Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Anthony Horne’

Previous Interludes

photo by Joseph A. Horne, Mt. Olivet Cemetery

photo by Joseph A. Horne, Mt. Olivet Cemetery

In 1949, when Joseph A. Horne received an award from the Netherlands for his part in the restitution of books to that country, he was Chief of the American Information Center in Frankfurt, better known as Amerika Haus.  In a 2013 blog post, illustrator Eric Carle described his experiences at Amerika Haus as a young man:  “The Amerika Haus countered the negative view of the United States and the free world. It housed a library with books and magazines mostly in English, arranged discussion groups, performed plays, concerts, movies and exhibitions, for instance, a show on architecture from the United States. From time to time, the Amerika Haus arranged joint ventures with German cultural institutes …  The concept of the Amerika Haus was ingenious, successful and resonated with the German population eager for more contact with the outside world from which it had been isolated for many years.” A 20-year old art student, Carle would be hired to design posters for Amerika Haus events.

Libraries as places of cultural exchange was not a new idea.  Since 1938, the U. S. State Department had operated a global Cultural Relations Program, working with private citizens and organizations like the American Library Association, establishing libraries, orchestrating and/or collaborating with others to produce a wide range of activities from teacher/student exchanges to fine art exhibitions.  In post-war Germany the first Amerika Haus was established in Frankfurt by October 1947.  Others quickly followed.


These centers, soon located across Germany, drew peoples of all ages and backgrounds curious about the U.S. and seeking education and cultural opportunities that had been denied under Hitler, and then again under Stalin for those people living in Soviet-occupied areas.

By 1953, the libraries were being operated under the auspices of the United States Information Agency (USIA), known abroad as the United States Information Service (USIS).  Established under President Eisenhower, USIA focused on public diplomacy, and consolidated a number of foreign information activities into one agency, including the existing network of libraries.  The USIA would focus on delivering programming overseas with the Department of State providing foreign policy guidance. Titles changed and field operations shifted, but people like Joseph Horne continued what they had been doing since the end of the war, serving as liaison and ambassadors of U.S. culture and democratic ideals. The libraries were a focal point.  Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Hal Boyle, reported from Berlin in 1954:

The centers were viewed by many as a strategic investment against the rise of the Soviet Union and communism, not by using force, but by using arts, literature, music and commercial publications.  As Joseph Horne would later tell his son, “One of the most powerful pieces of U.S. propaganda ever was the Sears Roebuck catalog.

As the Cold War intensified, libraries, and especially Amerika Haus libraries in Germany, would become unexpected targets as the anti-Communist fervor intensified across the U.S.

Concerns had escalated to the point that government employees had to swear they were not Communist. Television networks made their employees sign loyalty oaths. Public media encouraged people to report anyone suspected of being “red.””

Excerpt from The_Pittsburgh_Courier_Sat__May_31__1952_

Excerpt from The_Pittsburgh_Courier_Sat__May_31__1952_

Lists were compiled by private groups as well as government agencies.  Celebrities were especially put under a spotlight.  People were blacklisted. They lost their jobs.  People were threatened with jail and expulsion from the country.

None more so than Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy fanned the nation’s fears, with his fervent accusations of subversive activities at home and abroad.  In David Caute’s book, The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War, he describes McCarthy’s interest in the State Department libraries, places where he believed Soviet and communist-leaning propaganda was being distributed.

McCarthy’s two aides, Roy Cohn and David Schine, would embark on a highly publicized tour of numerous European cities “striking at the cultural centers known as America House. … A major purge occurred in Berlin and throughout West Germany where the [United States Information Agency] had 40 branch libraries visited by an estimated 15 million people in the course of 1952.” He goes on to quote a 1953 Herald Tribune reporter as writing, “The burning of books is now progressing merrily in all American diplomatic missions abroad for all to see.

Russian American Vera Micheles Dean was head researcher for the New York-based, and anti-Communist, organization Foreign Policy Association.  In 1953, when her books were ordered pulled from the Amerika Haus libraries by the State Department, she put two questions to Secretary of State Dulles:  Who was responsible for drawing up the list of proscribed books? On what grounds were her writings forbidden?

In a 1953 article in opposition to McCarthy’s attacks against the libraries, correspondent Raymond Wilcove writes:  “More than 35 million people in 67 countries continue to throng America’s overseas libraries as Congress debates their value. Those who have seen them in operation say they provide America’s best show-window to the world.

Horne would later share that he remembered his phone calls from Cohn.  While he did not share the detail of the conversations, he was not complimentary about the interaction.  Despite the purge, in the end, the Amerika Haus libraries would survive McCarthy.  McCarthy would not survive Edward R. Murrow.

Edward R. Murrow

Edward R. Murrow

In the 1950s, on his CBS program See It Now, developed with colleague Fred Friendly, Murrow produced a series of reports about McCarthy’s activities.  His March 9, 1954 broadcast is widely hailed as one of television’s great moments.  Murrow began the report with these words,

Because a report on Senator McCarthy is by definition controversial, we want to say exactly what we mean to say, and I request your permission to read from the script whatever remarks Murrow and Friendly may make. If the Senator feels that we have done violence to his words or pictures and so desires to speak, to answer himself, an opportunity will be afforded him on this program. Our working thesis tonight is this question: If this fight against Communism is made a fight between America’s two great political parties, the American people know that one of these parties will be destroyed, and the Republic cannot endure very long as a one party system.”

Having been diligent at collecting film and audio clips of the Senator speaking in public, Murrow proceeded to air clips of the Senator, in his own words, making statements in one setting that he makes very differently in another. Murrow remarked,  “On one thing the Senator has been consistent. Often operating as a one-man committee, he has traveled far, interviewed many, terrorized some, accused civilian and military leaders of the past administration of a great conspiracy to turn over the country to Communism, investigated and substantially demoralized the present State Department …

Murrow was dogged in his examination of the Senator, finally concluding, “No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

Pete Seeger Before McCarthy

Pete Seeger Before McCarthy Hearing

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

Langston Hughes Before McCarthy

Langston Hughes Before McCarthy Hearing

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Good night, and good luck.”

McCarthy’s influence waned. By the end of the year he would be censured by Senate.  In 1957 he died at the age of 48.  The libraries that he had so maligned were still going strong.  In 1959,  journalist Tom A. Cullen would write: “I have just visited the American “spy factory” in West Berlin.  That’s what the Communists call Amerika Haus, the new $250,000 United States Information Center.  But in an afternoon there I could find nothing more sinister than a few gray-haired grannies reading newspapers.  Or maybe it’s American jazz that’s sinister – there was a whole group of eager German youths listening to the latest long-playing jazz discs from the States.

Throughout this period, Joseph Horne’s foreign service activities would take him from Frankfurt, Germany to Genoa, Italy where he served as Public Affairs Officer. Intermittent time would be spent in the U.S. as his family grew.  In approximately 1957 or 1958 he would be assigned as Cultural Affairs Officer in Bangalore, India.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy would appoint Edward R. Murrow as director of the United States Information Agency.  “Edward R. Murrow was my boss,” Horne would tell his son. India during this time, like much of the world, was going through great change. More to follow in the next Interlude.


Sources & Additional Readings

Amerika Haus: The First Fifty Years

History of the Amerika Haus


DAI Heidelberg Library & USA Information

Information Bulletin April 1949

The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War … by David Caute, page 26

Joseph McCarthy

Cohn & Schine Time Cover 1954

Vera Micheles Dean

Edward R. Murrow addresses Joseph McCarthy full video

Transcript of Murrow addressing McCarthy





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On October 22, 2015, Congressional leaders will present a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the Monuments Men.  The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor the U.S. Congress can bestow upon civilians.  One of the civilians being recognized in this case will be Joseph A. Horne (1911-1987).

Joseph A. Horne

It has been my pleasure over the past few years to research just a bit into the life of Mr. Horne. Through his life journey, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of U.S. and world history.  I’ve been cataloging and sharing my findings on this blog in a series of Interludes.   Mr. Horne served his country throughout his life and part of that service included a very active role as a Monuments Man.  While I hope you have a chance to review the whole Interludes series, following are links to the two specific chapters chronicling efforts made by dedicated men and women during and after World War II to preserve, protect and return stolen works of art and books … efforts that actually continue to this day.

interlude: to protect, preserve and return … if possible

interlude: offenbach archival depot


P. S. I hope to complete the Interludes series by year’s end.  After service as a Monuments man, Mr. Horne continued his career with the U.S. Information Service, interacting with people around the world, rich and poor, literary giants, musicians, and with kings and queens.  “Walking” with him offered me a glimpse of worlds that are no more. I look forward to sharing the stories.

West End Hotel, Bangalore

Press Release Gold Medal Ceremony for Monuments Men

Monuments Men Foundation


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Read previous Interludes here.

WWII: Europe: France; “Into the Jaws of Death — U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire”, circa 1944-06-06, by Robert F. Sargent

WWII: Europe: France; “Into the Jaws of Death — U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire”, circa 1944-06-06, by Robert F. Sargent

On June 6, 1944, the Western Allies launched the invasion of Normandy.  It would prove to be a pivotal point in the course of the war as soldiers, by air, land and sea, fought to liberate France from Germany.  Troops landed at beaches all along the northern coast.  As part of the larger strategy, four port cities were identified for capture to facilitate future entrance of Allied troops.  One of these port cities was Le Havre.  Secured in September 1944, the city would then be turned into a major entry and exit point for military personnel and equipment needed at the front.

[Abandoned boy holding a stuffed toy animal amid ruins following German aerial bombing of London, by Toni Frissell, 1945

Abandoned boy holding a stuffed toy animal amid ruins following German aerial bombing of London, by Toni Frissell, 1945

By the end of 1944, the Germans were in retreat.  While an Allied victory was in sight, much of Europe lay in waste.

Polish kid in the ruins of Warsaw, September 1939, by Julien Bryan

Polish kid in the ruins of Warsaw, by Julien Bryan

Caen, 1944

Caen, France

As a new year dawned, the Allies were pressing hard and in great need of reinforcements. Fresh troops were crossing the English Channel into Le Havre.

40 and 8 Boxcar

40 and 8 Boxcar (in this image from World War I)

There they could be transported inland, either by rail or by road, to staging camps where men and machines were made ready for action at the front. On January 17, 1945, in Le Havre, Joseph A. Horne, with the men of the 929th Heavy Automotive Maintenance Company, was supposed to board troop train 2980.  The train was to make its way to a French village bordering one of the largest of the military staging areas, Camp Lucky Strike.  Indeed, the train’s 45 wooden cars, called Forty and Eights, were filled with U.S. personnel including men from the 553rd Ambulance Company, 656th Quarterhead Railway Company, 4th Squad of the 2nd Maintenance Platoon and 1471st Engineers.  And, indeed, the train did depart.  What happened next has been called an avoidable tragedy.

For much of its journey, the train crawled along, sometimes at 10 miles per hour, en route to the train station in St. Valery-en-Caux.  But then something happened. The train picked up speed.  With worn out brakes and no speedometer, there was little the engineer could do.  Packed tight into the cars and unaware of events, the military personnel were at first overjoyed to be moving faster.  They did not know the brakes had failed. The train crashed into the St. Valery railway station. Cars crumpled, piling mountain high.  The reports of the carnage were gruesome. At least 87 people were killed and 150 injured.

Horne and the men of the 929th were not on the train due to “some error on the part of an officer, as a result we rode the 40 miles from Le Havre to Lucky Strike in open trucks.”  Later Horne would take photos of the wreckage.  How do we know that? Because he says so in the caption notes he wrote that accompany the roughly 200 photos he took between 1945-1946 as he served in Germany and France.

His detailed notes, along with prints and negatives, are in a box in the Library of Congress.  They have yet to be digitized. Why he was taking photos with the 929th remains unclear.  Further research is needed.  After having worked as a photographer with the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, perhaps the military or some other arm of the federal government was continuing to utilize his photographic skill.

In any case, photocopies of at least 80 of the photos he took show images taken from January through at least June 1945 of the men of 929th at work, at play, and interacting with locals in France and Germany and of refugees, or “displaced persons”, from several other countries.  They show a war-ravaged European landscape, and they also capture the persevering spirit of people in the midst of war.

Russian girls who work in the kitchen of the 929th, by J. A. Horne

Russian girls who work in the kitchen of the 929th, by J. A. Horne

Former officer in the Russian army, captured by the Germans, and now attached to the Displaced Persons Unit of the 929th, by J.A. Honre

Former officer in the Russian army, captured by the Germans, and now attached to the Displaced Persons Unit of the 929th, by J.A. Horne

Frankfurt Vicinity, Germany. French family on Highway 8 returning home, by J. A. Horne

Frankfurt Vicinity, Germany. French family on Highway 8 returning home, by J. A. Horne

In his notes he describes taking photos from a moving train as the 929th travelled from Camp Lucky Strike to Verdun.  He describes holes in the sheet metal roof of a 929th shop caused by an air attack, and burned out tanks lined up to be salvaged near the shop area.  He describes a local elder, or burgermeister, in a German town pointing out the architectural highlights and history of his home.   The man refused to be photographed but he guided Horne around his city directing his photography.  Horne’s  caption notes, which are quite extensive, end with this statement:  “Other captions on back of prints.  Sorry I can’t do a good job on these captions.  There just isn’t time.”  The notes end around May 1945.

Around this time, the war is effectively ending in Europe.  The final battles are taking place, and soon Germany will surrender to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union.  And as German labor camps are secured, the full horror of the war comes to light.

Buchenwald Corpses, 1945

Buchenwald Corpses, 1945

What happens to Horne over the next six to twelve months is unclear.  He later summarizes that period of his enlistment as serving as an education officer.  Somehow, at some point, he comes into contact with the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Unit, the men and women tasked with recovering, preserving and eventually restituting the world’s great art, including the paintings, books and spiritual items that had belonged to the Jewish families of Europe.  By June 1946, he would no longer be enlisted in the Army but be employed with the MFA&A as a civilian.

U.S. soldier in a bombed church, by Toni Frissell

U.S. soldier in a bombed church, by Toni Frissell

He would be reunited with some of the same colleagues with whom he’d worked at the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information.  He would be called upon to utilize his skills with language, especially German, his understanding of photography, and his experience in engaging with other cultures.  And, as he would later describe to his son, there would be the adventures to be had as former allies became enemies.

Stay tuned for further Interludes in June.


Sources/Further Reading …

About Cigarette Camps

Russell C. Eustice Recalls the Troop Train 2980 Tragedy at St. Valery-en-Caux During World War II

The WWII 300th Combat Engineers  553rd Ambulance Company

Area Soldier Survived World War II Train Disaster

More about the picture of the Polish boy in the Warsaw Ruins 

More about photographer Toni Frissell and Women at the Front

More about the Monuments Men

Introduction to the Holocaust

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Lucy Schildkret Dawidowicz

Lucy Schildkret Dawidowicz

As part of my research with the Interlude series, I’ve been reading the memoir, From That Place and Time, by Lucy S. Dawidowicz. The narrative focuses on the period 1938-1947, and the author’s time spent pre-war in Vilna, Poland, studying at the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) and then her later post-war work to identify the remains of the YIVO library.  The Interlude series is my attempt to share some of what I’ve learned in my walk through history via the life of Joseph Anthony Horne.  The paths of Ms. Dawidowicz and Mr. Horne cross in 1947 in the German city of Offenbach at the Offenbach Archival Depot.  More details to follow in the next Interlude, coming soon.




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foreword to the interludes

On February 21, 2014, an article appeared in the New York Times reporting that the city intended to remove over 400 children from 2 homeless shelters.  The article goes on to highlight how these 400 are part of “a swelling population of 22,000 homeless children.” Such numbers have not been reported in New York since the Great Depression.  Nearly two decades before the Great Depression, on January 1, 1911,  Joseph Anthony Horne was born and then orphaned in that city.  He could easily have become homeless.

Young Horne

A Young Joseph Anthony?

Even then it was quite clear that there was a widening divide in the city, and across the nation, between haves and have-nots.  The late 1800s into the early 1900s was the Gilded Age  for the country, with a rapidly expanding economy resulting in some growing extremely wealthy (e.g. Carnegie, Mellon, Morgan, Vanderbilt, etc) while others sank into poverty.  Especially affected during this era were children like Joseph, i.e. those who were orphaned or abandoned.  Even for children remaining with their families, so many families had so few resources that children had to work alongside parents for survival.

Spinning Boy by Lewis Hine

Spinning Boy by Lewis Hine

Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, New York was a major port of entry for people of many backgrounds and skills seeking a new life for themselves and their children.  Some within the U.S. were eager to welcome these immigrants to work in growing cities and homestead “empty” lands out west.  When Joseph was born, the population of the U.S. was estimated at nearly 94 million.  In 1818, less than 100 years before his birth, the population had been only 9 million.  That staggering increase in population in such a short time was primarily due to immigration from England, Ireland and Germany (including territories then considered part of the German Empire like Poland).

Children Sleeping in Mulberry Street (1890) by Jacob Riis

Children Sleeping in Mulberry Street (1890) by Jacob Riis

For those immigrants who arrived with few funds, they took whatever jobs they could find.  New York photographer and journalist Jacob Riis chronicled the life led by some of these people in the late 1800s in his book How the Other Half Lives. So, even as on one side of the city people were enjoying the wealth and prosperity of “the age of innocence,” on the other side of the city, people were experiencing a very different life.  It is also around this time, in 1883,  American poet Emma Lazarus wrote The New Colossus, a poem that would be engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, including those famous lines:  “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …”

In the Home of an Itlaian Rag Picker, Jersey Street by Jacob Riis

In the Home of an Italian Rag Picker, Jersey Street by Jacob Riis

During this time, there were few labor laws in place to prevent mistreatment and abuses of all sorts.  In fact, in 1911,  one of the worst industrial disasters in U.S. history took place in New York City at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  A fire led to the deaths of 146 men and women who were killed by the fire, smoke inhalation or by jumping to their deaths.  The owners had locked the doors and any exits, a common practice in those times.  It was one of those tragic events that would help to usher in new workplace safety standards.  And eventually through the efforts of photographers like Lewis Hine child labor laws would be created as well.

Jo Bodeon, back-roper in mule room at Chace Cotton Mill, Burlington, VT, by Lewis Hine

Jo Bodeon, back-roper in mule room at Chace Cotton Mill, Burlington, VT, by Lewis Hine

Midnight at the Glassworks by Lewis Hine

Midnight at the Glassworks by Lewis Hine

As an investigative reporter for the National Child Labor Committe, Lewis Hine documented the working and living conditions of children across the U.S. between 1908 and 1924.  Many images can be found on the Library of Congress website.  Leading up to World War I (1914-1918), as manual labor work increased, there was no more cheap and readily available labor than that of a child.

Little Lottie A Regular Oyster Shucker, Bayou, LA, 1911, by Lewis Hine

Little Lottie A Regular Oyster Shucker, Bayou, LA, 1911, by Lewis Hine

Hughestown Borough PA Coal Company Breaker Boys by Lewis Hine

Hughestown Borough PA Coal Company Breaker Boys by Lewis Hine

Reformers, like those who started the National Child Labor Committee, and many other people were aware that the practice of putting children to work had to end, not only for their immediate safety but to facilitate giving them an opportunity for  schooling and increasing any chances they had at breaking out of a cycle of poverty.  One such reformer was philanthropist Charles Loring Brace.  In 1853, he formed the Children’s Aid Society in New York City.  At the time, abandoned and homeless children lived on the streets or were placed in institutions where they could stay until a certain age (e.g. 14) before being expected to leave.  Brace and others felt that it would be better to collect these children, and even to accept children from poor families who could not take care of them, and to send those children to live with families outside of the city, in farming communities.  These “foster families” could even adopt the children.  As for how these children, including an orphaned baby Joseph, would travel to one of these families? By train.

Celebration of completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad at what is now Golden Spike National Historic Site, Promontory Summit, Utah. Photo by A. J. Russell, 1869

Celebration of completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad at what is now Golden Spike National Historic Site, Promontory Summit, Utah. Photo by A. J. Russell, 1869

With the support of wealthy families like the Astors and other philanthropists, from 1854 to 1929, the Children’s Aid Society and the New York Foundling Hospital, would send nearly 250,000 children of all ages by “orphan trains” to cities and towns across the country, primarily to the American Midwest.  The children ranged in age from babies like Joseph to teenagers.  Notices would be sent out to communities before the children departed.  Agents would be sent along with the children as chaperones.  Stories have been collected over the years.  It is clear that sometimes children were fostered as “helping hands,” but it is also clear that children were taken in to be cared for and loved as part of a family.  Such is likely the case with Joseph.

Orphan Train, Kansas State Historical Society

Orphan Train, Kansas State Historical Society

Joseph and a baby girl named Pearl were taken in by farmer  Anton J. Wisnieski and his wife, Anna.  The German-speaking couple of German and Polish ancestry would raise the two children in Webster Township, Dodge County, Nebraska.  So instead of growing up on the streets of New York City, young Joseph grew up on the Great Plains where he fished for buffalo carp in the Platte River and had many other adventures into the 1920s.  And then something happened. He felt a calling to travel back east and even cross the Atlantic into worlds very different from the farmlands of Nebraska.  In his travels, he would deepen his knowledge of “dead languages,” literature, music and religion and somehow pick up his first camera … just in time to return to the States and join the ranks of one of the most legendary groups of documentary photographers in U.S. history.

More about those adventures and that walk through history in March.

A Few Recommended Links …

The Gilded Age

Lost Children: Riders on the Orphan Train

PBS American Experience:  The Orphan Train

A History of the Orphan Trains

Washington Post article by Andrea Warren

Early Child Labor in U.S. with Lewis Hine Photography

NYTimes Slide Show of Jacob A. Riis Photography

Orphan Train: A Novel

National Orphan Train Complex

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In February 1944, a photographer took a series of photos at the opening of a Labor Canteen in Washington, DC.  The entertainment that night was a young Pete Seeger and in the audience First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  Two years after I found the picture, I wrote Mr. Seeger asking if he remembered the photographer.  I was hoping for but not really expecting a response.  But one day I checked my mail and there was a postcard.

One side was covered with words, actually one word, peace, translated into many languages.  On the other side, handwritten, was essentially the following note:  “Cynthia, I’m 94 years old. The details from that time aren’t so clear anymore but my memoirs are being updated and I will make sure that the photographer’s name is duly noted.  Joseph Anthony Horne.”

Joseph A. Horne

Joseph A. Horne

Joseph Anthony Horne was born in 1911 and died in 1987.  I began researching his life out of curiosity.  You see, I knew a man who kept telling stories of a 1950s and 1960s childhood spent in exotic places.  Of fishermen in Genoa, Italy dropping seahorses into his hands. Petting a white elephant belonging to the Maharaja of Mysore. Skating in Vienna by doctor’s orders.  It was a life made possible by his father, Mr. Horne, working for the U.S. foreign service, a post he’d taken on after World War II.  As for what he’d done during the war, “something involving art and books while stationed in Germany.”  In the 1960s the family moved back to the U.S. to the Maryland/DC area where Horne continued to work in foreign service until retirement.

Photo by Joseph A. Horne, 1944, Library of Congress

Photo by Joseph A. Horne, 1944, Library of Congress

I already knew from the son that his father had been a photographer, loved books and music, and that the foreign service position held in all the various countries had involved working with libraries and inviting American musicians, writers and other artists to share their works.  Perhaps inspired by that PBS show, History Detectives, I asked the son was there anything more he’d like to know about his father.  I was given carte blanche to research as I liked.  Those mysterious post-war German years working with books drew my attention but soon I was researching his early years as well. So many files from the early and mid-twentieth century have been digitized, but I kept hitting a wall with finding information prior to 1940.  When I queried the son he mentioned, “that might be because he changed his name. ”  Turned out that Mr. Horne used to be Mr. Wisniewski and had grown up in Nebraska not Maryland as I had assumed.  “So he was born to the Wisniewski family?”  The son shook his head.  “He was adopted, along with a baby girl.  My father thought he’d been born in New York.”  When asked why he had selected Horne of all names, the son replied with a smile, “He thought he was an illegitimate love child of two New York families. the Astors and Langhornes.”  As I stared at the son, he laughed.  “My dad was quite the storyteller.  He even mentioned studying in Europe and hearing G. K. Chesterton.”

One bit of information was easy to find thanks especially to National Archive records available online.  In 1946, Joseph Anthony Horne joined the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archive unit.  From 1947-1948, he would serve as the director of the Offenbach Archival Depot, one of the primary collection points for preserving and returning books, artwork and cultural items stolen by Nazi Germany during World War II.  He had been a Monuments Man.  As for how an orphaned baby in New York City might travel to the American Midwest (along with many thousands of other orphaned and homeless children), and how a young man from Nebraska might find himself working as a photographer in Washington, DC … not to mention exactly who were the people, places and events experienced in Europe during and after the war … Well, all of that, would take a bit more digging.  It would be a treat to discover his connection to photography historians like Erich Stenger and artists like Karl Hofer and quite a surprise to learn of the drama at Offenbach involving missing books and the complex decisions made as the Cold War loomed, reminiscent of decisions made in the world today.  This post is just to set the stage.  More stories to follow.

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