- George H. McFadden
George H. McFadden, III (1907-1953)
When George McFadden first proposed funding fieldwork on Cyprus in 1933, he was still a relative newcomer to the field of classical archaeology. Born on April 21, 1907, he was from a wealthy family whose fortune came from cotton brokerage. His father, George McFadden, Jr., moved to Villanova, outside Philadelphia, in 1907, where his father George McFadden, Sr. lived. The young family moved to Bloomfield, a house which George McFadden, Jr. had altered and enlarged in the 1920s by the Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer. George McFadden III grew up at Bloomfield, and at his father’s death in 1931, the house became his.
McFadden graduated from Princeton with honors in English in 1930, and he spent a year in the family business. He soon turned, however, to archaeology and, since he was from the Philadelphia area, to the University Museum. First he studied Egyptology but then turned to classical archaeology and worked with Edith Hall Dohan, curator of the Mediterranean Section; ultimately he was named a Research Associate in the Section.
McFadden brought his plan for supporting fieldwork to the museum’s director, Horace H. F. Jayne, who suggested using the funds to support the publication of the Museum’s 1931-32 excavations at Lapithos. It appears that McFadden wanted to support work at a new site, and by the spring of 1934, after Bert Hodge Hill was once again enlisted to direct the operation, arrangements were made to work at Kourion.
Work began at Kourion on May 20, 1934, with Hill supervising the work on the Kourion bluff, with McFadden and John Franklin Daniel. That first season lasted six weeks, and then McFadden returned to the United States, and he wrote the first article on the Penn excavations at Kourion, a short notice titled The Cyprus Expedition, which appeared in the University Museum Bulletin of January 1935. In these first years, Daniel surveyed the Kourion area searching for promising sites, and he recommended that work focus on the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates. McFadden would work elsewhere at Kourion in these years, particularly at Kaloriziki in 1934 and 1935, and at the basilica on the Kourion bluff in 1937, but the Sanctuary of Apollo would soon become his main area of work.
When McFadden came to Cyprus in 1934, he brought his 90ft yacht, the Samothrace. A Dutch pilot schooner (see The Schooner 'No 4') built in Rotterdam, the vessel was purchased by McFadden in 1933. He had her outfitted as a yacht and named her the Samothrace. In 1947, he sold the yacht to King Farouk I of Egypt. She changed hands several times after that, but has recently been restored. (See "A Classic Love Story: Schooner No 4" by Captain Thomas Wissmann) A sister ship of the Samothrace, The Tabor Boy, is a training vessel at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusettes.
By the late 1930s, McFadden had assumed more of the administrative work involved in running the excavation and took over some of Hill’s responsibilities. His financial support remained critical to the expedition. In 1938-39, since housing for the team had always been difficult in the small village of Episkopi, he built a two-story house where he lived and which also served as the excavation house. He left the house to the Cypriot government, and it is now the Kourion museum.
As war came to Europe, McFadden continued to work at Kourion and excavated the cemetery at Ayios Ermoyenis in 1940-41. Virginia Grace and Sara Anderson (Immerwahr) worked with him in 1940. Anderson left Greece just before the Italian invasion in October, while Grace would spend the war years in the Mediterranean. McFadden returned to the United States and joined the Navy, although he would be back in the Mediterranean, with the Samothrace, during the war, working for the Office of Strategic Services. He left the Navy at the end of the war with the rank of lieutenant commander. (See his passport from these years.)
After the war, in the early spring of 1946, McFadden was back at Kourion and was soon joined by Joseph Last, John Young, and Suzanne Young. The next year, Porphyrios Dikaios of the Cyprus Museum began excavating at Sotira Teppes, and John Young worked in the stadium. In 1948, John Franklin Daniel came back. He and McFadden worked with A. H. S. Megaw, the director of the Department of Antiquities, to establish a fair division of finds. Froelich Rainey became director of the University Museum in 1947, and he outlined a plan that would see the completion of the excvation and publication of the main areas of Kourion. Work shifted towards publication, and Rainey was looking to start a new excavation in Turkey. It was on the reconnaissance trip to Turkey with Rodney Young and G. Roger Edwards that Daniel died suddenly. Daniel’s death was a huge blow to the excavation and particularly to its publication plans.
With Daniel’s death, McFadden was the only senior member on site, since Hill, who was then in his seventies, came to Cyprus less and less frequently. He moved forward with the publication plan, and he assigned various sites and material to scholars for final publication. In September of 1952, McFadden reported to Rainey that most of the major excavations at Kourion were complete, and that the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates would be published over the next two years. But April 19, 1953, McFadden, a lifelong sailor, went out with his friend Derek Chudleigh in a new, small, and light sailboat. The boat capsized, and although Chudleigh was able to swim to shore, McFadden drowned. His body was never found.
Now with McFadden’s death, the Kourion excavations were again thrown into turmoil. Hill and Rodney Young came out to run the 1953 season, and Roger Edwards came to oversee the closing down of the excavation in the following year. Without McFadden’s financial support, the University Museum could not continue the excavation. In 1954, after a final division of finds, the site was turned over to the Cypriot government.
The Penn Kourion expedition ushered in a new era in Cypriot archaeology. George McFadden was a constant presence—both as archaeologist and patron—in the nearly twenty years of work at the site, and indeed without his support, the excavation would never have been undertaken.
This essay is dependent upon Mark Nakahara’s research in the excavation correspondence preserved in the Penn Museum Archives.
The Penn Museum owns one of George McFadden's US passports, issued in 1941. Please note to how many countries he was traveling, during World War II. McFadden worked with the Office of Strategic Services during the war.
This passport was found by the son of the owner of a building in Queens, NY. When one of the tenants died a number of years ago, he found a case among her belongings that included the passport and stamps from all over the world, which he kept. Many years later, in 2009, he contacted the Penn Museum to include it amongst the records of George McFadden.