Irving S. Olds

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Irving Sands Olds (1887–1963) was an American lawyer and philanthropist. He served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of U.S. Steel, and was partner at White & Case.

Early life[edit]

Irving Sands Olds was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, the only child of Clark and Livia Elizabeth Olds. Clark was an attorney, and Irving grew up in a wealthy household.[1] Irving attended Yale University for his undergraduate degree, and graduated with a B.A. in 1907. He then continued on to receive a law degree from Harvard in 1910. Upon his graduation, Olds took a position as a law clerk for Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. In 1911, he joined the law firm White & Case. In 1917, Olds became a partner, and remained as such until his death.[2] That same year, he married Evelyn Foster daughter of Pell William Foster (1862 – 1947)[3] founder of Foster Wheeler Corporation and Anne Williams;[4] and, granddaughter of William Foster Jr., president of the first elevated railroad company in New York.[5] The two did not have children.[6]


In 1915, Olds was hired as counsel by J.P. Morgan & Co after World War I had broken out in Europe. In this capacity, he advised the bank's export deportment which oversaw purchases made on behalf of the British and French war effort. Following the United States' entry into the war, he served in 1918 as an assistant to Morgan partner, Edward R. Stettinius, during the latter's tenure as surveyor general of supplies for the U.S. War Department. [7]

After a stint in France opening White & Case's Paris office after the First World War, Olds returned to the United States and became involved dealings between his firm and the United States Steel Corporation. In 1936, Olds was elected to the corporation's Board of Directors, and in 1940, upon the departure of Edward Stettinius Jr., he was made chairman and chief executive officer. He ran U.S. Steel for twelve years, through the rest of the Second World War, and into the Atomic Age.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Olds led the Council for Financial Aid to Education, an organization that directed corporation donations to universities. He spent two years as the President of the New-York Historical Society, and was a benefactor and board member of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He studied naval history and had published two works, about the topic, “U.S. Naval History, 1776-1815” and “Bits and Pieces of American History”. He collected Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Naval Prints, and had a collection of over 1,000 items, many of which were donated upon his death to White & Case and the New-York Historical Society.

Olds died in March 1963, and was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, in The Bronx.[9]


In 1942, the American Ship Building Company constructed the SS Irving Olds, named in honor of Olds, for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company. The ship was sold to U.S. Steel in 1952 and was eventually scrapped in 1988.[10]

His art collection and personal papers are housed at the New-York Historical Society.[11]


  1. ^ "1900 U.S. Census". National Archives & Records Administration. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Corporate Clients". White & Case. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  3. ^ p27
  4. ^ p.17
  5. ^
  6. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 5 March 1963". Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  7. ^ IRVING S.OLDS,76, OF U.S. STEEL, DIES; Former Board Chairman Also Won Fame as a Lawyer. The New York Times, New York, 1963-03-05
  8. ^ "The Philadelphia Inquirer, 5 June 1940". Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Irving Sands Olds". FindAGrave. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  10. ^ "OLDS, IRVING S." Great Lakes Vessels Online Index.
  11. ^ "Guide to the Irving S. Olds Collection of Naval and Other Historical Prints and Related Papers". NYU Libraries. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
Business positions
Preceded by
Edward Stettinius Jr.
Chairman of the Board of U.S. Steel
June 4, 1940 – January 22, 1952
Succeeded by
Benjamin Fairless