Mason Hammond (1903-2002)
A distinguished Professor of Classics at Harvard, Mason Hammond served with the MFAA from 1942 to 1946. His extensive knowledge of the Italian language and culture enabled him to effectively advise U.S. Army officers on important archeological and artistic sites across Italy. Previously a Captain of Air Force Intelligence, Hammond was recommended by the staff of the Roberts Commission to serve as a Monuments officer. In May 1943, he was the first officer ordered to the field to serve in this position. As U.S. troops prepared to invade Sicily and southern Italy, Hammond joined them in northern Africa as an Advisor on Fine Arts and Monuments. He traveled throughout Sicily, Italy, and later Germany in this role.
In 1944, he was stationed in London with Dr. Francis Henry Taylor, Vice-Chairman of the Roberts Commission, where he worked to ensure that a restitution policy was included in the Handbook for Military Government in Germany Prior to Defeat or Surrender. During his service, Hammond also ran the MFAA office in Barbizon, outside of Paris. For his work in the MFAA, Hammond received honors from the Italian and Dutch governments, as well as the French Legion of Honor Award. In March 1946, the College Art Journal published an article by Hammond, “The War and Art Treasures in Germany,” a personal account of the state of German cultural treasures in the aftermath of the war.
In addition to his achievements in the U.S. military and the MFAA, Hammond also made significant contributions to the scholarly community. Graduating in 1925 from Harvard, he then studied at Oxford University for three years before returning to teach at his alma mater. As Pope Professor of the Latin Language and Literature Emeritus at Harvard, he was also head of the School of Classical Study at the American Academy in Rome before World War II, from 1937 to 1939, and later in the 1950s. He also returned to Italy twice to direct Harvard’s center for renaissance studies, Villa I Tatti, in Florence. Hammond received his master’s degree from Harvard in 1932, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1994. He wrote several books, including The Augustan Principate, The Menaechmi of Plautus, The City in the Ancient World, and The Antonine Monarchy.
A dedicated faculty member, Hammond served as senior tutor at Lowell House and master of Kirkland house from 1946 to 1955, and was also the commencement caller for 50 years, from 1936 to 1986. Upon retiring from Harvard in 1973, he dedicated his time to studying the history of the university. One of his numerous projects included documenting and translating all of the Latin and Greek inscriptions on the numerous buildings, gates, and plaques across the campus. Mason Hammond passed away on October 13, 2002, just four months shy of his 100th birthday, on Valentine’s Day of 2003.