Thomas Telemachus Timayenis: Enduring Shame of the Greek Nation

Thomas Telemachus Timayenis rates high in the rogue’s gallery of Greek criminals, scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells who made the United States their home. Few Greeks arrived in North America with better prospects than Timayenis. Fewer still have disgraced the Greek people so profoundly as this one man. No comprehensive history of the Greeks in the United States can be presented without the inclusion of this problematic individual. Teasing a part of a balanced presentation of Timayenis’ life story is difficult primarily because he so vigorously involved himself with so many prominent individuals and with an amazingly diverse series of causes. What follows is a much abbreviated account of Timayenis’ career and enduring influences.

In short, Timayenis was a professor, novelist, playwright and one of the first to publish a discourse on what was then known as the Jewish Question along racial lines in the United States, rather than considerations of religious doctrine. Compounding what we would call today a hate crime, as we shall see, Timayenis did not even bother to fully compose the text of the argument himself but plagiarized from another author.

In May 26, 1853, Thomas Telemachus Timayenis (T.T. Timayenis) was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor to a prominent Greek family. His father, Thomas (died May 29, 1882) was a professor of languages at the Evangelical College of Smyrna and at the University of Athens. His mother Cotine (Photini) Rodocanachi Timayenis was the sister to J.M. Rodocanachi the consul of Greece in Boston. The Timayenis family was quite large there were at least four sisters and aside from T.T. Timayenis, three other sons, Demosthenes, Plutarch, and Nicholas. While it seems all four of the Timayenis brothers made the United States their home we must focus exclusively on T.T. Timayenis, mentioning the others if and when they help us understand the most infamous member of the family.

T.T. Timayenis was educated at the Evangelical College as well as schools in Athens. In 1869, he arrived in the United States with $15 in his pocket. Given that Timayenis was no more than 16 or 17 years and that his other brothers are documented as having worked with their maternal uncle John M. Rodocanachi upon their arrival to this country it would seem likely he did as well. Aside from commerce, Rodocanachi and his nephews all became Masons and through this organization met many prominent individuals throughout the country. While Timayenis is most remembered today as a teacher and writer we should note, if only in passing, he was over the course of his life a businessman and early Greek labor organizer as well.

In 1874 Timayenis taught at the Springfield Collegiate Institute, a preparatory school in Springfield, MA. His books chronologically include, The two corporals (editions published in 1876); The Modern Greek: its pronunciation and relations to ancient Greek, with an appendix on rules of accentuation, etc. (first published in 1877 with 5 later editions).

In 1879 he was a professor of classical Greek at the New York Hellenic Institute and the Chautauqua School of Languages. From 1879 and 1880, Timayenis worked on Chautauqua magazine which “for six weeks in the months of July and August, proposes to aid its students (in the School of Languages) by a system of correspondence and of published articles; and to this end, we the undersigned, agree to conduct a department in the Chautauquan. We shall be glad to receive communications from all our pupils–those of 1879 and of 1880–that we may be able the more in intelligently and profitably to prepare our monthly articles for this magazine. T.T. Timayenis, Prof. of Greek (Plainfield, N.J., March 18, 1880).”

In 1879,Timayenis published his first book, Aesop’s fables: with vocabulary, notes, and references to Goodwin’s and Hadley’s grammars; proceeded by talks on the natural method (Boston: John Allyn, Publisher, 1879). Timayenis is known to have authored (or claimed to have authored) another fifteen books, most often with Appleton publishers of New York. Unexpectedly, given his later anti-Semitic screes, many of Timayenis’ books went through numerous editions with some never being out of print.

To underline this point, a quick study of the Internet will reveal that the vast majority of Timayenis’ books, especially his most vile anti-Semitic volumes, are still in print and free to the public. To cite just two of his most popular historical volumes, A history of Greece from the earliest times to the present, went through 13 editions between 1880 and 1900, while Greece in the time of Homer by Timayenis saw 12 editions published between 1885 and 2007 in English and French.

In 1886, Timayenis was the director of the New York School of Languages. By 1887, Timayenis was tutoring the children of some of America’s richest families including the Rockefellers. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Timayenis began issuing books on the “life, customs and habits of the Jews.”

In 1888, Timayenis left his academic work and established Minerva Publishing Company in New York, the first company in American to publish books critical of Jews. Timayenis anonymously authored three tracts on the Jews: The Original Mr. Jacobs: A Startling Exposé, ‎The American Jew: An Expose of His Career‎, and Judas Iscariot: An Old Type in a New Form. In The American Jew, Timayenis provided several illustrations showing physical characteristics on how one might identify a Jew. None of these books have ever been out of print and can be found free on the Internet.

Initially, Timayenis based his accounts largely on the publications of Edouard Drumont, founder of the Anti-Semitic league in France. But Timayenis’ writings progressed he clearly had his own ideas. Jonathan D. Sarna writes in The ‘Mythical Jew and in the Jew Next Door a chapter of “Anti-Semitism in American History” edited by David A. Gerber (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986), that in The Original Mr. Jacobs, Timayenis “calls non-Jews who conform to his Jewish stereotype Jews,” evidence to the contrary notwithstanding: “Has ever a man of observation asked himself the question: ‘Is there any Jewish blood in the veins of John D. Rockefeller?’ We do not hesitate to affirm from an intimate knowledge of the man, that if Rockefeller is not actually a Jew, he has many Jewish traits … The spirit of the Standard Oil Company is simply the spirit of the monopoly, of cruelty, of annihilation of all competitors, a spirit in fact such as manifests itself in the scandalous enterprises of the Jews…” While these three tracts sold in great numbers Timayenis proved so unstable a character that sustained legal battles left him penniless and his anti-Semitic both best-selling volumes and reviled accounts. Various authors adamantly contend that Timayenis’ work spread a permeating ideological fog over the 1880s such that Anti-Semitism gained new ground across the United States.

By 1904, T.T. Timayenis owned and operated a cigarette manufacturing company at 404 Atlantic Ave in Boston. From 1909 to 1916 Timayenis published and edited a monthly Greek-American newspaper The Eastern and Western Review. We lose touch with Timayenis and then a fragment in the pamphlet essay on Timayenis, An American Anti-Semite in the Ninetieth Century by Leonard A. Greenberg and Harold J. Jonas, “in his declining years when he was sick most of the time and unable to make a living, his brother took pity on him and sent him to live in a boarding house in Lowell, paying his expenses and where he died.”

The “boarding house,” to which Timayenis was admitted, on June 29, 1918, was the Tewksbury State Hospital. It is some 5.5 miles from downtown Lowell to Downtown Tewksbury. Timayenis died at the Tewksbury State Hospital from arteriosclerosis on July 29, 1918. It is said that on July 31, 1918 Timayenis was buried in the Tewksbury Centre Cemetery, e.g. the town of Tewksbury’s cemetery. I searched this town cemetery’s online records and could not find Timayenis but learned that the State Hospital had its own cemetery.

There are two cemeteries for Tewksbury State Hospital. The one I visited is called ‘the Pines Cemetery. The other is simply called the Pauper Cemetery. They are located in separate woodlands nearby the hospital. According to the Public Health Museum, approximately 15,000 patients, who had no relatives claimed their bodies, are buried in those no-name cemeteries. Apparently, the records between 1854 and 1894 are missing, but at least the patient’s deceased between1891 and 1930 are buried in the Pines Cemetery. In the Pauper Cemetery, the burials took place as late as 1960’s.

Established in 1892, Tewksbury Hospital was originally known as the Tewksbury Almshouse. Many of them were destitute immigrants. In addition to the poor, they accepted the “pauper insane”, alcoholics, and patients with such contagious disease as TB ( The unmarked grave of America’s first published anti-Semitic author may well lie in the new growth forest and rough undergrowth surrounding the remains of the Tewksbury State Hospital. How fitting, if true, for this would mean Thomas Telemachus Timayenis, who unquestionably avidly sought public attention and recognition above all things, is truly lost to history.