Harry Elkins Widener

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Harry Elkins Widener
Harry E. Widener.jpg
Harry Elkins Widener
Born (1885-01-03)January 3, 1885
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died April 15, 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 27)
Atlantic Ocean (RMS Titanic)
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University (A.B., 1907)
Occupation Businessman, book collector
Known for Namesake of Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library
Signature Harry E. Widener signature.png

Harry Elkins Widener (January 3, 1885 – April 15, 1912) was an American businessman and bibliophile, a member of the Widener family. Harvard University's Widener Memorial Library was donated by his mother in his memory, after his death on the foundering of the RMS Titanic.


Widener's 1908 bookplate[1]

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Widener was the son of George Dunton Widener (1861–1912) and Eleanor Elkins Widener, and the grandson of entrepreneur Peter A. B. Widener (1834–1915). He attended The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and was a 1907 graduate of Harvard College, where he was a member of Hasty Pudding Theatricals and the Owl Club.

Along with his father and mother, in April 1912 Widener boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France bound for New York City. As the ship sank Widener's mother and her maid were rescued, but Widener, his father, and his father's valet perished. His mother donated the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library (dedicated 1915) to Harvard in his memory; at Hill School two buildings are dedicated to Widener, and at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, stained-glass windows are dedicated to Widener and his father.

A Harvard legend holds that in order to spare others her son's fate, Widener's mother insisted (as a condition of her gift) that future Harvard graduates be required to learn to swim. While Harvard indeed implemented a swimming test in the 1920s (later dropped), this had nothing to do with Widener.[2]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Houghton Library, Harvard University, HEW 2.2.15
  2. ^ Mann, Elizabeth (December 9, 1993), The First Abridged Dictionary of Harvard Myths, The Harvard Independent: 10–11