Biography and History

Lincoln MacVeagh was born October 1, 1890, in Narragansett Pier, Rhode Island, the son of Charles and Fanny Davenport (Rogers) MacVeagh. The family name, MacVeagh, stands out in the history of American statecraft. His father, Charles, was President Calvin Coolidge's Ambassador to Japan; his grandfather, Wayne MacVeagh, was Attorney General in President James A. Garfield's Cabinet and his great-uncle, Franklin MacVeagh, was President William Howard Taft's Secretary of the Treasury. MacVeagh graduated from the Groton School in 1909 and Harvard, magna cum laude, in 1913. He studied languages at the Sorbonne in 1913-14 and was fluent in German, French, Spanish, Latin and Classical Greek.

MacVeagh married Margaret Charlton Lewis, the daughter of a distinguished linguist, on August 17, 1917. She was a serious student of classical languages. Their daughter, Margaret Ewen MacVeagh, accompanied her parents on various tours of duty. Mrs. MacVeagh died on September 9, 1947. In May 1955, MacVeagh remarried Mrs. Virginia Ferrante Coats, daughter of Marchese and Marchesa Ferrante di Ruffano of Naples, Italy.

A member of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, Major MacVeagh served in the Artois, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns and was cited by General of the Armies John J. Pershing in 1919 for “exceptionally meritorious services.” After World War I, he became a director of the Henry Holt Company, a publishing firm, which he left in 1923 to found the Dial Press.

In 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed MacVeagh Minister to Greece, he followed presentation of his credentials with a speech in classical Greek. After leaving Athens in June 1941, several months after the German Army overran Greece, MacVeagh was appointed the first United States Minister to Iceland. In 1942, he became Minister to the Union of South Africa and successfully coordinated the American wartime agencies there. In 1943, he was sent to Cairo as Ambassador to the exiled Greek and Yugoslav Governments, then returned to liberated Athens as Ambassador in 1944. His secret testimony on the danger of Soviet-supported extreme leftist movements in the Balkans before Congress in 1947 was considered an important factor in formulating what became known as the Truman Doctrine, and he urged the post-war Greek Government to pursue a democratic policy. In 1948, he was named Ambassador to Portugal, and he helped to obtain its admittance into the Atlantic Pact groups of nations. In 1952, President Harry S. Truman named him Ambassador to Spain.

MacVeagh conducted excavations beneath the Acropolis and made archaeological contributions to the National Museum in Athens. With his first wife, he wrote Greek Journey, a book for children.

He retired in 1953 as envoy in Madrid after having conducted successful negotiations for military and economic agreements between the United States and Spain. MacVeagh died on January 15, 1972, at a nursing home in Adelphi, Maryland at the age of 81. He was survived by his wife and daughter, Margaret (Mrs. Samuel E. Torne) of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Source: From the finding aid for MC067


  • Ambassadors -- United States..
  • Lincoln MacVeagh Papers. 1932-1945 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC067

    The papers of Lincoln MacVeagh (1890-1972) relate to his diplomatic career as Minister to Greece (1933-1942) and Ambassador to the exiled Greek and Yugoslav Governments in Cairo (1943-1944) and his return to Athens as Ambassador to Greece (1944-1947). The papers contain typed transcripts of portions of diaries during much of the above described period (with the exclusion of personal and family matters found in the original diaries). The papers also contain copies of correspondence between Ambassador MacVeagh and President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932-1945) from the National Archives and the Roosevelt Library as well as dispatches and telegrams from MacVeagh to the State Department (1933-1940) which relate primarily to political and diplomatic events in Greece and Yugoslavia.