Page 1

featurearticle

by Donald Scott

Tragedy Shows Family's Heart & Soul

Left to right: George D. Widener, Eleanor Bkhs Widener, Peter A.B. Widener, Harry Widener and William Lukens Skins

T

he story of the Titanic is not just the chronicle of a great ship and its untimely demise, but also an examination of the lives and families impacted by its tragic end - - including victims and survivors - - of a range of economic levels and social classes.

and fascinating humans. On the Titanic, there was classicism among the rich, and even racism doled out by the ship's crew to a interracial family onboard. Life on the Titanic was a reflection of our values on land.

George D. Widener died when the Titanic sank. His valet, Edwin Herbert Keeping, also died. Eleanor Elkins Widener survived the sinking of the Titanic with her maid, Amalie Henriette Gieger Peter A.B. Widener started out as a butcher and rose to become one of the most powerful men in America. His son George and grandson Harry died on the Titanic.

I hope that my numerous sources and investigative techniques will help you create an accurate composite of a family member. A direct link isn't necessary. The lesson I learned is that we're all victims and survivors of tragedies like the sinking of the Titanic.

I was motivated to research families directly impacted by the Titanic tragedy, specifically the wealthy Wideners and Elkinsi s, in order to probe below the surface of superficiality and even sensationalism. As a society, we are extremely interested in how the rich live. I wanted Titanic out to sea to know these folks as multi-dimensional Hosting a party featuring Capt. Edward humans with feelings and desires. What John Smith only hours before the Titanic better way was there to get a better picture struck an iceberg just after 11:30 p.m. on than investigating their family histories? April 14, 1912, George D. Widener and his On that note, my genealogical research wife Eleanor likely were quite upbeat in indicated that their servants — who were the vessel's fancy a la carte restaurant. As often of moderate means — as well as other the 46,329-ton ship cruised westward from second- and third-class passengers, had the Europe toward New York City, about 400 same basic elements that make us unique miles off of the Newfoundland coast, one Read more in Magazine PLUS • www.familyhistorymagazine.com

Harry Widener died on the Titanic with his father George, reportedly carrying one of his beloved books, Bacon's "Essayes." Harvard's library was named in the legendary book collector's honor. William Lukens Elkins, who started out as a grocer, built a transportation empire with Peter A.B. Widener after making big money in the oil business. Members of the Elkins and Widener families intermarried. Photos courtesy Leon Clemmer

account records that they dined on "caviar, lobster, perhaps in a rich cream sauce and quails, roasted lightly in a hot oven." ' The Wideners were a handsome couple and part of the wealthy elite of Philadelphia's high society, sitting atop a empire built upon streetcar systems in several major cities. They both hailed from families with prosperous ties and roots that predated the American Revolution. But, a few hours away they would endure a tragedy of mythological dimensions. Many of their rich friends onboard that came from clans including the Astors, Strauses and Guggenheims2 also would be devastated by the disaster: Several memMay/June 2004

33


featurearticle bers of those families would not survive the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The vessel was owned by White Star Line, largely supported by J. Pierpont Morgan, who missed the trip because of alleged illness. But Morgan's close associate and chief executive of White Star, J. Bruce Ismay. was onboard the doomed ship and survived. That raised the eyebrows of the press; there was even a U.S. Senate investigation, according to Robin Gardiner and Dan Van Der Vat's 1998 Citadel Press book, The Titanic Conspiracy: Cover-Ups and Mysteries of the World's Most Famous Sea Disaster. The Wideners, who had brought servants3 on the trip, were accompanied at the dinner party by their son Harry, an avid book collector and Harvard graduate. Also at the affair, which began at 7:30 p.m., were "Air. and Mrs. John B. Thayer (he was a vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad)4; wealthy Philadelphians Mr. and Mrs. William Corter (he was beneficiary of a Pennsylvania coal-mining empire), who were bringing over a 2 5-horsepower Renault car; and ... Major (Archie) Butt," chief aide, adviser and friend of U.S. President William Howard Taft, according to Dr. Robert D. Bollard s book, The Discovery of the Titanic, published by Madison Publishing in 1987.5 Combining a vacation with family business, Eleanor Widener had shopped in Paris to complete the wedding trousseau of her daughter Eleanor. This was confirmed by Leon Clemmer, a history researcher and writer whose mother grew up next door to the Wideners' Lynnewood Hall estate in Cheltenham Township, nordiwest of Philadelphia.6 On the trip, Harry Widener picked up a rare second-edition copy of Sir Francis Bacon's Essayes, published in 1598, and George Widener Sr. tried to find a chef for a restaurant in Philadelphia, said Clemmer. His comments came in a March 1999 speech, "RMS Titanic and the York Road Connection," delivered to the Rotary Club in Glenside, Pa. "This was a happy time for the Philadelphians," said Clemmer, who belongs to the St. Paul Episcopal Church, where the Wideners were members. "They all came aboard the Titanic by tenders (shore boats) from Cherbourg, France."7 According to Bollard's research, who discovered the Titanic in 1985, at about 9 p.m. April 15, 1912, "Captain Smith excused himself from dinner and went to the bridge where Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller was

34

May/June 2004

on duty — the 6 to 10 p.m. watch." The two discussed the dropping temperatures and the need to watch out for "bergs." However, the ocean "was so calm, in fact, and reflected the starlight in such a way that the horizon itself was difficult to discern. One sailor, a veteran of 26 years at sea, later said he had never seen the ocean so flat," Bollard wrote. Back at the Wideners' dinner, the women began to retire, according to Walter Lord's epic 1955 book, A Night to Remember, published by Henry Holt and Co. "The Captain had left early, the ladies had been packed off to bed, and now the men were enjoying a final cigar before turning in too," Lord wrote. "The conversation wandered from politics to Clarence Moore's adventures in West Virginia, the time he helped interview the feuding mountaineer Anse Hotfield." a major participant in the legendary McCoy Hotfield dispute.8 By "11:40 there was a kind of shaking of the ship and a little impact, from which I thought one of the propellers had been broken off," reported George Frederick Crowe, 30, a ship's steward, in Tom Kuntz's 1998 book, The Titanic Disaster Hearings: The Official Transcripts of the 1912 Senate Investigation. In a New York Times article published April 20, 1912, and reprinted on the Web at <geocities.com>, Eleanor Widener told a reporter: "Mr. Widener and I had retired to our cabin for the night when the shock of crashing into the iceberg occurred. We thought little of it and did not leave our cabin. We must have remained there an hour before becoming fearful. "Then Mr. Widener went to our son Harry's room and brought him to our cabin. A short time later Harry went to the deck and hurried back and told us that we must go on deck. Mr. Widener and Harry a few minutes later went on deck and aided the officers, who were then having trouble with those in the steerage. That was the last I saw of my husband or son." Then these ominous words came from her lips: "I went on deck and was put into a life boat. As the boat pulled away from the Titanic, I saw one of the officers shoot himself in the head and a few minutes later saw Capt. Smith jump from the bridge into the sea." Smith's body was never found, according to reports. The loss of the Titanic, according to some investigators, was associated with

I

was enthralled in the late 1990s to hear stories of two Widener family members dying on the Titanic while researching for an article, "Camp William Penn's Black Soldiers in Blue," published in the November 1999 edition of America's Civil War magazine. The story was about a camp in my neighborhood in Cheltenham, Pa., where thousands of black soldiers trained. The site was just northwest of Philadelphia — where the Widener family members lived.

Research indicates that adjacent to the camp, during the 1 860s and after, lived the famed Quaker abolitionist and women's right advocate Lucretia Wott, whose son-in-law, Edward M. Davis, leased the land to the federal government where the camp was erected. Subsequent columns for local newspapers, the Times Chronicle and Glenside News, led me to research a variety of related topics. For instance, I learned that Davis' wealth was just the proverbial "tip of the iceberg" in my neighborhood. That's because Jay Cooke, known as the financier of the Civil War, lived nearby, as did his stockbroker son-in-law, Charles Barney, the founder of the brokerage firm that still bears his name. As the 1 9* century wound down and the 20'*1 century swooped in, business titans such as hat manufacturer John B. Stetson and ice cream tycoon Henry W. Breyer, Sr., took up residence not far from where the camp was located. Today the area is the Cheltenham community of LaMott, named after Lucretia Molt. The area became a powerful community of millionaires during and after the Civil War. One of its residents, Peter A.B. Widener Sr., was a Philadelphia notable of the celebrated Gilded Age of the late 1 800s and early 1 900s. I consequently researched and wrote a number of columns about the Widener and Elkins families, even examining their heartbreaking Titanic experience using archives and bulletin articles, as well as family genealogy records and books of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Old York Road Historical Society. It was intriguing to learn that the Widener family patriarch, Peter Sr., had been a simple butcher and made a fortune from selling meat to Union forces; he later made even more money by starting transportation systems in a halfdozen U.S. cities, including Philadelphia. His partner was William Lukens Elkins. Writers from newspapers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post provided valuable research sources for this article. For instance, the Inquirer's Daniel Rubin wrote an article in the July 1 5, 1 990, edition titled, "A palace languishes after the glory days," which focused on the

Read more in Magazine PLUS • www.familyhistorymagazine.com


featurearticle Wideners' Lynnewood Hall mansion and its decline over the years after the family moved. The article also provided research leads that I confirmed by using various historical bulletins and family genealogy books. For instance, I corroborated Rubin's statement that Widener hailed from "a family of German stock who had been in this country since colonial times. After two years at Central High School, he (Widener) went to work in his brother's butcher shop."

greed.9 The full story eventually would come out, following conflicting rumors.

An aerial view of Lynnewood Hall in 1910 shows the expansiveness of the sprawling estate.

Shock back home

Photo courtesy Leon Clemmer

At St. Mark's, a Massachusetts boarding school, Peter A.B. Widener Jr. learned of the great ship's demise from classmates. The boy was clearly shocked.

survived. Most hopeful of all was the great patriarch, Peter Arrell Brown Widener Sr.

"I was playing at recess just before A family's courage history class one fine April day in In her lifeboat on the Atlantic, Eleanor 1912," he wrote in his memoirs, Without Drums, published in 1940 by Elkins Widener was far from her family's G.P. Putnam's Sons. "There was spring splendiferous comforts. She had to be in the air, and I thought happily of the pondering how the Widener and Elkins famiforthcoming arrival of Uncle George. I lies were taking die terrible news of the wondered for the hundredth time what Titanic's sinking. They had to be worried he was bringing me." about her, her son Harry and her husband George. They also had to be concerned The lad's playing was interrupted. '"Say, Pete!' One of my classmates about the two servants, Herbert Keeping nudged me and pulled me out of my and Amalie Henriette Gieger. reverie by shoving a newspaper into my hands," he wrote. " 'Did you see this?' I was conscious of a buzz of whispered conversation all around me. Every body was staring at me. I looked from their curious faces to the paper."

According to several accounts, Eleanor Widener held her own in the North Atlantic, as witnessed by Gieger. In fact, Eleanor "rowed when exhausted seamen were on the verge of collapse," Gieger said in the book, Sinking of the He tried to absorb the shock of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters, by Logan headline: "TITANIC SINKING — 1700 Marshall and published by L.T. Myers in ON BOARD." ... The Titanic — the 1912, also reprinted on the Internet at Titanic. ... Where had I heard Titanic? <webroots.org>. "The girl said Mrs. Uncle George! 'Why that's the ship my Widener bravely toiled throughout the aunt and uncle are coming home on,' I night and consoled other women who blurted out at last, horrified recognition of had broken down under the strain." the name of the ship sweeping over me." Many of die women sitting around He later recounted in his memoirs: "I got down on my knees and I prayed, prayed that my uncle and my aunt, the two people I loved best in the world next to my own mother, might be spared." Joseph E. Widener, Peter's father and his Uncle George's brother, and the rest of the Wideners also were devastated, but held out hope that their kin had

Eleanor Widener in the boat were also of the rich and powerful. "Mrs. William E. Carter and Mrs. John B. Thayer were in die same lifeboat and worked heroically to keep it free from die icy menace," Marshall wrote. Hours later early April 15 — die women were rescued by die RMS Carpadiia of the Cunard Line, captained by Arthur Rostron. Patriarch Peter Widener had already made arrangements for a

Read more in Magazine PLUS • www.familyhistorymagazine.com

That data was confirmed in a book that I found at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania', The Wideners In America, by Howard H. Widener, published in 1904 by C.A. Nichols Jr. The society has a large collection of books about the genealogy of families. I found a similar book about the family of William Lukens Elkins, P.A.B Widener's business partner, titled, The Elkins Family. Both volumes gave genealogy extending to the American Revolution and to the Dark and Middle Ages of Europe. Nancy L. Ross' August 5, 1993, Washington Post article, "A Millionaire's Glorious Folly," provided leads about the Wideners' genealogy and legendary residence that still exists today — although not in its original grandeur. "Constructed in 1900 at an initial cost of $8 million, Lynnewood Hall stands as one of the last remaining examples of the Beaux-Arts palaces built before income taxes put a damper on millionaires' follies." Both articles in the Inquirer and Post detailed how the estate's magnificent adornments, including marble paneling and ceilings, disappeared, and how the estate was turned into a seminary and wound up on the auction block in recent years. Yet many of my research leads concerning the families' roots and this story came from sources ranging from the Internet to the archived news clippings of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The eight volumes of news stories beginning May 2, 1913, clipped out by a Dr. Thomas Lindsley Bradford and donated to the society, contained information from local newspapers, including a misleading Philadelphia Bulletin article from April 15, 1912, headlined, "Huge Liner Titanic Rams an Iceberg; PASSENGERS ALL TAKEN OFF SAFELY." An accompanying story, however, was accurate in reporting that the Wideners were on board the vessel. The Philadelphia Record, in its April 16, 1912, edition, was more accurate about the death rate with the headline "Titanic Sinks and 1500 Die," adding in the story that "only 675, mostly women and children, are known to have survived." The story noted that the rich onboard were worth a half-billion dollars.

May/June 2004

35


featurearticle private train to pick up his daughter-inlaw at the New York City harbor, where the Carpathia was headed with survivors. "Among those who later arrived at the pier before the Carpathia docked were P.A.B. Widener, of Philadelphia," Marshall noted. In Without Drums, Peter Widener wrote, "My prayers were too late. In a day or two when the Carpathia came in with Titanic survivors, it brought my aunt and her maid. Uncle George and Cousin Harry had gone gallantly to their death at sea." "For Those in Peril on the Sea by Tiffany Studios, 1 91 2. To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of George D. Widener, 1861-1912. Size: 79 1/2 by 27 1/2 inches. Daringly the symbolism of this window seems to concern the death of George Dunton Widener aboard the Titanic on April 15, 1912. Beneath the northern lights, the Good Shepherd stands in a frozen seascape if not on an iceberg. Eleanor Widener Dixon presented this window to her father's memory as well as one in remembrance of her brother who perished in the same catastrophe." (Vestry minutes, vol. 3, p. 109, 19Nov 1912). Photo courtesy Leon Clemmer

Herbert Keeping, George Widener's servant, also had perished. Although some accounts conflicted, the end for George Widener and his son was indeed valiant. As the ship began to sink, only hours after the Wideners' dinner with Capt. Smith, Harry Widener courageously helped his mother, according to one account. "Later that night Harry helped his mother into boat four and then stood back to await his fate, at one point he was joined by (family friend) William Ernest Carter, who advised him to try for a boat, but Harry (said), Til think I'll stick to the big ship, Billy, and take a chance.' " That account was included in a biography about Harry in the online edition of Encyclopedia Titanica Passenger Biographies. An article clipped out by Dr. Thomas Lindsley Bradford, a Philadelphia physician, historian and bibliographer,10 from The (Philadelphia) Evening Bulletin's April 19, 1912 edition indicates that George Widener was "calm as though taking a walk on Broad Street (in Philadelphia)," and "stood back with Harry Elkins Widener that weaker might be rescued." That account, housed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, describes the duo as "heroes." A month later, services were held at St. Paul's Church.11 The building overflowed with flowers, family members and countless dignitaries. Eleanor Widener12 was seen "leaning on the arm of her son, George D. Widener Jr., and dressed in deepest mourning." The family patriarch, P.A.B. Widener, "walked, unattended into the church, and his somewhat shortened, halting footsteps told only too plainly the grievous effect of his son in the tragedy." Today in the church, two magnificent stained glass Tiffany windows commemorate the loss of George D. Widener and his son, Harry Elkins Widener. The windows' presentation was made by Eleanor Widener Dixon, the daughter of George and Eleanor Widener. She married Fitz Eugene Dixon Sr. soon after her mother's fateful trip — to complete her wedding trousseau. 03 Endnotes 1 The likely menu of the Wideners at the dinner party was recorded in Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley's 1997 book, Last Dinner on the Titanic. 2 According to the Web site <www.nationmaster.com>, John Jacob Astor IV, who married Philadelphia socialite Ava Lowle Willing, was a wealthy businessman, inventor and writer; Astor also built the famous Astoria Hotel. The Web site also indicates that Benjamin

36

May/June 2004

In addition to clippings, material about the Titanic is available on microfilm at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Closer to home, the Old York Road Historical Society archives at the Jenkintown Library, a mile or two from the former palatial estates of the Elkinses and Wideners, had a wealth of material. For instance, the society's 1992 Volume Lll Old York Road Historical Society Bulletin had an intriguing story, "A Guide to the Stained Glass Windows of St. Paul's Episcopal Church," with text and depictions of Tiffany stained glass windows. Two of the windows were dedicated by George Dunton Widener's daughter, Eleanor Widener Dixon, in memory of her father and her brother, the text indicates. Much of the book was derived from vestry records, footnotes point out. A 1 946 bulletin article, Volume X, concentrated on Cooke and was written by Horace Mather Lippincott, a member of the publishing family. That information provided background about the surrounding wealthy neighborhood. A story in the bulletin's 1990 edition, Volume L, featured an article by Leon Clemmer titled, "Elkins Station — Ogontz Park," which provided detailed information about the development of a train station built by William L. Elkins. It also focused on the area's millionaires. In fact, Clemmer provided me with several interesting books, including Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley's Last Dinner on the Titanic, published by Madison Press Books. It provided detailed information about dining aboard the ship. A number of color slides of the Tiffany windows at St. Paul's Episcopal Church were loaned to me by Clemmer. Two of those windows were dedicated to the loss of George and Harry Widener. On January 10, 2004, Clemmer emailed me a copy of a May 18, 1912, article that appeared in a local paper, The Times Chronicle, which covers Cheltenham Township and eastern Montgomery County, Pa., about the memorial services held in honor of the deceased Widener family members, George and his son Harry. I also relied on several popular books including Walter Lord's 1955 book, A Night to Remember; Wyn Craig Wade's 1979 book, The Titanic: End of a Dream; Tom Kuntz's 1998 work, The Titanic Disaster Hearings: The Official Transcripts of the 1912 Senate Investigation; and The Titanic Conspiracy: Cover-Ups and Mysteries of the World's Most Famous Sea Disaster, which detailed the politics and finances of the Titanic debacle.

Read more in Magazine PLUS • www.familyhistorymagazine.com


featurearticle Guggenheim was the fifth of seven sons raised by the mining tycoon Meyer Guggenheim . Meanwhile, <www.naturalsc iences.org> of North Carolina's Museum of Natural Sciences notes that Isidor Straus was the owner of Nlaty's department store in New York and that he and his wife were wealthy philanthropists. 3 See online Encyclopedia Titanica Passenger Biographies at <www.encyclopedia-titanica.org> about Eleanor Widener's maid, "Miss Amalie Henriette Gieger, 35," who was "born in Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad), Prussia, Germany." See also the entry about George Widener's valet, Edward "Edwin" Herbert Keeping, about age 32. He was a "widely travelled [sic] man" and "had visited numerous countries in his work with various employers among whom was a Russian Grand Duke, who gave him a locket as a present when he left." The entry also states that Keeping "was married to Karin Johansson from Stockholm. They met while working together for the Wideners (she also was a servant)." 4 The Titanic Historical Society Inc., through its online site <www.titanichistorical society.org>, reports that Thayer's son, John "Jack" B. Thayer, wrote of the Titanic's sinking and his father's death. 5 According to Dr. Robert D. Bollard's The Discovery of the Titanic, published by Madison Press Books, Butt was "returning to Washington after a leave of absence." 6 Clemmer sent the author on Jan. 7, 2004, an e-mail mentioning his mother's childhood home in his March 1999 "RMS Titanic and the Old York Road Connection" speech. Old York Road is a major thoroughfare in Cheltenham Township, Pa., in the area where many of the wealthy families lived. 7 A Haitian-French family, whose father Joseph Loroche was a black Haitian of nobility, and white mother Louise Laroche, the daughter of a French winery owner, traveled from Cherbourg, France, to the Titanic on the boat Nomadic with the Wideners. They were part of 274 first- and secondclass passengers, according to the Titanic Historical Society Inc.'s online Web site at <www.titanichistoricalsociety.org>. On their way to Haiti, the Larodies changed to the Titanic after they learned that they would not be permitted to dine with their two interracial daughters on another liner, La France, on which they had been scheduled. Joseph Laroche went down with the ship. His children and pregnant wife survived. 8 An online article at <userwww.service. emory.edu>, titled "The Hatfields and the McCoys," authored by James C. Simmons and reproduced from the August 1988 edition of the publication Diversion, indicates that William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield was "the patriarch of his extended family throughout the years" of the feud with the McCoy family along the KentuckyWest Virginia border. 9 According to Robin Gardiner & Dan Van Der Vat's The Titanic Conspiracy: Cover-Ups and Mysteries of the World's Most Famous Sea Disaster, Sen. William Alden Smith, a Michigan Republican, "hoped to prove

negligence on the part of White Star, nominally a British company headed by the unmistakably British [J. Bruce] Ismoy, so ordinary victims of the disaster could sue for compensation in American courts. He presented himself as the tribune of the people and worked hard at it; but his eagerness to blame the British conveniently led him to overlook the American J.P. Morgan's role as a monopolist promoter of intense and unfair competition on the North Atlantic route and financier of the unsafe ship." David King, reference librarian at the Widener University School of Law, writes in an Internet article, "The Titanic Disaster and the Widener Family," that: "A case is made by John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas in their book Titanic â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Triumph and Tragedy that the Widener family patriarch, Peter Arrell Brown Widener, was part-owner of the Titanic." The writers note that Widener was one of five "voting trustees" associated with the International Mercantile Marine (IMM), owner of the White Star Line. 10 An online biography of Bradford by Sylvain Cazalet in "History of Homoeopathy Biographies," at <www.homeoint.org>, says he was originally "a native of Francetown, N.H., born June 6, 1 847, son of Thomas Bixby Bradford and Emily Hutchinson Brown, his wife, on the paternal side a descendant of Gov. William Bradford of the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts, while on the maternal side his grandfather, Titus Brown, was a noted New Hampshire lawyer and statesman, member of congress from that state from 1824 to 1 828." Bradford moved to Philadelphia in 1 877. 11 Camp William Penn was located about a half mile from St. Paul's near the roadside home of famed abolitionist and women's rights advocate Lucretia Mott. See author's November 1 999 article in America's Civil War magazine, "Camp William Penn's Black Soldiers in Blue," pp. 45-49, 82. 12 Eleanor Widener Dixon and Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr., became owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and Eugene was chairman of the board of Widener University, as well as contributor to a number of educational, civic and arts organizations. See One God, Sixteen Houses, p. 50 and Philadelphia 76ers History at <www.nba.com>.

Donald Scott, a history columnist for the Journal-Register Co. and graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has written about history for The Philadelphia Inquirer and America's

At the Jenkintown Library, which houses the archives of the Old York Road Historical Society, I found an autobiography by Peter Arrell Brown Widener Jr. Without Drums, published in 1 940 by G.P. Putnam's Sons, provided excellent family lineage information as well as vivid text concerning the family's reaction to George and Harry Widener's deaths and information about their memorial service. Finally, a number of Internet sources helped me with investigating the families' genealogies, including Anne Wiegle's online family-tree site titled, "Descendants of William Elkins," at <rootsweb.com>. Another Web site, <webroots.org>, a "nonprofit library for genealogy & historyrelated research," had Logan Marshall's book, Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters, duplicated online. The book contains detailed information regarding the Wideners and other wealthy passengers. I found information through the Web's "Encyclopedia Titanica," including copies of obituaries and passenger biographies, most notably the Wideners and other wealthy folk, at <www.encyclopedia-titanica.org>. The site also provides lineage data about Titanic passengers and crew and about George Widener's onboard servant, Edwin Herbert Keeping, which was contributed by Hermann Soldner of Germany. An online history archive of Widener University (named for the Widener family) featured an entry, "The Titanic Disaster and the Widener Family," authored by David King, reference librarian at the Widener University School of Law. It mentions the Widener's family history of philanthropy and other genealogical references including the fact that "Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr. is the grandson of George and Eleanor Widener, and was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Widener University for many years." Even an online segment of the "Philadelphia 76ers History" at <www.nba.com> has a very intriguing entry about Dixon and the family's wealth: "Fitz Eugene Dixon bought the club in May 1976 and soon gave it a reputation as a team built on dollars. Dixon opened the vault immediately, paying $6 million for Julius 'Dr. J' Erving ($3 million to the ABA New Jersey Nets and $3 million to Erving's bank account) prior to the 1976-77 season."

Civil War. He has been a history lecturer in Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Speakers' Program and researcher for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. Scott resides in

Contact: Old York Road Historical Society, 460 Old York Road, Jenkintown, PA 19046-2891; Phone: 215.886.8590; <www.oyrhs.org>. OS

Cheltenham Township, Pa., not far from the Widener and Elkins estates. The assistant professor of English at the Community College of Philadelphia has taught at Temple University,

Endnote 1 Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19107; Phone: 215.732.6200; <www.hsp.org>

Peirce College and Cheyney University.

Read more in Magazine PLUS â&#x20AC;˘ www.familyhistorymagazine.com

May/June 2004

37

Titanic Story: Two Families' Fates  

The story of the Widener and Elkins families regarding the ship Titanic

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you