Wilber was a spy. As best I can tell he started as a young man when he went to Iran working for Arthur Upham Pope the art historian. According to my model Pope juggled academia, the oil companies and spying for the US. With this introduction to the spy game Wilber entered the OSS during W.W.II. When the OSS ended Wilber developed a relationship with the CIA. The CIA maintains a two tier system and Wilber was on the lower tier. Wilber did not actually work for the CIA as such, he was a long term contract agent. This meant that he was paid differently and lacked the benefits and stability of the regular employees. This culminated in what I see as a love hate relationship between Don and the company. Nonetheless Wilber was impeccably loyal.
Don was an art historian of considerable merit and his books on Persian Water Gardens and Timurid Architecture are important. His books served the dual purpose of generating income as well as providing a cover for his CIA activities. Ron O’Callaghan a business associate of Wilber’s in Oriental Rug Review related to me that Don staked out certain subjects as his own. When Murray Eiland III was a young man he wrote and article about Persepolis. Wilber gave him a very hard time because he felt young Eiland was poaching on his territory. O’Callaghan also told me that near the end of his life Don forswore all liquids except for gin. This forced Don’s wife Peg to put Don in a home. I have no idea just how true that is but Ron always tended to paint a dark picture of Wilber as he does of most people. (Take Ron with a grain of salt, you should hear what he says about me.)
At some point in his life perhaps in the OSS Wilber chose Crossing The Bar by Alfred Tennyson for his secret code. Codes were almost unbreakable when they used an unknown book or poem to decipher them.
Don was married virtually his entire adult life to Peggy. They had at least one daughter who last I heard was a lawyer in Washington DC. Wilber was also very close to the late George Washington O’Bannon.
I wrote this section a long time ago: Don Wilber was a true renaissance man, author, scholar, adventurer, spy, and patriot. What he did, he did well and changed the course of human events far more than most men could ever dream of. His book on Timurid architecture is a major work. Wilber was a founder of the Princeton Rug Society. Wilber had a long association with and a financial interest in Oriental Rug Review. Don developed the plan and aided in the execution of overthrowal of the legally constituted Government of Iran and placed the Shah on the throne.
Don was the principle planner of Operation Ajax and he deeply resented the way he was treated in Kim Roosevelt’s book. However had Kim continued to treat Don to oysters on the half shell at the Metropolitan Club he might have been in much better humor.
Don worked with and liked Ambassador Loy Henderson.
Founded Middle East Research Associates in 1957.
Joined the Hajji Baba Club in 1958.
Owned 10% of Oriental Rug Review.
Author of about 14 books, many are still in print.
The Joseph V. McMullan Award
Wilber, Donald N. Adventures In The Middle East.
Wilber, Donald N. Afghanistan.
Wilber, Donald N. Iran Past and Present Eighth Edition
Hajji Baba Club
Wilber, Donald N.: A Descriptive catalog of Dated Rugs and of Inscribed Rugs ; (Washington): 1989.
Wilber, Donald Newton. Architecture of Islamic Iran, the Il Khanid Period. 1955
Wilber, Donald Newton. Pakistan : Its People, Its Society, Its Culture. 1980
Wilber, Donald Newton. Persepolis : The Archaeology of Persia, Seat of the Persian Kings. 1989
Wilber, Donald Newton. Persian Gardens and Garden Pavilions. 1979
Wilber, Donald Newton. United Arab Republic-Egypt. 1969
Wilber, Donald Newton. Iran, past and present
Wilber, Donald Newton. Iran, Past and Present, from Monarchy to Islamic Republic. 1982
Wilber, Donald Newton. The Land and People of Ceylon. 1979
Wilber, Donald Newton. Riza Shah Pahlavi : The Resurrection and Reconstruction of Iran. An Exposition-University Book. 1975
Wilber, Donald Newton. The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan (Princeton Monographs in Art and Archaeology, 46) 1988 Also with Lisa Golombek
Wilber, Donald N. and Ellis, Charles Grant. Persian Gardens and Garden Carpets. Unpublished, manuscript delivered to Oghuz Press but after many years no book.
CIA: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran
Oriental Rug Review
Armenian Carpets by Manya Ghazarian, Wilber, D.N., Oriental Rug Review. IX/5/27
“An Introduction to Persian Village Rugs,” Wilber, D. N., Oriental Rug Review. IX/6/6-
Oriental Rugs from the Tents, Cottages and Workshops of Asia Dr. Jon Thompson, Review by Wilber, Donald N., IX/3/29
“Bibliography for Persian Tribal Rugs,” Wilber, Donald N., Oriental Rug Review. X/5/13
A Descriptive Catalog of Dated Rugs and of Inscribed Rugs, Wilber, Donald N., Review by Tarantino, Thomas H., X/3/20
Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages by E.J.W. Barber, review by Wilber, Donald N., Oriental Rug Review. XI/6/47
“Donald N. Wilber: A Tribute,” O’Bannon, George, Oriental Rug Review. XI/5/32-33
“Luristan Bronzes,” Wilber, Donald N., Oriental Rug Review. XI/5/34-45
“Swat That Pest,” Wilber, Donald N., Oriental Rug Review. XI/5/46-48
“Bijar Weavings”, Wilber, Donald N., Oriental Rug Review. XII/4/28-29, 40
Wilber, Donald N., Tapis et Textiles Armeniens, Oriental Rug Review. XII/1/38
Tapis et Textiles Armeniens, reviewed by Wilber, Donald, N., Oriental Rug Review. XII/1/38
Hand-Weaves of the Tribes and Villages of Fars, Parham, Sirus, reviewed by Wilber, Donald, N., Oriental Rug Review. XIII/2/50
Woven with Love, Tribal Gabbehs and Carpets from Fars, Fasai, Mohammad S. reviewed by Wilber, Donald, N., Oriental Rug Review. XIII/3/38
Bornet, Georges D., “An Origin of Gabbeh Patterns?,” reviewed by Wilber, Donald, N., Oriental Rug Review. XIII/2/18-19
“An Elder Generation of Rug Merchants, No. 1. Milani,” Wilber, Donald N., Oriental Rug Review. XIII/2/51
Where in Hell is George, by Ron O’Callaghan and Donald N. Wilber, Tributes from friends of George O’Bannon. Oriental Rug Review. Vol. 14, No. 5, June/July, 1994
George W. O’Bannon, An Irishman in Friendly Disguise, by Donald N. Wilber. Oriental Rug Review. Vol. 14, No. 5, June/July, 1994