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

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

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

In 1996, as the recently hired Archivist of the American School, I met one of Bacon’s nieces, Helen Bacon Landry (1924-2007), who was visiting the School. She left me with a photocopy of Bacon’s “Assos Days,” a collection of letters and journals that he had transcribed at some later point in his life: “for the benefit of Family and Friends, but interesting chiefly to Himself.” It appears that Bacon made at least three copies in 1934, and one of them came into the possession of Lenore Keene Congdon (1935-2014) in 1966. Subsequently, she published parts of it in Archaeology magazine in 1974.  In 1998, Anastasia [Tessa] Dinsmoor presented to the Blegen Library a second copy that Bacon had given to his friend Alexander (Alec) Maley. I do not know about the other copies, but this one also contains a detailed biographical note composed by Bacon himself. (However, this second copy did not come to my attention until years later when the library handed it over to Archives for special protection.)

Assos Excavations. Local boy sitting on top of Doric capital. Photo by John H. Haynes, who participated in the excavations. For his photography, see Robert G. Ousterhout, John Henry Haynes: A Photographer and Archaeologist in the Ottoman Empire 1881-1890, Hawick 2012. (There is also a wonderful video by Ousterhout.)

In the final pages of “Assos Days,” Bacon describes his initial visit to the Calvert mansion in the Dardanelles in 1883, where he first laid eyes on his future wife Alice: “I had never been at their house! Found the two young ladies at home… and also another one (the eldest), a Miss Alice, just as pleasant as her sisters; in fact, they are three about as nice girls as I’ve seen in this country! Their father [Frederick] died a few years ago! He had been quite wealthy and had built an enormous mansion on the sea with a magnificent garden about it! When he died the house was unfinished. Here these three girls live with their mother and their father’s brother, Mr. Frank Calvert, our consul! … A part of their property is a large house called ‘Thymbra Chiflik” in the Trojan plain about four hours ride from town! The girls all ride horse-back splendidly, each having her own horse. Then they play tennis, going winters to Smyrna, Egypt or Constantinople… These old Levantine English families form quite an aristocracy! They are nearly all well to do, and all seem to be related to each other.” Not only would Bacon marry Alice shortly after their meeting, but a few years later, in 1893, his younger brother Henry would also wed another of the Calvert sisters, Laura. (Henry Bacon [1866-1924], is the architect of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.)

The Calvert mansion in the Dardanelles, ca. 1900. From Allen 1999.

In 2002, Susan H. Allen published a long essay that dealt with the history of the ill-fated excavations at Assos, from its beginning until its delayed publication more than thirty years later (Allen 2002). Other than these two publications, information about Bacon still remains sketchy, especially for the period between the “Assos Days” and the publication of the excavation in 1921.

A Leading Designer

It appears that Assos was an interlude in an otherwise significant, although poorly documented, career as an interior designer that started immediately after his graduation from M.I.T. in 1876. At first he worked briefly for McKim, Mead & White, the famous architectural firm, for $20 per week, but, when in 1880 the Herter Brothers, a decorating firm, offered him $35 per week to help them design furniture for William H. Vanderbilt’s new house on Fifth Avenue, Bacon could not resist. In 1881 he joined the Assos Expedition for two years. After his return to America in 1883, Bacon realized that it would take him years to establish a profitable reputation as an architect, so he decided to switch careers to interior design. “I finished my [Assos] drawings in midsummer, 1884, and was now anxious to earn a living as in the meantime I had become engaged to be married! So through Mr. Norton I got a position with H[enry] H[obson] Richardson, the architect in Brookline!” noted Bacon in the Epilogue of the “Assos Days,” composed in 1923.  While working for H. H. Richardson (1883-1886), another prominent architect, Bacon, who wanted to become financially independent, decided finally to give up architecture for interior design “as being more profitable!” “Got an introduction to Mr. A. H. Davenport of Boston and entered his employ in the fall of 1884! I went to Constantinople in June, 1885, and was married there in the Crimean Memorial Church to Miss Alice Calvert.”

Within a few years, Bacon would become the leading designer for A. H. Davenport and Company, a renowned furniture making firm that had formed partnerships with major architects, including Richardson. Through Richardson, Bacon designed some of the furniture for the Glessner House in Chicago. According to their web page, Bacon decorated Mrs. Glessner’s new Steinway piano, which weighed 900 pounds and was delivered on Christmas day of 1887. In January 2015 while attending the AIA meetings at Chicago and during one of the worst recent blizzards in the Midwest, Jack L. Davis and I managed to pay a visit to this exquisite house, which is now a museum, and to inspect the piano. While there, I noticed that there was other furniture in the house that could have been designed by Bacon, who is credited with introducing classical elements to a style known as Colonial Renaissance. (Bacon’s career as a furniture designer remains sketchy and unexplored and would be a great topic thesis for an architectural historian.)

Mrs. Glessner’s piano, designed by Francis H. Bacon. Photo: Jack L. Davis.

In 1914, A.H. Davenport merged with another successful furniture firm, Irving and Casson.  In the website of Historic New England, which acquired the Irving and Casson – A. H. Davenport Co. archive, I discovered several of Francis Bacon’s designs, easily identified by his signature initials: FHB.  One of the most important clients of the merged firm was the great American entrepreneur and founder of Eastman Kodak, George Eastman (1854-1932).  Bacon designed most of the furniture for Eastman’s house in Rochester, New York (now the George Eastman Museum). In addition, signature chairs by Bacon are on display both in the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

One of Francis Bacon’s chairs for A.H. Davenport. Source: Historic New England, Irving and Casson – A. H. Davenport — Collection I.

Chair made by A.H. Davenport and attributed to Francis H. Bacon. American Furniture in the Art Institute of Chicago.

I was pleasantly surprised to find in a letter from Edward Capps, the Chair of the ASCSA Managing Committee, to Edward D. Perry that Bacon had been asked to design some of the furniture for the newly built Loring Hall (1929) at the ASCSA; this furniture must be saved during its upcoming remodeling. “And he [W. Stuart Thompson, the architect of Loring Hall as well of the Gennadius Library] has ordered the furniture for the whole shebang, the nicer pieces from Bacon and the simpler ones from a New York house… Thompson is certainly a daisy of the first water…” confided Capps to Perry on September 3, 1929 (ASCSA AdmRec Box 311/4, folder 4).

Interior photo of Loring Hall, 1931, with furniture designed by Francis H. Bacon.

Relieved at Last!

When not designing furniture, Bacon must have worked on the Assos plans and drawings. In the Epilogue of his “Assos Days”, Bacon described how it fell upon him to finish the publication of Assos. When Clarke finally abandoned the project in 1896, he handed over to Bacon all the drawings and notes; Bacon sent immediately for Koldewey. The two of them “went over all details and agreed as to the manner of their publication! It was to be a book of plates with descriptive text and notes. Then I began a task which proved for me more than I expected, deciphering others’ notes, drawing over things long forgotten, all in the midst of other active business!”

He would go back to Assos in 1904, only to find the site more ruined than ever. “Stop at the theatre, now all ruined, and the scena built over as a goat shelter hardly recognizable… How I wish Koldewey was here! …The Agora plateau a ruin! Stoa all smashed and columns gone! The Bouleuterion is now a goat enclosure! … What an enormous place Assos is! Ten times the size of Priene!  … Down to the tombs. What a ruin is there –all broken and smashed! They are evidently using the place a quarry as dressed lintels and sills are lying ready to be carried off! …Fortunately we have every stone on paper, as the place is now a scene of desolation.”

Topographical plan of Assos Excavations, published in Investigations at Assos (pt.1).

Before leaving Assos, Bacon presented to the village “the Book of Assos, Part 1, which I have had bound… to always remain with the head man for the benefit of travelers and others. I had a Turkish scribe at Dardanelles put in a dedication in large Turkish script, and all the inhabitants crowd around to see the pictures… Many of the people are recognized in the pictures to their great delight! Great excitement, and the future visitor to Assos will have to look at this book whether he wishes to or not; but judging by the way the ruins are disappearing, the book will be all that’s left ere long­!” wrote to Charles Eliot Norton, the President of the AIA, on June 23, 1904.

Assos was finally published in 1921, “and if ever a man felt relieved of a burden, that man was Francis H. Bacon” wrote Bacon in September of 1923.  By then, Francis (Frank) and Alice had moved back to the Dardanelles. One final search combining Bacon’s name with Calvert’s led me to the fascinating website for Levantine Heritage. This is where I found this photo of Francis and Alice and other members of the extended Calvert family.

The extended Calvert family, 1931. Francis Bacon seated in the middle, Alice to his left. Source: Levantine Heritage, Testimony 16.

Safeguarding Frank Calvert’s Legacy

Back in the 1990s, as I was familiarizing myself with the archival collections that the School had amassed over the years, especially with the history of their acquisition, I came to realize that a small part of the Heinrich Schliemann papers had come to the School through Bacon, several years before Schliemann’s children, Agamemnon and Andromache, deposited their father’s rich archive at the Gennadius Library in 1936.

In 1923, while on board a ship bound for New York, Bacon wrote a letter to the Director of the American School, Bert Hodge Hill, asking him to accept eighty-nine letters that Schliemann had written to Frank Calvert, the U. S. consular agent in the Dardanelles, in the early 1870s, as well as penciled drafts of a few letters that Calvert wrote to Schliemann. Bacon had found them while cleaning the destroyed Calvert mansion at the Dardanelles. With both men dead (Schliemann in 1890 and Calvert in 1907), Bacon wished, through the letters, to preserve for posterity the complicated relationship and secret rivalry between Schliemann and Calvert. As a member of the Calvert family, he would have heard stories about the injustice that Schliemann had done to Calvert by not crediting him with the discovery of the site of ancient Troy.

“Perhaps you may know that Dr. Schliemann came to the Troad with the intention of excavating for Troy at Bounarbashi, but was persuaded by Mr. Calvert to begin at Hissarlik where Mr. Calvert had already bought a field… Dr. Schliemann never gave him credit for directing him to Hissarlik” wrote Bacon to Hill in his accompanying letter.

Bacon’s letter to Hill, 1923. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

Susan H. Allen in Finding the Walls of Troy juxtaposed the life and work of both men, finally giving credit to Frank Calvert for the discovery of Troy. Their different personalities, the shrewd and flamboyant Schliemann on one side, and the modest Calvert on the other, can best be seen in the grave monuments of the two men. Their respective antiquities had a similar fate. Calvert’s rich collection was dispersed to various museums in America and Europe, sometimes with no indication that the objects belonged to him, while Schliemann’s Trojan collection remained almost intact and was given to the Berlin Museum. Its “disappearance,” however, in 1945, when it was stolen by the Russians as spoils of war, and its reappearance at the Pushkin Museum fifty years later, where it is on partial display, represents history’s revenge on Schliemann.

Gathering of archaeologists at Troy, 1890 (a few months before Schliemann’s death). First row (l-r) seated: Frank Calvert, Osman Hamdi Bey, and Charles Waldstein. Second row standing: Rudolph Virchow, Wilhelm Grempler, Ghalib Bey, Heinrich Schliemann, Edith Calvert, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, Madam Babin, Charles Louis Henri Babin, Friedrich Carl von Duhn and Carl Humann (I would like to thank Filiz Songu for identifying the people of the second row). ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

For reasons unknown to me, but most likely owing to an absence of regularized archival procedures at the time, the papers of Frank Calvert were not catalogued and marked as a separate collection, i.e., the Frank Calvert Papers, but were incorporated into the Schliemann papers when the latter came to the American School –never having received the credit they deserved. Once again, Frank Calvert was eclipsed by Schliemann.

The Stargazer

The Calvert papers were the first gift that Bacon sent from the Dardanelles, but not the last. A few years later, in the late 1920s or early 1930s, Bacon must have brought another important gift to the American School; this time, a small statuette of alabaster (height: 0.145 m) from the third millennium B.C.: The Stargazer. This rare (there are about thirty known pieces) statuette was found at Kilia near Gallipoli, in an excavation directed by Frank Calvert in 1901.

The Stargazer. ASCSA Archives, Antiquities Collection. On temporary loan to the Museum of Cycladic Art.

Following his retirement Francis and Alice Bacon returned to the Dardanelles. The Calvert family’s property was in decline having suffered both from the Battle of Gallipoli and the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922. Frank Calvert’s once rich collection of antiquities had been dispersed to various museums, or lost in natural or human catastrophes. What little was left was finally given to the local Canakkale Museum in 1934. But, for some reason, Bacon chose to take the small statuette out of Turkey and bring it to the American School. I have found no evidence, so far, in the School’s administrative records or in the personal papers of people that knew Bacon (such as Hill or Carl W. Blegen, or Gorham P. Stevens) how the statuette ended up at the School. In June 1932, the new director of the American School Richard Stillwell claimed that he had found the statuette in the director’s roll-top desk, unaware how it had arrived at the ASCSA:

“Provenance: Unknown. Found by me in roll-top desk, June 1932, and left by me in ditto. R. Stillwell.”

Forty years later, another Director of the School, John Caskey,  who published the Stargazer in the American Journal of Archaeology in 1972, also claimed that he had no idea how the statuette had come into the possession of the School. Caskey was the one who identified the School’s Stargazer with the photograph of a similar statuette in an old German catalogue of Calvert’s collection that he had seen in Istanbul in 1937; next to the photograph there was an added a penciled note: “geschenkt an Amer. School of Archaeol. Athens.” Since 2006, the Stargazer has been on loan and display at the Museum of Cycladic Art.

Francis Bacon between Greek archaeologists Konstantinos Kourouniotis and Panayotis Aristophron, 1931. ASCSA Archives, Francis H. Bacon Papers.

Drawing in Full Size (F.S.D.)

Bacon’s third gift to the School was his portfolio of full-size drawings of moldings and rubbings. Unlike the Stargazer, this gift was fortunately accompanied by a letter that Bacon had sent to the Director of the American School in 1933, explaining the nature of his gift. Bacon wanted a safe shelter for a series of drawings, most of them rubbings at full-sale, of relief decoration of funerary monuments, capitals, and friezes from ancient monuments in Asia Minor and Greece.

Trained at M.I.T., which had adopted the European tradition of making measured drawings, Bacon learned to draw architectural details in full scale. (At M.I.T. Bacon studied under William R. Ware, the architect of the ASCSA (core) building in Athens, his only European project.)  In fact, Bacon at Assos and Howard Crosby Butler in Sardis in the early 1910s were the first American architects to produce full-scale drawings of archaeological remains. The practice of full-scale drawing of architectural details remained popular in the United States until the mid-1930s (Edlung-Berry 2005, p. 3), and Francis Bacon can be credited as being a pioneer in this art. In 1936, a few years after the publication of the Erechtheum had come out, Bacon criticized his friend Gorham P. Stevens for not executing full-scale drawings of the monument (Edlung-Berry 2005, p. 8). In his late 80s, after a successful career in furniture designing, Bacon had returned to his original vocation. From 1929 until 1931, he travelled in Asia Minor and Greece drawing architectural fragments at full-scale.

An example of a full-scale drawing by Bacon published in Investigations at Assos (pt. 1).

In the end, Francis Bacon made not one, but three valuable gifts to the American School. Without the Calvert Papers, the story of Troy’s discovery would not have been complete. Although a rare type of Early Bronze Age sculpture, the Stargazer’s object biography also speaks to us about past and recent practices of private collecting.  Finally, Bacon’s unique rubbings, aside from their pioneering value, tell us about an architect’s esoteric dialogue with his objects: As he himself wrote, “when you draw a full size of a good Greek original, you shake hands with the man who made it… Half size will not do; it is not the same thing” (Edlund-Berry MAAR 2005, p. 4).


ADDENDUM

On June 18, 2019, I received some additional and highly interesting information from Mr. Eric Pominville of Washington D.C. about Francis H. Bacon, some of which I am sharing below:

–“I think it worth mentioning that F.H.B. is credited with the design for the Library of Congress Declaration of Independence Shrine which was dedicated in 1924. This display shrine can be seen when actor Jimmy Stewart views the Declaration of Independence in the 1939 Frank Capra movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The transfer of the Charters of Freedom to the National Archives and a more modern exhibit shrine did not occur until December 1952.”

–“One of the most interesting first-person accounts connected to the story of the AIA excavations at Assos is William Cranston Lawton’s charming essay “From Venice to Assos” published in the Atlantic Monthly in April 1889. “No one who knows him will wonder” Lawton wrote of Frank Bacon “that they followed to the world’s end for love of adventure and of his companionship.”


REFERENCES

S.H. Allen, Finding the walls of Troy: Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik, Berkeley 1999.

S.H. Allen, “Americans in the East.” Francis Henry Bacon, Joseph Thacker Clarke, and the AIA Assos,” in Excavating our Past: Perspectives on the History of the Archaeological Institute of America, ed. S. H. Allen, Boston 2002, pp. 63-92.

L. Caskey, “The Figurine in the Roll-Top Desk,” American Journal of Archaeology 76 (1972), pp. 192-193

T. Clarke, F. H. Bacon, and R. Koldewey, Investigations at Assos: Drawings and Photographs of the Buildings and Objects Discovered During the Excavations of 1881-1882-1883, Cambridge Mass. 1902-1921.

I. Edlund-Berry, “Architectural Theory and Practice: Vitruvian Principals and “Full-Sale Detail” Architectural Drawings, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 50 (2005), pp. 1-13.

L. Keene Congdon, “The Assos Journals of Francis H. Bacon,” Archaeology 27 (1974), pp. 83-95.

 


Hetty Goldman: The Potentate of American Archaeology in Greece

In 1924, Hetty Goldman (1881-1972), who was directing an excavation at the site of Eutresis in Boeotia, hired architect Piet de Jong to draw some of the finds she had unearthed during the season.  To beat the dullness of the evenings, De Jong, who worked for American and British excavations in Greece, made pencil caricatures of his fellow archaeologists which he later turned into striking Art Deco watercolors. The majority of these caricatures once in the possession of Sinclair and Rachel Hood, are now in the care of the Ashmolean Museum. Published by Rachel in Faces of Archaeology in 1998, they constitute visual biographies of American and British archaeologists working in Greece in the 1920s and 1930s.

Hetty Goldman’s caricature by Piet de Jong, 1924. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.

De Jong’s caricature of Goldman depicts her “holding a Neolithic pot of which she was particularly proud. The object behind Hetty’s head is a seated archaic statue found up in a Roman villa which was excavated at some distance from the mound [of Eutresis]… There is the mound itself surmounted by the shelter to protect the diggers from the heat of the sun… The horse, Kappa, on the road below the hill to the right draws the cart containing Hetty herself, Hazel [Hansen], Dorothy [Thompson] and Mitso the driver, on their way to work… a sailing boat or caique refers to the expedition organized by the foreman, George Deleas, to try and row across the Gulf of Corinth from Creusis, the harbor settlement of Eutresis.  On the left of the picture at the foot of the mound two village girls with long plaits carry on their heads baskets of washing… Below them is a temple which probably refers to classical architectural findings at Hetty’s previous dig at Halae…” (Hood 1998, p.51). Read the rest of this entry »


The Riding Goddess of Mycenae

“In the summer of 1954, while Dr. Papademetriou and I were investigating the new Grave Circle of Mycenae, we removed the fill to the south of that circle; it proved to have been the dump of a previous excavation. Its position seems to indicate that in all probability it was made up of earth removed either by Mme Schliemann or by Tsountas from the dromos of the Tomb of Clytemnestra. Among other objects found in this earth were two carved gems, one of which bears the figure of an animal, and the other a design not only interesting for its excellence of its workmanship but also important because of the subject represented,” wrote archaeologist George Mylonas in the introduction of his book Ancient Mycenae: The Capital City of Agamemnon (Princeton 1957).

Tomb of Clytemnestra, 1953. Photo: ASCSA Archives, Katherine Biddle More Scrapbook.


The Accidental Discovery of Grave Circle B

The Tomb of Clytemnestra had been robbed by Veli Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of the Morea, in the early 19th century; he had, however, missed the dromos. Years later, in 1876, it was cleared by Sophia Schliemann, while her husband Heinrich was digging the shaft graves of Grave Circle A. The Tomb was properly excavated by Christos Tsountas in 1897, who conducted excavations at Mycenae from 1886 until 1902. After WW II, the Greek Archaeological Service undertook the restoration of the Tomb of Clytemnestra, which, by then, was falling apart and needed urgent care. The restoration, which started in the spring of 1951, was completed by the fall of that year. Read the rest of this entry »


Archaeological Hikes and Accidental Discoveries

 In addition to administering the School’s institutional records and hundreds of collections of personal papers in the archival repositories of the Blegen and the Gennadius Libraries (which will soon be consolidated under one roof), the Archivist of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School hereafter) also oversees the School’s Antiquities Collection. Catalogued by the School’s former Archivist, Dr. Carol Zerner, and a host of volunteer archaeologists, the Collection features more than 10,000 sherds, hundreds of pots, figurines, fragments of sculpture, various metal objects, and roughly 3,000 coins, all registered with the Ministry of Culture. With one exception, all of the antiquities are kept in a separate, well-guarded room. The exception is a small collection of Geometric vases displayed in the Blegen Library.

“… While on a Sunday excursion we ran across a newly looted Geometric grave out at Thorikos. The sherds showed lots of joins and after talking about the problem to Gene Vanderpool, we took them down the Agora and they were [competent?] to restore a handsome amphora, an oenochoe, a very fine tripod stand and a bowl fitting it. The problem now is to inform the [M]inistry and try to get permission to keep them for the exhibit to be housed in the new wing of the School. I must talk to Mr. Papademetriou this week about it…” confided William (Bill) A. McDonald to Homer A. Thompson, Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations, on November 23, 1958.

Shortly after his discovery, McDonald published the four vases in Hesperia (vol. 30, 1961, pp. 299-304). Dated in the Middle Geometric period, the looted grave at Thorikos belongs to an extensive Early Iron Age cemetery spread on the sides of Velatouri hill. (The Belgian School at Athens has been surveying and digging the site of Thorikos since the late 1960s.) The School also received permission to display McDonald’s finds in the newly built Arthur Vining Davis Wing of the Blegen Library, which was inaugurated in the fall of 1959. Thirty years later, in 1991, when the New Extension to the Blegen Library was completed, the vases were placed (where they still are) inside a vertical glass case, on the ground floor, next to the Rare Book Room. A short text explains the conditions of their discovery.

Three of the four Geometric vases (ASP 85-87) that McDonald found on Velatouri Hill, Thorikos. ASCSA Archives, Antiquities Collection.

Read the rest of this entry »


An African American Pioneer in Greece: John Wesley Gilbert and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1890-1891.

Posted by John W. I. Lee

John W. I. Lee, Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, here contributes an essay about John W. Gilbert, the first African-American student to participate in the Regular Program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in 1890-1891. Lee is writing a book about John Wesley Gilbert, the early history of the ASCSA, and the development of archaeology in Greece.


In his official report to the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) for academic year 1890-1891, Director Charles Waldstein praised students Carleton Brownson, Andrew Fossum, John Gilbert, and John Pickard, who had “proved themselves serious and enthusiastic” throughout the year.  Waldstein went on to describe the School’s 1891 excavations at ancient Eretria on the island of Euboea.  While Fossum and Brownson excavated Eretria’s theater, Pickard and Gilbert “undertook the survey and careful study of all the ancient walls of the city and acropolis, and will produce a plan and an account which… will be of great topographical and historical value.”

Waldstein’s report gives no indication that one of the students, John Gilbert, was African American—the first African American scholar to attend the ASCSA.  With the passage of time, memory of Gilbert’s pioneering contribution was forgotten at the School, until Professor Michele Valerie Ronnick of Wayne State University searched for him in the ASCSA Archives in the early 2000s.  Ronnick’s work on Gilbert, featured in the School’s Ákoue Newsletter, forms the foundation of my research.

John Wesley Gilbert. Photo: Daniel W. Culp, Twentieth Century Negro Literature (1902)

John Wesley Gilbert was born about 1863 in rural Hephzibah, Georgia; his mother Sarah was enslaved.  After Emancipation, Sarah took her young son to the nearby city of Augusta.  From childhood Gilbert thirsted for learning.  An 1871 Freedman’s Bank register bearing his signature gives his occupation as “go to school to Miss Chesnut.” Read the rest of this entry »


Imagining and Reimagining Greece


Posted by Clayton Miles Lehmann

Clayton M. Lehmann, Professor of History at the University of South Dakota, here contributes an essay about American college students coming to Greece, as part of study-abroad programs. This post represents a modified and shortened version of the 63rd Annual Harrington Lecture, which he delivered 28 October 2015 to the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of South Dakota.  Lehmann was a Regular Member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1982/3, lived in Greece while he wrote his doctoral dissertation, and has returned often, three times as the Director of the Summer Session for the American School and regularly since 2005 as one of the professor-captains of the University of South Dakota’s short-term faculty-led study-abroad program “The Isles of Greece!”.


After disappointing tourism numbers for the 2004 Olympics, the Greek National Tourism Organization launched a major campaign, “Live Your Myth in Greece,” to rekindle Greece in the world’s imagination.  When a group of my students arrived in Athens in 2005 for the study-abroad program The Isles of Greece!,[1] they saw the advertisements for this campaign on the billboards and buses on the way into the city.  At first glance, the images appeal to the typical touristic expectation of the Greek quartet of sea, sun, sand, and sex.  But the classical architecture and supernatural figures suggest a more complex imaginary mix.  The fine print on some of these posters read:

Greece: a land of mythical dimensions. Where the spirit of hospitality welcomes you as a modern god. And the siren song draws you into its deep blue waters. Where a gentle breeze through ancient ruins seems to whisper your name. And a dance until dawn can seem to take on Dionysian proportions. In Greece the myths are still very much alive. And in amongst them sits your own . . . patiently waiting for you to live it. Live your myth in Greece.  Ask your travel agent.

 

Eros and Mermaid posters for Live Your Myth in Greece, Greek National Tourism Organization campaign, 2005; designed by K. Karavellas; and creative design by McCann Erickson-BBDO-Cleverbank Joint Venture. Photographs courtesy of the GNTO.

Read the rest of this entry »


Athens at the Turn of the Century: A Sentimental Capital and a Resort of Scholars

On February 17, 1901, a young American archaeologist and member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) was “roaming over the city in search of Mr. Kavvadias, the general ephor of antiquities in Athens, in order to get a permit to begin work at Vari tomorrow” (letter of Charles H. Weller to his wife).  Together with a small group of students from the School, he had conceived of the idea of conducting a small excavation at the Vari Cave on the southern spur of Mount Hymettus, near the ancient deme of Anargyrous. Known since the 18th century, the cave had been visited and described by several European travelers who were particularly taken by the reliefs and inscriptions carved on its walls.

Vari Cave interior with sculpted figures, 1923. Source: ASCSA Archives, Dorothy Burr Thompson Photographic Collection.

Read the rest of this entry »