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Cecil B. Lyon papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS147
The Cecil B. Lyon Papers comprise a rich life-time's record of a career in the American Foreign Service. Moreover, the collection is replete with letters by and about almost everyone in the field; a list of the colleagues and acquaintances of Amb. Lyon would read like a "Who's Who" of the Foreign Service (cf. Index at the end of this finding aid).

The material has been organized into thirteen series, the first five of which consist of correspondence (alphabetical; carbons; commercial; invitations; and individuals). These eleven boxes (16.50 linear feet) of correspondence represent perhaps the most significant part of the collection. The overall arrangement of these series is chronological with correspondents in alphabetical order for each year, and spans the entire Foreign Service career of Amb. Lyon. Content is primarily unclassified official, social and personal. The Individuals series is of special interest for the correspondence by notable officials and political figures.

The next four series consist of subject files (posts, other professional-related material; general; and personal), totalling a little over four boxes (3 linear feet). The order of the subject files for each post held by the ambassador is also chronological, beginning with his first appointment in Havana, Cuba, in 1930.

The final series include manuscripts and copious speeches written and delivered by Amb. Lyon; a generous collection of photographs of official functions and of family; as well as a series of newsclippings and printed matter collected by the ambassador concerning some of the countries he served in and world news that interested him (five boxes, approximately 7.50 linear feet).

Note on indexing: The physical size of the collection (totalling 20 boxes), as well as the broad scope of the content, has dictated the focus of the index for this collection, which is primarily on correspondents (names), rather than on subject matter. It is hoped that the carefully chronologized correspondence will serve as sign posts to the subject matter of specific periods in the career of Amb. Lyon, as well as in world politics and history.

* * * * * * * *

Bulk dates: 1938-1967 Span dates: 1930-1971 Size: 19 white Hollinger boxes + 1 oversize flat box; approximately 29.25 linear feet.

Gift of Ambassador Cecil B. Lyon, January 1992.

Series 1. Correspondence Pt. 1 - Alphabetical (Folders 1:1 - 6:13)

Correspondence received by CBL from 1933 through 1971. Includes carbon replies from CBL. Arranged alphabetically by correspondent for each year. To maintain the integrity of a series of letters by certain individuals, a given year may include letters from preceding years. In such cases, correspondence is filed by the most recently dated in the series.

Content is primarily social and personal. Some unclassified official correspondence is included. (Further official memoranda is filed in the Professional Subject Files Series).

The majority of correspondents are Foreign Service colleagues from the officer and counselor levels through the ambassadorial. Included are acquaintances, both official and private, from CBL's various posts. Note that correspondence from notable individuals, as well as frequent correspondents, are located in the Individual Correspondence Series. The Chronological Carbons Series complements the Alphabetical Correspondence Series, and should also be referred to.

Wherever possible, titles and affiliations at the time of writing are given for each correspondent in the Description section. Nicknames are also noted in parentheses.

This series includes some unidentified correspondents and undated letters.

Series 2. Correspondence Pt. 2 - Chronological (Folders 6:14 - 7:43)

This series contains carbon copies of correspondence sent by CBL to various friends and associates. Arrangement is chronological.

Series 3. Correspondence Pt. 3 - Commercial (Folders 7:44 - 7:68)

Contains correspondence from miscellaneous retailers and other commercial serices. Arranged by year and alphabetically by company name.

Series 4. Correspondence Pt. 4 - Invitations (Folders 8:1 - 8:29)

Contains invitation cards received by CBL. Arranged chronologically by year. Includes carbon copies of acknowledgement letters sent by CBL.

Series 5. Correspondence Pt. 5 - Individuals (Folders (9:1 - 11:66)

This series includes correspondence by notable individuals as well as by long-time friends of CBL who were frequent writers. Arrangement is alphabetical by individual name. Letters for each individual are in chronological order. Datespan given indicates the earliest to the most recently dated original letter by the individual, exclusive of carbon correspondence by CBL. In cases where only one or two original letters are filed, datespan includes the earliest to the most recent letter in the entire folder, inclusive of carbons. In either case, datespan should be considered approximate.

Series 6. Subject Files Pt. 1 - Professional Posts (Tours of Duty) (Folders 12:1 - 14:52)

This series consists of material (paperwork, correspondence being primarily official memoranda, miscellaneous typed and printed information) regarding the many professional Foreign Service posts held by CBL. Files are arranged chronologically from the earliest tour of duty in Havana, Cuba, in 1930 through retirement from the last post held by CBL as ambassador to Ceylon, 1967.

Note that for more extensive correspondence regarding the various posts, the Correspondence Series should be consulted.

Series 7. Subject Files Pt. 2 - Professional (Other) (Folders 14:52 - 15:18)

This series consists of information files on miscellaneous other professional activities of CBL. Arrangement is roughly alphabetical by subject. Includes considerable information regarding the Foreign Service.

Series 8. Subject Files Pt. 3 - General (Folders 15:19 - 15:41)

This series consists of general subject files including those on association, clubs, charieties, and non-professional interests (books, magazine subscriptions), and recreational travel.

Series 9. Subject Files Pt. 4 - Personal (Fodlers 16:1 - 16:9)

This series consists of personal data on CBL and ESL, such as passports, official identification cards, driver's licenses and data, biographical information, medical data. Genealogical information on the Lyon family is also included in this series.

Series 10. Manuscripts and Speech Files (Folders 16:10 - 18:64)

Contains manuscripts of articles by CBL. Includes drafts and typescripts of speeches/addresses. Arrangement of speeches is chronological by location, that is by Foreign Service post. Also included is reference material and notes kept by CBL for speech writing.

Series 11. Photographs (Folders (19:1 - 19:41)

This series consists of photographs of CBL taken over the years at various Foreign Service posts around the world, and at numerous official and semi-official functions. Many of the photographs are not identified, but are loosely grouped into the following categories: by country; by function; CBL alone and with colleagues; family; and miscellaneous.

Series 12. Printed Matter/Newsclippings (Folders 19:42 - 19:74)

This series consists of newsclippings and miscellaneous printed matter collected by CBL. Categories include notable individuals; topics of interest related to countries; and miscellaneous subjects of interest to CBL.

Series 13. Muniments and Oversized Items (Folders 20:1 -20:4)

The final series includes 1 L.P. record of an address by CBL, as well as oversized items such as service awards. ABBREVIATIONS

AC Autograph Card ACS Autograph Card Signed ALS Autograph Letter Signed AMs Autograph Manuscript TC Typed Card TCS Typed Card Signed TL Typed Letter TLS Typed Letter Signed TMs Typed Manuscript TMsS Typed Manuscript Signed

ARA American Republic Affairs (State Dept.) CARE Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, Inc. CBL Cecil Burton Lyon CBS Columbia Broadcasting System CIA Central Intelligence Agency (U.S.) DC (Washington, D.C.) DCM Deputy Chief of Mission (U.S.) EEMP Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary ESL Elizabeth Sturges Lyon ("Elsie") FS Foreign Service (U.S.) HICOG High Commissioner for Germany (U.S.) ICA International Cooperation Administration NASA National Air and Space Administration (U.S.) NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization NBC National Broadcasting Company OCRS Organisation Commune des Region Sahariennes (Europe) PAO Public Affairs Office(r) (U.S.) RPA River Plate Affairs (State Dept.) UNCOB United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans UNRRA United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration USIA U.S. Information Agency (home office) USIS U.S. Information Service (overseas) USRO U.S. Regional Organizations VOA Voice of America


  • 1930-1971

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29.25 Linear Feet (20 boxes)

Biographical note

Ambassador Cecil Burton Lyon was born on Staten Island, New York, on November 8, 1903. He is the son of Edmund Burton Lyon and Emily Vyse. His early education was completed at St. Bernard's School, New York City, and at St. George's School, Newport, Rhode Island. He attended Harvard University from 1923 through 1927, graduating with an A.B.

Following three years with the investment banking firm of Cassatt and Company, in New York, Amb. Lyon entered the Foreign Service, and was made an officer in December 1930. He was first assigned to Havana, Cuba, as vice consul. From 1932 to 1938 he served successively in Hong Kong as vice consul; in Tokyo as third secretary; and then in China, alternating between posts in Beijing and Tientsin, as third secretary and vice consul, respectively.

From 1938 through most of 1944, Amb. Lyon worked primarily in the area of Latin American affairs. In June 1938, he was transferred to Santiago, Chile, as third secretary. In 1939 he served as secretary to the American delegation at the Third Pan American Highway Conference held in Santiago. In June 1940, Amb. Lyon was promoted to second secretary, Santiago, Chile. He then served as liaison secretary at the 1st. Session of the Council, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRAA), held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In January 1944, Amb. Lyon returned to Washington, D.C., and served as assistant chief of the Division of West Coast Affairs at the State Department.

In October 1944, Amb. Lyon was assigned to Cairo where he served as second and eventually, first secretary until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was assigned back to Washington where he was successively, special assistant to the assistant secretary for political affairs and then adviser to the U.S. delegation at the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security, held in Rio de Janeiro, 1947.

Ambassador Lyon was posted to Warsaw, Poland, from 1948 to 1950, where he served as first secretary. After this assignment, he then undertook a year of study (1950-1951) at the National War College in Washington, D.C. In June 1951, Amb. Lyon was reassigned to Europe, this time to Germany, where he served until 1954 as director of the Berlin Element in the U.S. Office of the High Commissioner of Germany (HICOG). He returned to the State Department in March 1954 to become director of the Bureau of German Affairs. Amb. Lyon continued work at the State Department as deputy assistant secretary for Inter-American Affairs from 1955 to 1956.

In May 1956, he was appointed U.S. ambassador to Chile, where he served until 1958. In March 1958, the ambassador began a long mission in France, until 1964, serving as minister at the U.S. embassy in Paris. He also acted as deputy chief of mission. From 1964 through 1967, he was ambassador in Colombo, Ceylon. In 1966, he was also appointed ambassador to the Maldive Islands, a post he held consecutively with that in Ceylon, until his retirement from the Foreign Service in 1968.

Ambassador Lyon is married to Elizabeth ("Elsie") Sturges Grew, and has two daughters. The Ambassador and Mrs. Lyon were married in Tokyo, Japan, on October 7, 1933. She is the daughter of the eminent U.S. statesman, Joseph C. Grew, author of the double-volume autobiography, Turbulent Era: A Diplomatic Record of Forty Years 1904-1945 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1952). The latter was U.S. EEMP to Switzerland (1921-1924) and U.S. ambassador to Japan (1932-1941). According to Ambassador Grew, his wife Alice Perry, Elsie Lyon's mother, was "a direct descendant...of Oliver Hazard Perry, renowned brother of the Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry who originally opened Japan to the western world, and she [is] also a great-great-granddaughter of another fairly well-known diplomatist, Benjamin Franklin" ("Turbulent Era," vol. 1, p.9).

Ambassador and Mrs. Lyon currently reside in Hancock, New Hampshire.

Further information about the ambassador and Mrs. Lyon can be obtained from the following sources located at Georgetown University Library -

The Lyon's Share by Cecil B. Lyon (N.Y.: Vantage Press, 1973) - an autobiography from 1903 through the Paris years, up to 1963.

Cecil B. Lyon - Interview (Foreign Affairs Oral History Program 1988, located in the Special Collections Division). Transcript.

Elizabeth Sturges Grew Lyon - Interview (Foreign Service Spouse Oral History, Inc., 1987. Located in the Special Collections Division). Photographs included with transcript.
Cecil B. Lyon papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
Description rules
local practice
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository