Lambert Tree

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Lambert Tree
United States Ambassador to Belgium
In office
PresidentGrover Cleveland
Preceded byNicholas Fish II
Succeeded byJohn Gibson Parkhurst
United States Ambassador to Russia
In office
PresidentGrover Cleveland
Preceded byGeorge V. N. Lothrop
Succeeded byC. Allen Thorndike Rice
Personal details
Born(1832-11-29)November 29, 1832
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedOctober 9, 1910(1910-10-09) (aged 77)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Anna Josephine Magie
(m. 1859; died 1903)
RelationsRonald Tree (grandson)
Alma materUniversity of Virginia

Lambert Tree (November 29, 1832 – October 9, 1910) was a United States state court judge, ambassador, and patron of the arts.

Early life[edit]

Tree was born at the family home in Washington, D.C. on November 29, 1832. He was the second, but eldest surviving, son born to Lambert Tree (1799-1881) and Laura Matilda Burrows, a granddaughter of Maj-Gen John Burrows, who fought in the Revolutionary War under George Washington. His father had moved from Philadelphia to Washington where he lived for over 60 years and worked for the U.S. Postal Service.

His paternal grandfather was Capt. John Tree, who was a sea-captain based out of Philadelphia. His grandfather was the son of Capt. Lambert Tree, a prominent ship-owner in the Atlantic sea-trade between 1762 and 1776, when he became an early battlefield commander in the Revolutionary War against the British and died in the first year of the War. The Tree family in America descended from a family that held land and estates near Beckington in Somerset for several hundred years with their family seat at Rudge Hall. Their American ancestor, Richard Tree settled in Jamestown, Virginia in 1621 and became a member of the Virginia Assembly in 1629 and 1632.

Tree went to the University of Virginia. He studied law and graduated LLB and was admitted to the Washington bar in 1855.


Soon after his admission to the bar in Washington, he moved west to pursue his career as the West opened up and moved to the then small frontier town of Chicago, Illinois. He practiced law and, in 1870, was elected to the Cook County, Illinois circuit court. Tree presided over the indictment, trial, and conviction of corrupt City Council members.

He lost the 1882 United States Senate race by one vote, then fell seven votes shy in 1885. However, later in 1885, he accepted an appointment from President Grover Cleveland as minister to Belgium. He then served the shortest tour, less than one month, of all U.S. Ministers to Russia: after his presentation of credentials on January 4, 1889, he left post on February 2, 1889, not long before the inauguration of President Cleveland's successor, Benjamin Harrison, a Republican.[1] President Harrison nominated Judge Tree to sit on the International Monetary Conference in Washington in 1891-2 and he was one of those for whom ballots were cast for nomination to the Vice-Presidency of the United States, in the Democratic National Convention in 1892.

He was very active in the civic and cultural life of the City as Life Trustee of the Newberry Library, Vice-President of the Chicago historical Society, incorporator of the American Red Cross and founder of the Chicago Branch. He was for several years President of the Illinois Historical Society and was honoured as Officer of the Legion of Honour by France, Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold by Belgium and was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Personal life[edit]

Tree was married to Anna Josephine Magie in 1859; she was the daughter of Haines H. Magie, who was one of the very earliest settlers in Chicago and owned land and a business in the heart of the City. Lambert and Anna were the parents of an older son

  • James Mandeville Carlisle Tree (b. 1861), who was born in Paris but died in infancy.
  • Arthur Magie Tree,[1] who married Ethel Field, the daughter of American millionaire Marshall Field in a lavish ceremony at the Field's mansion on Prairie Avenue.[2]

While travelling back from a European trip on a steamboat in early October 1903, his wife died.[3] Seven years later, on 9 October 1910, Tree died in the Waldorf Astoria New York from heart failure.[4] When Tree died he had been returning from visiting his son at his home on his country estate in England; Tree had never been happy that Arthur decided to live abroad and demonstrated his displeasure with the situation by stipulating in his will that his grandson, Ronald Tree, should receive his education in America.[5]

Arthur Magie Tree[edit]

Lambert's son and heir, Arthur, was born on the 1st July 1863 in Chicago and died on the 27th September 1914 in Southampton, England, where he had been living near Leamington in Warwickshire at a grand country house, Ashorne Hill House, built with his wife Ethel. The building is a finely executed house of the late-Victorian period, finished in sandstone and survives in an institutional use, though the Tree connection is affirmed by the family crest over the main entrance porch and Arthur's initials (AMT) over the stable yard portico. He attended Princeton University, graduating Class of 1885, having read history and law, like his father. He self identified as a horse breeder and farmer, though he was a gentleman of some leisure by all accounts and possessed an ocean going motor yacht of grand proportions. The marriage with Ethel did not have a good start as both their first born children died in infancy; Lambert and Gladys. Finally a surviving son was born, Ronald, on September 26, 1897. By this time, the marriage can't have been a happy one and was over soon after Ronald's birth. Upon dissolution of the marriage, Ronald remained with his father at Ashorne Hill. Apart from the son with his wife Ethel, he also had children with the Irish-born governess of his young son at Ashorne Hill, Kathleen Walsh. She bore him two daughters and four sons in the period between circa 1898 and 1914, three of whom had issue.


A patron of the arts, Judge Tree and his wife had an artists studio constructed in 1894 at 603-621 N. State St., to provide low cost housing and space for artists. The Tree Studio Building is important architecturally for its picturesque details of the period. After its original construction, two wings (located on Ohio and Ontario) were added during 1912–1913, forming a distinctive courtyard. This U-shaped complex is now closed off at the other end by the Medinah Temple. Tree Studios is one of the nation's oldest such studios, the original portion being designated a Chicago landmark February 26, 1997.[6]

Lambert Tree Award[edit]

In 1887, Judge Lambert Tree and Chicago Mayor Carter H. Harrison put up the funding for civilian awards given annually to an individual member of the Police and Fire Departments who demonstrate outstanding bravery in the line of duty. Currently, the medal presentations are rotated from year to year, so neither award is perceived as better than the other. The awards are given out during Fire Prevention Week in October each year for the preceding twelve months. In 1999, the Fire Department designee received the Lambert Tree Award, thus in October, 2000, the department recipient will receive the Carter H. Harrison Award. These awards have been presented annually (with the exception of the years 1890–1896) since March 4, 1887.[7] A listing of police award recipients by year, with a little description can be found online.[8]

See also[edit]

  • A Signal of Peace, 1890 statue by Cyrus Edwin Dallin which Tree purchased and donated, exhibited in Lincoln Park, Chicago
  • The Tree Family, written and researched by Josiah Glanville Leach LLB, published JB Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1908.


  1. ^ a b "Inventory of the Lambert Tree papers, 1821-1933". Newberry Library. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Marriage of Miss Field", Chicago Tribune, p. 3, 2 January 1891 – via
  3. ^ "Mrs Lambert tree dead", St Louis Republic, p. 36 – via
  4. ^ "Lambert Tree dead", Pittsburgh Post Gazette, p. 2 – via
  5. ^ "Arthur M. Tree is Dead in his Home in England", Chicago Tribune, p. 1, 28 September 1914 – via
  6. ^ "Tree Studios and Medinah Temple - World Monuments Fund". Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  7. ^ Lambert Tree Award Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ " - Carter H. Harrison / Lambert Tree Award Recipients". Retrieved 26 February 2017.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Nicholas Fish II
United States Minister to Belgium
Succeeded by
John G. Parkhurst
Preceded by
George V. N. Lothrop
United States Minister to Russia
September 25, 1888 – February 2, 1889
Succeeded by
Allen Thorndike Rice