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Collection Overview

Armour, Norman, 1887-1982
Norman Armour Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
2 boxes
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-2


The Norman Armour Papers are comprised primarily of Armour's correspondence with State Department officials, American presidents, and foreign leaders.Reports, telegrams, transcripts of speeches and newspaper clippings documenting Armour's diplomatic career, and personal correspondence are also preserved in the collection.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection contains approximately 145 letters to Armour, somewhat affectionate and personal in nature, from Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon.Other notable correspondents include John Foster Dulles, Dean Acheson, Henry Stimson, George Kennan and other State Department figures, various U.S. Senators, and J. Edgar Hoover, as well as heads of state and officials from foreign posts such as Haiti, Canada and Argentina.Many of the letters express appreciation for individual speeches or Armour's work in general, approval of a promotion or reassignment, or regret for his retirement.Thus, the correspondence documents periods of transition in the diplomat's career, and illustrates the respect and friendship he inspired among officials in both his assigned and home countries.The collection also contains approximately 55 carbons and hand-written drafts of letters from Armour to the aforementioned people and others.

In his letters, speeches and official reports, Armour often refers to his experiences in revolutionary Russia, which helped shape his more conservative and considered manner of diplomacy.In 1919, while stationed at the American Embassy in Petrograd, he wrote to Robert McElroy: "Bolshevism, with its appeal to all that is basest, and a programme which holds out as bait to ignorant workingmen the immediate satisfaction of all their wishes and desires, is...capable of wrecking every country, as it has already wrecked Russia....I believe it has in it the germs capable of destroying civilization itself." President Nixon later referred to the prediction in a letter to Armour: "You proved, unfortunately, to be an extremely accurate prophet at a time when very few in this country recognized the dangers ahead."

Long letters between Armour and some of his more unusual acquaintances, such as writers James Thurber, Rudyard Kipling and W. Somerset Maugham, reveal Armour's more jocular side as well as his own story-telling abilities.Letters to his father describe his new surroundings in Paris and the mundane details of making travel arrangements and renovating the flat ("We are meeting the electricians, painters, plumbers, etc. at the apartment on that day and they will then 'take possession' for another five or six weeks....").


The correspondence in this collection is arranged alphabetically by the sender.

Collection Creator Biography:

Armour, Norman, 1887-1982

Norman Armour, career diplomat and Assistant Secretary of State, was born October 14, 1887 in Brighton, England to American parents.He received his B.A. from Princeton in 1909 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1913.Armour returned to Princeton to obtain an M.A. in 1915, whereupon he joined the State Department and was immediately posted to the U.S. Embassy in Paris.This was the first in a long series of assignments, placing Armour in the heart of revolutionary Russia (1916-1919), fascist Spain (1924), post-revolutionary Chile (1938), and Haiti during the withdrawal of American troops (1933).Among his other posts were: Tokyo, Rome, Uruguay, Argentina and Canada.

Armour married Russian princess Myra Koudacheff in 1919, after he helped her to flee her homeland.(Armour himself crossed the border to Finland disguised as a Norwegian courier.) Through witnessing the upheavals and perpetual instability of Russia and other countries, Armour came to loathe rebellion and to esteem and promote the dependability of the American system. The Washington Post reported, "Unlike many emissaries, he represented his country, not the country to which he was posted and certainly not himself."For his considered approach, polished manner and patriotism, Armour earned promotions quickly, rising from 3rd Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Petrograd, to Ambassador to Chile, to Assistant Secretary of State (1947-48).

He was reputed to be the "ideal" diplomat: straightforward, communicative, and aristocratically old-fashioned.As one paper explained upon Armour's retirement: "The need nowadays is for men who know this or that expertly....the wide-ranging knowledge which Mr. Armour acquired from his rich experience and which his natural gifts tempered into ripe judgements would not come amiss amid the seething and striving and self-centeredness of the specialists."

Princeton awarded Armour the Woodrow Wilson Award in 1957.After retiring, he continued to advise the State Department and give lectures at Princeton and elsewhere.He died in 1982.

Collection History


Myra Armour, wife of Norman Armour, donated the paper in 1984 .


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Laura E. Burt in 1994. Finding aid written by Laura E. Burt in 1994.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use.

Credit this material:

Norman Armour 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 (mudd): Box 1-2