellaneous items. The papers span a period of 93 years from 1888 through 1981, though there is little material for the years 1888-1923 and 1928-1940, mostly just family correspondence and documents.

The bulk of the correspondence falls into the years 1923-1928 (when Breig was a student at Notre Dame) and from 1971-1981 . For the years in between little correspondence has survived. After Father Hesburgh approached Joseph Breig about donating his papers to Notre Dame in 1974, the volume of the correspondence saved increased considerably. Breig's writings are represented by both manuscripts and clippings. There are manuscripts of his books (published and unpublished), plays, short stories, articles, columns, book reviews, and speeches. While the manuscripts of his work as a writer date mostly from only the 1930s until the late 1950s, his work as a newspaperman is very well documented. There is an almost complete set of clippings of his columns from his days at the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph (1940- 1945), from the Pittsburgh Catholic Observer (1943- 1944), and from the Cleveland Catholic Universe Bulletin (1945-1981). His columns also appeared in other Catholic newspapers, some of which are also included in this collection. There are manuscripts and clippings of articles for Catholic magazines and a few miscellaneous pieces as well.

Some of Breig's work as an editor is documented in his correspondence regarding reader's letters (policy explanations, etc.), rewrites of NC News copy, background material for his columns, style and writing manuals (some of which Breig composed or contributed to), and editorial cartoons suggested by Breig and drawn by Earl Wolf. Only the background material folders about Abortion, Vietnam and the apparitions of Garabandal were created by Breig; the rest of these folders were created from material in his miscellaneous folders. Breig saved little in the way of background material until 1974 when he became aware that Notre Dame was interested in his papers.

In the personal material series one can find letters and other documents that Breig later annotated for explanatory reasons as well as personal documents and certificates (like his honorary doctorates), some documents about his relatives, clippings about Joseph Breig (his work, books and plays, awards, etc.), clippings about his family, photos of Breig and his family and relatives, and a family genealogy covering 1834 - circa 1977.

The last two series are very small and consist of only two folders, one of restricted material, the other of a few things that couldn't be linked to existing series or folders.

Further information about Breig's donation of his papers to the Notre Dame Archives is found in the correspondence series (box 1, folder 9).


  • Creation: 1888-1981


Language of Materials



Joseph Breig was born in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, on February 28, 1905, the son of George and Clara (McKenzie) Breig. George Breig was an electrical contractor. Joseph was educated at St. Vincent Preparatory School, Latrobe, Pennsylvania (1918-1920), and graduated from Vandergrift High School in 1923. He entered the University of Notre Dame in September 1923 and left again in September 1924 due to his family's tight budget. He returned in September 1925 and finally left Notre Dame in June 1927 without receiving a degree. At Notre Dame Breig was active in student journalism, writing for the Dome, the Juggler and the Scholastic. He became editor of the Scholastic and was also a member of the Scribblers. In 1930 he married Mary Agnes Hoffman of Vandergrift. Together they had seven children, five of whom survived infancy. His son, James P. Breig, works as editor of the Evangelist, the official weekly newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Breig began his professional career in 1924 when he went to work for the Vandergrift News. He later became the editor and continued there until 1934. Starting in 1930 he also worked for the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph as rewrite and feature writer. He had his own column ("One Man's Opinion", 1940-1945) and covered City Hall for the paper. During 1943-1944 he also wrote a column for the Pittsburgh Catholic Observer.

With his increasing interest in Catholicism, Breig decided that he would rather work for a Catholic newspaper. For this reason he moved to Cleveland in 1945 and became assistant editor of the Universe Bulletin there. Breig had his own column and worked as a rewrite man and headline writer. He edited National Catholic News Service copy, condensed stories, and answered phone calls and letters of complaint, often from readers objecting to things Breig had written in his columns.

Over the years the topics for his columns included a vast number of subjects, including his efforts to outlaw boxing, his doubts of the genuineness of the apparitions of Garabandal and Bayside, his defense of the Vietnam War, and his opposition to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. He also commented on statements by opponents of his Catholic beliefs such as Father Andrew Greeley, Father Hans K√ľng, the John Birch Society, and others who, in his view, tried to alter the Church's teachings on divorce, artificial birth control, and papal infallibility.

Breig stayed at the Universe Bulletin until his retirement in March 1975. He continued to write his columns after 1975. They appeared not only in the Universe Bulletin but also in several other Catholic newspapers in the USA. Besides being a newspaper writer, Breig also wrote for many magazines (Ave Maria, Our Lady's Digest, The Family Digest, Crozier, and others) and published eight books and several short stories and plays. In honor of his work he received two honorary doctorates (St. Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 1954, and Carroll College, Helena, Montana, 1967). He also won several awards, one of which was the St. Francis de Sales Award from the Catholic Press Association in 1966. Joseph Breig died of a heart attack at Longwood, Florida, on February 6, 1982.


12 linear feet.

Joseph A. Breig Papers
University of Notre Dame Archives
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Archives Repository

607 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame Indiana 46556 United States
(574) 631-6448