George Crawford (American businessman)

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George Crawford
George Washington Crawford

(1861-06-04)June 4, 1861
DiedApril 6, 1935(1935-04-06) (aged 73)
Alma materEastman Business College
OccupationChairman of Columbia Gas & Electric
Annie Laurie Warmack
(m. 1927; his death 1935)
ChildrenMartha Sharp Crawford
Parent(s)Ebenezer Crawford
Elizabeth Wilson
RelativesPrince Alexander von Auersperg (grandson)
Cosima von Bülow (granddaughter)

George Washington Crawford (June 4, 1861 – April 6, 1935) was a prominent American businessman of the late 19th and early 20th century who was a founder and executive with Columbia Gas & Electric. Crawford was the father of the late New York socialite Sunny von Bülow, who spent 25 years in a coma, and whose husband Claus Von Bulow was famously charged, convicted and then acquitted of her attempted murder.

Early life[edit]

Crawford was born on June 4, 1861. He was the son of Elizabeth Wilson (1833–1906) and Ebenezer "Eben" Crawford (1821–1897), a farmer from Emlenton, Venango County, Pennsylvania.[1]

He was a descendant of Scottish immigrants.[2] He was educated in public schools and at the Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie.[3]


According to local Emlenton history records, Eben and his brothers traveled west during the California gold rush but "returned home penniless."[1] The brothers, reportedly tried a variety of business ventures, originally focusing on pipe line business. He entered the well supply business in Bolivar, New York, and in 1886,[2] along with the United States Pipe Line Company, he obtained a right of way from Bradford oil field to the eastern seaboard.[4] Thereafter, he formed the New Martinsville Gas Company in West Virginia and maintained an interest in the Tri-State National Gas Company.[2]

In 1893, Crawford, along with brother-in-law, Milo Clinton Treat (1841–1925) (husband of his late sister Clara Minerva Crawford), formed Emlenton Gas Co.,[1] the first natural gas corporation which first operated in Corning, Ohio. Crawford made a fortune after reserves of oil and natural gas were discovered on Eben's farm in 1901. He later formed the Ohio Fuel Supply Company,[5] which merged with the much larger Columbia Gas & Electric in 1926,[2][6] and became one of the leading American utilities companies of the 20th century.[7]

By 1931, he was the chairman of the board of Columbia Gas & Electric, owner of Lone Star Gas Co. in Texas, helped develop Western Public Service Corporation, and a major investor in significant oil and gas reserves in Mexico. He also served as a trustee of the Union Trust Company of Pittsburgh.[4]

Personal life[edit]

In 1927, 66-year-old Crawford married Annie Laurie Warmack (1900–1984), a native of St. Louis who was 27. She was the daughter of Robert Warmack (1862–1924), the wealthy founder of the International Shoe Company, and Martha Sharp Warmack (1869–1956).[8] In 1931, when Crawford was 70, his only child was born, reportedly in Crawford's personal railroad carriage. The family had two homes, one in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh and a second home (previously his father's residence) at 304 Hill Street, Emlenton, PA. Their daughter was:

Crawford died on April 6, 1935.[4] Upon his death,[11] he left his estate to his widow and his four-year-old daughter, valued at more than US $100 million (UK£75 million).[9] His widow, who remarried in 1957 to Russell Barnett Aitken (1910–2002),[12] who owned Champ Soleil in Newport, Rhode Island, and their daughter moved to New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut, at a home known as "Tamerlane". After his widow's death in 1984, her widower, Aitken remarried to Irene (née Boyd) McAlpin Roosevelt, the widow of John Aspinwall Roosevelt, youngest son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[12]


Through his only daughter Sunny, he was the grandfather of Princess Annie-Laurie von Auersperg (b. 1958), Prince Alexander-Georg von Auersperg (b. 1959), and Cosima von Bülow (b. 1967), who married Count Riccardo Pavoncelli.[9]


  1. ^ a b c "Fortune behind Sunny von Bulow intrigue of '80s came from Emlenton". The Derrick. December 9, 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Waples, David A. (2012). The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia: A History from the First Discovery to the Tapping of the Marcellus Shale, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 55. ISBN 9780786470006. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  3. ^ Ingham, John N. (1983). Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 211–212. ISBN 9780313239076. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "G. W. CRAWFORD DIES; NATURAL GAS PIONEER; Chairman of Board of Columbia Gas and Electric Corporation Was Bank Director". The New York Times. 7 April 1935. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  5. ^ Whiteshot, Charles Austin (1905). The Oil-Well Driller: A History of the World's Greatest Enterprise, the Oil Industry. C. A. Whiteshot. p. 857. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  6. ^ "HOLDING COMPANY MERGES UTILITIES; Columbia Gas and Electric in Leading Group, With Assets of $483,000,000. SERVES 800 COMMUNITIES Statement From New Corporation Shows Earnings of $4.35 a Share In Nine Months". The New York Times. 17 November 1926. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Company History – Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  8. ^ Wright, William (2014). The Von Bülow Affair: The Objective Behind-the-Scenes Account of the Shocking Attempted Murder Case. Open Road Media. p. 11. ISBN 9781480484986. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d "Sunny von Bülow: Heiress whose husband's trial for her attempted". The Independent. 8 December 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  10. ^ Nemy, Enid (6 December 2008). "Sunny von Bülow, 76, Focus of Society Drama, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  11. ^ "CRAWFORD LEFT $25,000,000; Second Accounting of Columbia Gas Head's Estate Is Filed". The New York Times. 2 October 1938. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  12. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (14 August 2002). "Russell Aitken, 92, Artist And Big-Game Hunter, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 January 2018.