Christmas in Athens in 1915Posted: December 25, 2022 Filed under: Archival Research, Biography, History of Archaeology, Modern Greek History, Philhellenism, Uncategorized | Tags: Christmas 1915, John A. Huybers 12 Comments
On February 17, 1916, The Nation published in its “Foreign Correspondence” section a long essay by John A[lfred] Huybers, titled “Christmas in Athens.” Huybers is no stranger to this blog. Three years ago, I wrote an entire post about him, “On Finding Inspiration in Small Things: The Story of a Pencil Portrait,” after discovering a pencil sketch of Bert Hodge Hill by him.
An English Australian, Huybers earned his living as an illustrator in America, and from about 1915 until his death in 1920 as a foreign correspondent for The Nation and The Christian Science Monitor in Greece. He must have been friends with many members of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter ASCSA or the School) including Bert H. Hill, Carl W. Blegen, and Edward Capps. Capps, who became the School’s Chair of the Managing Committee in 1919, remembered Huybers in the ASCSA Annual Report for 1920-21 (p. 21) with mention of a fund created in his memory (the Huybers Fund amounted to $714.53 in 1921, which is the equivalent of about $18,000 today):
“[He] was for many years a resident of Greece, whence he sent to the American press, and particularly to the Christian Science Monitor, admirable articles on Greek affairs. He died at Phalerum in 1919 [sic]. His writings showed such admirable sanity of judgement, good information, and genuine philhellenic sympathy and understanding that his friends in America, chiefly those of Hellenic descent, desired to perpetuate his memory in connection with the School, which they highly regard as the permanent symbol in Greece of American-Hellenic unity. We are indebted to Professor A. E. Phoutrides of Harvard University, for conceiving this idea and carrying it to completion, and to His Excellency Mr. Tsamados, then Minister Resident of Greece in Washington for generous assistance. A principal fund of $545 was contributed.”
During my research on Huybers, I found sixteen of his essays in The Nation, including one about the American School, large parts of which l presented in my post of April 2019. Lately, I rediscovered in my notes another one he published in February 1916 after spending Christmas in Athens (since Greece was still following the “old calendar,” Christmas was celebrated thirteen days later, on January 6th).
Wanting to experience Christmas Eve shopping, Huybers took a walk on Athinas Street (described as Rue d’ Athènes) which was and still is the largest market: “Not merely the booths in the market, but all the surrounding shops are open, without windows. The places that are most crowded, where most business is being done, are the shops in which the different varieties of cheese and olives are sold, which, with the excellent bread, are the main staples of life in Greece.” He then proceeded to explain that sheep were not raised just for wool and meat, but also for their cheese, and one would be surprised “at the variety of delicious and wholesome cheeses made from their milk.”
Huybers could not praise enough the staple Greek meal of bread, cheese, and olives. “I have watched at the Port of the Piraeus splendid examples of manhood, who have spent the morning hours hoisting and swinging great sacks of wheat and carrying them on their backs down and up the plank barefooted from ship or barge to the wharf, and then at noon have made their meal cheerfully of bread sheeps’ [sic] cheese, and olives.” The video below is an excerpt from Triumph Over Time, a movie that the School produced in 1947. Although it was filmed three decades later than Huybers’s description, the scene in the port of Piraeus is very similar to the one in 1915.
The fruit stands were full of oranges, mandarins, lemons, citrons, as well as almonds and walnuts. The only fruit missing was the apple. The only apple Huybers found in the market was “a very small, greenish-yellow in color, with red stripes,” sold at a high price which Huybers refused to pay. The apple he is describing is the φιρίκι (firiki, or Pijrus Malus) grown on Mount Pelion, a tree that produces fruit every other year. Until 1960, it was the only type of apple found in the Greek markets. “If it pays to export American and Canadian apples to South Africa, there ought to be an opening here for apples,” scribbled Huybers.
On Christmas Eve of 1915, “most of the entrances of the shops and booths were decorated with an arch made of two great fronds of the palm tree, twelve and fourteen feet in length, and long ribbons of wax paper in happy combinations of color.” The custom of the Christmas tree did not spread in Greece until the 1930s (especially after WW II) although the upper class did see Christmas trees in the houses of the foreign ambassadors in Athens as early as in the 19th century. Story has it that the famous General Makriyannis after seeing one at the house of the Russian consul in Greece Ioannis Paparrigopoulos in 1843 commented: “It’s nice but I don’t like to keep trees in my room, only my guns.” Huybers, however, witnessed the arrival of donkeys in town loaded with pine shrubs which he interpreted “as Christmas trees and for decorations.” On December 22, 1915, Zillah Dinsmoor, wife of architect William Bell Dinsmoor and an expatriate, “went with Mrs. Droppers [the wife of the American Minister in Greece] to buy her Christmas tree and to get cases of soap to put in the children’s stockings and stuffing for the inevitable pin-cushions with which we will all be presented on Christmas afternoon” (ASCSA Archives, Zillah Pearce Dinsmoor Papers).
Strolling through the meat market Huybers commented on the young milk lambs hanging from the hooks. Although “the Greeks might be taxed with wastefulness” for doing so, “roasted to the right point such food might cause a vegetarian to backslide from his faith.” For this not to happen, Huybers suggested that one would have “to read anew Pythagoras’s plea for animal life and his denunciation of man and his appetite as the worst of the beasts of prey: Thou slay’st the lamb that looks thee in the face.”
Huybers was further impressed by the open cook-shops with their big copper saucepans and charcoal furnaces underneath. “The cook will lift the different covers for you: there are spinach and rice cooked together, bean soup, different varieties of beans with flavoring with herbs and pure olive oil, potatoes cooked with some excellent sauce, macaroni, and twice a week a good fish soup, roast meats and fried fish.” To further note that “it was a pity that America, so generous in her gifts from her own soil, has no such restaurants.”
One last thing that impressed Huybers was the Christmas carols.
“An empty earthenware jar is slung over a boy’s shoulder; it is covered at the top with the dried skin of a sheep’s or pig’s bladder. He drums on it with the fingers of the two hands, and there being no bottom to the jar, its shape gives its resonance. The other boy strikes a triangle. The musical metallic sound of the one and the muffled sound of the other, accompanying the chant of their young voices, make the quaintest impression.”
The triangle has survived until today, but not the jar. I had to search old photos in order to discover this primitive musical instrument, and I found one in the Voula Papaioannou Photographic Collection at the Benaki Museum. The boy in the middle seems to be beating such a jar with the tips of his fingers.
We do not know how and where Huybers spent Christmas Day. Probably not at the American School, which was almost closed because of the War. In 1915-1916, there was only one student, Ralph W. Scott. The absence of students made it possible for Bert Hodge Hill, the School’s Director, and Carl W. Blegen, the Secretary, to go to the States for Christmas, and also to attend the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Princeton. Huybers might have been a guest at the American Minister’s house, or at the Dinsmoors who rented a house on Xenokratous Street, although his name was not included in Mrs. Dinmoor’s list of guests. Although she would have liked to ask more people for a second gathering in the evening, she couldn’t do it because “this year the gas was so poor we can scarcely see.”
Because of the War, the School would not resume its academic program until the fall of 1920. From the fall of 1918 through the spring of 1920, the School rented its facilities to the Greek Commission of the American Red Cross.
A Journey in the Mediterranean on the Eve of the Great War, 1914.Posted: November 20, 2022 Filed under: Archival Research, Biography, History of Archaeology, Mediterranean Studies, Modern Greek History, Philhellenism, Uncategorized | Tags: Alice Calvert Bacon, Dardanelles, Delphi, Francis H. Bacon, Great War, Guy B. Pears, Julia Dragoumis, Olympia, Poros Island 6 Comments
On July 4th, 1914, Francis Henry Bacon (1856-1940) and his wife Alice (née Calvert) departed from New York aboard the S.S. Kaiser Frantz Joseph (the ship would be renamed the President Wilson shortly thereafter). The Dardanelles were their destination, where the Calvert family owned an estate, as well as a farm in nearby Thymbra. This is where Bacon had first met Alice in 1883, when the members of the Assos Excavations received an invitation to dine with Alice’s uncle, Frank Calvert (1828-1908). An amateur archaeologist, Calvert had conducted several excavations in the Dardanelles. Perhaps more importantly, he suggested that Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) look for Troy at the site of Hissarlik, not far from Thymbra, in the late 1860s. The Calverts were English expatriates long established in the Dardanelles, who made a living trading commodities with the benefit of consular posts.
The time was not good, however, to travel to Europe and especially to the Balkans and Turkey. Just a few days before, on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife had been assassinated in Sarajevo. His death sparked a series of events that led Austria with the support of Germany to declare war on Serbia a month later. Within a week, the great powers of Europe were forced to ally with or against the main belligerents. Greece tried to remain neutral until 1917 (in no small part because the Greek King was married to the Kaiser’s sister and thus sympathetic to the German side), but the Ottoman Empire openly supported the Germans.
Retracing his Steps
Bacon, a graduate of M.I.T (1876), first traveled to Greece in 1878, before the American School of Classical Studies was even founded. In 1881 he would join, as chief architect, the Archaeological Institute of America’s excavations at Assos in Western Turkey. Following Assos, Bacon pursued a successful career in interior design on the East Coast of America about which I have written before (Francis H. Bacon: Bearer of Precious Gifts from the Dardanelles). He is also credited with the design of the Shrine of the Declaration of Independence in the Library of Congress. Because of Alice’s attachment to the Calvert house in the Dardanelles, the Bacons frequently crossed the Atlantic. Occasionally, Francis would make a stop in Greece to retrace his steps.
After several stops including the Azores, Algiers, and Naples, the Bacons finally reached Patras on July 16th, where the couple parted. Alice continued on another steamer to the Dardanelles, while Francis planned to spend a week in Greece, starting from Olympia. “Splendid Victory of Paionios, and then the lovely, beautifully finished Hermes of Praxiteles – about the only authentic ancient masterpiece in the world,” Bacon scribbled in his notebook. The authenticity of the statue –whether it was a 4th century B.C. original or a fine Roman copy- had not yet been challenged.
From Patras, Bacon took a little steamer to Itea. At Delphi he was much impressed by the restoration of the Athenian Treasury, which the French had completed a few years earlier (1903-1906.) He only wished that “they had restored the acroteria, two horses with naked riders prancing off the corners of the pediment.” Bacon, an ardent photographer, did not miss a chance to capture monuments and landscape, as well as to experiment with interior photography, which was exceptionally difficult at the time. “Back to the Museum where the Ephor Contoleon is very obliging and invited us to photo and measure anything we like.” I cherish Bacon’s interior photos because we catch glimpses of the old museum displays. To him we owe a partial view of the old Delphi Museum, built in 1903, and several charming photos of the local children who had befriended one of his fellow travelers. See slideshow below.
After two days at Delphi, Bacon headed off for Athens. “Start at Itea at 5 A.M. Steamer at 6:30 for Corinth Canal and Piraeus. There has been a landslide in the canal and the little steamer almost climbs over a pile of clay and earth in the narrow channel. Reach Piraeus at 4 P.M. Drive to Athens over the dusty road. Go to Hotel Minerva where I spent winter in 1883, now rather dirty and forlorn.”
(The Hotel Minerva located at Stadiou 5 operated until 1991. When Bacon first stayed in it in 1883, it was known as Αι Αθήναι. For more information and a photo of the hotel, check out the site of the Greek Literary and Historical Archive.)Read the rest of this entry »
The Forgotten Olympic Exhibition: Georg Alexander Mathéy’s Contribution to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.Posted: August 2, 2022 Filed under: Archival Research, Art History, Biography, Exhibits, History of Archaeology, Modern Greek History, Philhellenism | Tags: Georg Alexander Mathéy, Polyxene Roussopoulos Mathéy, Walter Hege 3 Comments
BY ALEXANDRA KANKELEIT
Alexandra Kankeleit is a German-Greek archaeologist and historian. She has been researching German archaeology in Greece during the Nazi period for several years. Since July 2021 she has been working for the CeMoG (Centrum Modernes Griechenland) at the Freie Universität Berlin, where she will teach a seminar on the 1936 Summer Olympics in the upcoming winter semester. Here she contributes an essay about the German artist Georg Alexander Mathéy (1884-1968), who lived in Greece in the 1930s and whose work was displayed in the Summer Olympics of 1936.
The Badische Landesbibliothek in Karlsruhe (BLB) has held a large part of the estate of painter and writer Georg Alexander Mathéy (1884-1968) since 1993. In 2017, the BLB organized an exhibition, titled Sprachbilder – Bildersprache: Die Künstler Helene Marcarover und Georg Alexander Mathéy, to showcase the works of Mathéy together with those of another artist, the painter and poet Helene Markarova (1904-1992). Both artists, whose work was shaped by the two wars, by migration and alienation, were able through literature to transform images into words, and vice versa. A wonderful accompanying publication provides insights into Mathéy’s life and creative work (Axtmann – Stello 2017).
Trained as an architect in Budapest, Mathéy made his name as an illustrator of numerous books and magazines, achieving commercial success already at a young age. He also designed stamps, textiles, and a Rosenthal coffee service. Two of his stamp designs are still remembered today because of their intense colors and memorable motifs: the “bricklayer” (1919) and the “post horn” (1951). They can be described as classics of German stamp design.
In addition to this modern, highly reductivist formal language, Mathéy also mastered other, more traditional media, primarily in his large-scale watercolors and oil paintings.
I became interested in Mathéy’s largely forgotten contribution to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The starting point is material from the archives of the BLB, which provided new and important information about Mathéy. (I would like to thank the director of the BLB, Julia Hiller von Gaertringen, for her interest and active support in my project. A detailed German version of this article can be found on the BLBlog.) Further information can also be found in an unpublished research paper on Georg Alexander Mathéy, which the designer Ulrike Jänichen completed in 2003 under the direction of Professor Mechthild Lobisch at the Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule in Halle. She kindly made her work available to me.Read the rest of this entry »
Mrs. Jarley’s Waxworks and a Jolly Jumble of Jests, Christmas 1903Posted: June 19, 2022 Filed under: Archaeology, Archival Research, Biography, Classics, History of Archaeology | Tags: Edith Hall, Fritz Darrow, Gorham Stevens, Harold Fowler, Katherine Welsh, Lacey Caskey, Theodore W. Heermance, Theosophy 4 Comments
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 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].Read the rest of this entry »
The Cretan EnigmaPosted: May 20, 2022 Filed under: Archaeology, Archival Research, Biography, Classics, History of Archaeology, Philhellenism, Uncategorized | Tags: Charles Henry Hawes, Crete, Harriet Ann Boyd 1 Comment
BY CURTIS RUNNELS – PRISCILLA MURRAY
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?
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.