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Collection Overview

Trimble, William
William Cattell Trimble Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1931-1976 (mostly 1954-1968)
18 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-18


William C. Trimble, Princeton University Class of 1930, was a career diplomat, serving as United States ambassador to Cambodia (1959-1962) and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1965-1968) as well as serving in Brazil and Germany. The collection contains correspondence, speeches, newspaper clippings, photographs, and assorted memorabilia documenting Trimble's career.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The William C. Trimble Papers reflect Trimble's career in the Foreign Service, with more documentation from his years in Brazil, Cambodia, Germany, and from his work covering Africa. Most of the material is routine in nature, but letters detailing his views and the challenges he faced in his various postings can also be found.

Collection Creator Biography:


William Cattell Trimble was born May 2, 1907 in Baltimore, Maryland. A member of the Princeton University Class of 1930, he graduated cum laude with an A.B. in history. In 1931, he joined the Foreign Service and was posted to Seville, Spain. While steadily rising in the ranks of the Foreign Service he worked in legations and embassies in Argentina, Estonia, and Mexico, among other locations.

After World War II, Trimble was a member of the first class at the National War College. Upon completion of his studies, he went to Reykjavik, Iceland as Chargé d'Affaires and Second Secretary and then as First Secretary in 1948. Two years later he became Counselor of the embassy at London. The State Department transferred him in late 1951 to The Hague where he remained until spring 1954 as Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission.

In March 1954, Trimble moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as second in command of the embassy. That same year he attained the personal rank of minister, the second highest rank in the Foreign Service. While in Brazil, Trimble witnessed the end of the Vargas era that culminated with Getulio Vargas's suicide and elections for a new president in 1955. At the end of January 1956, the embassy played host to Vice President Richard Nixon during his visit to Brazil as the United States representative at the inauguration of Juscelino Kubitschek as President of Brazil.

In September 1956, Trimble returned to Europe to serve as Deputy Chief of Mission at Bonn, Germany. He served under Ambassador James Conant and then welcomed David Bruce as ambassador in 1957. Trimble served in Germany during the dissolution of the U.S. High Commission after it was abolished by the Allied High Commission. Its functions were transferred to the U.S. embassy in Bonn, and Trimble played an integral role in this process.

The culmination of Trimble's long diplomatic career came in February 1959 when he became the United States Ambassador to Cambodia. Trimble arrived in Cambodia in the midst of a political crisis over Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) involvement with Dap Chhuon, a political adversary of Prince Sihanouk, who headed a brief rebellion. This crisis was shortly followed on August 31 by the death of a palace staff member who opened a suitcase containing the card of an American engineer. The general consensus among Cambodians was that the United States was responsible for an attempt on Prince Sihanouk's life. Trimble's position was very difficult due to Sihanouk's distrust of the United States. In September 1960, Sihanouk effectively ended American hopes of gaining Cambodia as an ally against Communism by expressing Cambodian neutrality during a United Nations speech.

Upon his return to the United States in September 1962, Trimble became Director of the Office of West Coast and Malian Affairs. The Office oversaw U.S. relations with seven countries: Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia, Togo, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. Trimble visited four of these countries - Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Liberia - to gain first-hand experience for his new post. To deal with increasingly important African affairs, the Africa Desk was reorganized as the Office of West African Affairs with seven additional countries placed under its supervision: Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Dahomey (now Bénin), Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso). Five more countries, Chad, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Cameroon, and Madagascar, were added in September 1964.

In May 1965, Trimble was promoted to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Assistant Secretary of State G. Mennen Williams. Trimble was responsible for the Department's African Bureau.

Trimble retired from the State Department in February 1968, and lived in Maryland until his death on June 24, 1996.

June 13, 1931 Appointed Clerk, Seville, Spain Sept. 4, 1931 Vice-Consul at Seville, Spain Dec. 17, 1931 Foreign Service Officer (FSO) Unclassified, Vice-Consul Career, and Secretary in Diplomatic Service Aug. 1, 1932 Foreign Service School Dec. 22, 1932 Vice-Consul at Buenos Aires, Argentina Apr. 8, 1936 3rd Secretary at Buenos Aires, Temp. June 10, 1936 Vice-Consul and 3rd Secretary at Tallinn, Estonia June 17, 1938 IS Dept., For Special Study in Economics (Princeton University) April 1, 1939 FSO 8 June 27, 1939 3rd Secretary and Vice-Consul-Economic at Paris Sept. 9, 1940 Vice-Consul at Vichy, Temp. July 22, 1941 3rd Secretary at Mexico City, Mexico Aug. 16, 1941 FSO 7 Nov. 1, 1941 Vice-Consul and 3rd Secretary at Mexico City Dec. 1941 Vice-Consul and 2nd Secretary at Mexico City Aug. 24, 1942 Department of State-FSO Desk officer Jan. 25, 1943 Assistant Chief, American Hemisphere Exports Office Feb. 1-Nov. 6, 1943 Assistant Chief, Division of Exports & Requirements Division Nov. 7, 1943 FSO - Desk Officer, Division of Northern European Affairs Nov. 16, 1943 FSO 6 Nov. 16, 1944 Assistant Chief of Division of Northern European Affairs May 16, 1945 FSO 4 May-June 1945 Technical Advisor, U.S.-Sweden Safehaven Negotiations Sept. 1-Dec. 15, 1946 Detailed to National War College Nov. 13, 1946 FSO 3 Dec. 30, 1946 2nd Secretary at Reykjavik, Iceland Jan. 23, 1947 1st Secretary, Consul, and Chargé d'Affaires at Reykjavik Apr. 14, 1948 FSO 2 June 11, 1948 1st Secretary and Counsel at London June 20, 1951 FSO 1 Sept. 10, 1951 Counselor at London 1951 Counselor at The Hague Mar. 10, 1954 Counselor at Rio De Janeiro Sept. 25, 1954 Granted Personal Rank of Minister Sept. 9, 1956 Chief of Mission and Counsel, Bonn, Germany April 22, 1958 Granted Personal Rank of Career Minister Feb. 1959 Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Cambodia July 1962 State Department Sept. 1962 Africa Desk, Director, Office of West Coast and Malian Affairs July 1965 Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jan. 31, 1968 Retired from State Department

Collection History


The Trimble Papers were donated to Princeton University by his wife, Nancy Trimble in 1997 .


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Catherine Stearns with assistance from Patrick Shorb, 1997-1998. Updated and revised by Rachel Ban with assistance from Kathryn Grzenczyk, 2001. Finding aid written by Catherine Stearns in 1997-1998.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

William Cattell Trimble Papers; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-18