Letter from Alfred Nobel to Bertha von Suttner, Creating the Nobel Peace Prize


Alfred Nobel (1833–96) was a Swedish-born engineer and entrepreneur best known for inventing dynamite. At age 43, Nobel placed an advertisement in a newspaper stating: "Wealthy, highly-educated elderly gentleman seeks lady of mature age, versed in languages, as secretary and supervisor of household." An Austrian woman, Countess Bertha Kinsky, applied for and won the position. The countess worked for Nobel only briefly before returning to Austria to marry Count Arthur von Suttner. Bertha von Suttner became one of the most prominent international peace activists of the late 19th–early 20th centuries, the author of a famous book Die Waffen nieder (Lay down your arms), published in 1889, and vice president of the International Peace Bureau. Nobel and von Suttner remained close friends and corresponded with each other for decades. In this letter, written in French and dated January 7, 1893, Nobel outlined to her his idea of establishing a prize for those who made important contributions to the cause of peace in Europe. Bertha von Suttner herself was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905, nine years after her friend’s death. The letter is preserved in the archives of the League of Nations in Geneva. The archives were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2010.

Date Created

Subject Date



Type of Item

Physical Description

1 page, folded : handwritten in ink


  1. “Bertha von Suttner – Biographical,” http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1905/suttner-bio.html, from Frederick W. Haberman, editor, Nobel Lectures, Peace 1901-1925 (Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Company, 1972).

Last updated: May 24, 2017