“The Four in Crete”: A Travel Book Leads to an Archival Adventure


Posted by Christopher Richter

Christopher Richter, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Hollins University, with research interests in visual and textual narratives, here contributes to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story about a woman traveler, Gertrude Harper Beggs (1874-1951), who, after attending the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1911-1912, published a travel book about Crete in 1915. Richter, who co-teaches travel abroad courses in the Mediterranean with his wife and fellow faculty member, Christina Salowey (ASCSA student 1990-1992), has developed a special interest in past travelogues about Greece and Turkey.


A few years ago while I was researching 19th and early 20th Century North American women’s travel narratives about Greece, I found 24 relevant accounts in books and magazines (a few of which included references to The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, hereafter ASCSA or the School). The chapter that I eventually published dealt with only six of the narratives (“Exceptional perspectives: National Identity in US Women’s Travel Accounts of Greece, 1840-1913,” in Politics, Identity and Mobility in Travel Writing, ed. M. A. Cabanas, J. Dubino, V. Salles-Reese, G. Totten, New York 2015, pp. 69-82). But among those that I did not include, one particularly intrigued me, leading to more research on the book and its author. Among other discoveries noted below, I found that it is particularly appropriate to remember the author now, as Loring Hall, in its 90th year, is undergoing an extensive renovation.

Gertrude H. Beggs, The Four in Crete, New York/Cincinnati, 1915. Source; ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

The Four in Crete

Gertrude Harper Beggs’s The Four in Crete, published in 1915 (New York: Abingdon Press), tells the story of four traveling companions identified only by nicknames: the Western Woman, the Coffee Angel, the Scholar and the Sage. The narrative begins and ends in Athens, but otherwise focuses on their journey to archeological sites on Crete, which at the time of their visit was not yet technically part of Greece. Beggs employs some standard devices of travelogues of the era. She illustrates the rigors and exoticism of travel through amusing reports of sea sickness, flea infested bedding, and the anxieties of the customs house.

“The [Piraeus] harbor, ever a busy place, was unusually animated that afternoon, with several men-of-war and many merchant vessels lying near the quays and numerous small craft plying busily among them. It was rather an exciting little race to the steamer, for it was already sailing time, and a warning whistle indicated that for once the Four had counted too confidently on the habitual tardiness of Greek vessels” (p. 16-17).

A photo of the Piraeus Harbor in 1913. For your amusement, read the Greek graffiti on the wall! ΑΠΑΓΟΡΕΥΕΤΑΙ ΤΟ ΟΥΡΟΣ ΔΙΑ ΡΟΠΑΛΟΥ. (Peeing is forbidden and is punishable by clubbing.) ASCSA Archives, Archaeological Photographic Collection.

But she also tells in detail of visiting Knossos and the Candia museum, of being guided across rough Cretan terrain on horseback, of what the four saw and discussed at Gortyn, Phaestos and Hagia Triada, and how a seemingly chance encounter in the village of Vori led to a sumptuous dinner as guests of Federico Halbherr (1857-1930), the Italian archaeologist who discovered the famous Gortyn Code in 1884 (pp. 162-165). Halbherr’s diaries have recently become available on the Italian Archaeological School’s webpage.

“Dr. Halbherr himself, as well dressed and immaculate as if he had just stepped in from some Rue de Rivoli, soon put the Four at ease with his perfect courtesy… . The conversation began in Greek, but only the Scholar could make any adequate response in that language. Then their host tried them in Italian; blank silence. Next in French; the Coffee Angel feebly ventured on ‘Oui, monsieur,” and then relapsed into exhausted embarrassment. It seemed doomed to be a silent meal. But at last Dr. Halbherr surprised them all by saying, “Perhaps you can speak English? And from then on they chatted easily, as the host related many witty stories about his thirty years’ experiences in Crete…” (pp. 163-164).

Italian archaeologist Federico Halbherr in the middle. Source: From the Italian Archaeological School’s in Athens web page.

The book received several positive reviews in the popular press, including The New York Times (Oct. 31, 1915, p. 72). It also garnered two scholarly reviews, one by D[avid] M. Robinson (Art and Archaeology 3, 1916, p. 123), the other by Monroe N. Wetmore (The Classical Journal 11, 1916, pp. 375-378). Both reviewers comment on the value of the discussions of the sites. Wetmore also states that “the style is so easy and graceful, the story is so charmingly told… that one can lay the volume down only when he has finished it” (p. 375).

This charm derives in part from Beggs’s sense of humor and her portrayal of camaraderie among the characters. The action and information in the book is driven by their dialogue. Though disparate in age (more on this below) they banter easily on various topics, including their relative mastery, or lack thereof, of Modern Greek, their meals and accommodations, Modern Greek politics, and, especially, their shared interest in the ancient sites.

The “Western Woman” at the American School in 1911-1912

Gertrude Harper Beggs (1874-1951)

The narrative also hints at the four being members of a larger community. It describes the trip to Crete as an “aftermath of their long season in Athens,” (p.12) and states that they had almost been “‘scared off’ by the reports of friends who had made the trip” before them (p. 11). These dynamics felt strangely familiar, even across a century, so I should not have been surprised when investigation revealed that Beggs was an associate member of the School in 1911-1912 (Annual Report of the Managing Committee, p.22).

This discovery stoked my curiosity about Beggs and the trip. Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan located Beggs’s application in the ASCSA Archives.  Apparently, she attended only the second half of the school year, as the repurposed Fellowship application identifies the place and date of applying as Athens, January 19, 1912. According to the Directory of Fellows and Students in the appendices of Louis Lord’s history of the ASCSA (A History of the American School of Classical Studes at Athens, 1882-1942, Cambridge Mass. 1947), she received her PhD from Yale in 1904.  An internet search led me to the 1920 Yale publication Alumnae, Graduate School, Yale University, 1894-1920, which reveals that her dissertation was entitled The Adnominal Genitive in Lysias, and that at the time of her enrollment at the ASCSA, she was Professor of Greek at the University of Denver, which had been her undergraduate alma mater (Corwin, Margaret Trumball, 1920, pp. 14-15). 

Gertrude Beggs’s application to the ASCSA in 1912. ASCSA Archives, Administrative Records.

The 1911-1912 ASCSA Annual Report also notes that “three trips were made to Crete by different members of the School” that year (p. 218). Presumably, Beggs describes one of these. Her trip took place in the spring—she makes repeated references to wildflowers (e.g., pp. 34, 35, 91), and Emerson H. Swift’s description of a trip to Crete, which occurred in early April a year later, offers a useful comparison (Youthful Rambles: On the Trail of the Classics, Privately published, 1975, pp. 38-40).

Assuming the trip was one of those noted in the report, I wondered whether the pseudonymous characters represented other ASCSA members. Beggs overlapped with several luminary figures in 1911-1912, including Carl W. Blegen, William B. Dinsmoor, Hetty Goldman, Clyde Pharr, and Alice Leslie Walker. Research revealed that although the narrative is in the third person, the Western Woman is undoubtedly a portrayal of Beggs herself, as Wetmore implies in his review. Denver and Colorado are repeatedly referenced as the character’s home (pp. 29, 44, 61, 98), and she reveals that her “father is a Methodist clergyman” (p. 76). Although born in Missouri, Beggs moved to Denver as a teen, when her father, a Methodist clergymen, was assigned to a Denver church (“Denver Girl a Professor,” Rolla Missouri Herald, June 23, 1904, p.4)

The Scholar, the Sage, and the Coffee Angel

Identifying the inspiration for the Scholar was also comparatively straightforward. He was almost certainly based on Clyde Pharr. He sardonically alludes to his Texas background (p. 106), and when the Western Woman is amazed at his ease in riding a difficult horse over rough terrain, she remarks to herself “of course that boy can ride anything!  I’d forgotten that he used to be a Texas cowboy! Busting Broncos was good training for this” (p. 100). According to the Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists (ed. Ward Briggs, Jr., Westport 1994), Pharr “was raised on a combination farm and ranch in Texas, where, in his words, “we had much hard manual labor the whole year long. At an early age my younger brother Frank and I developed the habit of running away from home,” (pp. 498-99). That quote even aligns with the Scholar’s portrayed wry sense of humor. (Pharr taught classics at Vanderbilt University from 1924 until 1950 and ended his academic career at the University of Texas at Austin.)

Possible identities of the Sage and the Coffee Angel have proven more elusive. A line in the book led me to believe the Sage was based on Carl Blegen: “The Sage, who had devoted one summer of enforced leisure to botanizing in the Minnesota woods, kept a loving eye on the countless blossoms, exclaiming now and then when he spied some special favorite” (p. 34). Vogeikoff-Brogan documents the formative summers of Blegen’s youth at Saga Hill, in the Minnesota woods, and his botanical interests (“The Life of Carl. W. Blegen from a Grassroots Perspective,” in Carl W. Blegen: Personal and Archaeological Narratives, ed. N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, J. L. Davis, and V. Florou, Atlanta 2015, pp. 17-38). But other details in the text quickly undermined this identification. On the next page Beggs states “The dear Sage!  They sometimes wondered which he loved best, his flowers, or his wife, or his Greek!” (p. 35). And about 100 pages later the Sage asks that one of his companions photograph him on horseback for his wife, because “’the last time I took a horseback trip was thirty-seven years ago, when I rode eighteen miles to court my girl’” (p. 139). Not only was Blegen single in 1912, but the Sage is portrayed as courting his wife 12 years before Blegen was born (Blegen was born in 1887).

While the portrayed ages of the characters confounded my attempts to identify the Sage, I thought they might offer parameters for identifying the Coffee Angel. The Scholar’s youth as compared to the other characters is a consistent theme of humor in the book (Pharr was 27 in 1912). One of his conversations with the Coffee Angel emphasizes this, and also provides her specific age. She has made her eponymous beverage at Phaestos—she shields her alcohol lamp from the wind inside a pithos—and the scholar effuses:

“‘Coffee Angel . . . when I grow up will you elope with me? My heart tells me that any woman who can serve coffee from a Minoan jar is my affinity’. . . . ‘Well,’ acquiesced the Coffee Angel, ‘I was fifty last month, and when you catch up to me, we’ll elope’” (p. 151).

Louise Foucar Marshall. Source: Marshall Foundation.

I first assumed that the Coffee Angel might be based on Louise Foucar Marshall (1864-1956), who contributed the frontispiece and other drawings in the book. Although she had no affiliation with the ASCSA, she and Beggs had been close friends as undergraduates at the  University of Denver, and they stayed in touch, as attested in a letter Beggs wrote to her in July 1914, lamenting the latter’s inability to attend an informal UD reunion (courtesy of the archives, University of Arizona Special Collections). In 1912 she was 48, at least close to the described age. Foucar Marshall proved fascinating in her own right. She was the first woman professor at the University of Arizona, later a successful Tucson real estate developer and a philanthropist. And she briefly achieved national notoriety in 1931, when at the age of 67, she shot her sleeping husband multiple times at point blank range, yet was acquitted of his murder by a jury, after testifying that he had had an affair with their housekeeper, and had tried to poison her (See Louise Foucar Marshall and Tom Marshall Collection, University of Arizona Special Collections splash page; also, Eubank, Johanna. April 27, 2018. “Tales from the Morgue: Shots in the dark,” Arizona Daily Star. )

But further research revealed that she was not in Greece with Beggs in 1912. In a biography of Marshall, Trial and Triumph: the Life and Accomplishments of Louise Foucar Marshall, (2008, Privately published), Patricia Stephenson, who had been Marshall’s personal assistant, recounts that Beggs sent Marshall a manuscript of The Four in Crete, along “with photographs and asked her friend to illustrate it” (p. 66). She also mentions a 1912 letter from Beggs about her travels in Greece “with a group of professors who taught language and history at American universities” (p. 66). This letter might have shed light on the identity of Beggs’s companions in Crete, but unfortunately was not among the extensive Marshall papers that Stephenson eventually donated to the University of Arizona Library’s Special Collections (Personal correspondence with Roger Meyers, Archivist, University of Arizona, July 3, 2018).

One of Louise Foucar Marshall’s drawings in Beggs’s The Four in Crete.

Another candidate for the role of the Coffee Angel is Minnie Bunker (1867-1959). She is listed in the Directory of Fellows and Students in Lord’s book as an ASCSA member for 1911-1912 (also in 1900-1901 and 1906-1907). She and Beggs were probably acquainted before their time at the ASCSA, as both taught in Denver High Schools from 1894-1896. (For Beggs, see J. W. Leonard, ed. Woman’s Who’s Who of America : a Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915; and for Bunker, Colby College General Catalog, 1820-1920.) As with Marshall, her age is not a precise match. According to a memorial page for the Oakland, CA High School, where she taught for many years, she was born in September 1867, making her 44 in spring 1912. Furthermore, the Coffee Angel makes an ambiguous reference to New York as her possible home (p. 124), but Bunker, who was born in Maine and eventually moved to California, appears not to have ever resided there.

Photo of the “Western Woman.” Source: Gertrude H. Beggs, The Four in Crete (New York 1915).

It is possible that Beggs exaggerated the age difference of her characters for comedic effect. She may also have created composite characters for the Sage or the Coffee Angel, e.g. for the former, combining the age and marital status of some other individual with the Minnesota background and botanical tendencies of Blegen. It is possible that one or both were entirely fabricated, though I am skeptical of this, or they may have been based on individuals with no traceable association with Beggs or the ASCSA. Swift’s account is again useful for comparison. It seems that participation by outsiders in school trips was not unusual. On Crete, he abandoned a larger group that included ASCSA members and set off with an independent “retired American classicist” (p. 38). And earlier he describes how members were accompanied by “five amateurs” for part of the official southern trip in November 1912 (pp. 16-17).

Beggs, Pi Beta Phi, and a Women’s Hostel in Athens

After her time as a member of the School, Beggs had a wide ranging and fast paced career in academia. According to the aforementioned Yale Alumnae publication, she earned an LL.D. degree from the University of Denver in 1914, and then went on to serve as Dean of the Chicago Kindergarten Institute, as Social Director of the Martha Cook Building at the University of Michigan, as Dean of Women at the University of Minnesota, and finally, starting in 1919, as Professor of Latin at Westhampton College, the all-female affiliate of the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Her association with the ASCSA did not end with her time as a student. In The Annual Report of the Managing Committee to the Trustees for 1919-1920 (pp. 17-18), Edward Capps notes that she resigned that year from the Board of Directors of the Auxiliary Fund Association “after rendering splendid service. . . because she was taking up a new work in China.” The Auxiliary Fund Association Directors are also thanked “for their vision of the possibilities of the undertaking and their unremitting zeal in working for their realization.” During her last year on the board the fund was increasingly important for the financial well-being of the School, and both subscribers and revenue more than tripled.

An announcement in the June 1920 issue of The Arrow, the official publication of Pi Beta Phi, offers a perspective on Beggs’s own vision and unremitting zeal on behalf of the ASCSA. Pi Beta Phi describes itself as the first fraternity for women, and Beggs had been inducted as an undergraduate at the University of Denver. Her professional advancements, and her service to that organization, were regularly reported in The Arrow. In the same issue as the announcement, her service on two different Pi Beta Phi committees is noted (pp. 444 and 448).  A year and a half earlier, in the December 1, 1918 issue, her role as chair of the Committee on War Work is recorded (p.179), but more significantly, the entire text of an address she gave to the membership at the annual convention is reproduced (“The Daughters of Atlas,” pp. 190-196). In short, by the time that she was on the ASCSA’s Auxiliary Fund Board, Beggs was an influential member of Pi Beta Phi.

The 1920 announcement states, in part that “Prof. Edward Capps of Princeton University, Chairman of the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, has acknowledged in his last report on The Auxiliary Fund, ‘a handsome subscription of $300.00 a year from the Pi Beta Phi National Fraternity.’ Grand Council has thought it expedient to identify Pi Beta Phi with this project of advanced scholarship for women and has authorized the above subscription.” It goes on to name the members of the Auxiliary Fund Board, including Beggs, and to explain the women’s scholarship connection by stating that revenues raised by the Auxiliary Funds Committee “will make it possible to increase the facilities of the school, by the addition, particularly, of a dormitory for women students who may be pursuing research work in Athens” (pp. 517-518). Presumably it was Beggs herself who argued for and secured this subscription, worth almost $4,000.00 in 2019 dollars.

Louis Lord’s account in his history of the ASCSA suggests that fundraising for the women’s hostel was actually entirely separate from that of the Auxiliary Fund. Nevertheless, evocation of a dormitory for women to justify Pi Beta Phi’s contribution ultimately links Beggs, at least in spirit, to Loring Hall, which opened in 1929 and was, as Lord notes, “the final and most satisfactory solution of the ‘Hostel for Women Problem’” (p. 210). (About the Women’s Hostel and Loring Hall, see also: “Clash of the Titans: The Controversy Behind Loring Hall.”) As for her endeavor in China, the Richmond Collegian, the University of Richmond’s student newspaper, reported on September 29, 1922, that Beggs had “resumed her teaching at Westhampton College after returning from China” where she taught in “the English schools of Kuling.”

Loring Hall advertised in 1929. ASCSA Archives.

In closing, the inspirations for two of Beggs’s characters, the Sage and Coffee Angel, remain a mystery, and I remain interested in any information or theories that might shed light on their identities. In addition, I hope that my efforts have helped bring Gertrude Harper Beggs out from the shadows. Like some of her more renowned ASCSA contemporaries, she seems to have been formidable, and is especially worthy of remembrance now, as Loring Hall is renovated. Finally, I recommend her book. It offers a window on the camaraderie of the School, and on Minoan archaeology in that era, and I found it is as entertaining as Wetmore’s review suggested. A copy is in the Gennadius Library’s rare book collection, hard copies can be obtained from vintage booksellers, and a free downloadable PDF is available from the Internet Archive.


Mycenaean Mementos and the Govs: The Materiality of the Wace-Blegen Friendship

Posted by Jack L. Davis

Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here writes the biography of three objects, modern copies of Mycenaean originals, which once belonged to Carl W. Blegen and Alan Wace, the “Govs” of Mycenaean archaeology. These objects were once woven in some way into the personal relationship of these two individuals who shaped the field of Mycenaean studies.


 

They will honor him in their heart as if he were a god
And send him to his dear homeland in a ship
With gifts of bronze, gold, and fabrics in such abundance
As Odysseus would never had taken from Troy
If he had arrived home unscathed with his share of booty.
(Od. 5.36-40)

Such is Zeus’s prediction of Odysseus’s fate among the Phaeacians.  And guest gifts are a phenomenon not only well-known to Classicists, but a concept that has had an impact on anthropological thought for nearly a century — at least since the publication in L’Année Sociologique of Marcel Mauss’s “Essai sur la donne” in 1925 —  and, through it, on the interpretation of patterning in archaeological data.  Mauss demonstrated that in pre-modern exchange systems there were obligations to give and receive, but especially to reciprocate in the presentation of gifts, practices deeply embedded in social systems.  In the field of archaeology, gift exchange has been seen, prominently since the 1970s, as a mechanism that accounts for distributions of material goods (e.g., T.K. Earle and J.E. Ericson eds., Exchange Systems in Prehistory, New York 1977), and studies of the cultural biographies of exchanged artifacts have been popular (A. Appadurai, The Social Life of Things, Cambridge 2013).

This post is not, however, concerned with archaeological finds, but rather with the histories of a few mementos owned by two of the most famous Greek prehistorians of the 20th century, Alan Wace and Carl Blegen, best friends and colleagues,“the Govs” as they called themselves  (see Y. Fappas, “The ‘Govs’ of Mycenaean Archaeology: The Friendship and Collaboration of Carl W. Blegen and Alan J. B. Wace as Seen through Their Correspondence,” in J.L. Davis and N. Vogeikoff, eds., Carl W. Blegen: Personal and Archaeological Narratives, Atlanta 2015, pp. 63-84).  The copies of Mycenaean artifacts that I consider here have sometimes been thought to have been material manifestations of their friendships, mutually reciprocated gifts.  But were they really? Read the rest of this entry »


Exploring the Relationship of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens with the Greek Omogeneia in the United States in the 1940s.

In 1947, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) produced a color movie titled Triumph over Time; it was directed by the archaeologist Oscar Broneer and produced by the numismatist Margaret E. Thompson with the aid of Spyros Skouras (1893-1971), the Greek American movie mogul and owner of Twentieth Century Fox (see Spyros Skouras Papers at Stanford University). Triumph over Time portrays Greece rebounding from World War II and the staff of the ASCSA preparing archaeological sites for presentation to postwar tourists. The film was made to promote the first postwar financial campaign of the ASCSA, the direct goal of which was to increase its capital and finance the continuation of the Athenian Agora Excavations. Indirectly, the ASCSA was hoping to contribute to the rehabilitation of Greece by providing employment for the Greek people and by promoting the economic self-sufficiency of Greece by developing the country’s tourist assets (Vogeikoff-Brogan 2007).

Oscar Broneer, ca. 1938. ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

Triumph over Time begins with a brief overview of impressive Greek antiquities, such as the citadels of Mycenae and Tiryns and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, before continuing with rare ethnographic material capturing parts of rural Greece that no longer exist. It then moves from the Greek countryside to the buildings of the ASCSA, especially the Gennadius Library with its rare treasures. The story then covers the ASCSA’s two most important projects, the excavations at the Athenian Agora and at Ancient Corinth, explaining all stages of archaeological work. The documentary ends with a hopeful note that financial support of the ASCSA’s archaeological work will contribute to an increase in tourism so that this major source of revenue for Greece’s economy can “restore stability and well-being to this simple pastoral land.”

Stills from Triumph Over Time

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Francis H. Bacon: Bearer of Precious Gifts from the Dardanelles

I first came to know Bacon’s name when, as a student of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) in 1989-1990, I was asked to report on the Assos Excavations during the School’s trip to Asia Minor. Assos, an affluent, ancient Greek city in the Çanakkale Province and a colony of Lesbos, is known for having erected the only Doric temple in Asia Minor, where the dominant style was Ionic. Francis Henry Bacon (1856-1940) was the architect of the excavations, which were funded by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and took place from 1881 to 1883, as well as one of the three co-authors (with Clarke and Koldewey) of a final publication that was not completed until 1921. Although Bacon’s name appears second, the publication would not have appeared without his dedication and persistence. Joseph T. Clarke (1856-1920) had given up on it long before, and Robert J. Koldewey (1855-1925) had dedicated most of his life to uncovering Babylon.

In 1878, Francis H. Bacon and Joseph T. Clarke bought a sailboat, the “Dorian,” in London and sailed to Athens by way of Holland, the Rhine, the Danube, the Black Sea, and the Aegean. Here a self-sketch by Bacon while examining a marble lekythos at the National Archaeological Museum. Source: MIT Libraries, Institute Archives and Special Collections.

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On Finding Inspiration in Small Things: The Story of a Pencil Portrait

My story begins six years ago when we inventoried Bert H. Hill’s collection of photos at the item level. Among the images were early portraits of Hill when he was a little boy, and later, a handsome young man. A graduate of the University of Vermont (B.A. 1895) and Columbia University (M.A. 1900), Hill subsequently attended the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or the School hereafter) as a fellow for two years (1901-1903). He then secured a job as the Assistant Curator of Classical Antiquities at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (1903-1905) and lecturer at Wellesley College where he taught classes in sculpture.  Bert Hodge Hill (1874-1958) was only 32 years old when he was appointed director of the ASCSA in 1906, a position he held until 1926.

Bert Hodge Hill, ca. 1910s. ASCSA Archives, Bert H. Hill Papers.

While processing the images my eye fell on a small portrait (12 x 9 cm) that was not a print but instead a well-executed drawing of Hill’s profile in pencil. On the back, Hill had scribbled “Huybers” and “BHH”.  An initial web search for “Huybers artist” produced four of his pencil sketches in the Harvard Art Museums, a gift from George Demetrios in 1933 (keep the name in mind); the artist was identified as John A. Huybers.

Portrait of Bert Hodge Hill by John A. Huybers, ca. 1915-1920. ASCSA Archives, Bert H. Hill Papers.

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Schliemann’s Culinary Adventures in Italy

Heinrich Schliemann, a man of the world, ca. 1870. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

A day does not go by in the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) without an inquiry about the Heinrich Schliemann Papers. More than one third of the collection has been digitized and made available for research online; still, these inquiries keep coming from all over the world, including destinations as remote as Japan and Cuba.  Though unquestionably a legendary figure, Schliemann’s popularity is largely due to the richness of his personal archive, which remains an inexhaustible source of information for a wide range of audiences: historians, archaeologists, fiction and non-fiction writers, even film producers. (I have written about Schliemann before [Schliemann of Troy: The Story of a Linguistic Genius] and have hosted two posts by Curtis Runnels [Who Went to Schliemann’s Wedding? and, “All Americans Must Be Trojans at Heart”: A Volunteer at Assos in 1881 Meets Heinrich Schliemann], the author of The Archaeology of Heinrich Schliemann: An Annotated Bibliographic Handlist [2007].)

To the rich list of books and articles that have been written about Schliemann I would like to add the recent publications by Umberto Pappalardo, who has been studying Schliemann’s activities in Napoli and on the island of Motya, and Massimo Cultraro’s new book with the sibylline title L’ ultimo sogno dello scopritore di Troia: Heinrich Schliemann e l’ Italia (1858-1890). Before them, in 2012, Elizabeth Shepherd published a comprehensive article about Schliemann’s wanderings in Italy in the fall/winter of 1875, especially his interest in the site of Populonia. Schliemann travelled to Italy seven times, first as a tourist (1858), and later, especially after the discovery of Troy (1871-1873), as a celebrity and potential excavator. He even drew his last breath in the streets of Naples one morning in December 1890. Yet, until recently, Schliemann’s Italian days remained understudied. Read the rest of this entry »


Connecting the Dots: Peripheral Figures in the History of the American School of Classical Studies. The Case of R. S. Darbishire.

Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” Archives is all about connecting the dots. When processing archival material, you often come across documents, photos, or notes that don’t connect in any obvious way with the rest. For this reason all finding-aids have a “Miscellaneous” section.  And such is the case of R. S. Darbishire (1886-1949), a name I came upon in the Carl W. Blegen Papers several years ago, in a booklet of poems; and more recently, while going through a small box of unprocessed material from the Blegen/Hill household on Ploutarchou 9, in a set of architectural blueprints. It took me a while to connect the dots in the Darbishire puzzle.

The Elusive Mr. Darbishire

ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers

In the Blegen Papers, there is a small booklet with a collection of handwritten poems titled “Poems to Order. Thera, June 17-21, 1928. Robert Shelby Darbishire.”  The short poem on the first page is dedicated to CB:

Εξ αδοκήτο [Unforeseen]
You, when I asked, “What shall I do in Thera?”
Unexpectedly in my empty mind
Casually dropped this: “Write pretty!”
Here (unexpectedly) nought else I find.

Darbishire appears in the student list of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA, or School hereafter) for the year 1926-27; he is also thanked in the preliminary reports or final publications of a number of excavations conducted in 1927-1928: Prosymna, the Odeum at Corinth, and Olynthus.

There is very little information about Robert Shelby Darbishire on the web, and one has to type his name in various ways in order to retrieve a few scraps. Born in 1886 at Fort Meade, Florida, he was the son of Godfrey Darbishire (1853-1889) -a British surveyor and a famous rugby player, who immigrated to the States in 1883– and Ann Shelby of Chicago. Robert was unfortunate in losing his father at an early age.  Mother and son lived for a while on a farm they owned in Danville, Kentucky before they moved back to England to be near the paternal side of the family. (Darbishire’s grandfather was Robert Dukinfield Darbishire, a well-known philanthropist and biologist from Manchester.) Nevertheless, the Kentucky farm remained in the Darbishire family’s possession for a long time; mother and son would move back to it after the death of Robert Dukinfield in 1910; and Robert Shelby would retreat to the farm in various periods of his life. In fact, the family papers are deposited at the University of Kentucky Special Collections, and it is from their finding-aid that I managed to obtain good and reliable information about the Darbishires.

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