Calvin Sutliff Hathaway (1907-1974)
Art historian and museum curator, Calvin Sutliff Hathaway was born on July 4, 1907. A native of Lockport, New York, he studied French literature at Princeton University before continuing his studies in art at Harvard University and New York University. He began his curatorial career at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he was an assistant curator, and later head, of the decorative arts department from 1930 to 1933. He then joined the staff of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration in New York (today, The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum) as assistant curator. During this time, Hathaway developed a new system for accessioning and cataloguing, organized exhibitions, and published studies of the museum’s collection. He was promoted to Associate Curator in 1942.
Hathaway secured a leave of absence from the Cooper-Union Museum and was drafted into the U.S. Army in August 1942. First assigned to the U.S. Quartermaster Corps, he was later transferred to the Civil Affairs Center in Shrivenham, England in September 1943. In December 1943 he assisted Monuments Man Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, Chief of MFAA operations at SHAEF headquarters in London, with the first draft of directives given to Monuments Men in the field. Hathaway was assigned to the MFAA Branch of the SHAEF German Country Unit in March 1944. There, alongside Monuments Men Lt. Col. Mason Hammond and Lt. Col. Theodore Sizer, he wrote chapters of the Civil Affairs Handbooks for Germany and Austria and completed the Official List of Monuments. Hathaway was named Deputy Chief of the MFAA Branch, U.S. Group Control Commission under its Chief, Mason Hammond, in May 1944. He was promoted to Chief in October 1945.
Hathaway participated in some of the most notable restitutions of the MFAA. In early 1945, he helped discover a Nazi repository of looted works of art near Kitzbühel, Austria. Inside, Hathaway and other Monuments Officers found a collection of objects belonging to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, including paintings, ivory, jewelry, and Benvenuto Cellini’s world-renowned gold salt cellar, La Saliera. In September 1945, he was one of only three Monuments Men selected to represent the MFAA at the formal ceremony in Belgium welcoming home Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece. Also in attendance were Monuments Men Mason Hammond and Maj. L. Bancel LaFarge. Held in the opulent Red Room of the Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium, the ceremony was attended by Prince Charles (Count of Flanders and Prince Regent of Belgium), multiple foreign dignitaries, and one hundred guests. For his contributions to the restitution of looted art, Hathaway was awarded the Bronze Star.
Upon his return to the United States in 1946, Hathaway resumed his duties as Curator of Decorative Arts at the Cooper Union Museum. He served as the museum’s Director from 1951 to 1963, when he returned to the Philadelphia Museum of Art as Curator of Decorative arts. He retired in 1973. Hathaway was a member of the American Association of Museums, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the International Center for the Study of Ancient Textiles.
Calvin Hathaway died of a heart attack while on holiday in Boston, Massachusetts on July 10, 1974. His papers are conserved at the Columbia University Library and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.