Thursday, February 21, 2008
George Dunton Widener was born on June 10, 1861 in Philadelphia to Hannah Josephine Dunton and wealthy businessman Peter A.B. Widener. His family came to America in 1752 and fought in the American Revolution. The Widener family was one of the only ones that suffered little or no loss of land nor money from the war. They had been successful ever since. George began as a hard working grocer and then joined his father in business. He became director of the Land Title Bank and Trust Company, Electric Storage Battery Company, a brick company, the Portland Cement Company, and a company which built the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. George Widener took an active interest in charity, was Director of the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, and a member of many social clubs including the Philadelphia Country Club. He married Eleanor Elkins on November 1, 1883. Together they had Harry Elkins Widener, George Eleanor Widener, and George Dunton Widener Jr. When PAB moved into his magnificent Lynnewood Hall Estate in Elkins Park, George, Eleanor, and their children moved with him. George was senior warden at St Paul's Episcopal Church, Elkins Park, and chair of the Board of Commissioners, Cheltenham Township. For the next nine or more years he, Eleanor and their children lived at Lynnewood Hall, attended by dozens of servants. After purchasing a car (French Renault) in Europe, the Wideners were returning home on the TITANIC. Harry, whom was with them, had bought some priceless and rare books at an auction. They met their friends, the Thayers whom lived a short distance from them and their son Jack, (see Jack Thayer) was close to Harry's age. On the night of April 14, 1912, the Wideners hosted a dinner party in the which was very enjoyable. But for most of the people attending, it would be the last party that they would ever have. In the sinking of the TITANIC, Mrs. Widener and her maid had boarded a lifeboat but when Billy Carter had inquired why Harry had not boarded, Harry replied, "stick to the big ship and take a chance". Eleanor sent George to fetch her pearls but when he got back, Eleanor's boat was almost all the way down. George, his valet, and Harry died in the disaster. None of their bodies were ever found. Mrs. Widener refurbished St. Peter's Episcopal Church. In Harvard (the college that Harry was attending), a library was built and named after him. There are 3,500 books and a small shrine in there. The library even today puts flowers there.