Ion Hanford Perdicaris

Ion Hanford Perdicaris (April 1, 1840 – May 31, 1925) was an author, professor, lawyer, painter, and playwright. He was a humanitarian and human rights activist. He fought for the rights of Moors, Arabs and slaves. He was active in the anti-slave movement in the United States and abroad namely in Morocco.[1] He was the great-grandson of American Revolutionary War Hero Captain William Dewitt. Dewitt also ratified the U.S. Constitution for the state of South Carolina. Ion's first cousin was Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme court Henry McIver. Ion fought to change the Protégé system in Morocco. Ion became an international celebrity because of the Perdicaris Incident.[2]

Ion Hanford Perdicaris
Ion Hanford Perdicaris.png
Portrait of Ion
BornApril 1, 1840
Athens, Greece
DiedMay 31, 1925 (1925-06-01) (aged 85)
London, England
Resting placeSaint Nicholas Church Yard Chislehurst
Alma materHarvard University (dropped out)
Known forPortriat of Ellen Varley
Notable work
MovementAmerican Art
Spouse(s)Ellen Varley nee Rous
Personal details
ProfessionWriter, Painter, Diplomat and Activist
Known forInternational Diplomacy,
Moroccan Studies

Ion was born in Athens, Greece. His father was United States Consul to Greece. Ion was in the United States when he was five years old. He grew up in Trenton. He attended the Trenton Academy. By age 16, in 1856 he exhibited a painting called Cattle at the Thirty-Third Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He also briefly attended Harvard University before traveling to Europe to attend school. He fled the United States due to his ties to South Carolina and his mother's prominent family.[3][4]

His first cousin Henry McIver was one of the signers of the Ordinance of Secession in December 1860 representing South Carolina which led to the American Civil War. Ion renounced his American citizenship and tried to become a Greek citizen in order to avoid the confiscation of 1351 shares of the Charleston Gas Light Company, worth close to one million dollars, adjusted for 2019 inflation. The shares belonged to his father.[5] The South rejected expatriation. Expatriation was not legally allowable in the United States until the Expatriation Act of 1868. Ion was still a U.S. citizen. The sequestration of stocks led to the Supreme Court case Dewing v. Perdicaris, 96 U.S. 193 (1877).[6][7]

Ion traveled back and forth to London from the United States. He became an international correspondent for The Galaxy magazine. He was a young playboy living a lavish style. In London, he started to become part of the spiritualist and parapsychology community. He frequently attended seances. He met C. F. Varley and his wife Ellen at these supernatural rituals.[8] Ion married Ellen in 1872 she had four adult children. He wrote two plays towards the end of the 1870s entitled La Societaire and The Picture.[9][10]

By the 1880s, Ion and his parents moved to Morocco in a mansion they built at the Place of Nightingales. There Ion became active in the international community and fought for the rights of the local Moorish population, writing several essays and a book advocating their rights. He became vice president of the Tangier Hygienic Commission and advocated a special status for Tangier as a neutral free port. He also wrote an article addressing the Moroccan banking system called Currency.[11]

In May 1904, Ion was kidnapped by Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni. His bandits raided Ion's mansion and brought him up to the mountains along with his stepson Cromwell Varley. The U.S. Government was alerted of the incident by Ion's family friend Samuel R. Gummeré. Due to Ion's influence in the United States, the entire South Atlantic Squadron of the United States Navy was dispatched to Morocco on May 30. By the end of the ordeal, Ion and Raisuni became close friends. The ransom was paid and Ion became an international celebrity. The slogan Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead became a household name. The incident helped Theodore Roosevelt get re-elected. The incident has served as a model for international diplomacy and Stockholm syndrome. Ion briefly returned to the United States and finally lived out the rest of his life in a mansion in Chislehurst, England. Ion and Helen Varley were buried at Saint Nicholas Church Yard Chislehurst.[12][13]

Early lifeEdit

Ion Hanford Perdicaris was born in Athens, Greece, while his father Gregory Anthony Perdicaris was United States Consul to Greece. His father was born in Naousa, a city in the modern-day Imathia regional unit of Macedonia, Greece. Gregory was a refugee that migrated to the United States in the late 1820s. Gregory’s entire family was sold into slavery during the Greek War of Independence.[14] Ion’s mother was the granddaughter of United States Revolutionary War hero Captain William Dewitt. He ratified the United States Constitution representing South Carolina.[15] She was a member of an elite family from South Carolina. They were planters. Some of the members included: U.S. Senator Josiah J. Evans and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Henry McIver.[16][17]

Ion’s family moved back to the United States in 1845. They resided at the Perdicaris Ashley Cottage an elaborate twenty-room estate on the north side of Trenton, New Jersey. Ion’s father finished two books Greece of Greeks Volume 1 and Volume 2. Ion grew up in Trenton and attended the Trenton Academy. His father was one of the Trustees and the school was controlled by Trenton's elite families. Most of the students were the children of America's leadership and the wealthy elite class. His father became a prominent entrepreneur. He was also involved in local politics. By the age of ten Ion was involved in the family business but Ion choose painting instead of business. According to an account from one of Ion's classmates, his lavish paintings adorned the mansion.[18] Ion's father Gregory amassed a small fortune. According to the United States Census of 1860, the Perdicaris estate was worth roughly 6 million dollars adjusted for 2019 inflation.[19]

American Civil WarEdit

Ion graduated from Trenton Academy with William Hoy and William Lewis Dayton Jr. in 1855. He wrote an essay called Unity of Beauty. It was praised by the faculty, they said: “it contained a hi order of genius”.[20] The following year Ion enrolled at Harvard University as a freshman, he also exhibited his painting Cattle at the Thirty-Third Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Evangelinos Apostolides Sophocles was a professor at Harvard around this time. He was a family friend. Ion was no longer a student at Harvard in the spring of 1858. He traveled to England that summer to study painting.[21]

Ion's first cousin Henry McIver was instrumental in removing South Carolina from the United States. He signed the Ordinance of Secession in December 1860. Ion was required by his Confederate family to assist in the war efforts. His father Gregory was crucial because he was a former diplomat and had ties to many different countries in Europe, most notably the King and Queen of Greece. There were over 18 different countries represented with over 50 different consuls in the diplomatic community when Gregory was in Greece. The information was relayed to the McIvers. Captain Henry McIver now resembled his great-grandfather, Captain William Dewitt.[22]

The McIver family confiscated the Perdicaris family's estate and personal belongings in South Carolina naming them alien enemies.[23] The confiscation occurred one month after the onset of the American Civil War and three months before the official Confederate Sequestration Act. The McIver's refused to hire a substitute for their cousin who was studying in Europe. They choose to confiscate their assets. One year later, the confederacy confiscated 1351 shares of the Charleston Gas Light Company, worth close to one million dollars, adjusted for 2019 inflation. The shares belonged to Gregory.[24]

The issue resulted in the Supreme Court case Dewing v. Perdicaris, 96 U.S. 193 (1877).[25] According to a letter Ion sent to Samuel R. Gummeré. Ion was instructed by his parents to obtain Greek citizenship to stop the sequestration. They found expatriation a legal solution. Expatriation was not legally allowable until the Expatriation Act of 1868. Records indicate Ion submitted his paperwork twenty-three days before the South sequestered close to one million dollars worth of stocks. By law, he was still an American citizen.[26] Samuel R. Gummere and his brother William S. Gummere also attended Trenton Academy during the 1860s. Their father Barker Gummere was business partners with Gregory Anthony Perdicaris.


Ion was raised in a diplomatic household from a young age he interacted with the King and Queen of Greece and other prominent diplomatic figures. By the 1860s he was a lawyer living in London and traveling the world. He began to affiliate himself with the diplomatic community. His parents Gregory and Margret were reported departing Liverpool England, August 28, 1863.[27] In December 1864, Ion was in Florence, Italy with the diplomatic community watching a prominent theater play.[28]

From a young age, Ion showed an interest in writing. His father Gregory Anthony Perdicaris was affiliated with Edgar Allan Poe.[29] Ion was an international corespondent for The Galaxy. The Galaxy was a New York City based magazine. Mark Twain was affiliated with the publication. Ion's first article was about painting it was entitled English and French Painting.[30] One year later he wrote another two articles for the magazine one was called Reminiscences of a Parisian Atélier[31] and the other The Exhibition of the Royal Academy.[32] One was published in March and the other July of 1867. Another article was published in 1868 called Art and Modern Inventions.[33] All four articles were related to art, art history and painting.

Ion lived at two addresses during this period in London. Records indicate he lived at Gloucester Crescent, Camden and the Heathcote-villas St Margarets, London. Ion was interested in the subject of spiritualism and séances. Prominent engineer and early developer of the electric telegraph and the transatlantic telegraph cable Cromwell Fleetwood Varley and his wife Ellen Varley also took interest in the claims of parapsychology and spiritualism and attended séances with Ion and other wealthy figures.[34][35] In 1872, Ion married Ellen Varley.[36]

Return to Trenton, New JerseyEdit

Ion returned to the United States in the later part of 1874 married to Ellen Varley. She was a thirty-seven year old woman with four children from another marriage. She was three years older than Ion. The children's names were Ada 18, Cromwell Oliver 17, Hebe, and Fleetwood E. Varley.[37] The children were recorded attending the State Normal School of New Jersey for the year 1875-76.[38] Ion presented his painting called Moorish Interior to the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. The exposition began May 10 and ended Nov 10.[39] Ion, Ellen, and the children were recorded traveling on a steamer from Southampton to Gibraltar on July 20, 1876.[40] They were traveling to Morocco. The next year local Trenton newspapers recorded Ion freeing a slave in Morocco with the help of the United States Government.[41] While Ion lived in London he was searching for the perfect place to build a summer home on the Mediterranean Sea. He choose Morocco because of a conversation he had with a retired French Naval officer on his way back to Liverpool from New York. The officer invited Ion and his wife to the region and they fell in love. Ion built two houses in Morocco.[42]


They began to build the iconic historical castle mansion known as the Place of the Nightingales, Idonia or Aidonia in Morrocco in the 1870s. The second home in Morocco was the city home called El Minzah. Ion returned to the United with the family to put on a play on Broadway for his daughter Ada Varley. She married a gentleman called Van Sandt. Both Ada and her husband adopted stage names. Ada Varley became Narde Almayne and her husband was Nelson Decker. Both became famous prominent stage actors on Broadway in New York City. Two plays appeared in New York City in 1879. Both were produced by Ion. The first play was called La Societaire, Townsend Percy was the cowriter' the second play was called The Picture. The Picture featured a massive painting created by Ion called Resurgamus (Combat of Life, Terror of Death and Triumph of Immortality) it was 16 feet x 23 feet or 4.9 meters x 7 meters.[9][43]


One of Trenton's most wealthy elites Gregory Anthony Perdicaris retired at the massive castle mansion named the Place of the Nightingales. Both Ion's parents left Trenton to join their son in Morocco. Ion's father passed away in Morrocco in 1883 his mother died two years later. Ion hosted lavish parties at his massive estate. He was heavily involved in diplomatic affairs he began to emulate Gregory Anthony Perdicaris and his early career as consul. His second stepdaughter Hebe Varley married the Dragoman of the Italian embassy in Morrocco. His name was Gianatelli Gentile cav[aliere] Agesilao.[44][45]

Ion convinced the Sultan to create the Tangier Hygienic Commission. Around the same period, the practice of arresting debtors in Morocco was a harsh tactic allowed by local laws and customs. Perdicaris was an advocate for the poor and destitute Moors and Arabs that could not repay certain debts and were harshly imprisoned. Wealthy lenders used the Protégé system to control and abuse the local population namely the Moors. Recall that Perdicaris freed a slave ten years prior and publicized the incident in the American media. Around this period he published a few essays and a book addressing the Treaty of Madrid. He wrote a pamphlet called American Claims in Morocco and a novel entitled The Case of Mohammed Benani.[46][47] Around this time Ion was also interviewed by a reporter from the Pall Mall Gazette on May 30, 1887. The name of the interview was The European Vampire in Morocco. The interview also addressed the harsh treatment of the Moors and the Protégé system..[48][49]

In 1886, he was briefly arrested by order of the American Consul Felix A Mathews because Ion brought a formal investigation against the public official.[50] After one year Ion influenced the replacement of American Consul Felix A. Mathews. On March 18, 1887, during the arrival of the new American Consul William Reed Lewis. A celebration was held at the Perdicaris estate. The natives thanked Ion for assisting their release from prison as a prominent American figure dealing a harsh blow to the Protégé system.[51][52] The event was again publicized by the American media. Regrettably, in 1890 William Reed Lewis the American consul that replaced Felix A. Mathews was removed from office because he was using the office of consul to arrest local citizens for his own personal gain. A practice Ion was constantly lobbying against. Lewis continued to abuse the Protégé system. Although not on American soil Ion fought for black rights abroad.[53]

The Moorish People

His wife Ellen was the president of the chief charitable association of Tangier named Las Damas de Caridad de Tanger. Ion was the vice-president of the Tangier Hygienic Commission. In 1887, Ion advocated a special status for Tangier as a neutral free port under the great powers' joint control.[54] In 1893, the Commission's role was broadened to public roads, with authority to raise levies.[55]

Both Ellen and Ion were committed to the poor and destitute. Ellen ran a soup kitchen for the needy. Every Wednesday Ion and his wife hosted lavish dinners and balls for the local elite community.[56] Towards the end of the century, he continued writing he finished two essays one was called Currency the other was entitled The Condition of Morocco.[57]

By the late 1890s, wealthy elite Trentonian Samuel R. Gummeré was in Morocco visiting Ion. He spent three winter seasons with Ion.[58] Barker Gummere and Gregory Anthony Perdicaris were both trustees at the Trenton Academy. They also incorporated the Trenton City Bridge Company and the Jersey Silver Mining Company in 1870. Barker Gummer's son Samuel R. Gummeré became the U. S. Consul to Morocco. He also attended the Trenton Academy about a decade after Ion graduated from the institution. Ion finally controlled the U.S. consulate in Morocco.

Perdicaris affairEdit

Ion's first cousin Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court Henry McIver died on January 12, 1903. Recall Captain McIver demanded his assistance in the U.S. Civil War for the Confederacy. Ion, America's son, who was bitterly ejected from the United States by his own family was about to return home. The Perdicaris mansion at the Place of the Nightingale was raided by 90-200 bandits on May 18, 1904. Ion and his stepson Cromwell Varley were kidnapped by Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni and brought to the mountains. Ion broke his leg during the ordeal. U.S. Consul Samuel R. Gummere alerted the U.S. Government about the incident. Ion was in the mountains for several weeks. Ion and the kidnapper became very good friends and the incident is regarded as an example of Stockholm syndrome. Due to his political background and wealth, by May 30th, America sent the South Atlantic Squadron of the United States Navy to Morocco.[59][60]

The incident was overblown in the media because Theodore Roosevelt needed the publicity for his re-election campaign. The slogan Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead became a household name. Ion returned to the United States as an international celebrity around June 24, 1904. This is the fourth instance where Perdicaris used the U.S. government as his personal intermediary. In the first instance, he freed a slave in Morocco with the help of the United States government and publicized the incident all over the United States. He indirectly overthrew two U.S. Consuls, Felix A Mathews and William Reed Lewis due to his political aspirations and his problem with the Protégé system. The final major incident occurred when his close family friend and U.S. Consul Samuel Gummere surrounded the entire country of Morocco with the South Atlantic Squadron of the United States Navy.

Return to the United StatesEdit

Ion wrote articles about the Moors and the oppressive wealthy elites that abused them. He returned to the United States as an international celebrity. The attention gave the educated scholar the opportunity to discuss Moroccon culture with the people of the United States. He wrote dozens of articles about Morocco for publications in the United States some included: The General Situation in Morocco.[61][62] He traveled throughout the country lecturing about his ordeal. The American media capitalized on the situation. Theodore Roosevelt won the election by a landslide. Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni was turned into a heroic figure. Perdicaris even wrote a guide on fun games to play while being kidnapped entitled How to Enjoy Captivity with Raisul by His Former Captive Mr. Ion Perdicaris. It was published in: The Sketch: A Journal of Art and Actuality, Volume 59 in 1907. Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni was later turned into a Hollywood sensation portrayed by Sean Conner in the The Wind and the Lion.

Ion included the term negro in his description of the people of Morocco in an article he wrote for National Geographic entitled Morocco the Land of the Extreme West and the Story of my Captivity . He told his readers that there was no distinction between color in the region. He also explained that the elite Bokhari guards were recruited from the Sudan. During the period after the death of Hassan I of Morocco from 1894 to 1900, a regent ruled the land until Abdelaziz of Morocco was old enough to rule. He was referred to as a negro man named Ahmed bin Mūsa. Ion described him as one of the most competent rulers of Morocco. He also lectured for the National Geographic Society.[63][64] Some members of the McIver family embraced Ion. The family that added South Carolina to the U.S. Constitution, removed South Carolina from the United States during the American Civil War, and defended Jim Crow Laws now reconciled with Ion. Henry Mciver's niece Helen Hanford McIver named her son Ion Perdicaris Gignilliat after Ion in 1910. The incident was added to the Mciver family papers.

Ion maintained a massive fortune in the United States. The coal gas companies his father created were now becoming electric companies. He also owned large tracts of land in Trenton, New Jersey. One of his properties was considered for the new city hall. The city of Trenton was offering 30,000 or 830,000 adjusted for 2022 inflation.[65] Ion continued to lecture all over the country and travel the world. He specialized in international diplomacy and most of his papers were about Moroccon history, culture, and sociology. He capitalized on the media craze. He finally moved to England at seventy years old.

London Manor House and retirementEdit

After 1910, Ion moved back to England where he purchased The Manor House in Chislehurst Kent England.[66] It was a massive estate. By seventy years old he continued to host diplomatic parties at his huge estate. His granddaughter Nellie Gianatelli Gentile married Col. Serge de Likatscheff the Secretary of the Russian Embassy.[67] Cromwell Varley continued to live with his mother and stepfather. Ellen Varley died in 1920. Ion lived another five years and died in 1925. He was 85 years old. Both Ellen and Ion were buried at Saint Nicholas Church Yard in Chislehurst, London.[68] He left a massive fortune close to 16.7 million dollars adjusted for 2022 inflation. He left his butler close to 500,000 adjusted for 2022 inflation.[69]

Notable residencesEdit

Perdicaris Ashley Cottage

Ion was raised in a lavish mansion in Trenton called the Perdicaris Ashley Cottage. He later built two homes in Morocco. When he returned to the United States he briefly stayed at the Ellarslie Mansion in Trenton. He sold the Perdicaris Ashley Cottage in 1895 to the Phillips family. He later moved to England. He occupied a massive house in Chislehurst. The home was called The Manor House. By 1913, he sold one of his two homes in Morocco. El Minzah sold for 80,000 dollars in 1913. He still owned The Place of the Nightingale, Idonia or Aidonia.[70] By 1936, the family mansion the Perdicaris Ashley Cottage located at 531 East State Street was purchased by a wealthy elite developer named Morris R. Young.[71] His Moroccon mansion El Minzah was turned into a hotel and The Place of the Nightingale is currently being renovated with a budget of close to one million dollars.[72][73][74]


  • Composition (1855)
  • Cattle (1856)
  • Amalthea
  • Moorish Interiors (1876)
  • Resurgamus (Combat of Life, Terror of Death, and Triumph of Immortality) (1879)
  • Portrait of Ellen Varley

Literary worksEdit


  • Unity of Beauty (Graduation Essay Trenton Academy 1855)
  • English and French Painting (The Galaxy Volume 2 1866)
  • Reminiscences of a Parisian Atélier (The Galaxy Volume 3 1867)
  • The Exhibition of the Royal Academy (The Galaxy Volume 4 1867)
  • Art and Modern Inventions (The Galaxy Volume 6 1868)
  • American Claims and the Protection of Native Subjects in Morocco (Pamphlet 1886)
  • Currency (The Free Review Volume 2 1894)
  • The Condition of Morocco (The Asiatic Quarterly Review 1896)
  • The Straits of Gibraltar and the Sultanate of Morocco (Pamphlet 1904)
  • Morocco the Land of the Paradox (Asian Review 1904)
  • The General Situation in Morocco (The North American 1905)
  • The Spectator (The North American 1905)
  • The Disintegration of Morocco its Immediate Causes and Probable Results (The International Quarterly 1905)
  • Morocco the Land of the Extreme West and the Story of my Captivity (National Geographic Magazine 1906)
  • Tangier in the Early 70s (Putnam's Monthly 1907)
  • How to Enjoy Captivity with Raisul by His Former Captive Mr. Ion Perdicaris (The Sketch 1907)


  • The Case of Mohammed Benani (1887)
  • Biography The Hand of Fate (1921)[75]


  • La Societaire (1879)
  • The Picture (1879)


  • Perdicaris Ashley Cottage (Trenton N.J.) (1845-1895)
  • Place of the Nightingales (Tangier Morocco) (1877-1925)
  • The Manor House, Chislehurst Kent (Kent England) (1910-1925)


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