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Isabel Weld Perkins


Isabel Weld Perkins

Isabel Weld Perkins (March 3, 1876 – November 3, 1948), mostly known as Isabel Anderson or Mrs. Larz Anderson after her marriage, was a Boston-area heiress and author who left a legacy to the public that includes a park and two museums.


Early life

Main article: Weld Family

Born at 284 Marlborough Street in Boston's Back Bay,[1] on both sides of her family Isabel Weld Perkins was descended from wealthy Boston Brahmin who traced their history back to Massachusetts Bay Colony. Generations of ancestors and relatives on both sides had been educated at Harvard, had traded with the Far East, and had built stately homes in Greater Boston (especially in what is now Jamaica Plain).

Isabel's father was Commodore George H. Perkins, the commander of the USS Cayuga during the American Civil War. The commodore's father had grown rich building mills in Contoocookville, New Hampshire and running a shipping firm in Boston that did business in West Africa.

Her mother was Anna Minot Weld, a wealthy socialite born to the Weld Family of Boston. When Isabel was only five years old, she inherited $17 million dollars from her grandfather William Fletcher Weld, reportedly making her the wealthiest woman in America.[2]

Marriage to Larz Anderson

Main article: Larz Anderson

In 1896, Perkins was a 20-year old debutante on a world tour. She made a stop in Rome and met Larz Anderson, a young Harvard-educated diplomat from an affluent and prestigious Cincinnati family.

They were married in Boston a year later and embarked on a life of luxury combined with public service and adventure. They traveled widely, making four trips around the world and throughout Europe and Asia. Anderson held a number of diplomatic posts, including a short stint as U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

A writer for the Boston Globe sums up Isabel and her marriage by saying:

...these Andersons? They were idle rich, born to money and accustomed to privilege -- but they were interesting people who left us something...Isabel did what rich young women did back then -- she "came out," summered in Newport, "springed" in New Hampshire, wintered in Boston, partied aplenty. In 1896, the debutante went to Europe, a young attractive woman with a considerable inherited fortune. She met Larz; he was smitten; they were married. He did the diplomat thing; she wrote books and plays. They split their time between Washington, D.C., and Brookline.[1]

Work as an author

Isabel wrote a number of books; those that concern her family specifically are those of the most interest to historians. She also wrote several travelogues, volumes of poetry, and many children's stories.

Her book Under the Black horse flag: Annals of the Weld family and some of its branches describes the transportation empire begun by her great-grandfather William Gordon Weld and details his descendants up to the time of writing.

She also edited the papers of her American Civil War hero father-in-law and published them as The letters and journals of General Nicholas Longworth Anderson; Harvard, civil war, Washington, 1854-1892.

Among her other works are Circling Africa, On the Move, The Spell of Japan, The Spell of Belgium, The Spell of the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines, Topsy Turvy and the Gold Star,, Yacht in Mediterranean Seas and Zigzagging the South Seas. Most of her own personal papers are now part of the collection kept at Larz Anderson Auto Museum. Others are stored at New England Historic Genealogical Society.

Service in World War I

During World War I, Isabel worked for the American Red Cross as a volunteer of the District of Columbia Refreshment Corp. In 1918 she received the Croix de Guerre for her contributions.


Isabel died in 1948. She is interred in the St. Mary Chapel at Washington National Cathedral with her husband Larz Anderson.

Estates and collections

Anderson House

Main article: Anderson House, DC

Weld money funded a luxurious mansion at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. The Andersons used this as their winter residence from approximately New Years through the beginning of Lent, except when they were traveling abroad or aboard their private steam yacht, The Roxana. After Larz died, Isabel gave the property to the Society of the Cincinnati, of which Anderson was a member. Anderson House now serves as the society's national headquarters and a museum.

Anderson Memorial Bridge

Weld money also built a bridge across the Charles River connecting Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts in honor of her father-in-law Nicholas Longworth Anderson. The bridge stands next to Weld Boathouse, a local landmark named after and paid for by her uncle, George Walker Weld.

Perkins Manor

Main article: Perkins Manor, Contoocook

In addition to her Weld inheritance from her mother's family, Isabel inherited a stately manor in New Hampshire from her commodore father. Larz and Isabel spent considerable time here and she even opened the doors of this regal mansion to the public for a few summers. This stately manor was called the Larz Anderson estate during this time but has since been divided into eight apartments and is again known as Perkins Manor.[3]

Weld Estate

Main article: Larz Anderson Park

Isabel purchased 64 acres (260,000 m2) in Brookline, Massachusetts from her 1st cousin. To this estate, which had been in Isabel's family for generations, the Andersons added a twenty-five room mansion that they used for summers and Christmas holidays. The mansion, overlooking the Boston skyline, was remodeled to resemble Lulworth Castle, an ancestral home associated with the Welds. They named the place "Weld" in honor of Isabel's grandfather. Isabel willed this property to the Town of Brookline and it is now Larz Anderson Park.[4]

Auto Collection

Shortly after they wed, the Andersons began assembling an extraordinary collection of horse-drawn carriages, sleighs and motorcars. In donating these along with the property, Isabel Anderson stipulated in her will that these be known as the "Larz Anderson Collection." Fourteen of the original thirty-two vehicles remain in the collection and are still on display as part of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, the oldest collection of motorcars in the United States.[5]

Bonsai Collection

After Larz's death, Isabel donated 30 of their bonsai to the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University along with the funds necessary to build a shade house for their display. Following her death, the remaining nine plants were donated to the Arboretum including an 80-year-old hinoki cypress that had been given to the Andersons by the Emperor of Japan.[6]

The BC Eagle

Main article: The BC Eagle

The Andersons' residence in Tokyo was adorned with a gilded bronze eagle sculpture which stood in front of their home. The Andersons brought the eagle back to the United States and it remained on their Brookline property after their death.[7]

In 1954, the gilded sculpture was donated to Boston College and is now considered synonymous with the "BC Eagle", the university's mascot.[8]


External links

  • Biography of the Andersons
  • The Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection at Harvard University
  • Project Gutenberg
  • LibriVox


  • Anderson, Larz: Letters and Journals of a Diplomat, New York, 1940.
  • Anderson, Isabella Under the Black Horse Flag, Boston, 1926
  • Del Tredici, Peter: "Early American Bonsai: The Larz Anderson Collection of the Arnold Arboretum", Arnoldia (Summer 1989)


  • Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Larz Anderson and Isabel Weld Perkins
  • , "The Welds of Harvard Yard" by associate editor Craig A. Lambert
  • Historic Houses In Dorset, "Lulworth Castle"
  • Jamaica Plain Historical Society, "The Weld Family"
  • "Self-Guided Walking Tour of Weld at Larz Anderson Park"
  • Larz Anderson Auto Museum, "The Andersons"
  • by Harriet Manning Whitcomb
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