Exploring the Relationship of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens with the Greek Omogeneia in the United States in the 1940s.Posted: July 4, 2019
In 1947, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) produced a color movie titled Triumph over Time; it was directed by the archaeologist Oscar Broneer and produced by the numismatist Margaret E. Thompson with the aid of Spyros Skouras (1893-1971), the Greek American movie mogul and owner of Twentieth Century Fox. Triumph over Time portrays Greece rebounding from World War II and the staff of the ASCSA preparing archaeological sites for presentation to postwar tourists. The film was made to promote the first postwar financial campaign of the ASCSA, the direct goal of which was to increase its capital and finance the continuation of the Athenian Agora Excavations. Indirectly, the ASCSA was hoping to contribute to the rehabilitation of Greece by providing employment for the Greek people and by promoting the economic self-sufficiency of Greece by developing the country’s tourist assets (Vogeikoff-Brogan 2007).
Triumph over Time begins with a brief overview of impressive Greek antiquities, such as the citadels of Mycenae and Tiryns and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, before continuing with rare ethnographic material capturing parts of rural Greece that no longer exist. It then moves from the Greek countryside to the buildings of the ASCSA, especially the Gennadius Library with its rare treasures. The story then covers the ASCSA’s two most important projects, the excavations at the Athenian Agora and at Ancient Corinth, explaining all stages of archaeological work. The documentary ends with a hopeful note that financial support of the ASCSA’s archaeological work will contribute to an increase in tourism so that this major source of revenue for Greece’s economy can “restore stability and well-being to this simple pastoral land.”
All three contributors to the film had served in the Greek War Relief Association (GWRA) during and after World War II. The GWRA was incorporated in New York on November 8, 1940. Its founding members included Archbishop Athenagoras, Skouras, Van Nomikos, and other prominent Greek Americans, as well as Americans Harold Vanderbilt, Samuel Goldwyn, and Senator William King. In 1946, the GWRA together with the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) had raised the unbelievable amount of five million dollars for the implementation of a medical and hospitalization program in postwar Greece (Saloutos 1964, p. 364).
My research in the ASCSA Archives indicates that Broneer and Margaret Thompson (1911-1992) would not have undertaken the production of the film, in conjunction with the ASCSA’s fund-raising campaign, without relying on their previous experience at the GWRA and their relationship with Skouras. It is clear that, from the beginning, Broneer and Thompson planned to target the prosperous Greek American community, although not strictly limiting their efforts to this group. On May 23, 1947, Broneer wrote to Louis Lord, the chair of the ASCSA Managing Committee, echoing the feelings of the Greek omogeneia (people of Greek origin who immigrated to, or were born in, a foreign land) in America at the end of the first half of the 20th century:
“I have never thought of the campaign as restricted to the Greek population in America. As such it would be a failure from the start. What I had in mind was a campaign to interest the general public, and in such a campaign I feel certain that we would interest the Greek Americans. They are an exceedingly generous lot, but the more progressive among them resent being treated as a minority group. They like to think of themselves as Americans, without modification, and they would rally to the cause better if they felt that they were part of a general program to raise funds for archaeology in Greece” (ASCSA Archives, AdmRec 310/8).
While reviewing the history of Triumph over Time, I became interested in the relationship that developed during World War II between the American archaeologists working in Greece and the Greek American community in the United States during World War II. Until then, there is no evidence that the leadership of the ASCSA ever sought or cultivated any ties with the Greek omogeneia. The ASCSA’s financial prosperity before World War II and the humble profile of the Greek immigrants in America probably explain the absence of any contact between the two parties (on the early history of the Greek omogeneia, see Laliotou 2004). My subsequent investigation of the ASCSA archival collections indicates that, during World War II, American archaeologists developed close contacts with influential members and organizations of the Greek American community and passionately supported the Greek cause. At the same time, the Greek Americans came to realize that American archaeologists working in Greece were among the strongest supporters of Greece in America.
The papers of Oscar Broneer, a professor of archaeology at the ASCSA and the executive vice president of the GWRA, and the papers of Nikolaos (Nicholas) Mavris (1899-1978), a doctor and a prominent member of the Greek American community and the first governor commissioner of the freed Dodecanese in 1948, allow us to explore the two-way relationship of the American archaeologists with the Greek omogeneia during the war, something that has gone unnoticed in the official history of the ASCSA.
THE AMERICAN SCHOOL COMMITTEE FOR AID TO GREECE
Oscar Broneer (1894-1992) had already lived for several years in Greece, digging on the North Slope of the Athenian Acropolis and at Corinth, and teaching at the ASCSA, before he and his family returned to the United States in 1939, just before the beginning of World War II. The Broneer family moved to Princeton to join other ASCSA members who worked and studied at the Institute for Advanced Study. Theodore Leslie Shear, Paul Clement, Benjamin Meritt, George Elderkin, Shirley Weber, and Edward Capps formed the core of a group that immediately mobilized after Italy declared war against Greece in October of 1940. Less than a month after the Italian invasion, the American archaeologists residing at Princeton had formed a committee, known as the ASCSA Committee for Aid to Greece, which raised considerable funds to support the people of Greece. The committee raised a total of about $27,000 through written appeals to ASCSA members and associates, the organization of two benefits, and royalties from the book This is Greece. Some of the funds were used to purchase “IASO,” a Red Cross ambulance (On the ASCSA Committee for Aid to Greece, Meritt 1984, pp. 7-8). Archaeologist Rodney Young, a staff member of the Agora Excavations, drove “IASO” to the Albanian war front. The rest of the funds were used to buy supplies for hospitals, canteens, and civil relief agencies in Greece. After January 8, 1942, the Committee was unable to deliver any more aid to the Greek people because of the food and supply boycott that the Allies imposed on all the German-held territories of Europe; the ASCSA Committee decided to cease functioning at this that time. Many of its members continued working towards for the relief of Greece through other agencies like such as the American Friends of Greece (AFG) and the GWRA.
OSCAR BRONEER AND HIS SERVICE AT THE GWRA
On August 12, 1942, Broneer was invited by the Greek American Progressive Association (GAPA) to deliver a talk about Greece in Pittsburgh, where he received very favorable comments from the event organizers. “All were impressed with your talk and were particularly pleased with your stressing the need for relief for the Greek people. . . . We consider both of you [Broneer and Meritt] as sincere Hellenists and interested in the welfare of Greek people,” wrote Theo Manos in his thank-you letter to Broneer. A little later, in November of 1942, the Trenton Chapter of AHEPA invited Broneer to join the organization:
“Knowing your feelings for Hellas and the knowledge that you always carry with you of Hellenic culture we the members of the Trenton Chapter #72 of the Order of AHEPA feel that our Chapter membership is not quite complete unless we can count you as one of our members” (ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers).
By December of 1942, Broneer was offering his services to the newly established organization of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations (OFFRO) run by the U.S. State Department, which hired him in May of 1943. Towards the end of the year, he received an invitation to attend a benefit dinner organized by the GWRA in New York on December 17th, 1943. This event proved to be very important for Broneer because it was here that he met Skouras, the owner of Fox Studios and the national president of the GWRA. Skouras immediately offered him work at the GWRA. Broneer was an attractive candidate, a Swedish-born American, fluent in Swedish and Greek, with impressive knowledge and firsthand experience of Greece. Skouras admired Broneer, who was already been actively involved in shipping food and supplies to Greece aboard Swedish ships (Sweden had remained neutral during World War II). By February of 1944, Broneer had accepted Skouras’s offer to work for the GWRA as executive vice president, a position that he held until 1946.
Not much is preserved in Broneer’s personal papers about his day-to-day activities at the GWRA. A lengthy entry in Broneer’s unpublished autobiography (“The Story of Per”), however, attests to the trusting relationship that he developed with Skouras:
“In April 1945, Spyros Skouras decided to make a trip to Greece to see for himself the condition of the country and the devastation wrought by four years of war and occupation. He wanted Per [Oscar Broneer] to accompany him. . . . Per and the three members of Spyros Skouras’ family wanted to make tours of inspection outside of Athens so as to see for themselves what the country had suffered and what was most needed, so that they could go back to the States and collect funds for the Greek War Relief Association. For the purpose Spyros Senior had brought with him a professional photographer from Twentieth Century Fox (ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers, “The Story of Per,” p. 208).
Other information comes from contemporary newspapers. In August 1945 Broneer traveled extensively in the U.S. delivering speeches and showing films concerning the dramatic conditions in Greece after the close of the war in 1944. Press releases in American newspapers from August 1945 wrote about the Skouras/Broneer joint trip during which they visited “75 towns and villages during their four-week tour of Greece. In connection with his talks Mr. Broneer will show a 20-minute film entitled, ‘This Is Greece Today,’ which was taken during his tour” (The Rock Island Argus, August 3, 1945, p. 10). In Moline, Iowa, he was introduced to the audience by Charles Bookidis. I mention this because Charles was the father of archaeologist Nancy Bookidis, a long-time member of the ASCSA and assistant director emerita of the Corinth Excavations.
In February 1946, Broneer delivered a two-part speech in Newport, Rhode Island, as a guest of the Art Association. The first part concerned his prewar excavations on the North Slope of the Athenian Acropolis; in the second half he described what he saw in his 1945 trip to Greece with Skouras: “A bareness noted in the landscape, he said, was due to the sacrifice of groves of trees for fuel. The people he described as worn, ragged, poor, but hopeful. A friend he met in Corinth had hidden a New Zealand soldier in a hole in his home through 73 searches by Germans, who had machine-gunned whole families of his neighbors for such offenses. A whole generation of children, he said, have never seen chocolate, and didn’t know what to do with the pieces they were given. Invariably, the children seem three or four years younger than they are because of retarded growth…”(Newport Mercury, 15 February 1946, p.8)
Another press release announcing his Broneer’s return to Greece, in July of 1946, praised him for his hard work toward the rehabilitation of Greece, his public speeches in support of Greece before American dignitaries, and his indefatigable travels to explain the relief program of the GWRA to Greek communities all over the United States. (When I first published this essay in 2008, I did not have access to the rich archive of Newspapers.com; my research was, therefore, limited to the few clippings that Broneer had saved in his papers. A recent search in Newspapers.com proved to be very enlightening concerning Broneer’s humanitarian efforts in the U.S. on behalf of the Greek cause.)
Having explored Broneer’s activities during the war years, I now return to the making of Triumph over Time. When Broneer agreed to initiate the ASCSA’s capital campaign soon after his appointment to the position of acting director for 1947-1948, he depended heavily on his close ties with the Greek American community. He also asked that Margaret Thompson assist him in the campaign. Broneer and Thompson’s plan was to organize their fund-raising drive under the sponsorship of the local societies of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), which in turn would cooperate with the local Greek American communities.
The film was finally shown in thirteen American cities, but, despite the large audiences that attended the showings, it brought almost no financial gain to the ASCSA. There are many reasons for the failure of this attempt by the ASCSA to raise money. One has to do with Broneer personally. The death of his wife, Verna, in January of 1948, just before the beginning of the fund-raising drive, forced him to withdraw completely. Although other American archaeologists undertook the task of lecturing and showing the film across America, it must have felt like they were escorting an orphaned child. In my opinion, Triumph Over Time would have had a better chance if Broneer himself had remained behind the wheel, making use of his previous GWRA contacts.
The second reason has to do with the change in the political situation. By 1948, the American public, including Greek American communities, were exhausted from the financial strain of supporting the many fund-raising campaigns that various relief agencies had introduced since the outbreak of World War II. In addition, with the announcement of the Truman doctrine and the launch of the Marshall Plan in 1947, the American public felt that the rehabilitation of Greece and other European countries no longer depended on their individual philanthropy but was being taken care of centrally by their government.
Nevertheless, thanks to Broneer, Thompson, and Skouras, the ASCSA managed to produce a film of enduring value in 1947, one that serves as a vivid testimony to a love of Greece, both the land and its people, that still characterizes the work of the ASCSA today. (You can watch the 40 minute film in YouTube.)
THEODORE LESLIE SHEAR AND THE DODECANESIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL
The papers of Nicholas Mavris provide plenty of insight into the actions of another organization, the American Friends of Greece (AFG), and Theodore Leslie Shear (1880-1945), its vice chairman and director of the School’s excavations in the Athenian Agora (1931-1945).
Established by a group of American philhellenes in 1923, the AFG’s mission was to contribute to the strengthening of Greece after the Asia Minor catastrophe. During World War II, the AFG contributed enthusiastically to the relief of the Greek people through the GWRA. In order to avoid duplicating the work of other agencies interested in the rehabilitation of Greece, the AFG concentrated its efforts on educational institutions in Greece, through contributions to Athens College and Pierce College, the establishment of scholarships, publication of scientific studies, and the promotion of good cultural relations between America and Greece. The officers of the AFG included eminent members of the ASCSA, such as Edward Capps, George H. Chase, Theodore L. Shear, and W. Stuart Thompson. The ASCSA Archives preserves several issues of the organization’s bulletin, The Philhellene. In the Gennadius Library, one can find publications of the organization; e.g., Greece Fights, by Homer W. Davis, and Let Freedom Ring, which was issued on the occasion of a benefit dinner held in honor of the Greek people on March 25th, 1942.
In addition to its educational mission, the AFG became involved, through its vice chairman, in the liberation of the Dodecanesian Islands. In an editorial essay in the October-December 1943 issue of The Philhellene, Shear boldly expressed his support for the Dodecanesian cause:
“Let the injustice of the past thirty years be expiated by immediate delivery of the Islands to Greece as soon as they are liberated! Let not the Dodecanese continue to be an apple of discord in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
The editorial essay had been preceded by an exchange of letters between Shear and Mavris, the president of the Dodecanesian National Council. The letters show that Shear was considered a staunch supporter of the Dodecanesian issue, and that the Dodecanesian Council frequently sought and accepted his advice on how to proceed. In fact, in the board of directors meeting of the Dodecanesian Council on September 15, 1943, Shear was unanimously elected an honorary member of the Council.
Theodore Leslie Shear went as so far as to write a personal letter to Senator Claude Pepper (1900-1989) expressing his utmost gratitude for Pepper’s action in introducing “the resolution on August 8th declaring that the islands are and of right ought to be part of the Greek realm” (August 12, 1944). Shear also urged “all Greek organizations and as many individuals to write letters to their own Senators demanding action on the resolution, which, otherwise, may die in Committee” (September. 29, 1944). In April of 1945 and in anticipation of the Peace Conference, Shear was worried that the Greeks might not get a world hearing unless all Greek organizations swamped the conference with their demands for justice; otherwise, he saw a risk of Greece remaining “a crown colony of England indefinitely.” What Shear had hoped and wished for the Dodecanese finally happened a year later, in 1946, when the American U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations unanimously adopted Pepper’s resolution asking that the Dodecanese be awarded to Greece (Saloutos 1964, p. 366). Unfortunately, Shear had passed away in July 1945.
I would like to conclude this essay by noting that the contribution of the ASCSA members during World War II towards the relief and the rehabilitation of Greece requires further exploration. The second volume of the History of the American School refers to the heroic efforts of those of its members who remained in Greece during the war, men such as Bert H. Hill, Gorham P. Stevens, Rodney Young, and the Vanderpools (Meritt 1984, pp. 6-38). From the ones who returned home, several (e.g., Carl Blegen, John Caskey, Dorothy Cox, Alison Frantz, Virginia Grace, and Jerome Sperling) offered their unique knowledge of topography and languages to the Office of Strategic Services, a subject that Susan H. Allen has investigated (Allen 2011); others, such as Oscar Broneer, George Chase, Antony Raubitscheck, Theodore L. Shear, Margaret Thompson, and Mary Zelia Philippides (to name a few) followed a different trajectory by reaching out to the Greek omogeneia, either by being involved in various relief efforts or using their established philhellenism as a vehicle to promote aspects of the Greek cause in America.
Did these newly formed postwar ties between the School and the omogeneia remain strong over the years or eventually fade? I am inclined to say that they laid dormant for several decades. Spyros Skouras would become the first ASCSA trustee of Greek descent in 1947, but more than twenty years would pass, before the next trustee of Greek descent was elected in 1969 (Thomas A. Pappas, trustee 1969-1982; Meritt 1984, p. 277). It was only after the 1990s that the School pursued with zeal a renewal of its ties with the Greek omogeneia: as a result, more than a dozen Greek Americans are serving today on the School’s Board of Trustees and on the Board of Overseers of the Gennadius Library.
I first published this essay in The Archaeology of Xenitia: Greek Immigration and Material Culture, ed. K. Kourelis, The New Griffon 10, Athens 2008, pp. 41-47. Since it has been out of print for years, I decided to revise and republish it here, by adding new information and more photographic documentation, thus making it accessible to a larger audience.
Allen, S.H. 2011. Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II Greece, Ann Arbor.
Laliotou, I. 2004. Transatlantic Subjects: Acts of Migration and Cultures of Transnationalism Between Greece and America, Chicago.
Meritt, L. S. 1984. A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1939-1980, Princeton.
Saloutos, Th. 1964. The Greeks in the United States, Cambridge, Mass.
Vogeikoff-Brogan, N. 2007. Triumph over Time: The American School of Classical Studies at Athens in Post-War Greece, Princeton.
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 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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.
I have always found informal travel accounts fascinating. By informal, I mean accounts found in personal diaries or letters. Occasionally, they are published posthumously by the writer’s relatives (usually for family consumption) and attract little attention because of their mundane nature. Until recently, such letters and diaries of anonymous folk were avoided by historians who considered their content subjective or inaccurate. After all, why use the private diary of an American expatriate in Greece as a source, when the event (e.g., a local revolution) was described in more detail in the newspapers or other official reports?
I, on the other hand, pay particular attention to these types of publications because they provide valuable information, otherwise undocumented, about the level of local awareness, participation or aloofness within foreign communities. Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936), an English writer and philosopher, once said that “the whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land: it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” It’s the second part of Chesterton’s comment that makes me delve into the travel accounts of foreigners-mostly Americans in my case–who have experienced Greece as a foreign land. Here I am not interested in the tourist but instead the engaged traveler, the expatriate, or, in rare cases, the committed immigrant (that is the foreigner who has almost “gone native”).
My latest source of inspiration for getting “to know my country as a foreign land” is a privately published collection of letters which came to my attention after a visit to the newly established Archives of the American College of Greece. There, Dr. Demetra Papakonstantinou, an accomplished archaeologist who now serves as the College’s Archivist, graciously shared with me a copy of a book titled Odyssey of a Learning Teacher (Greece and the Near East 1924-1925). Published in 2005 by David L. Aronson, the book contains transcriptions of the letters that his mother, Charlotte Eleanor Ferguson, a graduate from Mount Holyoke College and a teacher at the American College for Girls (what is now Pierce College), sent to her family in 1924-25. (The original letters are now part of the American School of Greece Archives.)
My story begins six years ago when we inventoried Bert H. Hill’s collection of photos at the item level. Among the images were early portraits of Hill when he was a little boy, and later, a handsome young man. A graduate of the University of Vermont (B.A. 1895) and Columbia University (M.A. 1900), Hill subsequently attended the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or the School hereafter) as a fellow for two years (1901-1903). He then secured a job as the Assistant Curator of Classical Antiquities at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (1903-1905) and lecturer at Wellesley College where he taught classes in sculpture. Bert Hodge Hill (1874-1958) was only 32 years old when he was appointed director of the ASCSA in 1906, a position he held until 1926.
While processing the images my eye fell on a small portrait (12 x 9 cm) that was not a print but instead a well-executed drawing of Hill’s profile in pencil. On the back, Hill had scribbled “Huybers” and “BHH”. An initial web search for “Huybers artist” produced four of his pencil sketches in the Harvard Art Museums, a gift from George Demetrios in 1933 (keep the name in mind); the artist was identified as John A. Huybers.
“Islands and coast Asia Minor still crowded with refugees. Stop. Number there still to be repatriated estimated three hundred thousand. Stop. We are maintaining three stations in Mytilene district clothing alone being available, but food urgently needed. Stop. Above statements based on personal inspection this Commission. Stop. We recommend that work in Aegean be immediately extended to other islands like Chios, Samos and to opposite coast which can be reached by sea transport which can be secured by Greek governments. Stop.”
The text quoted above is a small portion of a long telegram (47 lines) that Colonel Edward Capps sent to Harvey D. Gibson, member of the American Red Cross War Council in Paris, on December 12, 1918 (NACP, Greece, ARC Commission to, 964.62/08). The telegram reported the activities of the American Red Cross (ARC hereafter) since arrival of its Greek Commission in Athens on October 23rd.
This is not the first time I am writing about the activities of the ARC in Greece. In 2011, together with Jack L. Davis, then Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), we organized and subsequently published the proceedings of a conference titled Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience: American Archaeology in Greece (Princeton 2013). Davis’s paper, “The American School of Classical Studies and the Politics of Volunteerism,” discussed the involvement of members of the ASCSA, through enlistment in the Greek Commission of the ARC, in humanitarian aid in eastern Macedonia, as well as in the repatriation of Greek citizens who had been taken as hostages to Bulgaria. Later in 2015, on the occasion of the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli, I was invited to participate in a conference about The First World War in the Mediterranean and the Role of Lemnos, with a paper that discussed the humanitarian activities of the ARC Greek Commission in the eastern Aegean at the end of the Great War. Read the rest of this entry »
Connecting the Dots: Peripheral Figures in the History of the American School of Classical Studies. The Case of R. S. Darbishire.Posted: November 2, 2018
Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” Archives is all about connecting the dots. When processing archival material, you often come across documents, photos, or notes that don’t connect in any obvious way with the rest. For this reason all finding-aids have a “Miscellaneous” section. And such is the case of R. S. Darbishire (1886-1949), a name I came upon in the Carl W. Blegen Papers several years ago, in a booklet of poems; and more recently, while going through a small box of unprocessed material from the Blegen/Hill household on Ploutarchou 9, in a set of architectural blueprints. It took me a while to connect the dots in the Darbishire puzzle.
The Elusive Mr. Darbishire
In the Blegen Papers, there is a small booklet with a collection of handwritten poems titled “Poems to Order. Thera, June 17-21, 1928. Robert Shelby Darbishire.” The short poem on the first page is dedicated to CB:
Εξ αδοκήτο [Unforeseen]
You, when I asked, “What shall I do in Thera?”
Unexpectedly in my empty mind
Casually dropped this: “Write pretty!”
Here (unexpectedly) nought else I find.
Darbishire appears in the student list of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA, or School hereafter) for the year 1926-27; he is also thanked in the preliminary reports or final publications of a number of excavations conducted in 1927-1928: Prosymna, the Odeum at Corinth, and Olynthus.
There is very little information about Robert Shelby Darbishire on the web, and one has to type his name in various ways in order to retrieve a few scraps. Born in 1886 at Fort Meade, Florida, he was the son of Godfrey Darbishire (1853-1889) -a British surveyor and a famous rugby player, who immigrated to the States in 1883– and Ann Shelby of Chicago. Robert was unfortunate in losing his father at an early age. Mother and son lived for a while on a farm they owned in Danville, Kentucky before they moved back to England to be near the paternal side of the family. (Darbishire’s grandfather was Robert Dukinfield Darbishire, a well-known philanthropist and biologist from Manchester.) Nevertheless, the Kentucky farm remained in the Darbishire family’s possession for a long time; mother and son would move back to it after the death of Robert Dukinfield in 1910; and Robert Shelby would retreat to the farm in various periods of his life. In fact, the family papers are deposited at the University of Kentucky Special Collections, and it is from their finding-aid that I managed to obtain good and reliable information about the Darbishires.
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. Read the rest of this entry »