I first encountered the name “Canaday” in the mid-1980s when I went to Bryn Mawr College for graduate school. Although we did most of our work in the seminar rooms above the Art and Archaeology Library (now the Rhys Carpenter Library), for books and periodicals about history or classics we had to go to the “big library,” which was none other than the Mariam Coffin Canaday Library.
A few years later when I returned to Greece to participate in the regular program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA, or the School hereafter), I heard people referring to Canaday House. One of the two marble houses flanking the Gennadius Library at 61 Souidias, it housed temporarily the family of the then Director of the School William (Willy) D. E. Coulson. (The big earthquake of 1986 in Kalamata had caused damages to the Director’s residence across the street.)
Finally, in the summer of 1990, while digging at Mochlos on Crete, I met Doreen Spitzer on one of the “On-Site with The American School of Classical Studies at Athens” trips that she had been organizing for years, but without realizing that Doreen Spitzer’s maiden name was Canaday. It was only after I started working as the School’s Archivist that I became aware of Canaday Spitzer’s long legacy at the American School. Doreen Canaday Spitzer (1914-2010) served as a Trustee 1978-1996, President of the Board of Trustees 1983-1988, Trustee Emerita from 1996 and President of the Friends from 1988 until her death in 2010. (There is a thorough biographical essay about Doreen Spitzer by Catherine de Grazia Vanderpool in AKOUE 63, Fall 2010.) Her father, Ward Canaday (1885-1976), had also served as a Trustee of the School for almost four decades starting in 1937.
Spitzer also cared deeply about preserving the School’s history and supported wholeheartedly the creation of an Archives Department during her term as President of the Board. Furthermore, she would contact School members, many of whom she knew personally from her time as a student of the School in 1936-1938, to solicit their personal papers. No wonder why my formal title is the Doreen Canaday Spitzer Archivist. Needless to say that it would have pleased her immensely to see our new and enlarged facilities at the East Wing of the Gennadius Library.
1933: The First of Many Visits
Doreen first visited Greece in 1933 at the end of her freshman year at Bryn Mawr College. “In the spring of 1933, in an expansive mood, he [Ward Canaday] brought home a briefcase, stuffed with exotic travel folders, for a change. His proposal, ‘How would you like to go on the Odyssey Cruise this summer?’ struck a responsive chord in wife and daughter,” related Doreen some fifty years later in her book By One and One (Canaan, NH 1984), a fascinating book she wrote about her parents. They sailed for Europe on the Berengaria with so many trunks that there was hardly any space for them in their first class cabin. As the single offspring of Ward Canaday and Mariam Coffin, she had been raised in an affluent household with all the comforts of an upper-class society girl. Mariam described Doreen as “Too self-conscious… and spoiled. Having whatever she wants is not good for her; she will never know the spur of necessity and her talent will never flower…” (p. 201). (In order to write By One and One, Doreen had access to her mother’s dairies.) She would change her opinion in the course of time as Doreen developed into a most caring person, raising a family of four and offering her time, organizational skills, and wealth to a number of institutions. In Doreen’s albums there are a few photos documenting the family’s first experience of Greece. One of them depicts the 19 year old Doreen on the Acropolis dressed in a light-colored fine dress with a pin-on corsage. Three years later she would adopt a more comfortable attire to meet the demand of the School’s strenuous travel program.
“The Odyssey Cruise turned out to be the first of many visits to Greece. Each of us made, from the experience, an enduring commitment to that country.” Her mother, an intelligent and romantic woman with a strong depth of feeling, was mesmerized by Greece; her father, a shrewd businessman, saw a lot of potential to expand his business to that country. On Crete, Mariam “managed to have five minutes alone on the throne of Minos, to feel the atmosphere” (p. 201). On Ithaca, home of Odysseus, she craved some privacy “but I couldn’t tell Ward I wanted to be alone, he would have not understood.” In 1933, Ward Canaday (1885-1976) was on his way to becoming one of America’s most important car manufacturers. After having set up his own advertising company in the 1920s with a rich clientele that included Willys Overland Motors –a Toledo, Ohio based company, Ward managed to raise funds and obtain Willys’ full control after the crash of 1929. By 1936 “the advertising man and his lawyer [George Ritter] were in charge of a large competitive motor car manufacturing business. And Ward Canaday was to remain in this role of automobile manufacturer for nearly two decades to come,” recalled Doreen in By One and One (pp. 184-185).
1936-1938: Halcyon Days
By her senior year at Bryn Mawr Doreen had made up her mind to continue her studies at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, despite objections from her father, who worried about political instability in the Balkan peninsula. Before doing so, and as a preparation for the School’s program, she decided to participate in the School’s summer session, an island cruise led by Louis E. Lord, Professor of Classics at Oberlin College. Mariam also joined Doreen in the cruise. “Aboard the venerable Greek steamer Epiros, sixty of us –including some of the most knowledgeable classical archaeologists of the day—visited all the major island sites. The knowledgeable archaeologists Doreen is referring to included the likes of Edith Hall Dohan, the excavator of Vrokastro on Crete, Mary Hamilton Swindler, professor of Classical archaeology at Bryn Mawr College, and Gisela Richter, curator of ancient art at the Metropolitan Museum.
True to Ward’s fears, that summer Greece was experiencing a prolonged period of political turmoil which culminated in a coup d’ etat on August 4th and the ensuing regime of General Ioannis Metaxas. Yet, it is unlikely that the country’s political uncertainty affected the daily life of the Americans who lived protected in the School’s compounds at the foot of Mt. Lycabettus. The list of members for 1936-37 counts forty men and women, the majority of whom were in their late 20s or early 30s, including the School’s new director, Charles H. Morgan, just 34 years of age. Doreen embraced the School’s vigorous program with passion and devotion as her letters to her family reveal (Vanderpool 2010). We may not have her letters in the ASCSA Archives but we are fortunate to have hundreds of snapshots from the two years she lived and travelled in Greece. (The Doreen Canaday Spitzer Photographic Collection was digitized in 2015-2016 with European Community funding and is available for online research.)
Doreen’s best friend in Athens in 1936-37 was Margaret (Miggy) Hill (later Whittman). There are several photos of them together. My favorite one depicts the two girls on mules ready to cross the Langada Pass on Mount Taygetus. Another one shows them in Old Corinth, after a day’s dig. They look like young boys in their baggy trousers and long-sleeved shirts; they also look happy. Doreen had come a long way since her first journey to Greece in 1933 when she travelled the country clad in fine dresses.
When they were not travelling or digging, she and her friends played tennis in the School’s gardens, tried local food in the neighborhood, or took long rides to Glyfada.
Doreen was the only student at the School who had her own car. How could she not, when your father owned an automobile company? In 1937, Willys Motors was marketing a new product: a small, trendy car at the unbelievable price of $395. “The ads featured its dramatic parrot nose and simple airflow lines, its peppy engine and maneuverable size. Sales were brisk. For promotional purposes one was sent to Ward’s daughter in Greece where it took to the hills and the rough roads with gusto” reminisced Doreen in her book (p. 185). Doreen would also not miss a chance to capture for her father examples of Willys automobiles running in Greece –buses in most cases.
I noted above that the School in the 1930s was a bustling place full of young people. There is a group photo in one of Doreen’s albums that captures the spirit of the School during that period. She has scribbled below the photo: “The Oxford Movement.” Although the group might have dubbed itself as such for its spiritual cohesion, I wonder whether this photo was not intentionally modeled after the Bloomsbury Group. (Kostis Kourellis was the first to write about the avand-garde spirit of the American archaeologists working in Greece in the 1930s; Hesperia 76:2, 2007, pp. 391-442.) Despite the different religious and social background of the people in the photo (e.g., Saul Weinberg was Jewish, Emily Grace a communist, who is not in this photo but was part of the group, and Doreen the daughter of an industrialist), I suspect that the binding agent in the School’s “Oxford Movement” was its desire for innovation.
Doreen’s photos differ from those of Dorothy Burr Thompson. I have written elsewhere about the lyricism of Dorothy Burr’s photography and her love for the primitive. Dorothy, more than ten years older than Doreen, belonged to a generation that treated with suspicion the growing industrialism of America and looked for ways to escape it. Doreen, on the other hand, as the daughter of an industrialist, was the product of that environment. Her photography lacks lyricism; it is descriptive and factual. She was a skillful photographer, however. Her collection contains some great cityscapes which are worth showcasing in this presentation.
Occasionally she attempted some indoor photography, which was difficult before the 1960s requiring extra skills and equipment. Snapshots from interiors of houses or museums are rare in the ASCSA photographic collections. Therefore, the few that do exist have high informational value. Here is one of the interior of the old museum in Olympia (Don’t miss the little reconstruction of Paionios’s Nike next to the original.)
A Mystery Solved
In the gardens of the American School, next to the great plane tree, there is a semicircular brick construction for sitting. A marble commemorative plaque embedded at one of its ends reads: “Edward Letchworth. ΜΝΗΜΗΣ ΧΑΡΙΝ.” I have been asked several times, most recently by the School’s Director Jenifer Neils: “Who is Letchworth and what was his relationship to the School?” He remained a mystery man since we couldn’t find his name in any of the long lists published in the two Histories of the American School. The mystery was finally solved while I was reading By One and One.
Ted and Ruth Letchworth were long-time friends of the Canaday family; Doreen also implies that Ted and Mariam shared a special friendship: “The two of them had lovely times together… dinners followed by theater and on top of that, ‘dancing till two! Back to the hotel on air… Sodas in Grand Central Station before my train! Ultimo bacio!’ It was harmonious and gay and revivifying. Invariably she [Mariam] felt more kindly disposed toward the world and toward her husband after these meetings. She dog-eared the dates in her daybook. The memories sustained her spirits” (p. 222). There are also photos of Ted Letchworth in Doreen’s albums from Greece; he must have accompanied the Canadays when they came to see their daughter in the spring of 1937. Ted’s death in 1958 was devastating for Mariam. Was the plaque ordered by Mariam, or Doreen, and when? And why was it placed on that brick bench? Although the mystery of Mr. Letchworth’s identity has been solved, I am still missing pieces from this “puzzle.”
A Legacy Begins
Doreen was forced to leave Greece at the end of 1938. She would have probably stayed longer had not WW II followed. She had started to study the Roman pottery from Corinth and was planning to continue her research in European museums. A year later, while in England for a month, she would resume her friendship with an old friend, Lyman Spitzer Jr., a young astrophysicist, who would have a distinguished career at Princeton University. By 1940 they were married. While Doreen was busy raising a family of four, her father became President of the Board in 1949. “His business acumen and financial influence, his contagious energy, perseverance, the chemistry of his personality—all contributed much to the School, particularly to the revival of interest in the Athenian Agora, which had naturally been in abeyance during the war years.” It’s no exaggeration to say that without Ward Canaday the reconstruction of the Stoa of Attalus in the Athenian Agora (1956) would not have happened. Two decades later, free from motherly and elderly obligations (Mariam died in 1974, Ward in 1976) Doreen would follow in her father’s steps and become an ASCSA Trustee in 1978 (but that’s another essay).
This is a guest post by Robert L. Pounder
Robert L. Pounder, Emeritus Professor of Classics at Vassar College, here contributes a review of Barbara McManus’s posthumous book about Grace Harriet Macurdy, titled The Drunken Duchess of Vassar. Pounder, who has been conducting in-depth research on the social history of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in the 1920s-1930s, writes that Classics was “dominated by unaware, myopic, smug, unsympathetic men, men who viewed academic accomplishment by women with condescension and skepticism.” Women in academia, like Macurdy, were thought to be anomalies–a different species. Based on his work at the ASCSA Archives, Pounder has also published an essay, “The Blegens and the Hills: A Family Affair,” in Carl W. Blegen: Personal & Archaeological Narratives, ed. N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, J. L. Davis, and V. Florou, Atlanta 2015.
Born in 1866 in Robbinston, Maine, Grace Harriet Macurdy was the sixth of nine siblings whose parents had immigrated to the United States from the nearby Canadian province of New Brunswick just a year before her birth. Her father, Angus McCurdy (the spelling of the name was later changed to Macurdy because he did not want to be thought Irish) was a carpenter who barely eked out a living. After leaving his children in the care of their mother and paternal grandmother for long periods and thus improving his situation somewhat, he was able to move the family to Watertown, Massachusetts by 1870; there they grew. Watertown provided a better series of houses and slightly improved material circumstances for the Macurdy children. Moreover, they profited greatly from the guidance of their mother and grandmother, both of whom encouraged the children, including the girls, to read, write, and pursue their educations. Read the rest of this entry »
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 reviews Erik Larson’s most recent book Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LUSITANIA, and briefly reflects on the history of the ASCSA during the Great War.
“Today we learned of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine. This horrible crime will have to be paid for by Germany some day.”
Carl W. Blegen, May 9, 1915
I confess that I have long been a fan of any Erik Larson novel, from the time my mother-in-law gave me The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (2003). But did I say novel? His non-fiction tales read like novels, and The Devil is currently being made into a major motion picture (starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese). For my birthday this year, my mother-in-law Nan hit another homerun: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania — a terrific (and fast) read. (I finished it in just over two days, one of them on a trans-Atlantic flight, a suitable environment for reading about an oceanic disaster!) Read the rest of this entry »
Tom Brogan, archaeologist, Director of the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete, and a long-time resident of Greece, writes about his culinary coming of age, from the farms of Indiana and the dormitory food of an English University, to his discovery of (and falling in love with) ethnic cuisines. His recent encounter on the island of Crete with Madhur Jaffrey, the guru of Indian cuisine, prompted Tom to review two of Jaffrey’s cookbooks and his own slow path into the kitchen.
Growing up in Indiana there were very few opportunities to explore the world without leaving home. The one exception, of course, was food, but this convenience came with confusing pedigrees—Greek and Indian dishes essentially reshaped to fit Hoosier tastes. It was only later while studying in England and excavating in Greece that I learned the true scale of the problem. The food served at British Universities in 1986 was comically horrible (and I suspect still is), but it did have the unexpected benefit of forcing you to try the wonderful Asian, Indian, and Turkish restaurants—most of which tasted nothing like their Hoosier counterparts. Later while exploring the prehistory of Greece, I enjoyed a similar revelation. In a country where culinary and archaeological discoveries come hand in hand, there were surprisingly few dishes resembling those I had sampled in Greek tavernas in Indianapolis or Philadelphia. The reason was an unexpected but very real lesson in any ex-pat’s life–the frustration of trying to recreate meals from home, which lies at the heart of this story. Read the rest of this entry »
EUZONES AND POETRY: JAMES MERRILL, GREEK LOVE, AND THE MAKING OF A PULITZER-PRIZE WINNER by Jack L. DavisPosted: October 15, 2015
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 reviews Langdon Hammer’s recent biography of American poet James Merrill, focusing on the poet’s house in Athens. Merrill, who lived much of his life in Greece, left his house in Kolonaki to the American School as a bequest.
In 1945 a young undergraduate student at Amherst College met and was immediately captivated by a temporary English instructor, who became his first lover. Kimon Friar, the professor, drew James Merrill, at 20 years of age already a promising writer, into an “erotic literary apprenticeship” that was influenced both by ancient Athenian concepts of pederastia as well as the life and works of Constantine Cavafy, the Alexandrian poet. Along the way, Friar taught Merrill demotic Greek. Merrill had a gift for tongues, later even picking up Japanese as a tourist; with a fine Classical education as a foundation, he learned to speak Greek properly and deliberately, and enjoyed the language’s sound. Read the rest of this entry »
“My loves remain wine to me, yet I become too quickly bread to them”
One of Margaret Mead’s favorite phrases, inspired by Amy Lowell’s poem A Decade (1919).
I remember reading some years ago about the correspondence between anthropologists Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, which left no doubt about their erotic involvement. It must have been in a review of one of the many books that have been published in the past two decades about Margaret Mead.
Although I have never read anything by either woman, Mead’s work with the tribes of New Guinea was familiar. A recent documentary by Fraser Heston (son of Charlton Heston) about Michael Rockefeller’s disappearance on the island in 1961 rekindled my interest in New Guinea. The documentary includes film footage from 1969 that shows a white man canoeing with a Papuan tribe. It asks whether the young Rockefeller went “missing” voluntarily rather than fell victim to the cannibal instincts of the Papuans as previously suggested. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2946787/Is-proof-lost-Rockefeller-heir-joined-tribe-naked-cannibals-Picture-shows-white-man-Papuan-man-eaters-eight-years-mysterious-disappearance.html ). Read the rest of this entry »
“A Greek Author Travels to the Country of the New Myth”: The Voyage of Elias Venezis to America in 1949Posted: April 1, 2014
This essay comprises the text of a talk that I presented in the Cotsen Hall auditorium of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), April 9, 2013, at an evening devoted to novelist Elias Venezis, whose papers reside in the Archives of the Gennadius Library. The text was also published (in Greek ) in the “Athens Book Review,” in an issue dedicated to Venezis. Since my essay discusses two of Greece’s most important novelists’ impressions from their journeys to America, I thought that it also deserved to be published in English and be made available to an American audience (here, I must thank my friend and former colleague Stefanie Kennell for her wonderful translation). For half of my life I have studied and worked in a Greek-American environment; there interest lies in examining how foreigners (usually described as philhellenes) perceive(d) Greece, and it is rarely discussed, at least in the broader community of the American School, how Greeks experienced America at critical times, such as in the first decade following WW II. The two authors, Elias Venezis and Yiorgos Theotokas, traveled in America during the period of the Marshall plan and the beginning of the Cold War, just before strong anti-Americanism began developing in Greece. For both, the voyage to America was a journey to a mythical land — as implied by the title of this essay, which is drawn from the title of a talk (“Ένας Έλλην συγγραφεύς στη χώρα του νέου μύθου”) that Venezis delivered at the Greek American Cultural Institution in 1950, immediately after his return from America.
For those who are not familiar with Modern Greek Literature, I should also add a few remarks about the so-called literary “Generation of the Thirties.” As commonly employed, this term describes a group (all male) of novelists, poets, and artists, who came of age in the 1930s. These men continued to be very productive and influential in the following three decades, to the point that a myth with regenerative power was built around them, one that still aspires and inspires (Leontis 2013). Nobel-prize laureate poets Yiorgos Seferis and Odysseus Elytis, novelists Angelos Terzakis, Stratis Myrivilis, Elias Venezis and Yiorgos Theotokas, are some of the most accomplished and distinguished “members” of the “Generation of the Thirties.” The personal papers of most of them have been deposited in the Gennadius Library of the American School.
In 2009, at an event devoted to Yiorgos Theotokas and the republication of his Essay on America, I was introduced to Greek travel literature about America. Theotokas was among the first writers of the so-called “Generation of the Thirties” who visited America a few years after the end of World War II. While taking receipt of Elias Venezis’s personal papers in 2010, I came upon the manuscript of Land of America and then, in discussions with the author’s daughter, Anna Venezi Kosmetatou, I was made aware of the fact that Venezis was actually the first of the famous “Generation of the Thirties” to travel to the U.S., in 1949.
Except for Theotokas’ Essay on America (Δοκίμιο για την Αμερική), which had the good fortune to be re-published a few years ago, travel writing of this type is difficult or impossible to find on the shelves of Athenian bookstores. When I looked for Land of America at a well-known bookstore in downtown Athens, clerks told me that it was the first time they had heard that Venezis had written a book of this sort. Perhaps this is because, in the age of globalization, trips to America have lost some of the magic and myth that used to surround them. Already in the 1970s, as Vassilis Lambropoulos writes, “with the spread of cinema and even more the advent of television in Greece, travel writing is losing its primary function and sparkle. The public does not need the guidance of an eyewitness to get to know foreign countries.”
Unlike the other writers and intellectuals who visited the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s, Venezis began his long journey without the support of the American government. The famous program of cultural exchanges sponsored by the the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, popularly known as the Smith-Mundt Act, does not seem to have been implemented immediately in Greece. What is certain is that Elias Venezis and his wife either did not know about or did not expect American government support when they decided in the summer of 1949 to cross the Atlantic. On the opposite shore was Venezis’s brother, Thanos Mellos and his wife, the mezzo-soprano Eleni Nikolaidi, who had settled there just a year before.
Thanos Mellos wrote to his brother Elias and his wife on May 6, 1949, from New York: “I’ve told Elias that a place has been confirmed for his trip to America on a merchant ship that sails from a port in France. Perhaps there’s a way he can embark even from Greece. The trip won’t cost a cent. The steamship owner’s a friend of ours, and he’s offering it to us for free. You only have to get your papers ready, Elias, and send me a telegram.” Read the rest of this entry »