Charles W. Harkness

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Charles W. Harkness

Charles William Harkness (December 17, 1860 – May 1, 1916)[1] was the son of Stephen V. Harkness, an original investor in the company that became Standard Oil, and his second wife, the former Anna M. Richardson. He is the brother of Edward Harkness, noted philanthropist and half brother of Lamon V. Harkness.

Charles was born in Monroeville, Ohio, and his early education was in Cleveland at The Brooks Military Academy. He earned a B.A. from Yale College with the Class of 1883. Harkness, his cousin William L. Harkness (Yale Class of 1881), and others help found Wolf's Head Society, known originally as The Third Society, at Yale in 1883.[2] Harkness married Miss Mary Warden, daughter of William G. Warden who was an early Standard Oil partner and thus kept the Standard Oil fortune "in the family".

While at Yale, he was described as "care-free, happy, irresponsible as the rest of us."[3] On his father's death in 1888, Charles inherited stock in Standard Oil amounting to the second largest holding in the company, surpassed only by that of the Rockefeller family.[4] Harkness became a director at Standard Oil and was a director of the Southern Pacific Railway Company, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and the Tilden Iron Mining Company, and managed his father's immense holdings.[5]

C.W. purchased the Henry Flagler townhouse at 685 Fifth Ave, New York and also owned a home in Madison, NJ and a winter home in St. Augustine, FL. Harkness was a member of the University Club of New York, the Morris County Golf Club of Morristown, NJ , The Down Town Club in Philadelphia, Newport Country Club, Newport Casino and The New York Yacht Club.

He died suddenly in 1916, leaving a fortune. The large portion of his Standard Oil stock was left to his brother Edward S. Harkness.[4][6] One half his residual estate, his home in New York at 2 West 54th Street and his country home in Madison, NJ (designed by James Gamble Rogers who designed many Harkness buildings) were bequeathed to his wife Mary. He left $100,000 as a token of affection and esteem to his brother Lamon V. Harkness. Lamon had already died a year before Charles' death. Lamon had been quite wealthy in his own right from his inheritance from their father Stephen V. Harkness.[7]


Harkness Tower at Yale is named after Charles W. Harkness because his mother, Anna Harkness, provided a $3,000,000 donation to build the Memorial Quadrangle of dormitories in his memory. Harkness tower contains the Yale Memorial Carillon, a carillon of 54 bells, the largest of which is inscribed "In Memory of Charles W. Harkness, Class of 1883, Yale College."[3]

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a $100,000 permanent endowment known as the Charles W. Harkness Endowment Fund,[8] which was created through a donation from his widow, Mary Warden Harkness.


  1. ^ "Chas. W. Harkness Left An Estate of $60,000,000". New York Times. 8 December 1916. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Phelps Association Membership Directory, 2006
  3. ^ a b Yale University, A History of the Yale Memorial Carillon
  4. ^ a b Forbes, America's Richest
  5. ^ [1] Case Western Reserve Society Annual Report - October, 1917
  6. ^ Klein, Henry H. Dynastic America and Those Who Own It. ISBN 1-59605-671-1. 
  7. ^ [2] CW Harkness, New York Times Obituary May 9, 1916
  8. ^ The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Vol. 15, No. 2, February 1928