William A. M. Burden

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William Armistead Moale Burden
U.S. Ambassador to Belgium
In office
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by John Clifford Folger
Succeeded by Douglas MacArthur II
Personal details
Born William Armistead Moale Burden II
(1906-04-08)April 8, 1906
Manhattan, New York
Died October 10, 1984(1984-10-10) (aged 78)
Manhattan, New York
Margaret Livingston Partridge
(m. 1931; his death 1984)
Children 4
Relatives Shirley Burden (brother)
I. Townsend Burden (grandfather)
Florence Vanderbilt Twombly (grandmother)
Hamilton McKown Twombly (grandfather)
Residence Sea Change
Education Harvard College
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Occupation Banker, diplomat, philanthropist

William Armistead Moale Burden II (April 8, 1906 – October 10, 1984) was a prominent American banker, art collector, and philanthropist who served as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium under President Eisenhower.[1]

Early life

Burden was born on April 8, 1906 in Manhattan. He was the son of William Armistead Moale Burden (1877–1909),[2] and Florence Vanderbilt (née Twombly) (1881–1969).[3] He was the brother of Shirley Carter Burden (1908–1989), a prominent photographer.[4]

His paternal grandparents were I. Townsend Burden (1838–1913)[5][6][7] and Evelyn Byrd Moale (1847–1916),[8] the daughter of William Armistead Moale (1800–1880) of Baltimore, Maryland,[9] who was a direct descendant of the Carter and Byrd families of Virginia. His grandfather was an owner of Burden Iron Works, which was founded by his great-grandfather, Henry Burden (1791–1871).[10] He was also the maternal grandson of Florence Adele Vanderbilt Twombly, a granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt,[11] and Hamilton McKown Twombly.[12]

Burden attended and graduated from Harvard College in 1927. He also attended special aviation courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[13]


Standing, left to right: Burden, then Special Aviation Assistant to the Secretary of Commerce, Willard E. Givens, and John W. Studebaker. Seated, left to right: Ralph A. Bard, Paul V. McNutt, and Robert P. Patterson, September 1942

In 1927, after his graduation from Harvard, he was hired as an aviation research analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. From 1932 to 1938, he worked for Scudder, Stevens and Clark.[13] In 1935, while at Scudder, he was elected a director of the United Air Lines Transport Corporation.[14] In 1940, he was named to the board of trustees of Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co.[15]

During World War II, he was Special Assistant for Research and Development to the Secretary of the Air Force.[13] In 1947, after the War, he joined Smith, Barney & Co. as an aviation consultant.[16]

In 1949, he founded William A. M. Burden & Co., an investment company intended to pool and manage his families money.[17] The firm is considered a pioneer in the "family office" space and continues to this day, managing half a billion dollars as of 1998.[18] Unlike other Vanderbilt descendants, Burden "saw the fortune dissipating into smaller and smaller chunks and was determined to protect his own progeny."[18]

In 1959, he was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium.[19] He served in this role from 1959 until 1961.[13]

Burden served on the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City from 1943 until his death.[20] He was elected President of the Board in 1953, succeeding Nelson Rockefeller, who resigned to accept appointment as Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.[21] Burden resigned as President in 1959, to become Ambassador,[22] and was succeeded by Blanchette Ferry Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller III.[23] He resumed the presidency again afterwards from 1961 until 1965.[24][20][25] He donated works to be auctioned off for the Museum, including Paul Cézanne's Apples, in 1960.[26] He also served as a trustee of Columbia University, a member of the board of the Smithsonian Institution,[27][28] director of the Council on Foreign Relations, chairman of the Institute for Defense Analysis.[1]


In the 1940s, Burden and his wife commissioned Wallace K. Harrison, an architect who was involved in the design of Rockefeller Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and the United Nations Building in New York, as well as Isamu Noguchi, the artist,[29] to design a summer home for them in Maine.[30] The original 4,500 square-foot house, known as "Sea Change," was completed in 1947 and in the 1960s, an indoor swimming pool was added bringing the home up to 6,500-square-feet.[30]

Personal life

On February 16, 1931,[31] he was married to Margaret Livingston Partridge (1909–1996), at Saint Thomas Church in Manhattan.[31] She was the daughter of William Ordway Partridge (1861–1930), a sculptor, and the niece of Bishop Sidney Catlin Partridge.[32] On her mothers side, she was the granddaughter of William H. Wetmore and the great-great-great-granddaughter of Chancellor Robert L. Livingston[32] Together, they were the parents of four sons:[30]

Burden died on October 10, 1984.[13]


In 1971, together with his mother and brother, he donated Burden Auditorium to Harvard Business School in honor of his father, William A. M. Burden Sr., who graduated from Harvard in 1900, and his son, William A. M. Burden III, who graduated from Harvard in 1953 and Harvard Business School in 1955, both of whom died young.[1][42] The hall was designed by Lincoln Center architect Philip Johnson.[42]

His estate in Chappaqua, New York was later purchased and turned into a housing development in the 2000s.[43]

His granddaughter, Wendy Burden,[44] wrote a memoir entitled Dead End Gene Pool about her family,[45] including her grandfather William, where she described him as, "a casual anti-Semite and a serious alcoholic, who in the waning years of his life had a bathroom and dressing room lined with two inches of foam to avoid bruising himself. Once, while visiting Paris, he had a private secretary in New York order seven new Mercedes-Benzes — one to be delivered within a few hours."[46]

After his death, in 1985 his widow donated "eleven masterworks" from his estate to the Museum of Modern Art.[20] Paintings included:[20]

Image Artist Title Year
Link Jean Arp Ptolemy 1953
Link Constantin Brancusi Young Bird 1928
Link Constantin Brancusi Bird in Space 1941
Link Robert Delaunay The Three Windows, the Tower and the Wheel 1912
Link Arshile Gorky Diary of a Seducer 1945
Link Piet Mondrian Trafalgar Square 1939-43
Claude Monet Corona (Water Lilies) c. 1920
Link Pablo Picasso Two Acrobats with a Dog 1905
Link Pablo Picasso Still Life with Red Bull's Head 1938
Pablo Picasso Mirror and Cherries 1947
Link Georges-Pierre Seurat The Channel at Gravelines, Evening 1890

Published works

  "Peggy and I: a life too busy for a dull moment" (1982) 345 pp. <ref>New York Public Library, call no. JFE 88-1291<ref>


  1. ^ a b c "Burden, William A.M. (William Armistead Moale), 1906-1984. William A.M. Burden Papers, 1934-1938: A Finding Aid". oasis.lib.harvard.edu. Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  2. ^ "W.A.M. BURDEN DIES OF STRANGE MALADY; Chronic Recurrent Fever the Only Name Physicians Can Give It -- No Remedy. AN ATHLETE AT HARVARD Married Miss Twombly, Granddaughter of the Late W.H. Vanderbilt, in 1904". The New York Times. 3 February 1909. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  3. ^ "Mrs. William A.M. Burden Dies; Donor to Church and Schools". The New York Times. 19 November 1969. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Shirley Burden, 80, a Writer-Photographer". The New York Times. 5 June 1989. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  5. ^ "I. T. BURDEN, VICTIM OF APOPLEXY; Well-Known Figure In New York and Newport Passes Away at Age of' 75". The New York Times. 24 April 1913. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  6. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography Being The History of The United States. New York: James T. White & Company. 1916. p. 327. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  7. ^ "BURDEN ESTATE IN TRUST.; Value Estimated at "More Than $20,000" -- $10,000 to Church". The New York Times. 3 May 1913. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  8. ^ "MRS. I. TOWNSEND BURDEN; Widow of Iron Manufacturer Dies of Heart Disease in-Her 70th Year". The New York Times. 30 April 1916. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  9. ^ Magruder, Alexander Contee; Miller, Oliver; Brewer Jr., Nicholas; Stockett, John Shaaf; Brantly, William Theophilus; Perkins, William Henry; Tiffany, Herbert Thorndike; Coan, Malcolm J. (1917). Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Appeals of Maryland. p. 553. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  10. ^ William F. Burden, Born in Troy, Rensselaer County, N.Y., March 14, 1830. Died at Troy, N.Y., December 7, 1867. 1867. p. 7. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  11. ^ Gill, Brendan (18 June 1955). "No Tears". The New Yorker. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  12. ^ "WORLD OF FASHION AT THE TWOMBLY WEDDING; William A.M. Burden Marries H. McK. Twombly's Daughter. FIFTH AVENUE IS CROWDED Ceremony at St. Thomas's Church -- Mr. and Mrs. Burden Will Go to the Far East on Honeymoon". The New York Times. 13 April 1904. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e Pace, Eric (11 October 1984). "WILLIAM BURDEN, EX-MUSEUM PRESIDENT, DIES". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  14. ^ "On Air Lines' Board". The New York Times. 14 April 1935. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  15. ^ "Central Hanover Names Aviation Man to Board". The New York Times. 17 April 1940. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Joins Smith, Barney & Co". The New York Times. 8 October 1947. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  17. ^ "INVESTMENT FIRM FORMED; William A. M. Burden & Co. Plans to Handle Own Capital". The New York Times. 19 July 1949. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  18. ^ a b Lenzner, Robert (12 October 1998). "Achieving immortality via the family office". Forbes. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Envoy in the Air Age; William Armistead Moale Burden". The New York Times. September 4, 1959. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  20. ^ a b c d "THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART ANNOUNCES RECEIPT OF MAJOR GIFT FROM THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM A. M. BURDEN" (PDF). moma.org. The Museum of Modern Art. November 1985. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  21. ^ "MUSEUM NAMES BURDEN; He Succeeds Nelson Rockefeller at Modern Art Institution". The New York Times. 29 June 1953. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  22. ^ Elderfield, John (1991). American Art of the 1960s. The Museum of Modern Art. p. 88. ISBN 9780870704581. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  23. ^ "Museum of Modern Art Names 2". The New York Times. 1 November 1959. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  24. ^ "ART MUSEUM ELECTS; Burden, Ex-Ambassador to Belgium, Named Chairman". The New York Times. 5 March 1961. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  25. ^ "Modern Museum Names President". The New York Times. 19 June 1965. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  26. ^ "A action of 50 French Art Items Will Aid Modern Museum Drive". The New York Times. 24 February 1960. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  27. ^ "Smithsonian Nominee Backed". The New York Times. 14 June 1962. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  28. ^ "Smithsonian Nominee Backed". The New York Times. 14 June 1962. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  29. ^ Herrera, Hayden (2015). Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi. Macmillan. p. 186. ISBN 9780374281168. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  30. ^ a b c Viladas, Pilar (24 February 2010). "Catching the Wave". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  31. ^ a b "MISS M.L. PARTRIDGE WEDS W.A. BURDEN; Old New York Families Fill St. Thomas's at Ceremony Performed by Bishop Manning.SILVER AND GOLD COLORS Bride, the Daughter of Late Sculptor, Is Given in Marriage by HerMother--A Choral Service. Full Choral Service. Among the Guests". The New York Times. 17 February 1931. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  32. ^ a b "MISS PARTRIDGE ENGAGED TO WED; Troth of Daughter of Late Sculptor to William A.M. Burden Told by Her Mother.FIANCEE 1927 DEBUTANTE Her Fiance, a Descendant of Commodore Vanderbilt, GraduatedFrom Harvard With Honors". The New York Times. 6 October 1930. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  33. ^ "WILLIAM BURDEN 3D IS RULED A SUICIDE". The New York Times. 1 March 1962. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  34. ^ "LESLIE HAMILTON MARRIED IN CHAPEL; She is Bride of William A. M. Burden Jr. at Milton, Mass.-- Reception Held in Home". The New York Times. 16 June 1951. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  35. ^ "ROBERT L. BURDEN". The New York Times. 19 June 1974. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  36. ^ "Son to the W. A. M. Burdens". The New York Times. 18 May 1937. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  37. ^ Kissinger, Henry (17 March 1968). "The Need To Belong; THE NUREMBERG PARTY RALLIES: 1923-39. By Hamilton T. Burden. Foreword by Adolf A. Berle. Illustrated. 206 pp. New York: Frederick A. Praeger. $5.95". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  38. ^ "Erie County Real Estate Transactions". The Buffalo News. 24 August 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  39. ^ "BURDEN, Hamilton T." The Buffalo News. 28 March 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  40. ^ "Jean Elizabeth Poor Lynch to Wed Ordway Partridge Burden in October". The New York Times. 7 July 1991. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  41. ^ "Ms. Lynch Wed To O. P. Burden". The New York Times. 6 October 1991. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  42. ^ a b "Burden Hall - About Us". www.hbs.edu. Harvard Business School. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  43. ^ Beaver, William S. (16 June 2002). "IN BUSINESS; Acres of Affordable Housing On Chappaqua's Drawing Board". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  44. ^ "Dead End Gene Pool". New York Social Diary. 10 March 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  45. ^ Ferris, Jaime (July 8, 2010). "The Sad Saga of the Vanderbilts". Litchfield County Times. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  46. ^ Wadler, Joyce (24 March 2010). "A Vanderbilt Descendant Laughs Off Dysfunction". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  47. ^ Warner, Edward (6 June 1943). "The Grounding of the Axis Air Lines in South America; THE STRUGGLE FOR AIRWAYS IN LATIN AMERICA. By William A.M. Burden, Special Aviation Assistant to the Secretary of Commerce. 229 pp. New York: The Council of Foreign Relations. $5". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2017.

External links

  • William A. M. Burden at Find a Grave
  • The Struggle for Airways in Latin America, by William Armistead Moale Burden, 1943.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John Clifford Folger
U.S. Ambassador to Belgium
1959 – 1961
Succeeded by
Douglas MacArthur II
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