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Herbert Goldsmith Squiers (April 20, 1859 – October 19, 1911) was a United States diplomat and soldier, serving as Minister to Cuba (1902–1905), and Panama (1906–1909) and a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.

Herbert Goldsmith Squiers
Herbert Squiers.jpg
4th United States Minister to Panama
In office
November 8, 1906 – August 3, 1909
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byCharles E. Magoon
Succeeded byR. S. Reynolds Hitt
1st United States Minister to Cuba
In office
May 27, 1902 – December 2, 1905
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byDiplomatic relations established
Succeeded byEdwin V. Morgan
Personal details
Born(1859-04-20)April 20, 1859
Madoc, Ontario
DiedOctober 19, 1911(1911-10-19) (aged 52)
Spouse(s)Helen Lacy Fargo
Harriet Bard Woodcock
Alma materMaryland Agricultural College
ProfessionDiplomat, soldier
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1877-1891
RankFirst Lieutenant
Unit1st Infantry Regiment
7th Cavalry Regiment
Battles/warsIndian Wars


Early lifeEdit

Squires was born April 20, 1859[1][2] in Madoc, Ontario, but his parents moved to the United States while he was young. He attended school in both Minnesota and Maryland before attending the Maryland Agricultural College.


Squiers joined the Army in 1877 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and attended the United States Artillery School. In 1880 he was transferred from the First Infantry Regiment to the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.

In October 1885, while still a member of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment, he reported for duty at St. John's College (now known as Fordham University) in New York, as the school's first Professor of Military Science and Tactics.[3] He trained and outfitted an impressive Corps of Cadets, the predecessor of today's Army ROTC program at Fordham. In December 1890, he left the college and returned to the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment on detached service at Fort Leavenworth to appear before a board for promotion to First Lieutenant. He returned to the regiment 4 January 1891, about a week after the Battle of Wounded Knee. Troop K took heavy losses during the battle and Captain Wallace (a survivor of the Little Big Horn) and five troopers were killed and 10 wounded. Squiers took command of Troop K but shortly thereafter he resigned and left the Army early in 1891.

Diplomatic serviceEdit

He entered U.S. diplomatic service and first served as Second Secretary of the American Embassy in Berlin in 1894. He retired in 1897, then was appointed secretary of the American Legation in Pekin (Beijing) in 1898. He was appointed as Minister to Cuba in May, 1902 and served until November 1905.[1] There was growing opposition to his policies as Minister, including his support for a group of U.S. citizens encamped in the Isle of Pines who sought to organize a territorial government leading to the annexation of Cuba to the U.S. He resigned under pressure.[4] From 1906 until 1909 he served as Minister to Panama.

Looting controversyEdit

Squiers was a noted collector of fine porcelain, and had previously collected porcelain during vacations in Japan. While serving as the First Secretary of the American Legation in Beijing, he added to this collection. Diana Preston described Squiers and his wife:

These stylish and well-connected New England 'blue noses' had excellent taste and an acquisitive streak to match. During their stay in China they amassed such an extensive collection of antique Chinese porcelain that when they eventually left Peking it filled several railroad carriages. Several newspapers unsympathetically described it as 'loot'.[5]

Much of Squiers' collection was acquired for him by William N. Pethick (died 1901), the private secretary and diplomatic advisor to leading Qing statesman Li Hung Chang (Li Hongzhang) (1823–1901).[6][7] British High Commissioner to China Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843–1929), in speculating as to the sources of The Times correspondent George Ernest Morrison's accurate information, theorises that Squiers was the "leak":

I strongly suspect leakage thro' the Secy. of the US legn., Squiers, who buys curios with the aid of Pethick, the well-know[n] hanger-on of Li Hung chang & who gets political information fr[om] S. in return for expert advice as to the merits of cloisonne, porcelain & lacquer.[8]

Squiers was accused of purchasing a confiscated collection of porcelain from Pierre-Marie-Alphonse Favier (1837–1905), Vicar Apostolic of North Chihli province of the Roman Catholic Church, and the pastor of the congregation where Squiers was a member.[6][9] In the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion, Jasper Whiting, War Correspondent for the Westminster Gazette, wrote that "the best collection of loot obtained belonged to Lady MacDonald, the wife of the British minister, while the second-best belonged to the First Secretary of the American Legation."[10] Investigative journalist Sterling Seagrave asserts that "great fortunes were made by those like Herbert Squiers, who knew where to find the richest pickings and chose his loot as a connoisseur."[11] Squiers told the correspondent for The Times, Australian George Ernest Morrison (1862–1920), that he was concerned about the attacks on him by Stephen Bonsal in The New York Herald, concerning "the looting done by an American diplomatist in Peking."[12] Morrison indicated that a souvenir which he described as "the finest piece of jade in Peking" came into his possession and he sold it to Herbert Squiers for 2,000 taels.[13] On 7 March 1901, the United States Minister to China, Edwin Hurd Conger (1843–1907), sent a cable to John Hay, the United States Secretary of State, that exonerated Squiers completely of looting: "the reports that have reached America to the effect that H.G. Squiers, the United States Secretary of Legation, had been guilty of looting were based on misinformation. As a matter of fact, the Minister states, Mr. Squiers is entirely guiltless of any such thing."[14]

Squiers left Beijing on 2 September 1901 "with what was reported to be several railway cars filled with Chinese art," which Squiers indicated was to be donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York city.[15][16] Among those critical of the origins of Squiers' donation to the Metropolitan Museum were New Outlook magazine, which claimed the "collection of fine Chinese porcelain [was] known to have been looted from palaces in Peking,"[17] and Life magazine: "The coyness of the Metropolitan Museum's attitude towards looted treasures of Chinese art affords matter for contemplation."[18] In response to criticism that this collection was the result of looting, both the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art[19] and the U.S. State department officials were skeptical of accusations that this was a large collection of loot.[20] His collection was on loan to the United States National Museum (better known as The Smithsonian Institution) in Washington D.C. from 1907 to 1908.[21] After his death, his collection was sold at auction in New York in April 1912, and realised over $48,000.[22][23][24] In 2003, Squiers was still being criticised. Sandy English wrote:

It is a longstanding function of imperialism to loot and destroy precious art and historical objects. During the Chinese Boxer Uprising of 1900, to cite only one example, imperialist intervention by Britain, Germany, France, Russia and the United States resulted not only in the massacre of thousands of innocent people in Beijing, but caused a fire in an important library that destroyed many early Chinese documents and paintings. Much of the Squires [sic] Collection of Chinese art, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, was stolen from Beijing in the aftermath of the revolt.[25]

Personal lifeEdit

Harriet Bard Woodcock (1866–1935) in 1918

On October 11, 1881, he married Helen Lacy Fargo (1857–1886), daughter of the late William G. Fargo, co-founder of Wells Fargo & Company. She died in 1886 leaving Squiers with four children:

On November 14, 1892, Squiers married his second wife, Harriette Bard Woodcock (1866–1935), with whom he had two additional children:

  • Herbert G. Squiers, Jr. (1892–1941)
  • Bard MacDonald Squiers (1893–1934)

Squiers died October 19, 1911. His widow, the former Harriet "Hattie" Woodcock, said after his death that "political intrigues" had "Prevented him from attaining the diplomatic and political prominence that was his due."[28]


  1. ^ a b "Squiers goes to Panama; official announcement made of New Yorker's appointment; was former minister to Cuba, but resigned office- saw service as Secretary of Legation in Pekin". The Washington Post. 1906-10-21.
  2. ^ "Squiers, Herbert Goldsmith (1859–1911)". The Political Graveyard. 2005-03-10. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  3. ^ "Military Training and the ROTC at Fordham University". 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  4. ^ "Squiers quits post; minister to Cuba found his position untenable; Morgan will succeed him- resignation tendered by cable and accepted by State Department- friction over Isle of Pines question precipitated climax- opposition to him has grown steadily stronger". The Washington Post. 1905-11-30. p. 1.
  5. ^ Diana Preston, Besieged in Peking: The Story of the 1900 Boxer Rising (Constable, 1999):31.
  6. ^ a b   Scully, John (1913). "Herbert Goldsmith Squiers" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  7. ^ "American Who Advised Li-Hung-Chang id Dead: William N. Pethick Was Private Secretary to the Great Viceroy for Thirty Years", The New York Times (21 December 1901):1; (accessed 13 January 2009).
  8. ^ Ernest Satow, Letter 59, Satow to [Francis Leveson] Bertie, 17 January 1901, The Semi-Official Letters of British Envoy Sir Ernest Satow from Japan and China (1895-1906), ed. Ian Ruxton (, 2007):
  9. ^ "Bishop Favier Denies Charges of Looting", The New York Times (1 December 1901); (accessed 9 January 1901).
  10. ^ Frederic Alan Sharf, and Peter Harrington, China, 1900: The Eyewitnesses Speak : the Experience of Westerners in China During the Boxer Rebellion, as Described by Participants in Letters, Diaries and Photographs (Greenhill Books, 2000):223; quoted in Simon Au, thesis, 54; (accessed 11 January 2009).
  11. ^ Sterling Seagrave and Peggy Seagrave, Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China (Vintage Books, 1993):368.
  12. ^ Cyril Pearl, Morrison of Peking, (Angus and Robertson, 1967):131.
  13. ^ Peter Thompson and Robert Macklin, The Man who Died Twice: The Life and Adventures of Morrison of Peking, (Allen & Unwin, 2004):200.
  14. ^ "Mr. Squiers Not Guilty of Looting", The New York Times (8 March 1901):7; (accessed 12 January 2009).
  15. ^ Hevia, Lessons, 217.
  16. ^ Grattan, David (December 2001). "The Destruction of Cultural Heritage and why conservation is vital to society" (PDF). Australian Association of Consulting Archeologists, AACAI Newsletter (88): 7–10. ISSN 0810-1744. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  17. ^ New Outlook (1901):101.
  18. ^ Life 38 (1901):267.
  19. ^ "Gift from Peking for the Museum of Art: H.G. Squiers to Present Bronzes and Curios to This City", The New York Times (3 September 1901):3; (accessed 11 January 2009).
  20. ^ " Mr. Squiers's Curios: State Department Officials Do Not Believe He Profited by the Sales of Loot at Peking" Special to The New York Times (4 September 1901:1; (accessed 11 January 2009).
  21. ^ William Cox, "Record Unit 192, United States National Museum, Permanent Administrative Files, 1877-1975", Smithsonian Institution Archives, Box 65 of 672. (accessed 11 January 2009).
  22. ^ "Squiers Collection on Sale; Mrs. Pembroke Jones Among Purchasers of Old Chinese Porcelains." The New York Times (10 April 1912):22; (accessed 11 January 2009).
  23. ^ "Chinese Porcelain Bottles Bring $8,000" The New York Times (11 April 1912):9; (accessed 11 January 2009).
  24. ^ "Snapshots at social leaders". The Washington Post. 1912-04-12. p. 7.
  25. ^ Sandy English, "Archaeologists warn of Iraq war's devastating consequences", Bul-lat-lat 3:7 (16–22 March 2003), Quezon City, Philippines; (accessed 11 January 2009).
  26. ^ Times, Special To The New York (24 February 1972). "Henry H. Rousseau, 63, Headed Frito‐New York". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  27. ^ "Harold Cutler Whitman". Find A Grave Memorial. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  28. ^ "Says ingratitude killed". The Washington Post. 1911-10-23. p. 1.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
United States Minister to Cuba
May 27, 1902–December 2, 1905
Succeeded by
Edwin V. Morgan
Preceded by
Charles E. Magoon
United States Minister to Panama
November 8, 1906–August 3, 1909
Succeeded by
R. S. Reynolds Hitt