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John Jermain Slocum

From the ANS Newsletter, Summer 1997.

The American Numismatic Society mourns the passing of John Jermain Slocum, a man of extraordinary intellectual breadth and diversity, a friend, a supporter, and a good counselor. He was, in the finest and truest sense, our Traveler to an Antique Land. Slocum died on August 13, 1997, at his home in Newport, Rhode Island.

John J. Slocum was elected a member of The American Numismatic Society in 1962, a Fellow in 1964, and in 1974 was elected to his first term as a member of the Society's governing Council. A specialist in Middle Eastern coinages, particularly of the time of the Crusades, he served as the Chairman of the Society's Standing Committee on Islamic and South Asian Coins during the years 1974-1990.

Slocum began his career as a journalist. Armed with a B.A. from Harvard in 1936 and a Master's from the Columbia University School of Journalism in 1938, he served as Press Secretary to the colorful New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia from 1940 to 1942, and in 1940 helped found, and was a junior partner in a New York literary agency. In 1942, he joined the U.S. Army Air Force, rising to Major and serving with the Army of Occupation before returning home in 1946 to embark on a career in the foreign service.

Slocum served in the Press Division of the United States Information Agency and was posted to Cairo in the early 1960s as Cultural Attache. On returning to Washington in 1969, he served as Cultural Advisor in the USIA's Policy Division, and enjoyed a variety of assignments promoting cultural activities, particularly as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution for Bicentennial Planning. He served as a member of the American Numismatic Society's Organizing Committee for the International Numismatic Congress held in New York and Washington, September 1973, and was given special responsibility for liaison with the Smithsonian Institution. In 1973 he was named a Patron of the ANS in recognition of his many contributions.

On his retirement as a Councillor of the ANS in 1993 following nineteen years of loyal service, he was honored with a special Resolution of the Society. Other recent honors accordedSlocum include his election as a Trustee Emeritus of the Archaeological Institute of America, on whose governing board he had served for twenty-three years, commencing in 1969. He was also given an honorary degree in humane letters from Trinity College, Dublin, conferred upon him in December 1993 in recognition of his important contributions to James Joyce scholarship, including his coauthorship with Herbert Cahoon of an authoritative bibliography of Joyce, published by Yale University Press in 1953. A chance meeting in 1935 with Ezra Pound while Slocum was canoeing on the Salzach River in Austria led him to accompany Pound by car to Italy. In an article published in the Yale University Library Gazette for October 1982, Slocum recounted this experience as well as later encounters and correspondence with Pound in New York from 1939 to 1950. An example of John Slocum's diverse intellectual interests is his translation of a Renaissance Latin poem by Giovanni Gioviano Pontano in Poemata Humanistica Decem published by the Friends of the Houghton Library at Harvard in 1986.

As a coin collector, Slocum developed a broad archaeological connoisseurship and also brought his scholarly interests to bear on the objects he acquired. His collecting interests were stimulated by his extensive travels in the Middle East during a period when large numbers of coins were coming into the local markets. His collection of Crusader gold and copper coins was by all accounts extraordinary. But he also had a special interest in the coinage and history of the kingdoms that fell between Rome and Persia, such as Characene, Elymais, and especially Hatra, about which he wrote an important article which appeared in the 1977 issue of the American Numismatic Society's journal. John Slocum's interest in the Crusaders also extended to related Byzantine, Muslim, Armenian, and western European issues. In his later years, he formed a collection of Danishmendid bronzes, rare issues of a little understood twelfth century dynasty in Anatolia that issued a transitional coinage bridging Byzantine and Muslim traditions, often with Greek inscriptions. His own collection of Islamic coins was augmented by the purchase of the famous Munzel collection, highlights of which were published in the Jahrbuch fr Numismatik und Geldgeschichte for 1972 and 1974. In 1979, his summary of recent numismatic scholarship for "The Latin Orient" was published by the International Numismatic Commission in its Survey of Numismatic Research.

Slocum's interest in the preservation of material culture led naturally to his appointments to the U.S. Commission to UNESCO (1981) and the President's Cultural Properties Advisory Committee (1983). He has also served as the First President, Friends of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC; as President of Redwood Library in Newport, RI; and as a Trustee of the New England Genealogical Society and of the American Research Center in Egypt.