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MS Gr 39

Dow, Sterling, 1903-1995, collector. Sterling Dow epigraphical squeeze collection, circa 1931-1936: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository, pf
Call No.: MS Gr 39
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Dow, Sterling, 1903-1995, collector.
Title: Sterling Dow epigraphical squeeze collection,
Date(s): 1931-1936.
Quantity: 1 collection (30 linear feet (49 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are primarily in Greek, some in Latin and English.
Abstract: Epigraphical squeezes made by Harvard University professor Sterling Dow and his wife Elizabeth Sanderson Flagg Dow, mostly on their first trip to Greece, 1931-1936.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

*2001M-69. Deposited by the estate of Sterling Dow via William T. Loomis, executor, 54 West Cedar Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02114; received: 1995 September 26; gift: 2009 August.


The collection (56 boxes and 2 rolls) was moved in 1995 from Dow's Widener Library Room 690 study to a caged area on Widener stacks level C, then to the Widener room 81; then reboxed in situ and sent to the Depository by the Houghton Library staff in 2002. It was consolidated into 49 boxes in 2009.

Processing Information:

Finding aid created by: William T. Loomis and Stephen V. Tracy, with the assistance of Bonnie B. Salt
Viewing note: In order to view Greek letters properly, this finding aid should be viewed with browser set to MS Arial Unicode font.

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.
The majority of this collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Sterling Dow Epigraphical Squeeze Collection, circa 1931-1936 (MS Gr 39). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Related Materials

See curatorial file for the original box list, photocopies of the original box labels, and a paper print-out of this finding aid as supplied by William T. Loomis.
Sterling Dow's professional and personal papers are housed at the Harvard University Archives.
Additional Dow papers are held by the Archives of The American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Biographical / Historical

Sterling Dow was born on November 19, 1903 in Portland, Maine, son of Sterling Tucker Dow (a railroad executive) and Alice Gertrude Verrill Dow. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy then entered Harvard University where he received an AB in 1925, AM in 1928, and a Ph.D. in 1936. He spent 1925-1926 at Trinity College, Cambridge studying history, then returned to Harvard to work and study with historian W. S. Ferguson. In 1931 he married Elizabeth Sanderson Flagg Dow (1905-1990) and they lived from 1931 to 1936 in Athens where he was associated with the American School of Classical Studies. When they arrived in Athens, the American excavations were just getting under way in the Agora, the ancient center of public life. Dow, with the assistance of his wife, developed a superior technique for making portable copies (called "squeezes") of inscriptions and together they made an immense collection of both new and previously known texts.
In 1936 Sterling Dow returned to Harvard and became as an Instructor and continued on the faculty as a member of the Departments of the Classics and of History and after 1949 he held the position of the John E. Hudson Professor of Archaeology until his retirement in 1970. He served briefly as the Harvard University Archivist, was a founder of the American Research Center in Egypt, the organization of Teachers of Classics in New England, and the journal Archaeology . After his retirement from Harvard, Dow taught as a visiting professor of Greek civilization and history at Boston College until 1977. The Dows had two children, Sterling Dow, Jr. and Elizabeth Sterling (Mrs. Robert George Lown). Sterling Dow died on January 9, 1995.


Organization maintained as originally established with some reordering and updating by William T. Loomis and Stephen V. Tracy. Organized into the following series:

Scope and Contents

Consists of approximately 5,000 squeezes (impressions), most of them made by Sterling Dow and Elizabeth Sanderson Flagg Dow, of texts inscribed on stone in Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean, mostly made of double (or more) thickness filter paper; a few made in other media. Squeezes mostly made between 1931 and 1936. Also includes: photographs and notes made by Dow and others; a list of articles on epigraphical subjects compiled by Dow; a sample sheet of letter-cutting; Dow's original squeeze list; list made by R. H. Randall Jr. of the Erechtheion squeezes; a layout of a sacred calendar; and other materials related to inscriptions.


The majority of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

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