Brainerd P. Salmon: American Journalist (and Many More) and Friend of Greece

In American Influence in Greece, 1917-1929 (Kent, Ohio 1988), historian Louis P. Cassimatis refers to Brainerd P. Salmon, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Greece, twice. In the Preface, by quoting a line from Salmon’s Glimpses of Greece (1928): “‘American interests in Greece are commercial, financial, educational, and at times philanthropic, but never political’.” And again, in Chapter Five under “Constantine and the Forced Loan of 1922,” when Cassimatis discusses the three-man economic and diplomatic mission that the Greek Government sent to Washington D.C. in the fall of 1921.

The mission composed of John Gennadius, former minister of Greece to Great Britain, Stamos Papafrangos, solicitor of the National Bank of Greece, and Salmon was sent to the United States by the Royalist government of Demetrios Gounaris to obtain recognition of King Constantine as head of the Greek State and request the advancement of the remaining part of the Tripartite Loan of 1918 (about 33 million dollars), which had been suspended. (Until King Constantine formally acknowledged that he had succeeded his dead son King Alexander, the United States could not honor agreements made with the previous Greek government, that of Eleutherios Venizelos.) Failing that goal, the three men had high hopes for a private loan from American banks since there were already several U.S. commercial firms active in Greece in the early 1920s (Cassimatis 1988, 166-172).

According to Cassimatis, the idea of a Greek mission to the U.S. was the “brainchild of Paxton P. Hibben” (1880-1928), a former diplomat and an Associated Press war correspondent sent to Greece in 1915, and a close friend of King Constantine (so close that, in 1920, Hibben would publish Constantine I and the Greek People, in support of Constantine’s decision that Greece should remain neutral during WW I). Hibben’s recommendations included Papafrangos, Philippos Dragoumis, Ion’s younger brother, and Alexander Mercati, “a confidant of the Royal Family” (Malakasses 1976). Gennadius, writing to Demetrios Maximos, Governor of the National Bank of Greece, described in detail his meeting with Prime Minister Gounaris in London in the fall of 1921. According to Gennadius, it was Gounaris who persistently asked him to head the Greek mission to America (ASCSA Archives, Joannes Gennadius Papers, Box 4, folder 15). Maximos must have supported the inclusion of Papafrangos, a lawyer and a high-ranking officer of the National Bank of Greece.

BPS Enters the Scene

But how did an American like Brainerd (or Brainard) Pomeroy Salmon become involved in this mission? I became interested in Salmon because his name kept popping up in the institutional records of the American School in the early 1920s. A google name search produced very little, however. Searching in  and proved more fruitful. Salmon also appears in the Eleutherios Venizelos Papers at the Benaki Museum (accessed through  The Salmon puzzle remains far from complete, but I was able to piece together certain parts of it.

Salmon’s early years, up until WW I, are very sketchy. He was born into a small family in Fulton, a small industrial city in Oswego County, N.Y., in 1878. I could not find where he went to school, or if he did go to college. His name appears in the city lists of New York (1910-1915) as a manager, a manufacturer agent, and he is once associated with Mountain Construction Co. His journeys to Europe must have begun in 1918 according to border crossing lists, and at first he seems to list France as his final destination. By 1919, he was listed as married although he traveled by himself. In April of 1919, Salmon traveled first class as an “architect.” At some point Salmon must have made his way to Greece for business reasons. In May 1921 he was invited to the farewell dinner for U.S. Minister Edward Capps. (Capps was Minister to Greece for a short period in 1920 under the Wilson administration.) Salmon, representing the North American Wood Products Company, is listed among the members of the American Colony in Athens.

Six months later, Salmon was on his way to the U.S. as the third link in the three-man mission that I described above. Who vouched for Salmon? Not Gennadius because he did not know him personally. Was he recommended by someone in the U.S. Legation? Could it have been Capps, the former Minister? Somehow the Greek government was convinced to include Salmon in this important mission, as someone who could strengthen commercial ties between the two countries. «Α Mr. Salmon is in the city [Washington] attempting to make appointments for Mr. Papafrango to obtain a loan», reported the Chief of the Near Eastern Division to the Secretary of State, sent on December 12, 1921 (Malakasses 1976, 68).

In his personal papers in the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), John Gennadius mentions that during his 8-month stay in America, he sent 77 reports to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs describing the group’s various contacts and meetings, and listing some of Salmon’s articles in the U.S. newspapers in support of Greece (Box 11, folder 4). Gennadius’s report of April 17, 1922, exalted Salmon’s important services.  And it was during his trip to the U.S. that Gennadius was brought into contact with Edward Capps, the Chairman of the American School , a meeting that led Gennadius to donate his magnificent library to the School.

Salmon signed his press releases as President or Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Greece, although the Undersecretary of the State expressed some doubts about the official character of his position: “Mr. Salmon claims to be President of the American Chamber of Commerce” (Malakasses 1976). In one of his lengthiest press releases, Salmon argued for Greece’s right of self-government, and if that meant that her people wanted King Constantine back, America should stand “for the right of free peoples to govern themselves.” What was happening in the Near East was not just a “European matter.” In addition, both Greece and America would benefit the most from an “open door” trade policy (“Denies Europe Has a Monopoly of Interest in the Near East,” The Sunday Star Washington, 26/3/1922).

Despite all of the hard work and lobbying, Gennadius did not get an audience with the Secretary of State, Charles Evans Hughes, until April 25, 1922. It was cordial -in fact, Hughes made special mention of Gennadius’s generous gift to the American School- but bore no fruit. The U.S., in agreement with England and France, refused to recognize the government of King Constantine and, because of this, the State Department could not render any financial assistance to Greece, who was fighting a war with Turkey since 1919 and was in dire straits. For Greece, this was the beginning of the end which came a few months later, with the calamitous defeat of the Greek army in Asia Minor in September of 1922.

After eight months in the U.S., John Gennadius left America in July 1922, having received honorary doctorate degrees from George Washington University and Princeton University; Papafrangos had left earlier. Salmon, on the other hand, stayed longer. During his time in Washington, it is very possible that he met Venizelos, who was also touring the East Coast on an unofficial visit. There is a note in the John Gennadius papers about how awkward they all felt when they found out that Venizelos was staying in the same hotel, but, out of courtesy, Gennadius paid his respects to the former prime minister.

Two months after the Asia Minor Catastrophe, Salmon addressed from New York a letter to Venizelos, who was not in power, but supported the revolutionary government that governed Greece after September 1922. In it he suggested, in agreement with Capps, “the appointment of a competent American attorney” to support Greece’s case for the 1918 loan. He also mentioned that they (Capps and Salmon) were working on a plan to help Greece with constructive relief (Benaki Museum, Eleutherios Venizelos Papers, Nov. 13, 1922). A few days later Salmon sent Venizelos a copy of an interview about Greece he had given to the New York Evening Post. Venizelos responded with a letter of thanks “for all you are doing for the Greek cause in this great crisis” (Benaki Museum, Eleutherios Venizelos Papers, Nov. 24, 1922).

Officially Appointed

Capps, having taken Salmon under his wings, telegraphed Venizelos, who was in Lausanne negotiating on behalf of Greece the terms of the Lausanne Treaty, on Jan. 5, 1923: “strongly recommend appointment salmon by ministry as liaison with American relief in Greece […]”. Venizelos followed up with a telegram to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommending Salmon as a liaison between the Greek Government and the U.S. humanitarian agencies that were active in Greece after the Asia Minor Catastrophe (Benaki Museum, Eleutherios Venizelos Papers, Jan. 6, 1923).

The telegram Edward Capps sent to Eleutherios Venizelos recommending Brainerd P. Salmon. Benaki Museum, Eleutherios Venizelos Papers.

From his new post Salmon addressed several memoranda to Andreas Michalopoulos, Venizelos’s private secretary, such as “Greek American  Relations and Outline of Work to Be Done” and “The Legal Liability of the United States to Greece in Connection with the Credit of 1918,” or updated Venizelos about his and Capps’s actions to raise awareness in the States concerning the continuance of the refugee relief in Greece after the withdrawal of the American Red Cross at the end of June 1923. He also wrote to the Director of Publicity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recommending the establishment of a fully equipped Bureau of Publicity in the U.S. “whenever funds are available” (Benaki Museum, Eleutherios Venizelos Papers, May 14, 1923). Salmon proposed Edward Hale Bierstadt, “a well-known writer and journalist” to run the service with a budget of $60,000-70,000 per year (May 29, 1923). He also implied that until the Greek government found the funds to support a complete publicity service, he could start one himself, “which could grow in the future as time and necessity dictated” (Benaki Museum, Eleutherios Venizelos Papers, Salmon to Michalopoulos, June 6, 1923).

There was a flurry of action in the late months of 1923 and early 1924 as Capps spearheaded the creation of the American Friends of Greece (AFG) in October of 1923. This new organization had a three-fold mission: to educate the American people about the refugee situation in Greece, to negotiate with existing organizations for continuance of relief aid to Greece, or to organize a separate appeal for funds.[1] Salmon signing as Special Commissioner in Washington D.C. of the Greek Minister of Public Assistance (i.e., Apostolos Doxiades) prepared and distributed through the American Friends of Greece a “Statement Regarding the Refugee Situation in Greece” that contradicted a recent announcement by the American Red Cross (ARC) that the refugees in Greece had been assimilated and there was no need for more U.S. relief aid (ASCSA Archives, Bert H. Hill Papers, Box 2, folder 2).

Salmon’s Reputation at Risk

It is in an exchange of letters between Capps, Bert H. Hill, and Carl W. Blegen (the School’s Director and Assistant Director, respectively), that we learn how much the U.S. Legation in Athens disliked Salmon. One of Blegen’s comments to Hill about Salmon must have echoed the Legation’s opinion, namely, that Salmon had been hired by the Greek Government:

“as a propaganda agent in America with the understanding that he was to receive a commission on all loans he may succeed in getting paid and likewise on all sums collected and turned over by philanthropic organizations inspired by his propaganda for relief work… In any case S. appears to have a most unsavory reputation among American (and Greek) circles in Athens. I wonder if Mr. C. knows how unpopular S. is over here” (Bert H. Hill Papers, Box 2, folder 3, Dec. 5, 1923).  

When Hill confronted Capps about Salmon’s reputation, Capps explained that Salmon was “under a contract to render services in connection with the refugees […], his compensation was fixed” as well as his expense account, and that his contract had no reference whatever to any change in his compensation conditioned upon his success in any one of the defined field of his activity.” That he had “no relation to the Greek Loan, except to do all in his power to induce the [American] government to pay it.” Capps further added that Salmon had “no relation whatever to philanthropic contributions, except an interest such as I have in seeing that such are made[…] and that he had “no business connection with the AFG and has never received a cent from us, though he has served us with devotion and intelligence  whenever we have had need of him.” Capps thought of Salmon as a valuable and trusted person who was successful in building up in Washington D.C.:

“a very wide and influential set of connections. Mr. Hoover [at the time Herbert Hoover was Secretary of Commerce] seems to value his advice, and seeks it; the Near East Relief and the Federal Council, and similar groups; [John] Finley and the newspaper people; and many of the leading men in Washington. The whole complexion of Greek relations in America has been transformed since his coming over”. Capps ended his section about Salmon by noting that he had never seen “work of a higher grade” (Bert H. Hill Papers, Box 2, folder 2, Jan. 11, 1924).

First page of a memorandum that Salmon prepared for Henry Morgenthau, Jan. 8, 1924. ASCSA Archives, Bert H. Hill Papers.

The American Legation treated Salmon as a thorn in its side, hoping to get rid of him. In February 1924, Ray Atherton, the Chargé d’affaires in Athens, met with Doxiades and “made representations against S[almon], and the State Department took up the matter with the Greek Ambassador in Washington, [Michael] Tsamados, but “no statements or allegations were made” (Bert H. Hill Papers, Box 2, folder 2, Feb. 16, 1924). The American Legation in Athens was successful, however, in dissuading the ARC from resuming relief aid to Greece. Capps, much disheartened, refocused his efforts on the establishment of embroidery workshops in Athens that employed refugee women. His daughter Priscilla would direct the AFG workshops which later merged with the Near East Industries.

Glimpses of Greece

Salmon continued his collaboration with the Greek Government under a new contract, that of the Director of the Hellenic Information Bureau in Washington. Salmon’s role (and others, whom Dale Pappas calls “business savvy Byrons”) in the development of Greek tourism in the interwar period is being examined in Pappas’s dissertation “Partners in Pleasure: State and Private Capital in the Making of Modern Mediterranean Tourism” (2021). In a press release about the American School’s intention to excavate the Athenian Agora that appeared in many U.S and Canadian newspapers in July 1927, Salmon promoted Greece as a tourist destination: “Greece offers wonderful tourist possibilities. The country is beautiful and the Government is constructing roads that will compare with the best elsewhere in the world[…] good hotels are being constructed and there is no fear of brigandage …”. Salmon also tagged himself as representative of the Athens Telegraphic Agency and correspondent of the Messager d’ Athènes (The Gazette [Montreal, Quebec, Canada] 11/6/1927).

A year later, in 1928, Salmon would publish Glimpses of Greece, a tourist guide to Greece, jointly sponsored by the Hellenic Information Bureau and the Anglo-Hellenic League in London. It featured articles by many prominent American philhellenes, such as Henry B. Dewing, a classicist and president of (the newly established) Athens College, Charles P. Howland, chairman of the Greek Refugee Settlement Commission of the League of Nations (1925-1926), Ernest A. Gardner, British archaeologist and former director of the British School at Athens, and others. According to Dale Pappas, Salmon’s book “was not solely a guide to ‘what ought to be seen,’ rather it was devoted to the Greece of the 1920 and the refugee crisis,” including an itinerary of locations affiliated with refugee settlement and assimilation. Salmon wrote the chapter “American interests in Greece,” where in addition to promoting Greek commodities (e.g., Hymettus honey, currants, and tapestry) and U.S. companies trading in Greece, he made special reference to educational institutions such as the ASCSA, Athens College, the American Farm School, Anatolia College, the Y.M.C.A., and others. Fred McCallum wrote the part about the “American Workshops in Greece,” but there is no reference to its director Priscilla Capps. (I found it interesting that that Capps did not contribute to Glimpses of Greece and that the chapter about the AFG Workshops was not written by Priscilla Capps.)

Going AWOL

It is about this time that Salmon drops off the School’s radar. I could not find any references to him in the School’s administrative records from the late 1920s. (Unfortunately, Edward Capps’s personal archive in America has not been preserved, or, at least, all our efforts to locate it have not borne any results.) Salmon’s contract to run the Greek Information Bureau in Washington continued until 1932. In late 1931 Salmon must have inquired about the renewal of his contract. In the Eleutherios Venizelos Papers there is a memo from the Greek Tourist Organization to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggesting the renewal of Salmon’s contract for another three years, but with a modification: Salmon would continue to promote Greece to the American people, while a Greek appointee would develop and strengthen the relations with the Greek American community (November 17, 1931).

The Greek Tourist Organization was responding to public complaints by Greek American organizations, such as AHEPA, who were pushing for a Greek American at the helm of the Greek Information Bureau. A certain Nick Kassavetis, who had applied for the position, but did not get because his services cost three times more than Salmon’s, claimed that Salmon was underperforming, sponging off Greek money, and had been absent from Washington since October 1928 (newspaper Πατρίς 13/2/1932).

It is unclear where Salmon resided after 1928, whether in America or Greece. In the fall of 1930, Salmon was reporting from Addis Ababa, as a United Press writer, the coronation of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie (The Pittsburgh Press, 2/11/1930). In the spring of 1932 Salmon sent from Greece a brief note to the Wisconsin State Journal to correct news circulating in the U.S. that the Greek government had decreed three meatless days a week. Fearing that such news would discourage American tourists from coming to Greece, Salmon informed the editor that the number of meatless days had been reduced to two, while adding:

“the readers should not envisage these days as days of war-time hardship. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays red meat is replaced by chicken, turkey and duck, all of which are plentiful, and by fresh lobster or the many delicious fish in the waters of the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Aegean seas abound […]. At the moment there is no place in the world where the gastronomic desires of mankind can be better or more cheaply satisfied.”

In January 1934, the then Director of the American School, Richard Stillwell, addressed a brief letter to Salmon, who was living at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens. The letter included a photo and a short description of a Dionysus head discovered in the Corinth excavations in the fall of 1933.

Making the Front Page

On August 16-17, 1934, Salmon made the front page on several Greek newspapers. The day before, he had been found dead in his room at the Grande Bretagne. The toxicological tests showed that he met his death by poison. He had left two notes, one for his lawyer, the other for George Anthony Weller (1907-2002), a fellow journalist in Athens, who would later write The Crack in the Column (1949), a novel about wartime Greece.

Some of the press notices were brief, others lengthier in their remembrance of Salmon’s active support of the Greek refugees, for which he was decorated with the Order of the Savior. All emphasized that his suicide was related to his financial bankruptcy. [2] Once again, the local community was divided over Salmon: for some, he deserved such an end because of his spendthrift lifestyle, for others he, an ardent supporter of Venizelos, was the victim of the new political situation in Greece and the ripple effects of the Great Depression in the Greek economy. Salmon’s contract with the Greek government was cancelled soon after the defeat of the Venizelist party in March 1933. A promised indemnification never came through, and the Greek American newspaper in New York he worked for suddenly closed. Venizelos died in 1935; a year later, on August 4, 1936, the Metaxas regime cancelled key elements of the constitution, and, in so doing, established a dictatorship. One way or the other, “the business savvy Byron” would have been marginalized.    

Salmon was buried in the First Cemetery. On his plaque, it is written: American Journalist and Friend of Greece. His death report mentioned no relatives. The only photo we have of him comes from the passport found in his room.


[1]. In a recent conference at the American School, co-organized with the Hellenic Parliament Foundation, The Asia Minor Disaster and the Humanitarian Response: International Philanthropic Organizations and the Arrival of the Refugees in Greece 1918-1924, I discussed the establishment of the American Friends of Greece in 1923, as well as the polarization of the American Community in Athens over the continuation of relief aid to the thousands of unassimilated refugees after the withdrawal of the ARC.

[2]. Ακρόπολις, 15/8/1934; Ελεύθερον Βήμα, 17/8/1934;  Έθνος 16/8/1934;  Ελληνικόν Μέλλον 17/8/1934, and Εθνικός Κήρυξ 17/8/1934. His death was also reported in the New York Times, “Journalist a Suicide.; B.P. Salmon Had Written From Athens for American Papers,” 17/8/1934.


L. Cassimatis, 1988. American Influence in Greece, 1917-1929, Kent, Ohio 1988.

J. T. Malakasses, 1976. “American Diplomatic Relations with Greece during the Last Part of Wilson’s Administration and the Beginning of Harding’s: The First Active American Intervention in the Internal Affairs of Greece,” Dodone 5, 47-74.

D. Pappas, 2021. “Partners in Pleasure: State and Private Capital in the Making of Modern Mediterranean Tourism” (Unpublished Diss. University of Miami).

B. P. Salmon (ed.) 1928. Glimpses of Greece, Washington D.C.

Christmas in Athens in 1915

On February 17, 1916, The Nation published in its “Foreign Correspondence” section a long essay by John A[lfred] Huybers, titled “Christmas in Athens.” Huybers is no stranger to this blog. Three years ago, I wrote an entire post about him, “On Finding Inspiration in Small Things: The Story of a Pencil Portrait,” after discovering a pencil sketch of Bert Hodge Hill by him.

An English Australian, Huybers earned his living as an illustrator in America, and from about 1915 until his death in 1920 as a foreign correspondent for The Nation and The Christian Science Monitor in Greece. He must have been friends with many members of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter ASCSA or the School) including Bert H. Hill, Carl W. Blegen, and Edward Capps. Capps, who became the School’s Chair of the Managing Committee in 1919, remembered Huybers in the ASCSA Annual Report for 1920-21 (p. 21) with mention of a fund created in his memory (the Huybers Fund amounted to $714.53 in 1921, which is the equivalent of about $18,000 today):

“[He] was for many years a resident of Greece, whence he sent to the American press, and particularly to the Christian Science Monitor, admirable articles on Greek affairs. He died at Phalerum in 1919 [sic]. His writings showed such admirable sanity of judgement, good information, and genuine philhellenic sympathy and understanding that his friends in America, chiefly those of Hellenic descent, desired to perpetuate his memory in connection with the School, which they highly regard as the permanent symbol in Greece of American-Hellenic unity. We are indebted to Professor A. E. Phoutrides of Harvard University, for conceiving this idea and carrying it to completion, and to His Excellency Mr. Tsamados, then Minister Resident of Greece in Washington for generous assistance. A principal fund of $545 was contributed.”

During my research on Huybers, I found sixteen of his essays in The Nation, including one about the American School, large parts of which l presented in my post of April 2019. Lately, I rediscovered in my notes another one he published in February 1916 after spending Christmas in Athens (since Greece was still following the “old calendar,” Christmas was celebrated thirteen days later, on January 6th).

Wanting to experience Christmas Eve shopping, Huybers took a walk on Athinas Street (described as Rue d’ Athènes) which was and still is the largest market: “Not merely the booths in the market, but all the surrounding shops are open, without windows. The places that are most crowded, where most business is being done, are the shops in which the different varieties of cheese and olives are sold, which, with the excellent bread, are the main staples of life in Greece.” He then proceeded to explain that sheep were not raised just for wool and meat, but also for their cheese, and one would be surprised “at the variety of delicious and wholesome cheeses made from their milk.”  

Cheese and meat stalls on Athinas Street in the early 1930s. ASCSA Archives, Charles and Janet Morgan Papers.

Huybers could not praise enough the staple Greek meal of bread, cheese, and olives. “I have watched at the Port of the Piraeus splendid examples of manhood, who have spent the morning hours hoisting and swinging great sacks of wheat and carrying them on their backs down and up the plank barefooted from ship or barge to the wharf, and then at noon have made their meal cheerfully of bread sheeps’ [sic] cheese, and olives.” The video below is an excerpt from Triumph Over Time, a movie that the School produced in 1947. Although it was filmed three decades later than Huybers’s description, the scene in the port of Piraeus is very similar to the one in 1915.

The fruit stands were full of oranges, mandarins, lemons, citrons, as well as almonds and walnuts. The only fruit missing was the apple. The only apple Huybers found in the market was “a very small, greenish-yellow in color, with red stripes,” sold at a high price which Huybers refused to pay. The apple he is describing is the φιρίκι (firiki, or Pijrus Malus) grown on Mount Pelion, a tree that produces fruit every other year. Until 1960, it was the only type of apple found in the Greek markets. “If it pays to export American and Canadian apples to South Africa, there ought to be an opening here for apples,” scribbled Huybers.

Market stall selling olives in the early 1930s. ASCSA Archives, Charles and Janet Morgan Papers.

On Christmas Eve of 1915, “most of the entrances of the shops and booths were decorated with an arch made of two great fronds of the palm tree, twelve and fourteen feet in length, and long ribbons of wax paper in happy combinations of color.” The custom of the Christmas tree did not spread in Greece until the 1930s (especially after WW II) although the upper class did see Christmas trees in the houses of the foreign ambassadors in Athens as early as in the 19th century. Story has it that the famous General Makriyannis after seeing one at the house of the Russian consul in Greece Ioannis Paparrigopoulos in 1843 commented: “It’s nice but I don’t like to keep trees in my room, only my guns.” Huybers, however, witnessed the arrival of donkeys in town loaded with pine shrubs which he interpreted “as Christmas trees and for decorations.” On December 22, 1915, Zillah Dinsmoor, wife of architect William Bell Dinsmoor and an expatriate, “went with Mrs. Droppers [the wife of the American Minister in Greece] to buy her Christmas tree and to get cases of soap to put in the children’s stockings and stuffing for the inevitable pin-cushions with which we will all be presented on Christmas afternoon” (ASCSA Archives, Zillah Pearce Dinsmoor Papers).

Strolling through the meat market Huybers commented on the young milk lambs hanging from the hooks. Although “the Greeks might be taxed with wastefulness” for doing so, “roasted to the right point such food might cause a vegetarian to backslide from his faith.” For this not to happen, Huybers suggested that one would have “to read anew Pythagoras’s plea for animal life and his denunciation of man and his appetite as the worst of the beasts of prey: Thou slay’st the lamb that looks thee in the face.”  

Huybers was further impressed by the open cook-shops with their big copper saucepans and charcoal furnaces underneath. “The cook will lift the different covers for you: there are spinach and rice cooked together, bean soup, different varieties of beans with flavoring with herbs and pure olive oil, potatoes cooked with some excellent sauce, macaroni, and twice a week a good fish soup, roast meats and fried fish.” To further note that “it was a pity that America, so generous in her gifts from her own soil, has no such restaurants.”

One last thing that impressed Huybers was the Christmas carols.

“An empty earthenware jar is slung over a boy’s shoulder; it is covered at the top with the dried skin of a sheep’s or pig’s bladder. He drums on it with the fingers of the two hands, and there being no bottom to the jar, its shape gives its resonance. The other boy strikes a triangle. The musical metallic sound of the one and the muffled sound of the other, accompanying the chant of their young voices, make the quaintest impression.”

The triangle has survived until today, but not the jar. I had to search old photos in order to discover this primitive musical instrument, and I found one in the Voula Papaioannou Photographic Collection at the Benaki Museum. The boy in the middle seems to be beating such a jar with the tips of his fingers.

We do not know how and where Huybers spent Christmas Day. Probably not at the American School, which was almost closed because of the War. In 1915-1916, there was only one student, Ralph W. Scott. The absence of students made it possible for Bert Hodge Hill, the School’s Director, and Carl W. Blegen, the Secretary, to go to the States for Christmas, and also to attend the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Princeton. Huybers might have been a guest at the American Minister’s house, or at the Dinsmoors who rented a house on Xenokratous Street, although his name was not included in Mrs. Dinmoor’s list of guests. Although she would have liked to ask more people for a second gathering in the evening, she couldn’t do it because “this year the gas was so poor we can scarcely see.”

Because of the War, the School would not resume its academic program until the fall of 1920. From the fall of 1918 through the spring of 1920, the School rented its facilities to the Greek Commission of the American Red Cross.

A Journey in the Mediterranean on the Eve of the Great War, 1914.

On July 4th, 1914, Francis Henry Bacon (1856-1940) and his wife Alice (née Calvert) departed from New York aboard the S.S. Kaiser Frantz Joseph (the ship would be renamed the President Wilson shortly thereafter). The Dardanelles were their destination, where the Calvert family owned an estate, as well as a farm in nearby Thymbra. This is where Bacon had first met Alice in 1883, when the members of the Assos Excavations received an invitation to dine with Alice’s uncle, Frank Calvert (1828-1908). An amateur archaeologist, Calvert had conducted several excavations in the Dardanelles. Perhaps more importantly, he suggested that Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) look for Troy at the site of Hissarlik, not far from Thymbra, in the late 1860s. The Calverts were English expatriates long established in the Dardanelles, who made a living trading commodities with the benefit of consular posts.

The time was not good, however, to travel to Europe and especially to the Balkans and Turkey. Just a few days before, on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife had been assassinated in Sarajevo. His death sparked a series of events that led Austria with the support of Germany to declare war on Serbia a month later. Within a week, the great powers of Europe were forced to ally with or against the main belligerents. Greece tried to remain neutral until 1917 (in no small part because the Greek King was married to the Kaiser’s sister and thus sympathetic to the German side), but the Ottoman Empire openly supported the Germans. 

Retracing his Steps

Bacon, a graduate of M.I.T (1876), first traveled to Greece in 1878, before the American School of Classical Studies was even founded. In 1881 he would join, as chief architect, the Archaeological Institute of America’s excavations at Assos in Western Turkey. Following Assos, Bacon pursued a successful career in interior design on the East Coast of America about which I have written before (Francis H. Bacon: Bearer of Precious Gifts from the Dardanelles). He is also credited with the design of the Shrine of the Declaration of Independence in the Library of Congress. Because of Alice’s attachment to the Calvert house in the Dardanelles, the Bacons frequently crossed the Atlantic. Occasionally, Francis would make a stop in Greece to retrace his steps.

After several stops including the Azores, Algiers, and Naples, the Bacons finally reached Patras on July 16th, where the couple parted. Alice continued on another steamer to the Dardanelles, while Francis planned to spend a week in Greece, starting from Olympia. “Splendid Victory of Paionios, and then the lovely, beautifully finished Hermes of Praxiteles – about the only authentic ancient masterpiece in the world,” Bacon scribbled in his notebook. The authenticity of the statue –whether it was a 4th century B.C. original or a fine Roman copy- had not yet been challenged.

The Olympia Museum, 1914. ASCSA Archives, Francis H. Bacon Papers.

From Patras, Bacon took a little steamer to Itea. At Delphi he was much impressed by the restoration of the Athenian Treasury, which the French had completed a few years earlier (1903-1906.) He only wished that “they had restored the acroteria, two horses with naked riders prancing off the corners of the pediment.” Bacon, an ardent photographer, did not miss a chance to capture monuments and landscape, as well as to experiment with interior photography, which was exceptionally difficult at the time. “Back to the Museum where the Ephor Contoleon is very obliging and invited us to photo and measure anything we like.” I cherish Bacon’s interior photos because we catch glimpses of the old museum displays. To him we owe a partial view of the old Delphi Museum, built in 1903, and several charming photos of the local children who had befriended one of his fellow travelers. See slideshow below.

After two days at Delphi, Bacon headed off for Athens. “Start at Itea at 5 A.M. Steamer at 6:30 for Corinth Canal and Piraeus. There has been a landslide in the canal and the little steamer almost climbs over a pile of clay and earth in the narrow channel. Reach Piraeus at 4 P.M. Drive to Athens over the dusty road. Go to Hotel Minerva where I spent winter in 1883, now rather dirty and forlorn.”

(The Hotel Minerva located at Stadiou 5 operated until 1991. When Bacon first stayed in it in 1883, it was known as Αι Αθήναι. For more information and a photo of the hotel, check out the site of the Greek Literary and Historical Archive.)

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The Forgotten Olympic Exhibition: Georg Alexander Mathéy’s Contribution to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.


Alexandra Kankeleit is a German-Greek archaeologist and historian. She has been researching German archaeology in Greece during the Nazi period for several years. Since July 2021 she has been working for the CeMoG (Centrum Modernes Griechenland) at the Freie Universität Berlin, where she will teach a seminar on the 1936 Summer Olympics in the upcoming winter semester. Here she contributes an essay about the German artist Georg Alexander Mathéy (1884-1968), who lived in Greece in the 1930s and whose work was displayed in the Summer Olympics of 1936.

The Badische Landesbibliothek in Karlsruhe (BLB) has held a large part of the estate of painter and writer Georg Alexander Mathéy (1884-1968) since 1993. In 2017, the BLB organized an exhibition, titled Sprachbilder – Bildersprache: Die Künstler Helene Marcarover und Georg Alexander Mathéy, to showcase the works of Mathéy together with those of another artist, the painter and poet Helene Markarova (1904-1992). Both artists, whose work was shaped by the two wars, by migration and alienation, were able through literature to transform images into words, and vice versa. A wonderful accompanying publication provides insights into Mathéy’s life and creative work (Axtmann – Stello 2017).  

Trained as an architect in Budapest, Mathéy made his name as an illustrator of numerous books and magazines, achieving commercial success already at a young age. He also designed stamps, textiles, and a Rosenthal coffee service. Two of his stamp designs are still remembered today because of their intense colors and memorable motifs: the “bricklayer” (1919) and the “post horn” (1951). They can be described as classics of German stamp design.

In addition to this modern, highly reductivist formal language, Mathéy also mastered other, more traditional media, primarily in his large-scale watercolors and oil paintings.

I became interested in Mathéy’s largely forgotten contribution to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The starting point is material from the archives of the BLB, which provided new and important information about Mathéy. (I would like to thank the director of the BLB, Julia Hiller von Gaertringen, for her interest and active support in my project. A detailed German version of this article can be found on the BLBlog.) Further information can also be found in an unpublished research paper on Georg Alexander Mathéy, which the designer Ulrike Jänichen completed in 2003 under the direction of Professor Mechthild Lobisch at the Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule in Halle. She kindly made her work available to me.

Georg Alexander Mathéy, ca. 1930s. Source: Alexander Mathéy.
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Mrs. Jarley’s Waxworks and a Jolly Jumble of Jests, Christmas 1903

The story of Mrs. Jarley’s Waxworks forms part of Charles Dickens’s novel The Old Curiosity Shop, published in 1841. Although Mrs. Jarley is a minor character in the plot, her story gained much popularity in British and American amateur theater and was performed widely at private parties in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Inspired by Madame Tussaud’s famous wax models, Dickens’s Mrs. Jarley was the proprietor of a collection of still wax figures which she displayed on a stage protected by a cord.

In 1873, George Bradford Bartlett (1832-1896), an American from Massachusetts, published Mrs. Jarley’s Far-Famed Collection of Waxworks. Enriched with more characters, real and fictitious, Bartlett’s book is essentially a guidebook for staging amateur performances with animated pantomimes, also known as tableaux vivants. Unlike Dickens, Bartlett’s waxworks were fitted with clockworks inside so that they could move and “go through the same motions they did when living.” Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), the author of Little Women, frequently participated in tableaux vivants, with Bartlett as her stage manager (Chapman 1992).

These kinds of performances were often used as a vehicle for local fund-raising.  Socialites such as Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt often hosted tableaux vivants with young, unmarried women of high society performing in various roles (Chapman 1992).

One such performance took place at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), on Christmas in 1903. It is one of these rare instances, where an event described blow-by-blow in a private letter, has also its visual match. In the School’s large Archaeological Photographic Collection (APC), in addition to photos documenting excavation and other fieldwork, there is a small number of images capturing more private aspects of life at 54 Speusippou (now Souidias).

According to the author of the letter, Theodore Woolsey Heermance (1872-1905), the idea of a party inspired by Mrs. Jarley’s Waxworks belonged to Mrs. Fowler, “who had seen and participated in several such.” Heermance was the new director of the School, having started his term in the fall of 1903. Just a year over thirty, he had studied at Yale and was the grandson of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, President of Yale University from 1846 to 1871. Helen Bell Fowler (1848-1909) was the wife of Harold Fowler, the School’s Professor of Greek Language and Literature for the academic year 1903-1904.


If the original idea of a tableau vivant belonged to Mrs. Fowler, it was Edith Hall “who took the matter up with her usual energy and consented to be Mrs. Jarley. Between them and Miss Welch [Welsh] – a member of the British School, who lives at the same pension as Miss Hall- they planned for the different parts,” wrote Heermance to his mother and sister on December 27, 1903. He further described the costumes “as more or less burlesque, otherwise with a limited outfit they would have fallen rather flat.”

Edith Hall as Mrs. Jarley. ASCSA Archives, Archaeological Photographic Collection.

Edith Hayward Hall (1877-1943) was the Agnes Hoppin Memorial Fellow and the only female student at the School that year. Having earned a B.A. from Smith College, Hall had enrolled at Bryn Mawr College for graduate school. That Christmas “Miss Hall as Mrs. Jarley was capital and with a big hat on kept up a continuous stream of description of her automations and of banter with the audience” wrote Heermance and went on to describe the wax figures “in the order they were uncovered and set agoing.”

“Darrow was Xerxes in a golden crown and neck ornaments and red robes. His business was to rise from his throne three times as Xerxes is said by Herodotus to have done on one occasion in anger.” Heermance is referring to a passage from Book VII of Herodotus that describes the Battle of Thermopylae: “And during these onsets, it is said that the king, looking on, three times leaped up from his seat, struck with fear for his army” [7. 212]. 

Students and members of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens performing Mrs. Jarley’s Waxworks, 1903.
Front row (l-r): Harold Fowler (Agamemnon), Lacey Caskey (Columbus), William Battle (Baby Heracles), Gorham Stevens (Miss Muffet), Fritz Darrow (Xerxes). Back row (l-r): Edith Hall (Mrs. Jarley), Robert McMahon (Klytaimnistra), Harold Hastings (Lord Byron), May Darrow (Zoe or Maid of Athens), Katherine Welsh (Sappho), and Theodore Heermance (Mrs. Jarley’s Assistant).
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