Joseph William Drexel

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Joseph William Drexel
Joseph W. Drexel - bust by John Quincy Adams Ward.jpg
1889 bust of Joseph W. Drexel by sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward
Born (1833-01-24)January 24, 1833
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died March 25, 1888(1888-03-25) (aged 55)
New York, New York, U.S.
Occupation Banker, philanthropist
Parent(s) Francis Martin Drexel

Joseph William Drexel (January 24, 1833 – March 25, 1888) was a banker, philanthropist and book collector.


He was the son of Francis Martin Drexel, and his siblings were Anthony Joseph Drexel and Francis Anthony Drexel. He attended the Central High School, Philadelphia, and traveled through Spain, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and Greece. He married Lucy Wharton (1841–1912) and had four children: Katherine Drexel, Josephine Drexel, Elizabeth Wharton Drexel, and Lucy Wharton Drexel[1] (both Elizabeth and Lucy married two sons of John A. Dahlgren).

Joseph Drexel was a partner in the firm of Drexel, Morgan and Company, where his brother Anthony was senior partner. In 1876, tired of battling the brusque J. Pierpont Morgan, Joseph retired from the business and devoted his life to philanthropic and civic organizations. He was chairman of New York Sanitary Commission, the commissioner of education, president of the New York Philharmonic Society, trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, founding trustee of the American Museum of Natural History,[2] trustee of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and director of the Metropolitan Opera house. He owned a 200-acre (0.81 km2) farm near New York City, where people without work were housed, clothed, fed, and taught agriculture until they could find a job. He owned a large tract of land in Maryland, which was developed into Klej Grange, a planned community, where the lots are sold to poor people at cost. About 7,000 acres (28 km²) in Michigan were bought for the same purpose.

Drexel was an avid collector of music, eventually amassing a collection of over 6,000 items. Upon his death, the Drexel Collection was accepted by the Lenox Library. When the Lenox Library was joined with those of John Jacob Astor and Samuel Tilden to form The New York Public Library, Drexel's collection became the basis for the Library's Music Division, housed today in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. The Concordia Polka by Theodore Gundlach was dedicated to Drexel.[3]

In 1881, Drexel acquired title to Mount McGregor near Saratoga Springs, New York. He constructed the Hotel Balmoral at the summit and built the Saratoga, Mount McGregor and Lake George Railroad narrow gauge railway from Saratoga Springs.[4] In 1885, Drexel loaned his private summer cottage on Mount McGregor to ex-president Ulysses S. Grant.[5] Grant lived there for six weeks until his death and completed his memoirs. The cottage is now the Grant Cottage State Historic Site.

He was buried in The Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[6]


John Quincy Adams Ward's 1889 bust of Drexel is located on the third-floor vestibule of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mrs. J.W. Drexel Dead. Former Social Leader of Philadelphia and Mother of Mrs. Harry Lehr.". New York Times. 26 January 1912. 
  2. ^ "American Museum of Natural History," (episode in) Treasures of New York (PBS television series).
  3. ^ Theodore Gundlach. Concordia Polka. Philadelphia: R. Wittig, [no date].
  4. ^ "History of Mount McGregor". DOCS Today. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Strength for General Grant". The New York Times. June 12, 1885. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Joseph W. Drexel Funeral". New York Times. 29 March 1888. The funeral of Joseph W. Drexel occurred yesterday from the Church of the Transfiguration, (the Little Church Around the Corner) in Twenty-ninth-street, near Fifth-avenue... 

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