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Thomas Carr Howe papers, 1932-1984

Thomas Carr Howe papers, 1932-1984

Howe, Thomas Carr, 1904-1994

Art consultant, Arts administrator

Collection Information

Size: 4.4 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

Thomas Carr Howe, Jr. (1904-1994) was an art consultant in San Francisco, Calif. Howe served as the director of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco for nearly four decades and, during World War II, as an officer in the U.S. Army's Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives unit assisting with locating, recovering, and restituting cultural objects and artwork stolen by the Nazis.


Thomas Carr Howe donated his papers to the Archives of American Art in multiple installments from 1979 to 1982.

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Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Scope and Contents

The papers of Thomas Carr Howe, Jr. measure 4.4 linear feet and date from 1932 to 1984. Howe was director of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco for nearly 40 years and during World War II served as one of the Monuments Men in the Monuments, Fine Art and Archives (MFAA) Section of the U.S. Army. The collection contains substantial documentation of Howe's MFAA work in Germany and Austria locating and recovering cultural objects and works of art stolen and hid by the Nazis. There is significant correspondence with friends and colleagues, including Monuments Men S. Lane Faison, Edith Standen, and George Stout. The papers also contain numerous snapshots and annotated photographs documenting recovery, reports, inventories of stolen artwork, maps, a scrapbook, and additional correspondence from the period following the war when Howe served as the Cultural Advisor to the U.S. High Commissioner of Germany. The papers also document Howe's later work at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, but to a lesser degree.

Biographical materials include articles and memorial tributes for Howe's father and grandfather, a short autobiography and resume, and the certificate for the copyright to his book.

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, the most voluminous of which are letters from Monuments Men S. Lane Faison, Patrick J. Kelleher, Andrew C. Ritchie, Edith Standen, George Stout, Marcelle Minet, Rose Valland, James Rorimer, and others. Additional correspondents include friends and colleagues such as Bernard Berenson, Hume Cronyn, Paul Mills, Christopher Forbes, Margaret Mallory, William A. McGonagle, and Otto Wittman, among many others.

Writings include a brief summary of Howe's book, "Salt Mines and Castles," and a sound cassette of his lecture about the book. Project, membership, and travel files are primarily associated with his professional work at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and include documentation of member art trips, a feasibility study for merging the California Palace of the Legion of Honor with the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, and a membership list of the Bohemian Club.

The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) Records and Looted Inventories series contain many records relating to Howe's military service as a Monuments Man. There are several inventory records which contain lists of the contents of Hermann Göring's collection of looted artwork, artwork destroyed in the Flak towers fire in Berlin, and artwork held at several of the central collecting points, though mostly at Weisbaden. There is also a small fold out map of the Altausse salt mines; a U.S. government issued manual of maps marking important cultural monuments and artwork in Germany; a book of U.S. government regulations pertaining to the MFAA section; a government information bulletin; and several official status reports and published U.S. government reports about art looting investigations and safeguarding cultural property.

Professional files consist of papers relating to Howe's job as the director of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and art trips he organized. Documents include a survey of Los Angeles museum curator salaries, a questionnaire about Howe's work as a museum director, and a membership list of Bohemian Club artists. The bulk of the travel papers are itineraries.

The photographs are divided into two subseries: Monuments Men related images and personal photographs. The Monuments Men subseries includes black and white photographs documenting bomb damage to cultural monuments in France and Germany; U.S. soldiers transporting recovered artwork such as Michelangelo's "Madonna and Child" from the Altaussee salt mines in Austria, Neuschwanstein Castle, and Berchtesgaden in Germany, along with other locations of looted art repositories; Weisbaden and Munich collecting points; and documentation of recovered art such as "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" by Hubert and Jan van Eyck as well as Antonio Canova's "La musa Polyhymnia". There are many photographs of the Monuments Men including Thomas Carr Howe, George Stout, Stephen Kovalyak, Lamont Moore, Walker Hancock, Patrick J. Kelleher, Edith Standen and Rose Valland. Personal photographs consists of portraits of Howe and many photographs of events, mostly formal dinners and parties.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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