[an error occurred while processing this directive] Oriental Institute | Pioneers to the Past | Monday Morning
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Monday Morning

April 26, 1920

I am using a half hour before breakfast to add to this hasty chronicle. I should have inserted the date at the head of the above paragraph which I have just written, but I forgot to do so. You can imagine, or perhaps you can’t, what a busy morning I had after leaving the Civil Commissioner. I rested and wrote a little after lunch, and at four o’clock the major and Mrs. Bowman drove me out to a wonderful garden of palms and oranges, owned by a wealthy native. He himself was absent, but he had arranged a sumptuously filled tea-table in the garden under the trees, and several of his relatives, together with an army of servants, waited on us. We had a very interesting walk about the garden, and learned much of the habits, varieties and cultivation of dates and oranges. There are over 30 varieties of dates under cultivation here, and this garden contained 1400 date palms. Experiences and information follow each other so fast here that I am quite unable to record it all either in my journal or in these rambling letters. On our way out we visited the great mosque of Kazimain, a suburb of Baghdad, — a magnificent structure with three golden domes, four golden minarets, and two superb gateways, sumptuously encrusted with gorgeously colored tiles, representing an expiring art here in old Iraq. There is only one craftsman surviving here, who can still make such lovely tile with rich pink roses strewn in opulent but ordered carelessness on a blue ground. This master is a Persian and when he dies the art will die with him. Major Bowman is endeavoring to have it taught to a group of younger potters, and to develop it as a new industrial art in this ancient land.

Well, I have a lot of correspondence waiting for me after breakfast, besides business of all sorts all over town. So I must leave this for the present. It is with a curious feeling that I have started the boys on the final arrangements for the “kick-off”. I feel somewhat like the chaps who made their first air-plane dash out into the Atlantic for the first trans-Atlantic flight. Syria is supposed to be absolutely cut off from Baghdad by hundreds of miles of hostile country. When we arrived here by way of India, no one dreamed that it would be possible to return to the Mediterranean overland. We are putting our heads into the lion’s mouth, but I am taking every precaution. I shall go on beyond Salihiyah only if advised by Colonel Leachman to do so. And he will not advise it unwisely, for it would be a serious responsibility for the British Mesopotamian government to send off an American expedition to be cut to pieces in the Arab country on the Aleppo road. So I shall tell Colonel Leachman that I put the responsibility on him. That reminds me that I find among my now large pile of letters of introduction, one to Colonel Leachman from young Lord Porchester, Earl Carnarvon’s son. It will be useful just at this juncture; though Leachman is bound to carry out his chief’s orders regarding us.

I hope very much for another home letter at the consulate before I go; but I fear I shall not be able to add very much to this by way of a reply, for our time is now short: today, tomorrow and then the start. Allowing five days for the trip to Salihiyah (180-200 miles) and the stay there for studying the paintings, and seven days for the dash from Salihiyah to Aleppo, we should be in Aleppo in 12 days from April 28, that is about May 10, or almost a month earlier than we had thought possible, reckoning with the return via Bombay. It may be we can return to America earlier than my previous letters indicate. The financial situation, the purchase of most remarkable antiquities, and the most valuable historical records that have ever been brought to America, are all awaiting a reply to a cable I sent to President Judson a fortnight ago, which was unfortunately in cipher or code, because it was so long. I fear many mistakes were made in transmission by way of Bombay, involving a number of relays, and it may have been unintelligible when it reached Chicago. I did not learn that the government itself complains of many badly sent code cablegrams, until after my message had been sent, and then it was far too late to try again. I am still hoping we may hear before we leave. I shall make a desperate effort by part payment and the aid of the American Consul, who has been most helpful, to nail down these things for the University of Chicago, so that we can hold them till funds are made available. I have asked the president by cable for $50,000 more, — probably a piece of effrontery, for which he may blame me, but it will take all of this to improve this extraordinary opportunity. I hope he received my letter from Port Said, written on the ship as we sailed for India. Of course I am writing him from here; but you might read him this letter lest mine to him should miscarry. And now I must go to my work.

Good-bye, my dear ones! Whatever happens, I know you trust me to see my duty, and to try to meet it faithfully. The dear boy will be near his graduation day when this reaches home. I wish these many duties here would give me time to write him all that is in my heart, as I think every day of his last undergraduate quarter in college, and see him almost hourly standing at the gateway of mature life and the responsibilities of a grown man. I am sorry indeed that no little letter goes off with this to Jamie, as I promised, but perhaps I shall find just a minute to write him a note and put it in here before it goes. And the blessed little girl has also written me many letters which have been pleasant indeed to look at and see the little fingers in imagination, that made every little mark! Tell her the best reply that father can make will be pinned to a little red automobile when he comes home next August. Goodbye, my dear wife. I am so glad you do not need to be anxious about money any more. Plan for a restful summer, if you can, and go to the country with the automobile, and the children, if you can arrange for rest and comfortable living with the country air. Try Ephraim or Fish Creek(?) or some other pleasant place; but be sure to arrange for change and rest. God bless you all! A thousand loving messages that fill my heart every hour for you all! And if anything happens in the desert, it will be when I am thinking of you and only you, my dear ones.

                                        Always your loving

I enclose you all some little notes, — and also some casual papers to show you how the “wheels go round”.

[Miss Astrid Breasted] Baghdad, Mesopotamia, April 26, 1920.

My dear little girl —

I have read all your dear little letters and they made me very happy. The little girls in this country have very dirty faces, and their clothes are dirtier still; but they are quite pretty.

Give your mother a big kiss, and take a great many from your loving Father.

[James H. Breasted, Jr.] Baghdad, Mesopotamia, April 26, 1920.

My dear little boy —

This is just a little answer to your good letters which I am always so glad to get. I wish there were more time to tell you of all we do and see in these strange countries, but I can do that when I return next August, perhaps earlier!

Meantime please write often and tell me all about your work and your play, — and especially your school.

            Kiss your little sister, and many for you too from
                Your loving father.

[For Charles Breasted] Baghdad, Mesopotamia, April 26, 1920.

My dear, dear boy —

Day after tomorrow we shall begin the long home journey, going almost straight west toward the Mediterranean. When you read this we shall be within sixty days of embarkation for home, and you will be in the midst of your graduation celebrations. It will always be a deep grief to me, that I was unable to be there with you.

For the full story of my exciting trip you should come to the special exhibit “Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920,” at the Oriental Institute!

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