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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:781 1918-1973 A365

Winthrop W. Aldrich papers

The papers of Winthrop W. Aldrich reflect his professional and personal activities over a period of forty years. The bulk of the material relates to his activities from 1929-1953, when he was at the helm of Chase National Bank and played a leading role in national and international banking policies. The collection also includes materials relating to his organization of relief activities during and after World War II, duties as an overseer at Harvard University, and involvement with national and international commercial and charitable organizations. There is also significant documentation from Aldrich’s ambassadorship in Great Britain.

Also includes materials gathered by Arthur M. Johnson, Professor of Business History, to write the biography, Winthrop W. Aldrich: Lawyer, Banker, Diplomat (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1968). Materials include transcripts of interviews conducted by Johnson in 1965 and 1966 with Aldrich and his associates, research correspondence, background and research materials for the biography, notes on significant items in the Aldrich papers (prepared by research assistants), and summary information on Aldrich. Johnson’s original order and headings have been retained. Johnson’s research materials in boxes 239-245 were added to the collection in 1970.


  • 1918-1973

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information.


126 linear feet (69 volumes, 254 boxes, 3 cartons)

Biographical Note:

Winthrop Williams Aldrich was born on November 2, 1885 in Providence, R.I.. He was the ninth child of Senator Nelson W. Aldrich and Abby Pearce Chapman. In 1903, he enrolled at Harvard College, receiving his A.B. in 1907. He then went to the Harvard Law School and received his J.D. in 1910.

Aldrich began his career with the New York law firm of Byrne, Cutcheon & Taylor. In 1916, he became a partner in the firm. His legal career, however, took a brief hiatus on account of World War I. Aldrich served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1917-1918. When he returned to New York, he discovered that his old law firm had fallen apart. On the suggestion of his brother-in-law, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., he joined the firm of Murray, Prentice & Howland. Aldrich quickly became active head of the firm, and in 1921, the firm became Murray, Prentice & Aldrich. The firm’s main client was the Equitable Trust Company: Aldrich handled most of this client’s business. He was also the lawyer of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., providing counsel on charitable and business activities.

In December 1929, Aldrich became president of the Equitable Trust Company. The sudden death of the previous president in the midst of negotiations for the merger of Equitable and Seaboard National Bank created an emergency for the bank: no bank employee knew the legal intricacies of these negotiations, but the bank’s lawyer Aldrich did. Thus, to bring the merger to a successful conclusion, Rockefeller, the largest shareholder in Equitable, and others urged Aldrich to take the position of president temporarily. Within four months, however, new negotiations were underway for the merger of Equitable and Chase National Bank of New York City. Under the terms of the merger, Aldrich became president of Chase National Bank (1930-1934). He felt obliged to accept the position in 1930 to safeguard the interests and personnel of Equitable in the new Chase dominated organization. In 1934, he was elected chairman of the board of the Chase National Bank, and he retained that position until 1953.

During World War II, Aldrich actively organized American relief efforts in Europe. He headed, for instance, the American Society for British Medical and Civilian Aid, Inc. In 1943, he was named director of the new federally organized National War Fund (which coordinated the efforts of private relief agencies).

Aldrich was concerned about the economic redevelopment of post-war Europe. He took an active role in non-governmental organizations, such as the International Chamber of Commerce, interested in promoting trade, and he served on President Truman’s Advisory Committee for Financing Foreign Trade. He was also a proponent of the Marshall Plan.

In 1947, Aldrich was recruited to head the American Heritage Foundation --a cooperative enterprise between the government and the business community. He raised contributions for a traveling exhibit titled “Freedom is everybody’s job.” The exhibit of documents from the National Archives was placed on board the “Freedom Train” that left Philadelphia in September 1947 and ended its journey in Washington, D.C. in January 1949. The exhibit brought concrete examples of American heritage to over 300 cities and millions of people. It was meant to strengthen patriotic feelings at the end of the war.

Aldrich was U.S. ambassador to Great Britain from 1953-1957. As ambassador, Aldrich’s main duty was to strengthen the firm ties that already existed between Britain and the United States. His job, however, was complicated by the Suez Crisis (1956), which severely strained Anglo-American relations. After the crisis was resolved, Aldrich resigned from his post. He served on many corporate boards and belonged to numerous charitable organizations. He also received many honorary degrees from European and American universities, and other honors from foreign governments for his achievements.

Aldrich married Harriet Alexander in 1916. They had six children. Aldrich was also an avid yachter; he owned several ships and sailed competitively. Winthrop W. Aldrich died on February 25, 1974 in New York City.


Gift of Winthrop W. Aldrich, 1965; Arthur M. Johnson, 1970; Benjamin H. Beckhart, 1974.

Related Materials

For related material regarding Winthrop W. Aldrich, see the Arthur M. Johnson papers.

Processing Information

Processed: September 1999

By: Baker Library Special Collections Staff
Processing Information In 1999, the following boxes (18, 34, 45-48, 77, 106-110, 112, 113, 181, 236S, 239-245) were microfilmed and reprocessed in preparation for microfilming. The finding aid was also typed into electronic format following the format of the container list of the original finding aid. The only changes to the container list were to provide folder lists for the boxes that were microfilmed.
Link to catalog
Aldrich, Winthrop W. Winthrop W. Aldrich Papers, 1918-1973: A Finding Aid
Baker Library Special Collections Staff
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Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository

Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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