Biography and History

Hamilton Fish Armstrong was born, the youngest of seven children, April 7, 1893, in the house on West 10th Street where he lived all his life. His parents, D. Maitland Armstrong (1836-1918) and Helen Neilson (1845-1927) named him for his great uncle, who was Grant's Secretary of State. His father was an artist, working especially with stained glass, and a one-time Consul General to Italy. Armstrong grew up in New York City and received his education at Gilman Country School in Baltimore, Maryland, and at Princeton University from which he received the A.B. in 1916.

Following his graduation Armstrong worked in the business department at The New Republic before entering the army in 1917. Commissioned a second lieutenant in October 1917, Armstrong advanced to first lieutenant and became Military Attache to the Serbian War Mission to the United States in December 1917. In November 1918, he received orders to Belgrade to become Assistant Military Attache to Serbia where in January 1919 he became Acting Military Attache.

Upon his military discharge in June 1919, Armstrong returned to New York to work on the editorial staff of the New York Evening Post, becoming the paper's special correspondent to Eastern Europe in 1921. His time in Serbia kindled in him a lifelong interest in foreign affairs, and in 1921 he became involved with the newly-formed Council on Foreign Relations, created to ensure that the United States' growing role in world affairs be informed and responsible. In 1922 Armstrong accepted a position as managing editor of the Council's magazine, Foreign Affairs, at the request of editor Archibald Cary Coolidge. Upon Coolidge's death in 1928, Armstrong became editor, a position he held until his retirement in 1972. Armstrong also served as the first Executive Director of the Council (1922-1928) and as a Council director from 1928 until 1972.

As editor, Armstrong travelled frequently, visiting with policymakers including King Alexander of Yugoslavia, Raymond Poincaré, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Neville Chamberlain. He was also well acquainted with many prominent Americans, such as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Henry A. Kissinger. He belonged to many important committees and foundations: member of the President's Advisory Committee on Political Refugees; three times delegate to the International Studies Conference (1929, 1933, 1935); trustee and twice president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation; trustee and once president of the New York Society Library; and trustee of the New York International House.

Armstrong held many prominent positions during the Second World War. From 1942-44, he served on the United States State Department's Advisory Committee on Post-War Foreign Policies, which produced the original plans for the United Nations. In 1944, he became the special assistant to the United States ambassador in London with the personal rank of minister, before serving in 1944 and 1945 as special adviser to Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, working on the charter for the United Nations. At the San Francisco Conference in 1945, he was one of three senior advisers to the United States delegation.

Armstrong wrote prolifically, penning numerous magazine articles–forty-nine for Foreign Affairs alone–and thirteen books (he edited five others). His books include The New Balkans (1926), Where the East Begins (1929), Hitler's Reich: The First Phase (1933), Europe Between Wars? (1934), Can We Be Neutral? (1936) with Allen W. Dulles, “We or They:” Two Worlds in Conflict (1937), When There Is No Peace (1939), Can America Stay Neutral? (1939) with Allen W. Dulles, Chronology of Failure (1940), The Calculated Risk (1947), Tito and Goliath (1951), Those Days (1963), and Peace and Counterpeace: From Wilson to Hitler (1971). He edited The Book of New York Verse (1918), Foreign Affairs Bibliography (1933) with William L. Langer, The Foreign Policy of the Powers (1935), The Foreign Affairs Reader (1947), and The Foreign Affairs Fifty-Year Reader (1972).

His activities received much recognition, both at home and abroad. His time in Serbia earned him the Order of the Serbian Red Cross (1918), the Order of St. Sava Fifth Class (1918), and the Chevalier of Order of the White Eagle with Swords (1919). He was awarded the Order of the Crown (Rumania) in 1924 and the Order of the White Lion of Czechoslovakia in 1937. In that year he was made an officer of the Legion of Honor of France and became a commander in 1947. He was appointed a Commander of the British Empire in 1972. He received honorary degrees from Brown (1942), Yale (1957), the University of Basel (1960), Princeton (1961), Columbia (1963), and Harvard (1963).

Armstrong married three times. Helen MacGregor Byrne became his wife in 1918, and they had one daughter, Helen MacGregor (later Mrs. Edwin Gamble) on September 3, 1923. Armstrong and Byrne divorced in 1938. Armstrong married Carman Barnes in 1945, a marriage which ended in a 1951 divorce. In that same year Armstrong married Christa von Tippelskirch. Armstrong retired from Foreign Affairs in 1972, the fiftieth year of its publication, and died after a long illness on April 24, 1973, at the age of 80.

Source: From the finding aid for MC002

  • Hamilton Fish Armstrong Papers. 1893-1973 (inclusive), 1916-1973 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC002

    The Hamilton Fish Armstrong Papers consist of correspondence, notebooks, memoranda, material from 1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization, writings especially in relation to Peace and Counterpeace and Tito and Goliath, diaries, scrapbooks, and photographs. The papers document Armstrong's career as editor of Foreign Affairs, his participation in the activities of the Council on Foreign Relations, and his professional involvement and interest in foreign policy from World War I through the 1970s. Included is correspondence with many well known political and literary figures of the time period. Some materials of a personal nature are included but the bulk of the papers relates to Armstrong's professional life. The papers also document Armstrong's participation in many philanthropic activities associated with Yugoslavia.

  • Allen W. Dulles Papers. 1845-1971 (inclusive), 1918-1969 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC019

    The Allen W. Dulles Papers contains correspondence, speeches, writings, and photographs documenting the life of this lawyer, diplomat, businessman, and spy. One of the longest-serving directors of the Central Intelligence Agency (1953-1961), he also served in a key intelligence post in Bern, Switzerland during World War II, as well as on the Warren Commission.

  • Council on Foreign Relations Records. 1918-2011 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC104

    The Council on Foreign Relations is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and national membership organization dedicated to improving understanding of international affairs by promoting a range of ideas and opinions on United States foreign policy. The Council has had a significant impact in the development of twentieth century United States foreign policy. The Records of the Council on Foreign Relations document the history of the organization from its founding in 1921 through the present. The collection includes valuable source documents and records of the meetings, group discussions and studies, and conferences of the Council, as well as portions of its administrative records.