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).

Fritz S. Darrow a recent graduate from Harvard and holder of the Charles Eliot Norton Fellowship, was writing his dissertation on the history of Corinth after its destruction in 146 B.C., “a work much needed in view of the School’s excavations there.” Recently married, he had also brought to Athens his wife, May Goodall, an English girl from Bristol, who, before her marriage, had taught calisthenics in Boston. In fact, their unconventional wedding in July of 1903 at Windsor Beach, White City, looking out on Lake Ontario, had occupied the columns of many newspapers. “Wedded under an Apple Tree,” Clergyman Not Present at this Marriage,” or “Bride and Groom take the Place of Book and Minister and Marry Themselves” were some of the headlines. The St.Louis Post-Dispatch of August 9, 1903, even ran a full-page with photos of the couple and Buddhist buildings in the background. The subheading clued in the reader that the unusual ceremony was due to the fact that both Fritz and May were Theosophists. Founded in the late 19th century by Russian immigrant Helena Blavatsky, theosophy is defined as a new religious movement that drew from Neoplatonism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. 

The next “wax figure” to appear in the show was Sappho enacted by Margery K. Welsh (1880-1960), a student from the British School of Archaeology. “Miss Welch was Sappho, all in a white Grecian costume (otherwise a sheet) with a lyre. She had to throw herself off a crag and then be set up on her crag again ready for next time.” With a B.A. from Newnham College, Welsh spent several months in Greece in 1903-04 studying portraits and honorific statues which she published as an article the following year.

Sappho’s act was followed by that of a famous couple, Lord Byron and the Maid of Athens, also known as Zoe, since the last line of each stanza in Byron’s famous poem “Maid of Athens” ends with “Ζωή μου σας αγαπώ” (My life, I love you). “Mrs. Darrow and Hastings were Ζώη μου and Lord Byron. She was in native Greek costume (borrowed for the occasion) and he in more or less Byronian attire. She had a heart of pasteboard covered with red paper which she was thrusting toward him repeatedly while he as often raised his arms to seize it.” Of Mrs. Darrow, the newlywed bride of Fritz Darrow, I have written above. Her real-life Byron was Harold Ripley Hastings, a second-year student at the School and a Fellow of the Archaeological Institute. Unknown to me was that Hastings was studying material from Harriet Boyd’s excavations in Kavousi in 1900. According to Heermance’s annual report, “Hastings […] was busy in the early part of the year on some original material contained in a Bronze Age deposit from Avgo (near Kavousi) in Crete” (AR 1903-04, 20).

“Then came Battle, really the most comical figure of the lot. He was the infant Heracles strangling the serpents. He is smooth-shaven and quite bald and was simply killing in his baby dress with pink ribbons at the neck. We rigged up a cradle with the library wood box and excavation comfortables and the fact that it was a snug fit made it all the funnier. The serpents were constructed by Mrs. Fowler and were very effective” scribbled Heermance. A professor of Classics at the University of Texas (UT), William James Battle (1870-1955) was one of the older members of the group.

Baby Herakles was followed by Columbus. “Caskey was Columbus and devised himself a most fetching costume with red bands on doublet and trousers and an ermine cloak –someone’s golf cape with canton flannel inside spotted with ink. He had an egg which was flattened below to stand alone on a table. His acting was the best of anybody’s.”

Lacey Davis Caskey (1880-1944), a graduate of Yale and a Fellow at the School, was working on a dictionary of technical words used in Greek architecture and building. He also completed an inventory of inscriptions found in the Corinth excavations until then (383 in number) and brought up to date the collection of squeezes (AR 1903-04, 25). (In the ASCSA Archives, there is a shoebox with more than 500 notecards, titled “Caskey – Heermance Catalogue of Architectural Terms, 1904.” I also wonder whether some of the Corinth squeezes housed in the ASCSA Archives form part of the collection that Caskey made in the early 1900s.)

Lacey Caskey (Columbus) and Katherine Welsh (Sappho). ASCSA Archives, Archaeological Photographic Collection.

“Next came Stevens as Miss Muffet. He is quite short and with a big hat, a white dress (it did not come together at the back, that didn’t show) and white stockings was a very pretty girl. A big spider was let down by a cord at the proper time.” Trained as an architect and apprenticed in McKim, Mead, and White, one of the best architectural firms in America, Gorham Philipps Stevens (1876-1963) was appointed as the School’s first Fellow in Architecture in 1903. Although the main reason for the creation of this new fellowship was the need to create plans for the Corinth Excavations, Heermance assigned Stevens the task of drawing the Erechtheum which was being restored by architect Nicholas Balanos. The scaffolding that had been erected about the building offered a unique opportunity for its detailed measurement and drawing in preparation of a much-desired new publication of the monument. “Everyone who has seen the drawings is loud in their praise…” Heermance reported (AR 1903-04, 22).

Gorham P. Stevens as Miss Muffet, 1903; and portrait of Stevens, 1910s. ASCSA Archives, Archaeological Photographic Collection.

“The last was a group of Agamemnon and Klytaimnestra. Agamemnon (Mr. Harold North Fowler) with royal pillow on head was discovered seated in a bath tub, covered with a sheet and holding in either hand, a sponge and a bar of soap. Klytaimnestra (Robert Cecil McMahon), in a Mycenaean skirt, stood behind with a raised double-headed axe ready to slay Agamemnon.”

Harold Fowler as Agamemnon and Robert Cecil McMahon as Klytaimnestra. ASCSA Archives, Archaeological Photographic Collection.

A professor of Greek at Case Western University, in addition to being the School’s Annual Professor that year, Harold North Fowler (1859-1955) also carried the honor of being the first student at the American School in 1882-1883. (Thanks to Curtis Runnels and Priscilla Murray, Fowler’s notebook from his first year at the School is now part of the School’s Archives.) While in Athens he lectured in the museums twice a week on sculpture, “but deliberately curtailed his course because ‘there seemed to me to be too many lectures’-a belief with which Heermance heartily concurred. ‘The lecture-going habit of the American student is notorious in Athens.’ Heermance expressed himself as strongly in favor of ‘independent research’” (Lord 1947, 110-111). I suspect that there must have been more to these statements but I don’t know what. Perhaps another sculpture specialist from the English or German schools competing with Fowler? Fowler also assisted in the measurements of the Erechtheum, which also gave him the opportunity to study closely the fragments of the building’s frieze.  Robert Cecil McMahon, with a B.A. from Wesleyan and an M.A. from Columbia University, was in Athens to study the development of portraiture in Archaic Greek Art.

Special mention is given to Mrs. Jarley’s assistant, who was no other than Heermance, to his slight disappointment. “Rather to my sorrow I was picked out as Mrs. Jarley’s assistant who would go up the figures, set them on their pins when they toppled over, and when not needed for anything else kept busy oiling or dusting them. I was supposed to be willing but stupid. I should have preferred to be a wax figure, but not having any valid objections took the part assigned me. My uniform I am proud of. I had a pink stripe sewed down each trouser seam, a white coat (my old standby) with pink frogs across the front and pink stripes on the collar and sleeves and on the back wJw (for ‘Jarley’s Wax Works’). I borrowed a yachting cap of Darrow and decorated that with pink also. All together it was most fetching […]. On the coat, on each side, were further three huge buttons as big as small saucers. A folding collar turned up made a collar as high as my ears” Heermance described himself with a touch of gusto.

Fritz Darrow (Xerxes), Harold Hastings (Lord Byron) and May Darrow (Zoe), and Theodore Heermance at the back (assistant of wJw, namely, Jarley’s Wax Works). ASCSA Archives, Archaeological Photographic Collection.

Theodore Woolsey Heermance, a graduate of Yale (1893), had already spent two years at the School from 1894 to 1896. After finishing his doctorate in 1898, he was made Instructor in Classical Archaeology at Yale and was serving in that position at the time of his appointment to the School as Secretary in 1902-1903.  In 1903 he had started his five-year term as director.

Although the performance was staged in the library, the photos were taken on the roof of the Director’s House, most likely before, in order to make use of the natural light. Amateur interior photography was notoriously difficult for the largest part of the 20th century.

Mrs. Jarley’s Wax Works being photographed on the School’s terrace. ASCSA Archives, Archaeological Photographic Collection.
On the left side, one can see dedicatory inscription ASI 9 which was found by Charles Waldstein during excavations at Plataea in 1890, covering a grave. The inscription contains over seventy lines of which only about twenty lines are legible. ASCSA Archives, Archaeological Collection.


When looking at old photos, one is tempted to fast forward and look into the lives of the people depicted. How did they fare in life? The most unfortunate person of the eleven people in the photo was Heermance, who died of typhoid fever two years later in Athens on September 29, 1905. He was just 32 years old.

Helen Fowler, who had the idea to organize a party inspired by Mrs. Jarley’s waxworks, also died a few years later, in 1909. Her husband, Harold Fowler, continued to return to Athens for research and teaching, in addition to chairing the School’s publication committee, being the Editor of the Corinth Excavation series, and writing and revising the reports on the Erechtheum, which was not published until 1927. In 1925 he would marry the much younger painter and sculptor Mary Zay Blackford (1892-1982) and move with her to Washington D.C. where they both figured prominently in local society. Together they penned a children’s book Picture Book of Sculpture.

“In April 1962 Mrs. Harold North Fowler sent [to the School] the bronze relief head of her husband […] which she made in Cambridge in about 1925. It still hangs on the wall of the entrance hall where all who enter may be reminded not only of the distinguished career in classical studies and services to the School of its first student in 1882” wrote Lucy Shoe Meritt in the second volume of the School’s History (1984, 95).

Two months after the Christmas party, Edith Hall was invited to join Harriet Boyd’s excavations at Gournia. This was a defining moment in Hall’s academic career since she would carry on in Boyd’s steps, directing more excavations in East Crete (Sphoungaras in 1910 and Vrokastro in 1912) and pursuing a career in archaeology.

Upon her return to England in 1904, Margery Welsh married Augustus Moore Daniel and moved to Rome for a few years, while Daniel was the librarian at the British School at Rome. He later served as Director of the National Gallery in London (1929-1932) [Gill 2002].

Harold Hastings, who played Lord Byron, opted for a career in the insurance business after getting his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Lacey Caskey and Gorham Stevens, Columbus and Miss Muffet respectively in Mrs. Jarley’s waxworks, would continue their association with the American School, especially Stevens who served as Director both of the American Academy in Rome (1912-1932) and of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1939-1946), and whose drawings formed the core of the Erechtheum publication in 1927. Lacey Caskey’s son, John (Jack), became a famous field archaeologist excavating two major prehistoric sites, Lerna and Kea, and served as the School’s Director from 1949 to 1959.

Baby Heracles, William Battle, taught classical languages at the University of Texas for more than four decades. Battle Hall at UT was named for him. Robert Cecil McMahon, the funny Klytaimnestra, made a career as a book dealer and an authority on classical books before dying of mastoiditis in 1929 at the age of 49.

I left the Darrows for the end. They continued to make the headlines in newspapers with their unconventional lifestyle and their sensational divorce.  In 1910, Fritz sued Drury College for having been fired because of his religious beliefs. “Prof. Darrow alleges that he was expelled from his professorship without cause and that he was slanderously accused in sermons and other public statements and was called an ‘atheist’ and ‘scatter-brained.’ He fixes the actual damages at $10,000 and demands $40,000 punitive damages” (St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 3, 1910). The case did not conclude until 1914 when the Missouri Supreme Court held that Darrow had not been slandered. Although Drury had become nonsectarian (in order to take advantage of the Carnegie Foundation teacher’s pension fund), the judge claimed that they were “yet unable to conceive of the avowal by a college teacher of devotion to a cult such as theosophy…”.

Meanwhile, Fritz and May had already moved to California where they joined a colony of theosophists run by Katherine Tingley at Point Loma (Lomaland). In early 1917, the local newspapers in California were occupied with the sensational Darrow divorce, running headings such as “Denials Mark Darrow Trial,” “The Correspondent Tells of Point Loma Affairs” and featuring photos of May Darrow and her “rival” Alice Pierce in a love triangle. Fritz was forced to depart from the community and also lose custody of his children after his divorce in 1918 ( Kirkley 1997; Ashcraft 2002).

The Darrow divorce as described by the Los Angeles Times, Jan. 30, 1917.

I was able to track down Darrow again a year before his death in 1929. “Girl of Three Killed in Bed by Lightning. Daughter of Business School Head Shocked by Bolt at Summer Home” was reported in the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), Aug. 29, 1928. Following his divorce Fritz moved back to the East Coast, remarried, not Alice Pierce from his Point Loma days, and started a new life heading the Darrow School of Business. Less than a year after his daughter’s death, Fritz Darrow, the mighty King Xerxes of Mrs. Jarley’s waxworks, died of heart failure at the age of 47.


Ashcraft, W. M. 2002. The Dawn of the New Cycle: Point Loma Theosophists and American Culture, Knoxville.

Chapman, M. M., 1992.  “Living pictures”: Women and tableaux vivants in nineteenth-century American fiction and culture (Diss. University of Cornell).

Gill, D. W. J. 2002. “’The Passion of Hazard’: Women at the British School at Athens Before the First World War,” BSA 97, 491-510.

Kirkley, E. A. 1997. “Starved and Treated Like Convicts” San Diego Historical Society Quarterly 43:1 (

Lord, L. E. 1947. A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 1882-1942, Cambridge, Mass.

Meritt, L. S. 1984. History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 1939-1980, Princeton.

The Cretan Enigma


In February 2022, Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University, and his wife Priscilla Murray, an anthropologist and Classical archaeologist, contributed to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story (The Cretan Idyll of Harriet Boyd and Charles Henry Hawes) about their purchase of a sketchbook from the early 20th century with watercolors depicting places and people on Crete. At the time, they identified Charles Henry Hawes as the owner of the sketchbook. Soon after their essay was published, they received a communication that cast doubt on the identity of the owner. After doing more research, they felt that they should publish an addendum to their previous essay, in order to let people know that they were probably wrong in their identification, and also open the floor for further discussion concerning the ownership of this precious item.

At a dinner in London in the nineteenth century, the social scientist Herbert Spencer is reported to have said that he had once composed a tragedy, to which the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley quickly replied “I know what it was about: an elegant theory killed by a nasty, ugly little fact.”  Our blog “The Cretan Idyll of Harriet Boyd and Charles Henry Hawes” is such a tragedy.  From circumstantial evidence we had concluded that a sketchbook in our collection was once owned by Charles Henry Hawes.  But now archaeologist Vasso Fotou, who has a copy of Henry’s diary for the spring of 1905, has informed us that the dates in our sketchbook for that time period and the ones in Henry’s diary do not match.  That fact proves that the sketchbook was not owned by Henry.

On the dates of the paintings and other sketches of the Aegean islands between Siteia and Athens in the sketchbook, Henry was on Crete.  He had been on Crete for a few days when a group of attendees of the First International Congress of Archaeology in Athens, including Harriet Boyd, Sir Arthur Evans, and twelve others arrived in Candia aboard the chartered yacht Astrapi on April 13.   Henry visited Harriet at Gournia on April 20, however, and not on April 16 as we had thought, and he remained in Crete after the Astrapi returned to Athens.

The dates in the sketchbook for 1905 suggest a short trip to Crete, and we now believe that it belonged to one of the twelve passengers on the Astrapi.  The yacht continued on to the Bay of Mirabello and Siteia, allowing some of the passengers to visit the excavations at Gournia and Palaikastro before the yacht returned to Athens via the islands.  Who was in that party of travelers and who could have been the owner?  And which of these people is also responsible for the paintings, pencil drawings, and other pictures in New England in 1915 and 1916?  It should be noted that the artworks in the sketchbook for both periods are of highly variable quality, and two pencil drawings (one of a sculpture of Heracles in the Mykonos Museum dated to April 20, and one undated portrait of the head of a man who might be Henry) are pasted into the sketchbook and are possibly from a different book.  Did more than one person paint or draw in the book? 

Insert undated pencil sketch, possibly of Charles Henry Hawes

While the sketchbook was not Henry’s, we nevertheless know that the conference visitors were acquainted with Harriet and probably also with Henry whom they would have met on the side trip to Palaikastro where he was excavating.  The acquaintance of the sketchbook owner with the Hawes may have been renewed in New England in 1915/1916 and it is possible that some of the portraits in the book are of Henry, Harriet, and their children after all.

We have considered two “suspects,” perhaps Edith Hall or Gisela Richter, both of whom were in Harriet’s circle and both of whom were on Crete in 1905 and who subsequently lived in the U.S. on the east coast in 1915/1916.  Unfortunately, in the absence of any evidence tying either one of them to the sketchbook we can only speculate that one of these women, both close friends with Harriet, could be the sketchbook owner.

Recalling a Museum Theft

“Sadly, the best candidate for him, the beautifully carved [head] 3, facing right, was stolen from the Agora’s dig house in 1955, while the Stoa of Attalos was under construction.” This sentence caught my attention while reading “Classical Sculpture from the Athenian Agora, Part 2: The Friezes of the Temple of Ares (Temple of Athena Pallenis),” published in Hesperia 88 (2019) by Andrew Stewart and seven co-authors (E. Driscoll, S. Estrin, N. J. Gleason, E. Lawrence, R. Levitan, S. Lloyd-Knauf, and K. Turbeville). Further below in the catalog entry for the head, the exact date of the theft is also mentioned: August 22, 1955.

Stewart et al. refer to a fragmentary male head of high craftsmanship that was found in the Athenian Agora near the northeast corner of the Temple of Ares in 1933. Carved around 430-425 B.C. and identified as Hermes, the small head (H.: 0.147m) is one of forty-nine half-size marble fragments which once decorated the friezes of the Temple of Ares in the Agora (originally the Temple of Athena Pallenis at Pallene). A plan of the Agora with the findspots of the sculptures is included in the Hesperia article, and is also available at

Some of the marble heads that belong to one of the friezes of the Temple of Ares at the Athenian Agora. Source: Stewart et al. 2019.
Proposed reconstruction of one of the friezes of the Temple of Ares by the authors of Stewart et al. 2019.

Thefts occur in even the best guarded museums and libraries.  Every institution has its own story (or stories) to share or hide. And at least some thefts are committed by those who have “hands-on” access to the collections. A recent example was the return of two valuable journals of Charles Darwin, which were stolen two decades ago from the library of Cambridge University. Others remain lost–the paintings stolen from the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990, or the Telephus head, an original by Skopas, removed from the Tegea Museum in 1992.

But back to the little head of Hermes that was inventoried as S 305. I was curious to discover more about its theft. A search in the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) yielded considerable information about the event and its aftermath.

On September 6, 1955, the School’s Director, John L. Caskey, found himself in the unpleasant position of reporting to the Chair of the Managing Committee, Charles H. Morgan, that “one of the fine small marble heads from the Altar of Ares in the Agora was stolen recently. You will remember that a series of these heads was on a window sill in the inner courtyard. The head was twisted out of its plaster base. The loss was reported to the Ephor, the Symvoulion discussed it (not unsympathetically, according to George Mylonas), the police were notified, and small notices appeared in the papers. Modiano, who is very alert, picked it up immediately and put a bit in the Times of London. I wonder whether the story reached America. There’s nothing more we can do except, as Homer [Thompson] says, hurry up and move to the Stoa” (AdmRec Box 318/5, folder 8). [The photo on the left and its title are reproduced from Stewart et al. 2019.]

There was a delay of about two weeks between the theft (August 22) and Caskey’s report to Morgan because the School’s Director was not informed immediately. Apparently the staff members of the Agora were slow to convey the news either to the School’s Director or to the Ephor of the Acropolis, John Meliades. Eugene Vanderpool, who was in charge of the Agora Excavations when its Director Homer Thompson was in America, wrote to Thompson on August 29 (seven days after the theft). “Meliades came down this morning and I told him all the details. He was sympathetic and helpful. Later in the morning I took him a written account of the affair drawn up by Kyriakides [Aristeides Kyriakides was the School’s lawyer]… [and] I enclosed several pictures” (Homer A. Thompson Papers, box 68, folder 4).  

John (Jack) Caskey, Charles Morgan, Ward Canaday, Homer Thompson in the inner court of the Agora dig house ca. 1955. ASCSA Archives.

Since the head had never been published, Meliades urged Vanderpool “to publish it as soon as possible so as to make public the claim to it.” The next day Vanderpool supplied journalist Makis Lekkas of Vima (BHMA) and Nea (NEA) with a short text and a photo which gave the appearance that the Hermes’ head had just been found during cleaning operations in the area of the Temple of Ares. Vanderpool further suggested to Thompson that the theft should be included in the School’s Annual Report, “so that it will become known in the scholarly world. Then if an attempt is made to sell it to a museum it can be identified. Meliades tells me that if a foreign museum buys it, the Greek Gov[ernmen]t can reclaim it as stolen property under existing international agreements.” As planned, on August 31, a short piece appeared at NEA, titled “Σημαντικά ευρήματα εις την Αρχαίαν Αγοράν” (Important finds at the Ancient Agora).

Meliades immediately reported the theft to the Archaeological Council. An off-the-record note by Mylonas, who was present at the Council’s meeting, suggested that members were understanding and “that while it was too bad, such things do happen occasionally.” The Minister of Education, who presided over the Council, personally telephoned the police and reported the theft (Homer A. Thompson Papers, box 68, folder 4, Vanderpool to Thompson, Sept. 1, 1955).

The Cat’s Out of the Bag

Just as he was about to mail his letter, Vanderpool rushed to add a last-minute postscript: “It looks as though the cat were out of the bag. Today’s NEA reports the theft, having gotten it from police bulletin. Modiano [the Greek correspondent in London] called up at 12.10 for more details… and it will be in London Times.” On September 2, the London Times published a note together with a photo of the stolen head: “500 B.C. Bust Stolen from Museum.” By then the Director of the School must have also found out about the theft although there is no mention of Caskey in the dispatches that Vanderpool sent to Thompson or in all their dealings with the Archaeological service. 

After that initial interest, the press dropped the matter quickly, but not the Archaeological Service. On September 9, Spyridon Marinatos, Director of Antiquities, Christos Karouzos, Director of the National Archaeological Museum, and Ephor John Meliades visited the “scene of the crime” and met with Vanderpool. Three days later Caskey received an official reprimand signed by the Minister of Education, Achilleas Gerokostopoulos. In it, the School was accused of having inexcusably delayed, almost by a week, in informing the Service of the theft. As a result, the police had lost valuable time. The School was also reproached for not storing such a prime piece of sculpture in a safer location; instead it was in an exposed and unsecure location. Finally, by not publishing it for twenty-two years, the School had made repatriation more difficult in case it had already been smuggled outside Greece (Homer A. Thompson Papers, box 111 folder 1, enclosed in a letter from Caskey to Thompson, Sept. 16, 1955).

John Meliades (1895-1975). Source: Chatzi 2018, 56.

“The School gets a black eye out of this, which could have been avoided if we had reported the loss to Meliades at once. In the future I’d like to hear from the Agora staff immediately whenever anything happens that may affect our standing or relations with the officials and the local public,” Caskey rebuked Thompson. The rest of Caskey’s letter referred to the animosities between Greece and Turkey “over the Cyprus business,” and the progress that had been made concerning the reconstruction of the Stoa of Attalos: “The fluting of the eight columns is a fine sight.”

Morgan writing to Vanderpool from the other side of the Atlantic was more sympathetic about the theft. “It is a pity it has gone. I remember it well and believed it to be by one of the sculptors of the Parthenon frieze. Unfortunately this is the kind of thing that happens in the best of regulated museums, one of these things that no number of special guards or protective devices can entirely obviate… such as Princeton three years ago with three Rembrandt prints stolen during a commencement exhibition” (AdmRec 318/5 folder 8, September 13, 1955).

Eugene Vanderpool (1906-1989) lecturing at the Agora excavations, Dec. 1951. ASCSA Archives, Martha Heath Wiencke Papers

There is one last mention of the stolen head in the School’s records. On September 24, 1955, Vanderpool writing again to Thompson referred to some fake news about the missing head: “A clue which led to the Elsa Maxwell cruise proved false. Someone on the cruise had indeed bought a small head but it was not ours. It is a long and rather amusing story. Dick [Richard Hubbard] Howland knows it and would be glad to tell it if he sees you. I may write it someday.” Vanderpool also added that the Agora staff had “closed the courtyard to the general public: too bad, but really much better so” (Homer A. Thompson Papers, box 68, folder 4).

Maxwell (1883-1963) was a famous gossip columnist who was known for entertaining high-society guests at her parties and being friends with celebrities such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas. In late August 1955 Maxwell together with actress Olivia de Havilland organized a 15-day cruise in the Aegean for 113 members of European royalty and other high-society types, aboard the luxury yacht Achilleus, lent by the Greek shipping magnate, Stavros Niarchos. Although Maxwell’s cruise was not connected to the theft, cruise boats or merchant ships were the main vehicles for smuggling antiquities out of Greece before and after WW II, including the famous New York kouros in the Metropolitan Museum.

Eight Months Later and a Riddle

In search of more information about the stolen marble head, I continued to read correspondence between Caskey and Morgan, whose main concern was the progress of work on the Stoa of Attalos and plans for its inauguration in the late summer of 1956. There I came across a letter titled “Confidential” that Morgan sent to Caskey on May 15, 1956 soon after the May Meeting of the School’s Managing Committee (AdmRec 318/5 folder 9). While in New York, Morgan paid a visit to Christine Alexander (1893-1975), Curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum. Morgan was on a mission (sent by Caskey) to see Alexander about a delicate matter, the return to Greece of some object. “Not knowing exactly what approach to take I said ‘I am at your service if you need me’.” Morgan was surprised not so much by the position Alexander took but “from the indomitable conviction with which she spoke.” “Her opinion is that the Metropolitan bought the article in good faith, that the Metropolitan’s funds are charitable funds, invested for the benefit of the people of New York, that it would be improper to ask the citizens of New York to pay for the carelessness of a local museum.” For a moment I wondered if they were talking about the Agora marble head.

But then Alexander further pressed her arguments by pointing out “that the figure had not been published in anything that seems to have reached this country [America], that when the figure was stolen, though everyone knows that such material drifts to the New York market, no notification was received by the Metropolitan nor so far she [knew] by any other museum or private collector.” It was obvious that she was talking about something else, a figure, not a head, that had been stolen from a Greek museum.

Morgan tried to counteract her arguments by saying that if he were a Trustee of the Metropolitan faced with such a problem “I would immediately dig into my own pocket and the pockets of my fellow Trustees to reimburse the city for the cost of the figure and restore it to its original position.” He further added that “this was the time for American institutions to make such gestures and [he] would strongly advise that it be done with the greatest possible attendant publicity.

To which Alexander strongly disagreed believing that it would have had the opposite effect. “Well, we made the rascals give up the swag” Morgan quoted her saying. Morgan promised Caskey that he would continue to press the matter: “I will do everything I can to effect what seems to me a solution indicated morally if not legally.”

I found Caskey’s response in Morgan’s files. In a long letter written from Lerna on May 27, 1956, about a host of issues concerning the reconstruction of the Stoa of Attalos, Caskey finally came to the matter of dispute with the Metropolitan Museum.

I consider it of the greatest importance that the piece be returned. I had not supposed for a minute that there could be any doubt about that. It was published in an extensive study with three clear photographs… And if the funds of the people of New York were misspent by accident –for goodness sake that is no reason for being righteous.

AdmRec 310/14, folder 10, Caskey to Morgan, May 27, 1956

The School’s good name was at risk: “… unless the bronze is returned promptly and gracefully, the good name of American archaeologists in Greece, and so of the School, is going to suffer a sharp blow. The French acted just right, asking no credit for returning the bronze that had been stolen (by others, of course) from Samos; and they received a lot of credit and good will from the Greek Ministry, and archaeologists. By contrast, we should look worse than Elgin,” concluded Caskey.

But what was the apple of discord? The only bronze figure that the Met acquired in 1955 was a small Hellenistic statuette of a rider wearing an elephant cap, and this seemed to have originated from Egypt. It does not seem that this was the figure that Greece wanted back and the Met refused to return. I have not been able to solve the riddle of the bronze figure. It also appears that the issue had not been resolved by April 1957, when Caskey, in another letter to Morgan, confessed that “just now I have had to report failure in my attempt to intercede in the matter of the missing work of art, about which you know, and this news of American irresponsibility [Caskey must be referring to the Met] made a really dismal impression on my Greek colleagues” (AdmRec 318/6, folder 2, April 18, 1957).

Bronze statuette of a rider wearing an elephant hide in the Metropolitan Museum. Source: Met Collection API.


Although seemingly unrelated, the two cases point to the widening gap between art historians staffing American museums and field archaeologists, such as Caskey and Morgan, working in Greece in the 1950s. The former still operated under 19th century colonial terms, while the latter, especially Caskey, understood that following WW II there was a new world order in Greece to be taken into account and respected, despite his father having been Curator of Classical Art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Although even he occasionally found the situation frustrating, he observed that both leftist archaeologists such as Meliades and conservatives such as Marinatos were justified in their belief that the foreign schools continued to be unreasonably critical of the work of their Greek colleagues.

It is of course easy enough for the [foreign] schools to criticize the Greek service in turn and point out its weaknesses, as well as the good that the foreigners do for Greece. But ultimately the Greeks are right; this is their country and they must make their own decisions.

Caskey confided to Morgan in late 1956 (AdmRec 318/6, folder 1, December 29, 1956)

As for stolen antiquities, such as the Hermes head from the Agora, the more publicity they receive the better it is. It is unclear how widely news of this loss circulated in 1955. Besides the short note in the London Times, I could not find a single reference in the database. The first time that a photo of the Hermes’ head appeared in a scholarly publication was in 1986 (Harrison 1986). Even if some of the large American museums were aware of its theft in the late 1950s, it is almost certain that, as curatorial staff retired or died (and with them institutional memory), the Hermes head moved from the top of the museums’ “hot list” to the bottom, when its photo was transferred to some institutional archive as an inactive record. It is laudable that the authors of the recent Hesperia article flagged its lost status several times in their essay. It remains out there somewhere, waiting to be repatriated to Greece.


Chatzi, G. (ed.) 2018. Γιάννης Μηλιάδης. Γράμματα στην Έλλη. Αλληολγραφία με την Έλλη Λαμπρίδη 1915-1937, Athens.

Harrison, E.B. 1986. “The Classical High-Relief Frieze from the Athenian Agora,” in Archaische und klassische griechische Plastik. Akten des internationalen Kolloquiums vom 22.–25. April 1985 in Athen 2: Klassische griechische Plastik, ed. H. Kyrieleis, Mainz, pp. 109–117.

Stewart, A., E. Driscoll, S. Estrin, N.J. Gleason, E. Lawrence, R. Levitan, S. Lloyd-Knauf, K. Turbeville, 2019. “Classical Sculpture from the Athenian Agora, Part 2: The Friezes of the Temple of Ares (Temple of Athena Pallenis),” Hesperia 88:4, pp. 625-705.

The Charioteer of Delphi in the Clutches of WW II


Alexandra Kankeleit, an archaeologist who specializes in the study of Roman mosaics, has also been part of an extensive project of the German Archaeological Institute (Athens and Berlin), titled The History of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens during the National Socialist Era. As part of the project, she has examined a host of bibliographic and archival sources in both countries that document activities of German archaeologists in Greece from 1933 until 1944. Here she contributes an essay about the adventures of the Delphi Charioteer during the German Occupation in Greece.

The Charioteer of Delphi (Ο Ηνίοχος των Δελφών) is one of the best-preserved and most important bronze statues of ancient Greece. Since its discovery in 1896, it has been one of the main attractions of the Archaeological Museum in Delphi. As a symbol of ancient civilization and the eventful history of Greece, it is still a frequently recurring motif in the visual and performing arts (Figs. 1-2).

Fig. 1. Film still from “Ο Ηνίοχος” by Alexis Damianos (1996).
Fig. 2. Scene from a video game about the Oracle of Delphi.

During the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, the Charioteer was promoted together with the Discobolus of Myron and the Boxer of the Quirinal as the prototype of the Greek athlete in antiquity (see Olympia Zeitung 3, July 23, 1936, p. 46). Thus, his face adorned the covers of catalogs and propaganda material circulated in 1936 on the occasion of the Olympiad (Figs. 3-4).

Figs. 3-4. Publication “Sport der Hellenen” (Sport of the Hellenes) by Carl Blümel with a photograph by Hermann Wagner; and catalogue “Olympische Kunstausstellung Berlin, 15. Juli – 16. August 1936” (Olympic Art Exhibition Berlin, July 15 – August 16, 1936) with a graphic representation of the Charioteer by the Dresden artist, Willi Petzold in: “The XIth Olympic Games Berlin, 1936: Official Report, Vol. II

German scholars also increasingly turned their focus on the Early Classical masterpiece. In his Habilitation “Der Wagenlenker von Delphi” (The Charioteer of Delphi), the archaeologist Roland Hampe (1908-1981) pursued his goal of reducing the many “ambiguities, misunderstandings, differences of opinion” concerning the monumental bronze group. His manuscript was completed in August 1939 and published as a monograph in 1941 (Hampe 1941).

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The Cretan Idyll of Harriet Boyd and Charles Henry Hawes


Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University and an expert in Palaeolithic archaeology in Greece, and his wife Priscilla Murray, an anthropologist and Classical archaeologist, here contribute to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story about their purchase of a sketchbook from the early 20th century with watercolors depicting places and people on Crete.

We visited an antiquarian bookfair in Concord, New Hampshire, about twelve years ago and a booth belonging to a dealer from Vermont, who specialized in original artwork, caught our eye.  Sorting through piles of miscellaneous materials, we found a few things relating to Greece, and a small (8 by 4 inches; 20 x 10 cm) artist’s sketchbook grabbed our attention.  It was displayed on a table opened to a watercolor view that seemed familiar.  Surely it was the entrance to the harbor at Herakleion on Crete!  And indeed, penciled in one corner was the inscription “Candia,” the older name for the city which both confirmed the identification and provided a clue that the sketchbook, as dealers in antiques like to say, “had some age.”  There were other artworks in the sketchbook that are dated to April 1905, and still others with various dates in 1915, and one dated to 1916.  The artwork from 1905 was the most interesting for us.  Turning the pages of the sketchbook we saw line drawings of dancers at Knossos and a man drawing water from a well in Siteia, pastels of houses labeled Knossos and “Sitia, as well as watercolors and line drawings of Mykonos, Ios, and other Cycladic islands, Sounion, and Athens.  The unknown artist was interested particularly in the new Minoan finds from Knossos as is evident from the line drawings of wall paintings and artifacts in the “Candia Museum.”

Although there is no artist’s signature, we guessed that the artist must be someone interesting, perhaps even someone we would recognize.  After all, how many Americans or British travelers (the fact that the titles are in English is the reason for assuming the nationality of the artist) were sufficiently interested in Knossos and the Minoans to visit Crete in 1905 at a time when there was much unrest on the island?  We bought the sketchbook and took it home to do more research. 

Watercolor of Candia
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