Larz Anderson

Larz Anderson

Larz Anderson III (1866-1937) was a wealthy American businessman and diplomat who briefly served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1912-1913).

Anderson was a member of the Loyal Legion and the Society of the Cincinnati. He died in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Anderson, an Episcopalian, was interred at Washington National Cathedral. [ [ The Political Graveyard, "Society of the Cincinnati"] ]

The following are named after him:

*Anderson House, national HQ of the Society of the Cincinnati in Washington, D.C.
*Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Massachusetts
*Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection at Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
*Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, Massachusetts

Anderson Memorial Bridge, connecting Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, is often assumed to be named after him and is called "Larz Anderson Bridge" by locals. The bridge was, however, built by Anderson in memory of his father.

Early life

Larz Anderson was the son of Nicholas Longworth Anderson and Elizabeth Coles Kilgour Anderson. He was born in Paris while his wealthy Cincinnati, Ohio parents were on one of their frequent visits to Europe.

Larz Anderson attended Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire before attending Harvard College. At Harvard he was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club, the A.D. Club, the Institute of 1770, Alpha Delta Phi, and Delta Kappa Epsilon. After graduating in 1888, Anderson set out on a year and a half grand tour that included his first visit to Japan. When he returned to the U.S., Anderson briefly attended Harvard Law School before being called into diplomatic service in 1891.

Diplomatic career

In June 1891 Robert Todd Lincoln, son of president Abraham Lincoln and then serving as the U.S. minister to the Court of St. James in London, secured for Larz Anderson his first post in the American diplomatic corps as second secretary of the American legation in London. After three years in London, Anderson was appointed first secretary of the American embassy in Rome in 1894 and served for a short time as charge d'affaires, until he resigned in 1897. Shortly after his marriage to Isabel Weld Perkins in 1897, he volunteered with the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Anderson returned to the diplomatic corps in 1911 as U.S. minister to Belgium, serving until 1912, when he was appointed ambassador to Japan. He held this post for only six months, resigning when the Republican administration of William Howard Taft was replaced by the Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson administration.

Larz Anderson retired from the diplomatic corps in 1913. He later recalled that he was the first American to rise all the way through the diplomatic ranks from the lowest position to the highest. Larz Anderson and his wife, Isabel, spent the next twenty-five years traveling, collecting, and supporting charitable causes.

Larz and Isabel

In 1896, while serving at the United States Embassy in Rome, Italy, Anderson met Isabel Weld Perkins, a young debutante from Boston on a world tour. Both Larz and Isabel's families established themselves in America before the American Revolution. While Anderson's family was wealthy, their resources did not compare to that of the super-rich Weld Family.

When Isabel was only five years old, she inherited $17 million dollars from her grandfather William Fletcher Weld, making her the wealthiest woman in the world. [ [ The Andersons] ] Her inheritance was held in a trust for her until her twenty-first birthday.

Larz and Isabel were married at Arlington Street Church in Boston in 1897 and embarked on a life of luxury combined with public service and adventure. They traveled widely across the world as well as through North America, visiting five continents and becoming among the first Westerners to visit countries such as Tibet and Nepal. Isabel authored several books, including a history of the Weld shipping enterprise, "Under the Black Horse Flag."

Anderson House

Between 1902 and 1905, the Andersons had built a Beaux Arts mansion in the fashionable Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Known as Anderson House, the mansion was the couple's winter residence during the Washington social season, which generally extended from New Year's Day through Easter. After Larz's death, Isabel Anderson donated Anderson House in 1938 to the Society of the Cincinnati, of which Anderson was a member, and now serves as its national headquarters.

Perkins Manor

In addition to her inheritance from her mother's family, Isabel Weld Perkins had inherited a stately manor in New Hampshire from her father Commodore Perkins. Larz and Isabel spent considerable time here and Isabel even opened the doors of this regal mansion to the public for a few summers. This stately manor was called the Larz Anderson estate during this time but has since been divided into eight apartments and is again known as Perkins Manor. [ [ Perkins Manor] ]

Weld Estate

The Andersons came into the possession of 64 acres near the outskirts of Boston. To this estate, which had been in Isabel's family for generations, the Andersons added a twenty-five room mansion. This became the Andersons' home for summers and Christmas holidays. The mansion, overlooking the Boston skyline, was enlarged and remodeled to resemble Lulworth Castle, an ancestral home associated with the Welds. They named the place "Weld" in honor of Isabel's grandfather. Isabel willed this property to the Town of Brookline after her death in 1948 and it is now Larz Anderson Park. [ [ The Andersons] ]

Auto Collection

The Andersons had assembled an extraordinary collection of horse-drawn carriages, sleighs and vintage motorcars. In donating these along with the property, Isabel Anderson stipulated in her will that these be known as the "Larz Anderson Collection." Fourteen of the original thirty-two vehicles remain in the collection and are still on display as part of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, the oldest collection of motorcars in the United States. [ [ Larz Anderson Auto Museum] ]

Bonsai Collection

After Larz's death, Isabel donated 30 of their bonsai to the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University along with the funds necessary to build a shade house for their display. Following her death, the remaining nine plants were donated to the Arboretum including an 80-year-old hinoki cypress that had been given to the Andersons by the Imperial Household shortly before they left Japan for the last time. [ [ Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection at Arnold Arboretum] ]

The BC Eagle

The Andersons' residence in Tokyo, Japan was adorned with a gilded bronze eagle sculpture which stood in front of their home. ["The [ PDF Walking Tour Guide] published by the Larz Anderson Auto Museum notes "The bronze eagle that perched on a stone plinth in the garden may reference the Anderson family’s military service. In Japan, the eagle is a Guardian (sic), warding off evil spirits. In this county, the eagle is used as a symbol of the United States. It is also the symbol of the Society of the Cincinnati, of which Larz was a member."] The Andersons brought the eagle back to the United States and it remained on their Brookline property after their death.

In 1954, the gilded sculpture was donated to Boston College and installed on the lawn in front of the university's Alumni House [ [ Boston College Website: The BC Eagle] ] before being relocated to a place of prominence on Linden Lane, in front of the university's iconic Gasson Tower. It is now considered synonymous with the "BC Eagle", the university's mascot. [Donovan, Charles F. "History of Boston College: From the Beginnings to 1990"; University Press of Boston College, September 1990, p.266]


* [ Biography of the Andersons]
* [ The Society of the Cincinnati]
* [ The Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection at Harvard University] .


*Anderson, Larz: "Letters and Journals of a Diplomat", New York, 1940.
*Anderson, Isabella "Under the Black Horse Flag", Boston, 1926
*Del Tredici, Peter: "Early American Bonsai: The Larz Anderson Collection of the Arnold Arboretum", "Arnoldia" (Summer 1989)

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