Harry Elkins Widener
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|Harry Elkins Widener|
Harry Elkins Widener
January 3, 1885|
|Died||April 15, 1912
Atlantic Ocean (RMS Titanic)
|Alma mater||Harvard University (A.B., 1907)|
|Occupation||Businessman, book collector|
|Known for||Namesake of Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library|
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.
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.
As a book collector
Book collector and dealer George Sidney Hellman, writing soon after Harry Widener's death, commented on
|the excellence of his technical knowledge ... His enthusiasm as a collector and his winning personality ... afforded many opportunities of obtaining treasures whose acquisition cannot be explained alone on the basis of the wealth which he commanded. Had he not perished in the Titanic catastrophe, beyond question ... his library would surely have eventually become one of the greatest collections of books in modern times. [He] was not satisfied alone in having a rare book or a rare book inscribed by the author; it was with him a prerequisite that the volume should be in immaculate condition.|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Henry Elikins Widener Collection at Houghton Library, Harvard University
- Encyclopedia Titanica Biography of Harry Elkins Widener
- Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy, by John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, W.W. Newton & Company, 2nd edition 1995 ISBN 0-393-03697-9
- A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord, ed. Nathaniel Hilbreck, Owl Books, rep. 2004, ISBN 0-8050-7764-2
- Houghton Library, Harvard University, HEW 2.2.15
- Mann, Elizabeth (December 9, 1993), "The First Abridged Dictionary of Harvard Myths", The Harvard Independent: 10–11
- George S. Hellman (June 2, 1912). "Harvard To Get Harry Widener's Famous Library – Titanic Victim, Though Hardly Out Of College – Acquired A Fine Collection Of Books That He Willed To His Alma Mater – His Grandfather Adds A Memorial Wing To House It". The New York Times.