In 1897 a young American woman announced in the newspapers her return to Chicago after a year in Europe. “Miss Mabel Gordon Dunlap of Michigan Boulevard, who has been in Europe for a year, will sail for home on Wednesday” (Chicago Inter Ocean, August 15, 1897). The same woman had also made an earlier announcement that she was still in London “spending most of her time at the British Museum” (17 July 1897). While in London she printed a handsome pamphlet, titled “A Critical Study of Sculpture and Painting,” that contained information about her as a teacher and a lecturer, and a summary of two art courses that she was “ready to deliver before ladies’ clubs and schools” in the winter: “A Course of Twelve Lectures on the History & Philosophy of Greek Sculpture,” and “A Course of Twelve Lectures of the History of Painting in Italy.” While in England she had attended lectures by Charles Waldstein, Professor of Fine Arts at Cambridge University (and former Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens), whom she quoted in her brochure: “There are those who make art, there are those who enjoy art, and there are those who understand art.” Dunlap’s courses, fully illustrated with stereopticon views, were designed to help people understand art.

The pamphlet that Mabel Gordon Dunlap published in 1897. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

Her brochure also contained press notices covering a series of lectures that she had delivered the previous year in Portland, Oregon. “Late of Chicago University” is the only information that is provided in the pamphlet about her academic background, meaning that she had attended classes but had not obtained a university degree. In 1892 the newly founded University of Chicago attempted to engage the local community and offer access to as many students as possible through extended education. Dunlap must have been one of the first to participate in the Chicago University Extension.

Still only 24 years old in December 1897 but armed with confidence, Dunlap (in later years her name appeared as Dunlop as well) secured a series of paid lectures in New York. A long article in the New York Tribune described the details of one event at Carnegie Hall where Dunlap staged a memorable performance:

“The rooms were decorated for the occasion with cut flowers, and softly lighted with shaded lamps, and the lecturer was clad in a wonderful purple robe, embroidered with gold in a Greek meander pattern. The gown is that of a Master of Fine Arts in the University of Pisa a hundred years ago, and with the accompanying gold-tasseled cap, constitutes Miss Dunlap’s lecture costume. In the daytime it is purple and at night white, but otherwise never changes.”

Mabel Gordon Dunlap in one of her lecturing outfits. Source: New York Public Library, Digital Collections.

In her lecture, titled “The Value of a Critical Study of Great Works of Art,” Dunlap condemned amateurism in art for if people really loved art, they should not simply enjoy it but “study [it] to get the pleasure that comes from true appreciation of the best works of art” (New York Tribune, Dec. 8, 1897). In February 1898, she delivered a series of lectures at the Waldorf-Astoria and the Metropolitan Museum about Greek sculpture taking a few breaks to lecture at other nearby places, such as Pittsburgh. That year she left for Athens, Greece, which she used as a base for the next few years while travelling to Constantinople, Rome and Paris.


Mabel did not come to Athens as a student of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or School hereafter); the lack of an undergraduate degree would have prohibited her from being admitted to the School. It remains a mystery how she funded her European trips before her marriage to Serbian diplomat Slavko Grouitch in 1902, when she was almost thirty. Nothing in the information that I managed to gather about her suggests that she was an “American heiress,” such as other globetrotters of her age. In fact, most of the information that one can find about Dunlap on the web concerns her later life, as the wife of a distinguished diplomat, and her fund-raising activities in America to alleviate the suffering of the Serbian people during WW I.

Mabel Gordon Dunlap, ca. 1898. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

Born in 1872 or 1873 in Clarksburg, West Virginia (WV), Dunlap was raised by neighbors after her mother’s death and the disappearance her father. According to an entry on the web page of the Harrison County WV Historical Society: “She lived in a penniless condition until her father was located working as a manager for the railroad company in Rock Island, Illinois.” He was forced to provide her with an annuity which allowed the knowledge-thirsty girl to attend school. In later years, as she tried to re-create her past, Mabel spoke fondly of her father’s transforming influence on her, but one should take her accounts with a grain of salt.    

The annuity she had secured from her father (which was likely railway stocks) must have allowed for a decent living, but if she wanted to travel abroad she had to find ways to finance her trips. Mabel owed her intellectual and social advancement largely to her intelligence, as well as to her “rare beauty,” exquisite voice” and her “well-balanced enthusiasm” according to a press release (Chicago Inter-Ocean, November 20, 1896).


I became interested in Mabel Dunlap some twenty years ago when I found in the ASCSA Archives a copy of the pamphlet she had printed in England in 1897. In 2000, we opened the trunks that contained the papers of Ion Dragoumis (1878-1920), the legendary diplomat and statesman, who was assassinated on Kephissias Avenue (one of the main streets of Athens) on July 31, 1920 by supporters of Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos. Together with the pamphlet there were several letters by Mabel from the late 1890s and early 1900s, and a few photos of her. Mabel also figured large in Ion’s youthful diaries (1895-1902), which were published by Theodoros Sotiropoulos in 1988.  

In an exhibition, organized by the ASCSA Archives and titled Ion Dragoumis: Between East and West. One Hundred Years after his Assassination, which opened on October 15, 2020, the blown-up portrait of Mabel Dunlop is eye-catching. Five years older than him, she quickly cast a spell on Ion. She has “des gouts raffinés… she is half païenne and half décadante” according to a description in his diary (Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 75, entry for April 23, 1900). But she also fell hard for Ion, at least for a while. She was his first, but not hers.

View of the exhibition on Ion Dragoumis at the Makriyannis Wing of the ASCSA. Photo: Konstantinos Tzortzinis.
Mabel Dunlap’s portrait visible on the right. Photo: Konstantinos Tzortzinis.

From Ion’s diary, we learn a lot about Mabel’s earlier life, although it is difficult to crosscheck the accuracy of her story. For example, her mention of an early and unfortunate marriage is not documented elsewhere.

“She was very young when she married. Her husband, Lionel, was very sensitive, perhaps like her. They did not leave well together. They were separated by court. When he heard the news [of their divorce] he went to the tavern, where men in those places go, and drank too much; that, as well as the idea that he would no longer have her as a wife, drove him to such despair that he committed suicide. She was mad at first and then very sad which made her suffer a lot. She had her father [at least] and slowly-slowly near him she found peace while studying Greek archaeology… Then her father died, whom she admired more than anybody in the world. He was handsome and noble, and artiste. She lived by herself or with a cousin for a while, travelled a lot, and fell in love with many… if the man she liked each time interested her, she would give him her body as well. But it always ended soon after her initial enthusiasm was gone…  But she holds no memory of the past, which means that she never falls deeply in love and explains how she carries her enthusiasm from one man to the other… ”

Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 107, entry for January 14, 1901 (my loose translation).
Ion Dragoumis (on the left) at the age of 18, with his aunt Tasha Kontogiannaki and his younger brothers Philippos and Alexandros. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

Their relationship was most likely consummated in April 1900. They must have carried on for another year in-between Mabel’s trips to Constantinople and Paris, although Mabel was soon out of it. In January 1901, puzzled by Mabel’s inability to commit to anyone, Ion scribbled: “The situation scares me. When I am with her, I feel a strong love for her, but then I see her awful passivity and while I want to show her my feelings I feel disarmed… I cannot understand how she lives… Nothing makes an imprint on her” (my loose translation).

Mabel must have treaded on thin ice. The morals of the time, especially in a small European capital like Athens, were relentless, and keeping up appearances must have been difficult for a “voluptueuse” like Mabel. Genuine intelligence, grace, and impeccable manners must have saved her from falling into disgrace; in addition, her maverick nature and small financial independence allowed Mabel not to become a kept woman.

Mabel Gordon Dunlap, ca. 1900. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

It is unclear whether her relationship with Ion was widely known in the upper circles of Athenian society. When in town, Mabel stayed at the Merlin house on the corner of Kephissias and Academias street, where most foreign women, including many students of the American School, took up residence. After Ion’s extensive entries, the best description of Mabel belongs to Ida Thallon (she would marry the School’s director, Bert Hodge Hill, in 1924), a student of the American School in 1899-1901. “We knew she [Mabel] was coming to Athens, and I was anxious to see her again. There are a lot of amusing stories about the last time she was in Athens and took the town by storm. Dr. Wilhelm [=Adolf Wilhelm, a famous epigraphist and director of the Austrian Archaeological Mission, and a resident of the Merlin House] is much struck on her, a victim of her first visit…” Ida wrote to her mother (ACSCA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill, Box 3, folder 3, May 8, 1900).

A few days later in another letter (May 13, 1900,) she elaborated more about Mabel in her description of the Inselreise, the annual island trip that architect and archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld organized every year for members of the foreign archaeological schools in Athens. From her description, it appears that Dunlap had also joined the trip at some point. “Miss D[unlap]’s fame had preceded her and the Damen expected she would steal their steadies but she made no effort in that direction; she was very tired on the trip and had a sprained ankle and anyway, she lets the men do the chasing.”

On another occasion, Ida exalted Mabel’s fine qualities: “You see Miss D. is stylish and very even and a fine talker and knows a tremendous lot about art and archaeology, having been brought up to it since she was a child. Her father always surrounded her with books of that sort and it is second nature to her. She is also very attractive to the men and they fall tremendously in love with her etc.” Not everybody shared Ida’s feelings towards Mabel:

“Lida [Shaw King] and I like her very much; Cambridge [a nickname for a British girl], I think disapproves of her because she (Miss D.) is rather unusual and a type she (C) is not accustomed to, and Mrs. Smyth and Miss Adt are positively cattish to her; I think they are jealous” concluded young Ida. On another occasion, Ida described the Smyths as being awfully horrid to Mabel. “Mrs. S. laid it on thick and told Miss D[unlap] what a beautiful bunch of flowers Karo [=Georg Karo, archaeologist and future director of the German Archaeological Institute] had sent her and described them in detail” only to hear from Mabel, “Yes, I think he has good taste, he sent me a beautiful bunch yesterday.” Karo had borrowed a basket from Mabel to hold his potsherds during the “Inselreise,” and “naturally sent it back filled.”

ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, Box 3, folder 3.


In August 1902, Mabel married Slavko Grouitch (Grujić) [1871-1937], chargé d’affaires of the Serbian Legation in Athens, and the scion of a notable Serbian family. In between her relationship with Ion and her marriage to Grouitch, she had been engaged to a Mr. Pennell (again the information from an undated letter she sent to Ion from London). Ion and Mabel continued to correspond and occasionally see each other, even intimately, until 1915. “She nourished me for two years, I don’t think she realized it” Ion wrote in his last, long diary entry about Mabel (Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 179, entry for April 11, 1902).  Her imprint on Ion’s mind, body, and soul lasted for years, and defined him as a man. He was badly shaken when in early July 1902 he received a letter from her: “Mabel wrote me ‘Live, my boy, live,’ and then she announced her wedding” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 1, folder 4, diary, entry for July 3, 1902). Later that year, he would write: “Mabel’s love is gone… she no longer exists but her ideas have stayed and are related with mine with… whether I write to her or not, her ideas are alive and mix with mine and struggle with mine, occasionally exchanging sweet talks, or bites” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 1, folder 4, diary, October 21, 1902 [my paraphrase]).  

Mabel Gordon Dunlap, ca. 1900s. Her wedding photo? Source: WikiCommons.

As kindred spirits Ion and Mabel also shared an admiration for the French philosopher and thinker Maurice Barrès (1862-1923), whom they met when he was travelling in Greece in the spring of 1900.  Although largely forgotten today (and criticized for his anti-Semitic views), Barrès at the turn of the century was highly influential and considered by his contemporaries as the model engagé intellectual. Following his visit to Greece, Barrès published Le voyage de Sparte (1906) in which he laid out his beliefs about social Darwinism. And who else other than Mabel Dunlap embodied the core idea of social Darwinism, namely, “survival of the fittest”?

“Barrès advised me to be more affirmative (Il suffit d’ affirmer)” wrote Ion in his diary. In the same entry, he also recalled that Mabel had told him that it was a disadvantage not to trust his strength, not to claim his position, even if he had to push others below where they belonged regardless of age or worldly opinions (Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 77, entry for May 24, 1900). A year or so later, she would write to Ion from Paris: “Mr. Barrès was here yesterday, and we spoke much of you. He, too, finds your mind of rare power and balance… Your right ear must have burned during the hour and a half of his visit” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, Paris, May 20 [undated]).

While living in Paris, where Grouitch was posted soon after their marriage, Mabel tried to help Ion’s brother, Niko, la bête noire of the Dragoumis family. A painter without any financial support from his family, except for a small trust that allowed him to subsist, Niko led a reclusive and marginal life in Paris: “Nico will not come to me. He says he is not presentable because of his clothes… He writes me though, sweet sad letters… If only one could convince him of the dignity of work, of the nobility of earning one’s own bread in some manner… Money is the key to life. Sad but true. Work, my boy, foul fortune to give you gold for some of your dreams, then you realize the others” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, Paris, “Greek Christmas” [undated]).

Ion’s older brother, Nikos Dragoumis (1874-1933). Source: Νίκος Δραγούμης. Ο Ζωγράφος, 1874-1933, Athens 2015, p. 10.


Until she married Grouitch, Mabel had pursued “one dream and followed it as a moth will the flame—that dream was my vision of the ideal beauty of the gods…”. She rejoiced in the study of ancient Greece “and worshipped Athena in the ashes of her greatness” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, Paris, April 26 [undated]).

In Paris, where she and Slavko moved at first, she was living “the life of a nun… all my time is passed in the galleries, the gardens, here in my little salon”. Finally, there was “no gossip of black tongues to disturb me… Alone with my ideals and my dreams, forgetting and forgiving the past…” One thing, however, disturbed Mabel’s serenity: the lack of work. “I should like to do something, to work for someone I love, for my friends all.” Always Olympian in spirit, Mabel would also advise Ion, her beloved Hermes (as she addressed him in her letters), to search for serenity, for “to complain is too mortal for a child of the gods” (all quotes from an undated letter she wrote on April 26th [1902]).

Ion and Mabel continued to write to each other although with less frequency on Ion’s part after 1905. By then he had met in Alexandria and fallen in love with Penelope Delta, who would dominate his thought until 1908.  Mabel held on to her love of Greece through her love for Ion.

“When I think of Greece and you, it is to recall certain lovers on Pendeli, the ride up to Delphi and the afternoon rest on the grass, your eyes and certain dawn lights, when the sun came up, your lips, and the perfumed fruit of Greek gardens” Mabel would write him, and when he fretted about the social and political ugliness of Greece, the ever aesthete Mabel advised him “to shut away you Socrates in the prison he deserved” and encouraged him to find comfort “in the possession of the objective beauty we set our hearts upon. You have always the long thrilling curve of Parnes and the violet sheen on Hymettos and the cool kiss of the purple waters to calm your fever. These are as they always were the real grandeur of Greece because of what men wrote and did for them.”

ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, St. Petersburg, Jan. 10, [1906].
Ion Dragoumis, 1908. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

The new century, however, had no room for aesthetes like Mabel, as she would soon discover. By marrying a statesman from a poor and tortured Balkan nation, she would have to put aside her Greek dream, change course, and become a pragmatist. In 1911 she would go to America, not to visit museums but “to study the schools of domestic science for women…”.  Her new goal was to uplift the Serbian women and made plans to establish a school for them in Belgrade (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 29 January 1911).

By 1914, the Grouitch couple was living in Belgrade since Grujić had been appointed as secretary-general of the Serbian ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to historian Christopher Clark, Grouitch was one of the main contributors of the reply to the Austrian-Hungarian ultimatum of July 23rd, 1914, which was “a masterpiece of diplomatic equivocation” (Clark 2013, p. 464).  Despite her skilled diplomacy, Serbia did not escape the war with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Soon after, Mabel went to London where with her own expenses she led a team of 10 English nurses and two surgeons to Serbia to help the wounded and organize relief aid in the battlefield (The Baltimore Sun, August 20, 1914).  

Mabel Dunlap Grouitch in the middle. The Pittsburgh Press, August 5, 1914.

Unable to enter Serbia by a direct route, they traveled to Serbia via Italy and Greece. While briefly in Athens, she did not see Ion who had been transferred to St. Petersburg, but she was met by his sisters. “When I landed it seemed to me impossible that I could be there and you not come to meet me. Then out of the dusty crowd come three goddesses bearing flowers, your flowers, Effie, Charliclea and Alexandra… Such joy it was to drive up to the ‘violet-crowned’ city. How my heart felt as each sacred and well-remembered point appeared… The next day I lunched with dear Nata and then you come. For the moment, I quite forgot, even yet I cannot believe that it was Philip [Ion’s younger brother]…”.

Two days later she and the English nurses and surgeons travelled to Thessaloniki and from there they all entered Serbia. Writing from Nish (Niš), the wartime capital of Serbia until 1915, Mabel worried about her personal belongings at Belgrade where she also saved Ion’s letters, “even the little envelope marked ‘it comes from the gods’.” But if they were to be destroyed by war, she still hoped that their friendship could “last through fire and flood and disaster of every kind. Ours is so old and precious, Jean [Ion]. You must help me to keep it always, whatever comes,” she asked him on September 20, 1914.    

In addition to her initiative to bring medical assistance from England, Mabel tried to mobilize young surgeons from Baltimore medical schools by sending a petition through her friend George Dobbin Penniman, an attorney in Baltimore: “I wish the people in America could know the need of Servia… Other nations engaged in this horrible war have their efficient corps of surgeons and Red Cross nurses supplied with abundant funds, while Servia burdened with the debt of two recent wars and with thousands of subjects still suffering from the crushing effect of Turkish rule, has not the means to procure doctors and nurses and medical supplies, and the suffering of her brave wounded soldiers will be terrible” (The Baltimore Sun, August 20, 1914).

Within a short time, Mabel through her various European connections secured the aid of the International Red Cross, while through targeted publicity in the U.S. press, she managed to attract the attention of Mabel Boardman, the head of the American Red Cross, hoping to place Serbia on the list of the ARC beneficiaries (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Sept. 27, 1914). In February 1915, Mabel was in New York fundraising for Serbia. Within a few days after her arrival she put together the Serbian Agricultural Relief Commission, which included Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard, Charles Scribner, and journalist Albert Shaw. The Commission’s goal was to secure seed, grains and farm implements for 800,000 starving Serbians: “All of the able-bodied men of Serbia are at the front. The women and children must plant and cultivate the crops in the spring or there will be no grain on which the nation can live next winter” (The Wilkes-Barre Record, February 5, 1915).  In addition, the ARC had raised enough money to establish a baby hospital in Serbia. The announcement in the newspapers also mentioned that the establishment would be known as the Mabel Grouitch Baby Hospital in recognition of her Red Cross activities (Pittsburgh Daily Post, 18 July 1915).

Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 18, 1915.

Today Mabel Grouitch is considered one of the greatest benefactors of Serbia. When I searched her last name spelled as “Grujić,” I came across many Serbian pages dedicated to her, including a recent novel in the form of historiographical metafiction, by Maja Herman-Sekulić, titled Ma Belle: The First American Lady of Serbia. Through the use of “Google Translate” I was able to skim through most of them. Moreover, after the war, in 1920, she and Slavko secured funding through the Carnegie Corporation for the erection of the University Library in Belgrade. In a recent, well-researched article, historian Ljubinka Trgovčević wrote that her story is “the story of a woman who connected two countries and two cultures” and who managed “to bring America closer to Serbs, and Serbia to Americans” (2008, p. 325).

One thing, however, struck me as strange while browsing through the Serbian web pages. There were studded with inaccuracies, starting from Mabel’s birth year: 1881. Mabel was born either in 1872 or 1873 and there is no doubt about it since she gave Ion a small calendar marking her birthday on it (1873); they also frequently referred to their age difference (he was born in 1878) in their letters. They were other inaccuracies about her early years in America and her studies, one page mentioning that “Mabel had enrolled at the ASCSA at which later she taught.” Some of the confusion must have derived from her obituary in the The New York Times, “Mme Grouitch Aided Refugees” (August 14, 1956), which noted her age as 75, and also that she had been “a student at the American School of Archaeology in Athens.” Skilled at promoting herself, Mabel never missed an opportunity to reinvent her past, especially when she moved from one country to another.


From Ion’s diary we know that Ion and Mabel met again in Athens in the late summer of 1915. He had resigned from the diplomatic corps to pursue a political career, representing a party in opposition to Venizelos. He was also involved since 1908 with actress Marika Kotopouli.  In August 1915, he scribbled that he had encountered on the same social occasion both Mabel “who had returned from America on her way to Serbia” and an unnamed woman, most likely Penelope Delta: “two women that I loved and they loved me, and who did not know each other. After eating, I walked with the first [Mabel] to Zappeion and kissed her under the darkness of the trees. Then I returned to my beloved one [i.e. Marika]” (Sotiropoulos 1986, p. 107).

In December of the same year she was briefly back in Athens. Among Ion’s papers is her last (preserved) letter to him and a draft of his reply. Mabel was upset because Greece had not offered any aid to Serbia when her adopted country had been attacked by Bulgaria in October 1915; she was further afraid that Greece would ally with Bulgaria against Serbia. In his reply Ion told his “dear pagan” that her fears were unfounded.

Mabel Grouitch, ca. 1920. Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
Ion Dragoumis, 1915. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

A year later, in December 1916, Mabel entered Ion’s diaries for one last time. “The women I loved or loved me are slowly-slowly renouncing me. Last year Mabel wrote me some strange letters showing that she did not approve of my political choices. The Friend [Penelope Delta] the same; especially, this year that her father was imprisoned for conspiring with the Venizelists, she told my sister that she had been disillusioned with me” (Sotiropoulos 1986, p. 161, entry for December 31, 1916 [my loose translation]).

If those two continued to correspond during Ion’s exile in Corsica (1917-1919) we have no evidence. He returned to Athens in November 1919. Seven months later he would be murdered by supporters of Venizelos. She must have learned the news about Ion’s assassination in America where her husband had become the first ambassador of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in Washington.  It must have been a blow to her, to have lost her dear Hermes. Her “gods” had not taken care of him.


I would like to thank Jennifer Bakatselou for transcribing a portion of Mabel Gordon Dunlap’s letters. It was not an easy task because of her difficult hand-writing. Another difficulty when studying Dunlap’s letters is that most of them are undated.

Mabel Dunlap Grouitch came up one more time in the ASCSA Archives. On May 17, 1930 she sent a letter to Rhys Carpenter, Director of the ASCSA (1927-1932), and his wife where she referred to the charming evening she and Slavko had spent with Mrs. Carpenter at the School last spring and that they were “still hoping to take advantage of her kind invitation to stay at the School next time” they visited Greece (ASCSA AdmRec, box 108/1, folder 12). 


Clark, C. 2013. The Sleepwalkers. How Europe Went to War in 1914, London.
Sotiropoulos, T. 1986. Ίων Δραγούμης. Φύλλα Ημερολογίου Ε’ (1913-1917), Athens.
Sotiropoulos, T. 1988.  Ίων Δραγούμης. Φύλλα Ημερολογίου Α’ (1895-1902), Athens.
Trgovčević, L. 2008. “Mabel Grujić – An American in Serbia. Contribution on Her Humanitarian Work during the World War One,” in 125 Years of Diplomatic Relations between the USA, Belgrade, pp. 311-325.

“Who Doesn’t Belong Anywhere, Has a Chance Everywhere”: The Formative Years of Emilie Haspels in Greece.


Filiz Songu studied archaeology in Izmir and Ankara. As an independent scholar, she works for the Allard Pierson in Amsterdam and is a staff member of the Plakari Archaeological Project in Southern Euboia. She just completed her biographical research into the life and work of Dutch archaeologist Emilie Haspels. In her contribution to From the Archivist’s Notebook, she discusses Haspels’s early formative years in pre-WW II Greece, and the challenges she and other women archaeologists of her time met in a male-dominated field. Since Haspels worked with many foreign archaeological schools in Greece, Songu’s essay is literally a “Who’s Who” of foreign archaeology in interwar Greece.

Caroline Henriëtte Emilie Haspels (1894–1980) was a prominent classical archaeologist in the Netherlands in the decades after WW II. She was the first female professor of Archaeology at the University of Amsterdam and the first female director of the Allard Pierson Museum. Most scholars know her from her study The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments (1971), which is still a reference work on the rock-cut monuments in the Phrygian Highlands in central Turkey. For another group of academicians, Emilie Haspels is known for her other classic publication, Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi (1936).

One may wonder what the connection is between these two widely differing fields of specialization. When I started my biographical research into the life and work of Emilie Haspels, my original focus was on her pioneering fieldwork in Turkey. However, when I dug deeper into her personal documents, I discovered more about other significant periods of her life. Her archive provided glimpses of, for instance, her time in Shanghai in 1925–26, and her enforced stay in Istanbul during WW II. It shows how the twists and turns of history affected both her private and her academic life. Key to understanding her archaeological carrier is what I like to call her “Greek period.” The years she spent in Greece in the 1930s doing her PhD research appear to be her formative years as an archaeologist. With the field experience and special skills she acquired in Greece, she paved the way, perhaps unconsciously, to the Phrygian Highlands, which became her life’s work. It was also during her Greek period that she started to build up a wide international network. Haspels’s personal documents and correspondence in various Dutch archives provide complementary information about the scholarly community in pre-WW II Athens and connect with the writings in Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan’s blog.

Becoming an Archaeologist

Haspels’s Greek period started in the spring of 1929 with her arrival in Athens as a foreign member of the French School. A little about her academic background may be useful here. Haspels had studied Classics at the University of Amsterdam between 1912 and 1923. She minored in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology, attending Jan Six’s classes.

Emilie Haspels as a student at the University of Amsterdam, ca. 1920. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

After her graduation, she taught Latin and Ancient Greek in secondary and high schools in the Netherlands. However, she was determined to continue doing archaeological research, preferably on Greek pottery. In 1928, she started her PhD at the University of Utrecht under the supervision of Carl W. Vollgraff. She earned a scholarship to study at a university abroad, followed by what was meant to be a six-month stay in Greece. She chose to go to Oxford, where she studied with Sir John Beazley and also attended classes given by John L. Myres, Stanley Casson, Marcus N. Tod, and Gilbert Murray. Beazley took it upon himself to become her mentor. After leaving Oxford, she maintained intensive correspondence with him. In his letters, he encouraged Haspels in her research on Greek pottery and advised her whom to contact and where to publish her articles.

Letter from John Beazley to Emilie Haspels, September 7, 1929. Source: Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.

The French School at Athens and Foreign Excavations

After two semesters at Oxford, Haspels’s scholarship allowed her to spend six months in Greece. At the time, the Netherlands did not have research facilities in Athens. Haspels therefore had no choice other than to follow in the footsteps of previous Dutch scholars, mostly classicists, who traditionally entered the French School as membres étrangers. Her supervisor, Vollgraff, a former foreign member, had made a request to the French School. This was not to her liking, and in one of her letters to a Dutch colleague she complained:

“I’m really not in the mood for the French School! The German Institute has Buschor and the British School has Prof. Ashmole, who according to Prof. B[eazley] will be of great use to me. At the French School? … Nobody. ‘And where are the French people when they are in Athens? You never see them in the museums,’ according to Prof. B[eazley].”

Haspels to G. van Hoorn, December 12, 1928 (University Library Utrecht, Special Collections, Collection Van Hoorn).

However, she soon changed her mind: she was content with the accommodation and research facilities provided by the French School. She felt “welcome to participate in English, German and French excavations all over Greece,” as she later noted in her memoirs about her fieldwork and expeditions in Turkey (Berndt 2012, p. 11).

Haspels had her first fieldwork experience in the spring of 1929 at the British School’s excavations of the prehistoric site of Thermi on Lesbos under the direction of Winifred Lamb. (On Lamb, see David W. J. Gill, Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator, 2018.) She was initially involved in the field photography and pottery analysis, but when she came back the following year she supervised her own trench.

Haspels at Thermi, Lesbos 1930. Source: Haspels Family Archive.
Haspels with Richard W. Hutchinson, Thermi 1930. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

Her six-month period in Greece appeared to be the prelude to a much longer stay, thanks to another scholarship as well as paid assignments for the French School. After Thermi, she joined two more British projects. In 1930–1933, she worked during two campaigns with Humfry G.G. Payne (1902-1936) at the Heraion in Perachora (Corinthia). In 1932 she worked briefly with Walter A. Heurtley’s team on Ithaca studying the pottery. In Samos, she joined the German excavations at the Heraion (1931 and 1932) directed by Ernst Buschor (1886-1961). The British and German excavation directors did not allow her to participate in the publications, but did give her permission to publish semi-scientific articles about their projects for the Dutch periodicals Hermeneus and Bulletin Antieke Beschaving (e.g., see Haspels 1933 and Haspels 1934).

Haspels in Perachora, 1930-1933. Text on reverse of photo: “Yanni, Payne, Emilie, Blakeway. Excavations Perachora (washing sherds).” Source: Haspels Family Archive.

The situation with the French School was different. As a foreign member, she was given more responsibilities and chances to participate not only in the School’s excavations, but also in the publications. At the French School’s excavation on Delos, where she worked regularly between 1930 and 1935, the director Joseph Chamonard allowed her to publish pottery from the earlier excavations in the Apollo sanctuary. The other French project she was involved in was on Thasos, where she excavated between 1931 and 1934, the final year as field director. The director, Pierre Devambez, asked her to study and publish the Archaic pottery. She was also allowed to write an article about the excavations for The Illustrated London News in 1932.

The Illustrated London News, September 3, 1932.

Connecting Link

Haspels went from one project to another and stayed in Athens for only short periods of time. When in Athens, she studied pottery at the National Museum, and also used the opportunity to socialize with the members of the other foreign schools. Working with different foreign teams put her in a unique position to bring these members together. In her memoirs, she mentions how she took the French to the monthly tea at the American School, which was one of the reasons why Mme. Roussel, wife of the director of the French School, called her the “connecting link between the institutes” (Berndt 2012, p. 12–13). Though she did not follow the academic program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, she did participate in some of its activities:

“It was a fortunate coincidence that at that time the extensive excavation of the Agora at Athens was taken in hand by the American School; the new group of excavators were eager to make acquaintance with the members of other schools and encouraged us to come to the dig and see their findings.”

Berndt 2012, p. 12.

It is here that her lifelong friendship with Lucy Talcott and Gladys Davidson Weinberg began, as her correspondence during and after WW II shows.

In Athens she also participated in Wilhelm Dörpfeld’s city walks:

“At that time we suddenly heard that Dörpfeld was going to give lecture tours on the Acropolis. This was an incredible experience, it made one feel as if we actually lived in the times of Schliemann, profiting by the wisdom of Schliemann’s architect-excavator of Troy.”

Berndt 2012, p. 12.
Dörpfeld’s tour on the Acropolis. Haspels standing on the right, holding an umbrella, Dörpfeld standing in the middle of the group and pointing, 1931. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

In one of her letters to her sister in the Netherlands, she commented on Dörpfeld’s late years. (About Dörpfeld and his theories being challenged by younger scholars, see also “On the Trail of the “German Model”: ASCSA and DAI, 1881-1918.”)

“Remember I talked about that famous old professor, Dörpfeld, we were told about in high school? Well, he wanted to organize a trip with a group to Ithaca and Leukas. The trip was canceled because only one [person] signed up: not one single German, for example. How pathetic it is to grow old!”

Emilie to C. Haspels, September 14, 1931. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

During her stay in Athens she also enjoyed the cultural life. She mentions, for example, attending a concert “directed by [Dimitri] Mitropoulos, then still at Athens” (Berndt 2012, p. 13). In her archive there is a photo that has only a brief note on the back, saying that it was taken during a recording session of folk singing in Athens in 1930. In this photo, we see the French linguist, Hubert Octave Pernot (1870-1946), professor of Modern Greek, who was leading a project to create a permanent record of modern Greek folk songs. To his left is an unnamed woman, whom I think is musicologist Melpo Logotheti-Merlier, founder of the Musical Folklore Archives, which is now the oldest section of the Center for Asia Minor Studies. She is known to have assisted Pernot in the abovementioned project.

Hubert Octave Pernot and Melpo Logotheti-Merlier in Athens. Haspels standing at the back, looking to the side. Text on reverse: “Barracks in Athens. 1930. With Prof. Pernot, for recording folk-songs on gramophone.” Source: Haspels Family Archive.

All this may seem interesting and exciting, and shows how intensive and productive her years in Greece were. However, the absence of a Dutch institute in Athens distressed her. In one of her reports to the University of Utrecht, she described her situation as follows:

“Of course, at each excavation you have different functions because each excavation has different demands; but because of my studies, I’ve usually been occupied with the vases. […] I can’t underestimate how big an advantage it’s been for me being Dutch, as I’ve been able to join all these different excavations by the various schools: who doesn’t belong anywhere, has a chance everywhere. On the other hand, I do see the disadvantage of not belonging anywhere.”

Report for Philological Society at Utrecht, 1932, Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.

End of Greek period

In 1935, Haspels submitted her PhD thesis titled Bijdrage tot de studie van Attisch zwart-figurig (“Contribution to the study of Attic black-figure”). The following year she published a more extended version in English under the title Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi. This study received many positive reviews written by, for example, Gisela M.A. Richter and T.B.L. Webster. Renowned French pottery expert Charles Dugas (1885-1957) not only praised Haspels’s research methods and outcomes, but also called attention to the unusual character of this endeavor: it was written in English by a Dutch female archaeologist from Oxford who had become a foreign member of the French School at Athens, which published it  (Dugas 1937, p. 40). Dugas also used his review to advise the French School to take Haspels as an example and open its doors to female researchers and accept larger numbers of French women into scientific research. The highest recognition, I believe, came two decades later. Beazley in the ‘Instructions for Use’ to his Attic Black-figure Vase-painters (1956) referred to Haspels’s research on lekythoi in the following manner:

“One of the largest classes of black-figure vase, the lekythos, has been thoroughly studied by Miss Haspels in her fine work Attic Black-figured Lekythoi. I have not reproduced her list. I have made additions; and especially if I had much to add, I have not hesitated to repeat what is there, following no hard and fast rule; but if a vase does not appear in my pages, it should be sought in Miss Haspels’s index.”

Beazley 1956: pp. iix-ix

The completion of her PhD research marks the end of her Greek period. Very soon afterward, a new phase in her life would start. Her field experience and pottery expertise made her the best candidate for another French project, this time in Turkey. Albert Gabriel (1883-1972), director of the French Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, asked her to direct the excavations at Midas City in Anatolia. Here, she conducted five campaigns between 1937 and 1939, when WW II broke out, trapping her in Turkey, where she was forced to remain for six years.

Although she started to work in Turkey, she kept in touch with scholars she had met in Oxford and Athens. She corresponded with Beazley regularly, even during WW II. In his letters to Haspels, Beazley informed her about his ongoing research, once in a while colored with news of a more personal nature, for instance about his wife’s volunteer work for British soldiers: “My wife has invented a woolen garment for the forces and has sent out over 2500. It bears the classical name of Kredemnon” (Letter from Beazley to Haspels, September 6, 1942). (See also M. Alden, “Mrs Beazley’s Kredemnon: Homeric Comforts for the Troops, 1939-45” in Costume 44:1, 2010, pp. 106–109.) Her friendship with Winifred Lamb, who conducted fieldwork between 1935 and 1937 in Kusura Höyük, became stronger. A recurring topic was their exchange of experiences of working in Turkey.

It was most probably Lamb who introduced Haspels to Francis H. Bacon, who was also known as “Uncle Bacon.” (On Bacon, read also “Francis H. Bacon: Bearer of Precious Gifts from the Dardanelles.”) The earliest correspondence between them is from 1937, some years before Bacon’s death, when Haspels started to conduct excavations at Midas City. Together with this letter, Bacon shared some photographs that he took during his visits to Athens in 1930 and 1931. One shows their mutual friend Winifred Lamb “in Athens Museum workshop,” two others are portraits of Wilhelm Dörpfeld taken “in my room at Grande Bretagne,” and one is of Sophia Schliemann “in her house at Phaleron.”

Photographs taken by Francis H. Bacon in Athens in 1930 and 1931, from left to right: Winifred Lamb, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, Sophia Schliemann. Source: Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.

When WW II ended, Haspels returned to the Netherlands, and soon became a professor at the University of Amsterdam. Now that she had tenure, she could finally start her own field project. Between 1946 and 1958, she organized four survey expeditions to the Phrygian Highlands. During her excavations at Midas City, she came to realize that this was still a largely unexplored region. It was a terrain where she could make a name for herself, but it also appealed to the romantic side of her. As she would later observe in her monograph: “I had to record what I found, I am the last of the travelers” (Haspels 1971: viii). Finally, she belonged somewhere.

Although her Phrygian research dominated the rest of her academic life and a good part of her retirement, she did not lose her connection with Greece and Athens. She traveled regularly to Greece, and organized and guided excursions for Dutch students. In 1956, she was invited to join the ceremonies marking the dedication of the Stoa of Attalos.

Opening session of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the American School held in the garden of the Gennadius Library, as part of the ceremonies of the dedication of the Stoa of Attalos. Haspels can be traced sitting right in front of the photographer standing in the middle (red arrow). Source: ASCSA, Athenian Agora Excavations Archive (#2003.01.0032).

She continued to visit Athens, often before and after her expeditions in Turkey. In her personal documents, she mentions that during these visits she was asked to help classify and date pottery from the Agora excavations. Her correspondence with Lucy Talcott includes this photo of Attic lekythoi found during the Agora excavations. On the back is typewritten information, to which Talcott added a handwritten, personal message: “C.H.E.H.! How we have been working for you! L.T.”


Beazley, J. D. 1956. Attic Black-figure Vase-Painters, Oxford.
Berndt, D. (ed.) 2012. Emilie Haspels. I am the Last of the Travelers: Midas City Excavations and Surveys in the Highlands of Phrygia. With Contributions by Halet Çambel, Istanbul.
Dugas, C. 1937. “Une étude de céramique grecque,” Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé 56, pp. 37-40.
Haspels, C. H. E. 1933. “Bij ons op Ithaka,” Hermeneus, vol. 6.1, pp. 7–13.
—————————1934. “Bij ons op Samos,” Hermeneus, vol. 6.10, pp. 159–166.
—————————1935. Bijdrage tot de studie van Attisch zwart-figurig, Nijkerk.
—————————1936. Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi, Paris.
—————————1971. The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments, Princeton.
Songu, F. 2019. “Emilie Haspels’ Griekse jaren,” Tijdschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie, vol. 60, pp. 47–53.

On the Trail of the “German Model”: ASCSA and DAI, 1881-1918

Founded in 1881, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter ASCSA or the School) was the third foreign archaeological school to be established in Greece and followed the French and German models. For the first thirty years, the activities of the American School were closely intertwined with those of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens (DAI or German Institute hereafter) and the Austrian Archaeological Institute of Athens (Austrian Institute or Station hereafter).

Eloquent testimony to their informal relationship is found in the ASCSA Annual Reports (AR) from 1887 onwards, where the directors of the American School repeatedly extended their profound gratitude to Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld, Director of the German Institute (1887-1912), Paul Wolters, Second Secretary of the German Institute (1887-1900), and Adolf Wilhelm, Secretary of the Austrian Institute (1898-1905), for allowing American students to attend their weekly seminars and archaeological excursions. Only occasionally, would the ASCSA similarly express its gratitude to a French or British colleague.  In fact, the ASCSA relied so heavily on the German Institute that it delayed developing an independent academic program of its own until Dӧrpfeld stopped offering his lectures and tours in 1908.

In order to reconstruct the early decades of the School’s history and its relationship to the German Institute, in addition to the Annual Reports, I have also relied on a second type of primary source: personal correspondence and diaries.  Both are rare, however.  Unlike official documents that have a greater chance of survival (sometimes in more than one copy) the preservation of family correspondence is a matter of luck. Of the 200 men and women who attended the School’s academic program from 1881 to 1918, the outgoing letters of fewer than a dozen members have survived, and of those only the letters of few have found their way back to the School’s Archives.

By nature, each type of source provides the researcher with different kinds of information, even if both sources refer to the same people or events.  Official reports are formal and, to a certain extent, sanitized documents that deliver the governing body’s mindset. I, personally, find private correspondence a more insightful source, although it can be subjective and overstated; nevertheless, it is the best thing that a historian has at his/her disposal for reconstructing the past because its testimonies offer contemporary perspectives.  At a time when cell phones, text messages, and social media were not available, a letter was the only way for reporting one’s activities and also for expressing one’s feelings.  Glimpses, for example, at the private correspondence of Nellie M. Reed, student of the School in 1895-1896, reveal a continuous stream of informal American-German gatherings during that year, otherwise undocumented in the Annual Reports.

In 2016, I was invited to participate in a conference that explored the early history of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens. I used that event as an opportunity to study and re-write the “German chapter” in the history of the American School.[1]  The narrative explores the catalysts that brought these two groups together and asks: Was it simply the vibrant and charismatic personality of Dӧrpfeld, who for three decades dominated the archaeological community of Athens, that was responsible for the rapprochement of the two institutions in the closing decades of the 19th century, or did the School’s close ties with the German and Austrian institutes reflect a larger educational trend that prevailed in American academic circles in the second half of the 19th century?

Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld and Adolf Wilhelm in the Annual Reports

For many years the directors of the American School expressed their gratitude to Dӧrpfeld and Wilhelm for allowing the School’s students to attend their weekly lectures, as well as participate in the archaeological excursions that Dӧrpfeld led twice a year. “He began his lectures on Saturday, the 10th of last October, and invited us to attend that and all his later lectures on every Saturday through the autumn and winter. I need not state how precious was this privilege, and how stimulating and suggestive we have found his lectures” acknowledged Director Charles Waldstein in his AR for 1891-1892. Ten years later, Director Rufus B. Richardson, at the end of his ten-year directorship at the American School thanked Dӧrpfeld and Wilhelm, noting that “these eminent specialists have by their kindness and generosity become, for all practical purposes, members of our faculty.”  More than 15 years later, another director, Bert Hodge Hill would state in his Annual Report for 1908-1909:

“To hear him on Saturday afternoons has for so long been one of the great advantages of a student’s residence in Athens that it is difficult to conceive of the year’s work without his lectures. We shall wait long for another lecturer who can speak on the subject of Athenian topography with the authority, lucidity, and charm of Prof. Dӧrpfeld.”

Wilhelm Dörpfeld, 1900.

The American students were also required to attend the lectures of Adolf Wilhelm (1864-1950) of the Austrian Archaeological Station at the Epigraphical Museum.  “… and [he] invited our students to join him (along with several of the German students). This they did, and thus enjoyed the guidance of a scholar who has few equals in reading and explaining inscriptions,” reported Director Rufus B. Richardson in 1895. In fact, the Annual Professors of the American School would frequently give up their lectures at the Epigraphical Museum and surrender the field to Dr. Wilhelm “who was doing it better than I could hope to do” admitted J. R. S. Sterrett, one of the two visiting professors in 1896-1897. Four years later, in 1900-1901, the American students formed the largest part of Dr. Wilhelm’s class.

Adolf Wilhelm, 1931. ASCSA Archives, Francis H. Bacon Papers.

In addition to attending Dӧrpfeld’s Saturday talks and Wilhelm’s epigraphy courses, the students of the American School also had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Paul Wolters, the Deputy Secretary of the German Institute, lecturing on sculpture every other Wednesday (ASCSA Archives, Annual Report 1895-96, 22).  Wolters (1858-1936) was later appointed professor of archaeology at the University of Würzburg (1900-1908), and in 1908 he succeeded Adolf Furtwängler at the University of Munich.

“A Prophet Piercing the Future”: Private Accounts of Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld

The information one gets about Dӧrpfeld and the others from the Annual Reports reveals the School’s high regard both for their generosity to the students and the quality of these lectures.  From the private letters, we glean something very different, however.  We catch valuable glimpses of their personalities and physical appearance.

I was blown away by the amount of detail that went into one’s letters when distance was real and not virtual, photography was expensive, and indoor photography a process with unreliable results. These letters are a good source of information for studying the social fabric, interaction, and shifting relations among the members of the archaeological community in Athens, but only part of them has so far been transcribed. Unfortunately, reading, transcribing, and editing personal letters or diaries is a laborious and time-consuming task, and one that is usually not rewarded with instant gratification.

Nellie Marie Reed (1872-1957), a graduate of Cornell University, attended the ASCSA in 1895-1896. Twice a week she wrote long letters to her mother and brother about her life in Athens. It was her first time away from home, and she wanted to share with her family every moment of her Greek experience. In her case, it might well be said that each of her descriptions is worth a thousand images.

“Yesterday afternoon we all went to Dr. Dӧrpfeld’s lecture which lasted from 2-5 on the spot… He speaks exquisite German, clearly and slowly, and I was more than happy to be able to understand everything, though of course it was hard work and very tiring. He is a fine man, about medium height, a rather light moustache, an exceedingly pleasant face, and exceptionally beautiful hands” wrote Nellie to her mother on November 10, 1895.

Nellie M. Reed, ca. 1895. ASCSA Archives, Nellie M. Reed Papers.

No image could have portrayed Dӧrpfeld’s commanding presence better than another of her descriptions after having attended the Open Meeting of the German Institute: “He simply demolishes with one blow the opponents who hold different views and proves the strength of his own. He is magnificent in his simplicity and modesty” (Reed to her family, March 1, 1896). And when she writes to her mother that he “sounded like a prophet piercing the future,” I suspect that she was repeating verbatim the comments of some senior archaeologist (Reed to her family, December 15, 1895). Little did she know that many of Dӧrpfeld’s theories would eventually fail the test of time.

Simple, charming, and genius are three characterizations of Dӧrpfeld that are repeated in people’s private correspondence. Four years later, in 1899, a young Ida C. Thallon (she would later marry the School’s Director Bert Hodge Hill) would also describe Dӧrpfeld as “the loveliest, most charming man imaginable, as simple and unaffected as possible and you would never think from his manner that he is about the biggest celebrity in his line” (ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, box 3, folder 3, Thallon to her mother, November 6-7, 1899).

Ida Thallon, ca. 1899. ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers.

It is also worth sharing the account of Theodore W. Heermance (1872-1905), who had attended Dӧrpfeld’s lectures first as a student, in 1894-1896, and almost a decade later, as a peer when he became Director of the American School (1903-1905). We do not have any descriptions from his student years but the one from 1903 is telling enough. After attending one of Dӧrpfeld’s lectures on the Old Athena temple, Heermance, still full of respect for the master, remarked in one of his letters:

“He did not finish, though he talked over 2 ½ hours. It was a masterly presentation of his argument, and yet I now count myself among his opponents having been converted from being an adherent a year ago… I was hoping he would have some new arguments…, but there was nothing he said yesterday which he has not already printed” (ASCSA Archives, Theodore W. Heermance Papers, box 2, folder 9, Heermance to his mother, January 18, 1903 (letter #27).

Theodore Woolsey Heermance, ca. 1903.

Heermance belonged to a new generation of American archaeologists ready to take the torch from Dӧrpfeld.  However, when he heard that Dӧrpfeld considered leaving Athens because he had been offered a position in the Berlin Museum, he admitted to his mother: “Athens without D. would hardly seem the same place. Everything has revolved about him as a center for so long” (ASCSA Archives, Theodore W. Heermance Papers, box 2, folder 9, Heermance to his mother, February 15, 1903 (letter #31).

Heermance would not live long enough -he died prematurely from typhoid fever in 1905- to see the “darling” of the American archaeological community falling off the pedestal after his retirement because of his growing intolerance to the views of younger scholars –such as William Bell Dinsmoor and their famed debate over the different phases of the Parthenon.

The Peloponnesian and Island Trips: Official and Private Accounts

Today the American School is famous for its vigorous on-site academic program which includes five archaeological excursions throughout Greece and one or two outside the country. What is not widely known is that the School did not really develop its independent academic program until the first decade of the 20th century, after Dӧrpfeld retired from lecturing in 1908. Although the directors of the School would lead small bike trips in the Greek countryside, the real excitement for the American students was to participate in Dӧrpfeld’s Peloponnesian tour and the more famous “Inselreise.”

“Nearly every member of the School proposes to share in part the tour conducted by him through Peloponnesus, and to take the whole of his Island Tour. As these tours occupy about a month, it may seem like breaking up the School, but it would be most unwise, in my judgment, to deter our students in any way from sharing this great privilege… I am most happy to have then all go, and shall go with them,” wrote director Richardson in his AR for 1894-1895.

What is also not mentioned in the official reports but comes up in the private letters is that women were discouraged by Dӧrpfeld from participating in the Peloponnesian trip because of its rough conditions which included sleeping in tents or poorly kept inns, but were encouraged to join the island trip because it offered boat cabins and hot meals.

Dӧrpfeld’s Peloponnesian Trip, ca. 1895. ASCSA Archives, Theodore W. Heermance Papers.

Ruth Emerson and Nellie Reed were among the 62 participants in the “Inselreise” of 1896. Ruth Emerson’s hand-drawn itinerary complements Nellie Reed’s account of the trip.  From Nellie’s descriptions, one gathers that the island trip attracted most of the archaeological and diplomatic community of Athens (although the French archaeologists almost never joined any of Dӧrpfeld’s trips), as well as members of the newly founded American School of Classical Studies in Rome. Even “Mr. Schliemann’s son Agamemnon took the trip” noted Nellie in one of her letters (Reed to her family, May 15, 1896).  We are very lucky to have these letters for without them we would have not known the extent, frequency, and composition of some of the American-German/Austrian social gatherings.  Attracting a younger crowd, these so-called “Kneipe evenings,” frequently included Hans von Fritze, Alfred Schiff, and Wilhelm Wilberg (1872-1956), with whom Nellie appeared to have fallen in love (ASCSA Archives, Nellie M. Reed Papers, box 1, Reed to her family, May 16, 1896). Wilberg, an accomplished architect, would participate for many years in the Austrian excavations at Ephesus (1899-1908, 1911 and 1913), before becoming the Director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute at Athens (1912-1921).

The Inselreise of 1896. ASCSA Archives, Ruth Emerson Papers.

The itinerary of the Inselreise, 1896. ASCSA Archives, Ruth Emerson Papers.

To Ida Thallon, who took part in the Inselreise of 1900, we owe a wonderful description of Baron Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen (1864-1947), who was excavating at Thera. “[…] he is very rich and interested in archaeology and does it at his own expense… The baron is delightful, exactly like a man in a play or a book, but which I never thought really grew in ordinary life. Rather plump with a curly beard… He was the soul of hospitality; we had all sorts of good things to eat, sweet chocolate, loukoumi, biscuits, bottled soda and cognac, […] such a jovial funny man, we all are devoted to him. He has done fine work in his excavation and has just gotten under full swing for this season” (ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, box 3, folder 3, Thallon to her mother, May 8, 1900 [letter #77]).

Unlike Nellie, who was positively disposed to German culture, Ida was snobbish and critical of her German travel companions during both trips. In Olympia, she described them as “funny… with the most awful clothes and lack of collars and shaggy appearances, [as] queer as anything you ever saw”(ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, box 3, folder 3, Thallon to her mother, April 22, 1900 [letter #71]). As for the Germans of the Inselreise only Georg Karo (1872-1963) escaped Ida’s snide comments.  In presenting some of her fellow travelers to her mother Ida scribbled: “One Mr. Karo was born in Italy (German parents) but was more like an Englishman, spoke exactly like one without the suspicion of accent and acted and looked like one, a very brilliant man and knew lots; also a great ladies’ man” (ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, box 3, folder 3, Thallon to her mother, May 13, 1900 [letter #79]).

The Difficult 1910s

Georg Karo. Source: DAI Berlin, Archiv der Zentrale.

Karo with his cosmopolitan manners and fluency in languages would also favorably impress William Bell Dinsmoor’s young bride, Zillah. (About Zillah Pierce Dinsmoor (1886-1960), see also “Letters from a New Home: Early 20th Century Athens Through the Eyes of Zillah Dinsmoor.”) Her letters describe enjoyable lunches and elaborate multi-national dinners at the German Institute with Karo as host.[2] “Mr. Karo, of course, speaks anything and everything perfectly” admiringly noted Zillah to her mother on January 10th, 1912. (Suggested reading: “Expat Feasts in Athens on the Eve of the Balkan Wars.“) Zillah’s glowing reports of Karo’s social gatherings would, however, not last long. The day she heard about the sinking of the Lusitania, she refused with a sharp written rebuke to attend a dinner organized by Karo.  And he replied to the Dinsmoors that “henceforth he will have nothing to do with them.” He would recognize Dinsmoor in his scientific capacity but no further (ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers, box 4, diary no. 7, December 20, 1914 – August 7, 1915, entry for May 10, 1915).

Bert Hodge Hill and Carl W. Blegen, Director and Secretary of the School respectively, would continue, of all the staff and students of the foreign schools, to attend the open meetings of the German School during the Great War until 1916, when the Institute was entrusted to the Greek Ministry of Education (Marchand 1996, 248). “In the evening we all (except Swift) went down to German School to Karos [sic]. Only Germans there besides us” scribbled Blegen on his personal diary on January 26, 1915.  A month before, on Winkelmann’s day, Dec. 9, 1914, and a few months after Germany had gone into war with most European countries, the German Archaeological Institute had honored Bert Hodge Hill by making him a corresponding member (ASCSA Archives, Bert H. Hill Papers, box 33). Earlier in the year, Dinsmoor had also been elected a corresponding member of the Institute. Both Hill and Dinsmoor had no problem accepting and retaining their memberships “in spite of the October 3, 1914 ‘Aufruf an die Kulturwelt’, a very nationalistic manifesto, which was signed by many German academics” (Dyson 2016, 229).  Finally, as late as November 7, 1916, Blegen and Karo would meet at the National Archaeological Museum to compare sherds from Tiryns and Korakou (ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers, box 4, diary no. 9, November 1, 1916 – April 1, 1917, entry for November 7, 1916).

 “Germanophilia,” Independent Research, and the Expansion of Knowledge

Having examined the situation on the ground in Greece, I now would like to return to my original question: What was responsible for this remarkable phase of “Germanophilia” during the early decades of the ASCSA’s existence?  For starters, there can be no doubt that personal agency played a major role. Dӧrpfeld’s charismatic personality, his eloquence, and the ability to excite his audience are all well attested. To this we could add the loss of the Delphi excavation to the French in the early 1890s.  Losing Delphi appears to have nurtured some anti-French feelings among the members of the American School (Lord 1947, 58-62). (On losing the Delphi excavation, see “The American Dream to Excavate Delphi or How the Oracle Vexed the Americans (1879-1891).”)

Besides the obvious, what led me to look deeper into the issue of “Germanophilia” was the apparent ease with which the students of the American School attended Dӧrpfeld’s and Wilhelm’s lectures.  Profiling the School’s early directors and professors also produced interesting results. Of the first ten ASCSA directors, eight had spent anywhere from a semester to several years in Germany, and six had received their Ph.D. from a German university. The same is true for the first two chairs of the School’s Managing Committee, John Williams White (1881-1887), Professor at Harvard, and Thomas Day Seymour (1887-1901), Professor at Yale. (White spent several years in Germany (1871-1877) studying classics at the University of Berlin, while Seymour studied classical philology for two years (1870-1872) in Leipzig and Berlin.) Of the first seventeen annual visiting professors, I have evidence that twelve matriculated at German universities. There could well be more, as in the case of White whose German experience was suppressed in his American obituaries of 1917, as well as the fact that he had been honored by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1904.

ASCSA Directors and Annual Professors educated in Germany.

While trying to understand why so many American classicists were matriculating in Germany, and not in England or France, for example, I came across a significant body of literature concerning the “German Model” of education in America in the late 19th century.  And it was not just the long tradition and excellence of German universities in the field of classics that made Germany the main destination for young American classicists. There is evidence that “ultimately some nine or ten thousand Americans matriculated in German Universities between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the outbreak of the First World War” (Turner and Bernard 1993, 88, note 5).

In the decades after the American Civil War, higher education in the U.S. experienced profound change.  Before the War, American colleges resembled high schools where students learned classical languages, rhetoric, simple mathematics, and religion. Recitation tested by regular examinations was the primary method of teaching. For about three decades after the Civil War, American colleges frequently sent their presidents and faculty to Germany with one mission, to study the German University. Germany was considered the Camelot of erudition (Turner 1999, 26; McCaughey 1974, 264-265). (For a more recent study of the educational pilgrimages that Americans paid to Germany in the 19th century, see Werner 2013. Werner also discusses the practice of establishing well-connected American colonies in Germany, which allowed the U.S. students to study in more than one university). On many occasions, German universities would serve as extensions of the American ones, as is the case of the “Yale-Leipzig-Gӧttingen network” (Werner 2013, 6). In addition to bringing back Wissenschaft, the Americans imported from Germany the concept of independent research and the flexible curriculum. American educators, however, would take independent research one step further by creating the graduate school, which did not exist in the German universities of the 19th century, thus giving birth to a new type of school: the research university.

Although Johns Hopkins is usually credited as being the first research university in the United States, places like Cornell and the University of Michigan were the forerunners of reforms in American education (Turner and Bernard 1993). Even more important from my perspective, however, is the fact that modern historians of education such as James Turner and Lawrence Veysey identify the American School of Classical Studies as the first American research institute in the humanities (Turner 1999, 298, especially note 4).

Discovering Nero’s Inscription: A Case in Point

I would like to illustrate this dynamic with an example from Cornell University because one of my main sources for this paper, Nellie M. Reed, graduated from there.  Cornell’s first president and “perhaps the most significant of the university builders in the United States,” Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), was one of the biggest proponents of the new research university (Turner and Bernard 2000, 225).  The year Nellie was in Athens (1895-1896) there were two more people from Cornell in town: visiting professor Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1854-1927) and student Eugene Plumb Andrews (1866-1957). Wheeler was a Professor of Comparative Philology at Cornell and later became president of the University of California (1899-1919). He was also a product of the “German model,” having received his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 1885 after several years of study at German universities. Both Nellie and Eugene had taken many classes from him at Cornell, and Nellie Reed was thus an indirect product of the “German model,” which explains her deep admiration for the German/Austrian archaeological community of Athens. Andrews’s story is even more interesting because his academic work in 1895-1896 is proof of the new kind of scholarship that American universities were producing by the end of the 19th century.

Here is how Andrews described his experience with Dӧrpfeld that led to a major discovery:

“One cold afternoon in December [1895] a group of shivering men and women followed a lecturer in and out among the blocks of marble that strew the Acropolis of Athens… It was an illustrated lecture on the Parthenon, with the Parthenon itself for illustration—one of the outdoor archaeological lectures which Dr. Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld of the German Institute gives every Saturday afternoon during the winter… We were gathered before the east front of the temple. The large holes, explained the lecturer, once served to hold great metal shields in place against the marble… Between the shields groups of metal letters were fastened, as these nail-holes that dot the spaces show, but what the letters were, or what they spelled, is not known.”

Dӧrpfeld concluded his Parthenon lecture by saying that it was possible “to determine from the relative positions of the holes what the letters were, and thus to recover the inscription. Such things have been done, and it is time that this was done” (Andrews 1897).

The new desire for independent research that universities such as Cornell and research institutes such as the American School were imbuing in their students, combined with Dӧrpfeld’s keen observations led Andrews to take up the call and suspend himself from the east side of the Parthenon. From this rather precarious position, he discovered Emperor Nero’s effaced inscription, which shed new light on the history of Athens.

Eugene Andrews suspended from the east side of the Parthenon, 1896. Source: The Century Illustrated Magazine 54, 1897, p. 301.

Despite his remarkable discovery, Andrews never published the inscription because it was connected with Nero. “The inscription proved to be a dedication to Nero, whereat I’m much disgusted,” he wrote to his sister two days after having presented the results of his discovery to the Open Meeting of February 21st at the American School. Even half a century later, in 1952, Andrews would confide “I felt no elation at having torn from the Parthenon its shameful character” (Carroll 1982, 7). Finally, it was Sterling Dow who deciphered the remainder of the inscription from Andrews’s squeezes in 1972. (For a publication and commentary on the inscription, see Carroll 1982.)

Coming of Age

After 1900 one discerns a subtle shift in the curriculum vitae of the directors and professors of the American School, which no longer include years or even semesters in German Universities. Once the reformation of the American University created a series of new graduate schools, the flow of American students to German universities was significantly reduced.  They would still go to Germany but during sabbatical leaves, not while in graduate school. Already from the first decade of the 20th century, we see a new generation of American graduate students arriving in Athens, intellectually confident, and better prepared than their predecessors. Some, but not all, would attend the lectures of Rudolph Heberdey on Archaic Sculpture, Georg Karo on “Smaller Antiquities,” and Anton von Premerstein on Epigraphy.  And some would get bored:

“Once on shipboard, we joined a group of fourteen German scholars led by Dr. Karo, director of DAI, and Dr. Wilberg, Director of the Austrian School. I had earlier met most of these men in one way or another and so we often practiced exchanges of stilted conversation… On April 6, we landed at Candia and spent the whole day in the museum trying to concentrate on Karo’s painfully detailed discussions, mostly of vases and minor objects. By way of a change, on Monday Wilberg led us through the huge palace of Knossos, but his method proved nearly as boring…,” wrote one of the School’s students, Emerson H. Swift, in 1912-1913 (Swift 1975, 38).

By 1910 the American School had already built its own, independent academic program, and private testimonia attest to a growing tendency to interact more with the neighboring British School. In fact, it was Hill, not Karo, who would take over Dӧrpfeld’s Athenian walks and establish the American School’s own tradition of on-site lectures by the likes of Oscar Broneer, William Dinsmoor, and Eugene Vanderpool. Moreover, where in the 1890s the American School looked up to the German Institute for guidance, by the 1900s there were signs that the situation had reversed. In 1907, Dӧrpfeld after consulting with Karo announced to the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin that they had no objection to accepting women archaeologists in Athens following the successful paradigm of the American and British Schools, which not only accepted women into their academic program but even allowed them to direct excavations.[3] Two years later (1909-1910), Margarete Bieber would be one of the four recipients of the travel fellowship yearly awarded by the German Archaeological Institute for work in Greece and Italy (Bonfante 1996, 159).

Despite how the Dinsmoors reacted to the sinking of the Lusitania, there is no strong evidence in the School’s Archives to support the idea that WWI created a breach in the relations of the two institutions.  It is clear that Karo continued to enjoy the friendship of Hill and Blegen after the war. But their bond was one formed before the outbreak of the hostilities.  At the same time, there is also no evidence that the two institutions re-established their close, pre-war ties after 1918.  Charles Waldstein, the Jewish-American Director of the American School who had acquired his Ph.D. from Heidelberg and whose family had emigrated from Austria, would go as far as to change his name to Walston at the end of the Great War, so as not to be imagined a German.  Perhaps even more telling, when the American School organized its own island cruise in 1923, there were no German students or professors among the many participants, unlike the cruises of the 1890s and early 1900s. (See “All Aboard”. Cruising the Aegean in 1923.”)


I am most grateful to Ann Townsend and Mary Townsend Bartholomew, granddaughters of Nellie Reed, for depositing faithful transcriptions of Reed’s letters to her family at the ASCSA Archives in 2010. I also thank them for allowing me to quote from Nellie’s letters. Reed’s letters are an invaluable source of information for a period that is otherwise poorly represented in the School’s Archives.

[1] The paper was published in Die Abteilung Athen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts und die Aktivitäten Deutscher Archäologen in Griechenland 1874-1933, ed. K. Sporn and A. Kankeleit, Berlin 2019, pp. 253-267.

[2] For a thorough presentation of Karo’s life, Lindenlauf 2015; Additional information can be found in Marchand 1996, 244-245, 247-248, 254-255; Davis 2010; and “A Preamble to the Nazi Holocaust in Greece: Two Micro-Histories from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.”

[3] I thank Dr. Alexandra Kankeleit for sharing with me the letter that Dӧrpfeld addressed to the General Secretary of the Royal Archaeological Institute in Berlin (Kaiserlich Deutches Archäologisches Institut, Berlin), on February 25, 1907.


E. P. Andrews, 1897. “How a Riddle of the Parthenon was Unraveled,” The Century Magazine 54.2 (June 1897), 301-309.

L. Bonfante, 1996. “Bieber Margarete (1879-1978),” in Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology, ed. N. Thomson de Grummond, London, 159-160.

K. K. Carroll, 1982. “The Parthenon Inscription,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Monographs 9, Durham, North Carolina.

J. L. Davis, 2010. “That Special Atmosphere Outside of National Boundaries. Three Jewish Directors and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens,” ASAtene 87, 133-145

S. L. Dyson, 1998. Ancient Marbles to American Shores. Classical Archaeology in the United States, Philadelphia.

A. Lindenlauf, 2015. “Georg Heinrich Karo: ‘Gelehrter und Verteidiger Deutschen Geistes’,” JdI 130, 259-354.

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

S. L. Marchand, 1996. Down from Olympus. Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970, Princeton.

R. A. McCaughey, 1974. “The Transformation of American Academic Life: Harvard University 1821-1892,” Perspectives in American History 8, 239-332.

V. Mitsopoulos-Leon, 2004. “Adolf Wilhelm und das Österreichische Archäologische Institut,” in Αττικαί Επιγραφαί. Πρακτικά συμποσίου εις μνήμην Adolf Wilhelm (1864-1950), ed. A. Matthaiou, Athens, 1-6.

E. H. Swift, 1975. Youthful Rambles on the Trail of the Classics, 1912-1915, Gilroy, California.

J. C. Turner, 1999. The Liberal Education of Charles Eliot Norton, Baltimore.

J. Turner – P. Bernard, 1993. “The ‘German Model’ and the Graduate School. The University of Michigan and the Origin of the American University,” History of Higher Education Annual 13, 69-98.

J. Turner – P. Bernard, 2000. “The German Model and the Graduate School. The University of Michigan and the Origin of the American University,” in The American College in the Nineteenth Century, ed. R. Geiger, Nashville, 221-241.

A. Werner, 2013. The Transatlantic World of Higher Education. Americans at German Universities, 1776-1914, New York.

Is this Julia Ward Howe?


Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University and an expert in Palaeolithic archaeology in Greece, and his wife Priscilla Murray, an anthropologist and Classical archaeologist, here contribute to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story about the purchase of a miniature portrait of an elegant, young woman in an antique fair, their research to identify both the subject of the portrait and its creator, and, finally, their thrilling discovery.

Even from a distance, the small portrait of a beautiful young woman had a commanding presence. We bought the miniature watercolor on ivory (less than 10 by 8 cm) at an antique fair in Holliston, a town near Boston, Massachusetts, because the sitter was dressed a la Gréque with a Greek column in the background. The quality of the painting, which points to a very accomplished miniaturist, together with the appearance and accoutrements of the subject, suggest that the painting was an important commission by a socially prominent person. We loved the painting, and of course, we were intensely interested in the identity of the young woman.

Julia Ward Howe (?). Miniature on ivory, 3.9 x 3.1in. Curtis Runnels and Priscilla Murray Collection.

Read the rest of this entry »

Forgotten Friend of Skyros: Hazel D. Hansen (Part II)

As a young woman, Hazel Dorothy Hansen broke several glass ceilings. From a humble background –her father was a foundryman—she was admitted to Stanford University in 1916, at a time when the institution had severely limited the admission of women. In 1904, Mrs. Stanford became afraid of the increasing number of women enrolling at Stanford (by 1899 reaching almost 40% of the student population) and implemented a quota that restricted their numbers at the undergraduate level: for every woman at Stanford, there had to be three men. (See Sam Scott, “Why Jane Stanford Limited Women’s Enrollment to 500,” Stanford Magazine, Aug. 22, 2018.). Fortunately for a girl of modest means, Stanford remained tuition-free until 1920.

She broke the glass ceiling again when she chose a prehistoric topic for her dissertation (“Early Civilization in Thessaly”) that also required extensive surveying for sites on the Greek periphery.  In the 1920’s female graduate students at the American School had limited options when it came to field research. Apart from Alice Leslie Walker, who had been entrusted with the publication of its Neolithic pottery, Corinth remained a male domain, with Bert Hodge Hill and Carl W. Blegen controlling access to, and publication of, archaeological material. Hazel would have needed either to finance her own excavation, as Hetty Goldman and Walker had done in the 1910s, or to write an art history thesis based on material in museums. It was not until David R. Robinson began excavations at Olynthus and Edward Capps spearheaded the Athenian Agora Excavations that women were allowed to participate in the publication of (secondary) excavation material.

Hansen’s monthly report (March 1924) to the School’s Director, where she lists her trips, and also proudly claims that she discovered the prehistoric site of Μαγούλα Παλιάμπελα (“and not even mentioned by Mr. Wace”). ASCSA Archives, AdmRec 108/1, folder 5.

Read the rest of this entry »