Larz Anderson

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Larz Anderson
Born August 15, 1866
Paris, France
Died April 13, 1937(1937-04-13) (aged 70)
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Alma mater Harvard College (B.A., 1888)
Occupation American businessman and diplomat
Spouse(s) Isabel Weld Perkins

Larz Anderson III (August 15, 1866 in Paris, France – April 13, 1937 in White Sulphur Spring, West Virginia) was a wealthy American businessman. As a diplomat he briefly served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1912–1913).


Early life[edit]

Larz Anderson was the son of Brevet Major General Nicholas Longworth Anderson and Elizabeth Coles Kilgour Anderson. He was born on August 15, 1866, in Paris while his wealthy Cincinnati, Ohio, parents, who had married on March 28, 1865, were on their 18-month honeymoon. He was the great grandson of Lieutenant Richard Clough Anderson who served in the American Revolution. He was also the grandnephew of Brigadier General Robert Anderson who defended Fort Sumter at the beginning of the American Civil War.

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[edit]

Larz Anderson wears his diplomatic uniform and medals, including the insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati, in this portrait painted by DeWitt M. Lockman in 1914. The painting hangs in the Andersons' Washington, D.C., home and is part of the collections of the Society of the Cincinnati.

In June 1891 fellow Harvard alumnus and DKE fraternity brother Robert Todd Lincoln, son of president Abraham Lincoln and then serving as the U.S. minister to the Court of St. James's 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. He married Isabel Weld Perkins in 1897.

In 1898 he volunteered to serve with the U.S. Army during the Spanish–American War. He was commissioned a captain and served for four months as an assistant adjutant general at Camp Alger in northern Virginia. For this service he was later awarded the Spanish War Service Medal.

Anderson returned to the diplomatic corps in 1911 as U.S. Minister to Belgium, serving from October 1911 until September 1912, when he was appointed Ambassador to Japan. He held this post for only ten weeks, from his arrival in Tokyo on December 28, 1912 until he left Japan to return to the U.S. on March 16, 1913. He resigned when the Republican administration of William Howard Taft was replaced by the Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson.

When Anderson was appointed Minister to Belgium, he had an elaborate diplomatic uniform made for himself. While diplomatic uniforms were de rigueur for nations with monarchies, Anderson's uniform was one of the few worn by an American diplomat since the early 1800s. President Franklin Roosevelt proscribed American diplomats from wearing uniforms in 1937. Anderson's uniform is on display at Anderson House. [1]

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.

Marriage to Isabel Weld Perkins[edit]

Main article: Isabel Weld Perkins

In 1896, while serving as First Secretary 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. The Andersons arrived in Jamestown 1634, and the Welds arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1632. While Anderson's family was wealthy, their resources did not compare to those of the Weld Family.

When Isabel was only five years old, she inherited slightly more than 5 million dollars from her grandfather William Fletcher Weld.[2] Her inheritance was held in a trust for her until her twenty-fifth 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 was an Episcopalian as well as a member of Sons of the Revolution, the Loyal Legion and the Military and Naval Order of the Spanish War.

He was admitted to the Maryland Society of the Cincinnati in 1894. He was eligible for membership in the Society of the Cincinnati by virtue of being the great grandson of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Clough Anderson of Virginia. He was highly active in the Society and decorated his mansion with various motifs of the Society's insignia along with those of other organizations he was connected with. After his death, his widow donated their mansion in Washington, D.C., Anderson House, to the Society to serve as its national headquarters.


Anderson died in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and was interred at Washington National Cathedral,[3] where his remains rest in the St. Mary Chapel with those of his wife. The Andersons had no children.

Estates and collections[edit]

Anderson House[edit]

Main article: Anderson House, DC

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[edit]

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.[4]

Weld Estate[edit]

Main article: Larz Anderson Park
Larz and Isabel Anderson standing on the garden terrace of their Washington, D.C., home. This photograph was taken by Henry Withey, a draftsman working for the architectural firm who designed Anderson House, in the spring of 1905 and is now in the collections of the Society of the Cincinnati.

The Andersons came into the possession of 64 acres (26 ha) 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.[2]

Auto Collection[edit]

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.[5]

Bonsai Collection[edit]

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.[6]

The BC Eagle[edit]

Main article: The BC Eagle

The Andersons' residence in Tokyo, Japan, was adorned with a gilded bronze eagle sculpture which stood in front of their home.[7] 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 [8] 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.[9]


The following are named after him:

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.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Stephen T. Moskey, Larz and Isabel Anderson: Wealth and Celebrity in the Gilded Age, p. 36-37.
  3. ^ The Political Graveyard, "Society of the Cincinnati"
  4. ^ Perkins Manor
  5. ^ Larz Anderson Auto Museum
  6. ^ Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection at Arnold Arboretum
  7. ^ "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."
  8. ^ Boston College Website: The BC Eagle
  9. ^ Donovan, Charles F. "History of Boston College: From the Beginnings to 1990"; University Press of Boston College, September 1990, p.266


  • 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)
  • Moskey, Stephen T: "Larz and Isabel Anderson: Wealth and Celebrity in the Gilded Age," (iUniverse 2016).