About Alanson Bigelow Houghton
Alanson Bigelow Houghton (October 10, 1863– September 15, 1941) was an American businessman, politician, and diplomat who served as a Congressman and Ambassador. He was a member of the Republican Party.
Early life and business career
Alanson B. Houghton was born on October 10, 1863 in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. His father, Amory Houghton Jr, would be named president of Corning Glass Works, the company founded by his grandfather, Amory Houghton Sr, in 1851. In 1868, his family moved to Corning, New York. He attended the Corning Free Academy in Corning and St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. Houghton graduated from Harvard University in 1886 and then pursued postgraduate courses in Europe. He attended graduate school in Göttingen, Berlin, and Paris until 1889.
Upon his return to Corning in 1889, Houghton began work for his family’s business, Corning Glass Works. He served as Vice President of the company from 1902 to 1910, and as the company’s president from 1910 to 1918. Under Houghton’s leadership, the company tripled in size to become one of the largest producers of glass products in the United States. The company manufactured 40% of incandescent light bulbs and 75% of the railway signal glass used in the U.S. Houghton’s interest in and promotion of education, particularly in western New York state, led to his being appointed a trustee of Hobart College in 1917.
Political and diplomatic career
In 1918, Alanson B. Houghton defeated incumbent Congressman Harry H. Pratt in the Republican primary. He went on to win the general election and joined the Sixty-sixth Congress, representing New York’s 37th Congressional District. In 1920, Houghton garnered 68% of the vote to win reelection over Democrat Charles R. Durham and Socialist Francis Toomey. Houghton took office on March 4, 1919. During his two terms in the House, Houghton served on the Foreign Affairs and Ways and Means committees.
On February 28, 1922, Houghton resigned his House seat to accept appointment from President Warren G. Harding as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Houghton was just the second U.S. representative to Germany after diplomatic relations were restored between the two countries in December 1921, following Germany’s defeat in World War I.
Houghton, having studied in prewar Germany during the fall of Otto von Bismarck, had a strong familiarity with both German culture and German politics. His appointment was approved by the U.S. Senate and well received by the Weimar Republic.
On February 24, 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Houghton as the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. Houghton assumed the post on April 6, 1925 and served until April 27, 1929. Houghton’s service in both Germany and England gave him a unique ability to address the issue of the war reparations Germany owed to its World War I opponents, England being one of them. Houghton laid some of the groundwork for the Dawes Plan, named after then U.S. Vice President Charles G. Dawes, who would be Houghton’s successor as Ambassador to Great Britain.
In 1928, Houghton ran for the U.S. Senate from New York against first-term incumbent Royal S. Copeland. Although Houghton lost, the election was decided by just over one percentage point, making it the closest Copeland ever faced.
Death and legacy
After his loss in the 1928 Senate race, Houghton returned to managing the Corning Glass Works. He was Chairman, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University. From 1941 until his death he was an original standing committee member of the Foundation for the Study of Cycles. He also served as vice president of the American Peace Society, which publishes World Affairs, the oldest U.S. journal on international relations.
Houghton died at his summer home in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts on September 15, 1941. He was interred at Hope Cemetery Annex in Corning, New York.
Houghton’s son, Amory Houghton (1899–1981), served as the United States Ambassador to France (1957–1961) under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. His grandson, Amo Houghton, was a U.S. Congressman from New York from 1987 until 2005.