Howe, Thomas C. Jr.

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Thomas Carr Howe, Jr. (1904-1994) 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.

Howe was born in Kokomo, Indiana in 1904. He studied at Harvard University where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees. Howe was the assistant director of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco from 1931-1939 and director from 1939-1968. Howe was also the art commissioner for the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-1940) for which he organized an exhibition showcasing Mexican muralists.

During World War II, Howe joined the U.S. army and served from 1945 to 1946 in Germany and Austria. He began as a naval lieutenant but was soon assigned to serve in the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) section. Howe reported to Lieutenant Commander George Stout at Wiesbaden, and was later promoted to Lieutenant Commander and Deputy Chief of the MFAA at Frankfurt. During his service as one of the "Monuments Men" Howe located hidden and recovered large repositories of cultural objects and works of art stolen by the Nazis. He also helped with the restitution effort. At the Altaussee salt mines in Austria, Howe helped salvage a large cache of stolen artwork that included Michelangelo's Madonna and Child and the Ghent Altarpiece or The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, Vermeer's The Artists Studio, and the Rothschild family jewels. Howe later described his wartime work in his book Salt Mines and Castles: The Discovery and Restitution of Looted European Art (1946).

Howe resumed his position as the director of the California Palace of the Legion on Honor after the war, a position he held until his retirement in 1968. Through his career as a prominent art director, Howe was close with many American and international museum professionals, collectors and socialites. Friends and colleagues include Agnes Mongan and Paul Sachs (both former directors of Harvard's Fogg Museum), Whitney Warren, and Gerda and Hans-Erich Von Schmidt auf Altenstadt.

For his wartime service as a Monuments Men, Howe was honored with the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and the Officier of the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau in 1946. At the request of the federal government, Howe also later served as the Cultural Affairs Advisor to the High Commissioner of Germany from 1950-1951, during which time he returned to Germany with S. Lane Faison, another MFAA official, to assist with closing the central collecting points where the recovered artworks has been held for restitution. From 1960-1968, Howe was a member of the Fine Arts Committee for The White House and he continued to serve on numerous panels and commissions as an art advisor.

Howe married Francesca Deering. Together they had one daughter Francesca.

From the guide to the Thomas Carr Howe papers, 1932-1984, (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Records of the Assistants to the Directors, 1913-1999 (inclusive),1927-1943 (bulk) Harvard Art Museums. Archives
creatorOf Thomas Carr Howe papers Archives of American Art
referencedIn Walter Hines Page letters from various correspondents, American period Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Allied Forces. corporateBody
associatedWith Berenson, Bernard, 1865-1959 person
associatedWith Bohemian Club (San Francisco, Calif.) corporateBody
associatedWith California Palace of the Legion of Honor corporateBody
associatedWith Cronyn, Hume person
associatedWith Faison, S. Lane (Samson Lane), 1907-2006 person
associatedWith Göring, Hermann, 1893-1946 person
associatedWith Hancock, Walker Kirtland, 1901- person
associatedWith Harvard Art Museum. Director's Office. corporateBody
associatedWith Kelleher, Patrick J. (Patrick Joseph), 1917- person
associatedWith Mallory, Margaret, 1911-1998 person
associatedWith M.H. De Young Memorial Museum corporateBody
associatedWith Mills, Paul Chadbourne, 1924- person
associatedWith Moore, Lamont person
associatedWith Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918 person
associatedWith Ritchie, Andrew Carnduff person
associatedWith Rorimer, James J. (James Joseph), 1905-1966 person
associatedWith Standen, Edith Appleton person
associatedWith Stout, George L. (George Leslie) person
associatedWith United States. corporateBody
associatedWith Valland, Rose person
associatedWith Wittmann, Otto, 1911-2001 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Arts administrators




Ark ID: w6t56tm8

SNAC ID: 62515230