Joseph William Drexel

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Joseph William Drexel
Joseph W. Drexel - bust by John Quincy Adams Ward.jpg
Bust of Drexel by sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward, 1889
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
Spouse(s) Lucy Wharton
Children 4, including Elizabeth and Lucy
Parent(s) Francis Martin Drexel
Catherine Hookey

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

Early life[edit]

He was the son of Francis Martin Drexel (1792–1863) and Catherine Hookey (1795–1870). His siblings were Anthony Joseph Drexel (1826–1893) and Francis Anthony Drexel (1824–1885). Through his brother Francis, he was the uncle of Saint Katharine Drexel (1858–1955).[1]

Drexel attended the Central High School in Philadelphia, and traveled through Spain, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and Greece.[1]


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.[1]

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.

Society life[edit]

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.[1]

In 1887, he donated a painting made by Edward Gay, that cost $2,000, to the State of New York to be placed in the Executive Mansion, which Governor David B. Hill was about to move into.[3]


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.[4] 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 composed by Theodore Gundlach was dedicated to Drexel.[5]

Mount McGregor[edit]

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.[6] In 1885, Drexel loaned his private summer cottage on Mount McGregor to ex-president Ulysses S. Grant.[7] Grant lived there for six weeks until his death and completed his memoirs. The cottage is now the Grant Cottage State Historic Site.

Personal life[edit]

He married Lucy Wharton (1841–1912), the daughter of Thomas Lloyd Wharton (1799–1869) and Sarah Ann Smith (b. 1800). Together, they had four children:[8][9]

Drexel died at his home, 103 Madison Avenue in New York City, on March 25, 1888.[1] He had been suffering from Bright's Disease for a year and a half before then.[1] He was buried in The Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[30][4]


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]


  2. ^ "American Museum of Natural History," (episode in) Treasures of New York (PBS television series).
  3. ^ "THE NEW EXECUTIVE MANSION.; JOSEPH W. DREXEL SHOWS HOW ITS WALL SPACES SHOULD BE FILLED". The New York Times. 5 June 1887. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "JOSEPH W. DREXEL'S WILL.; ONLY ONE PUBLIC BEQUEST, TO THE LENOX LIBRARY, CONDITIONALLY". The New York Times. 1 April 1888. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  5. ^ Theodore Gundlach. Concordia Polka. Philadelphia: R. Wittig, [no date].
  6. ^ "History of Mount McGregor". DOCS Today. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Strength for General Grant" (PDF). The New York Times. June 12, 1885. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Mrs. J.W. Drexel Dead. Former Social Leader of Philadelphia and Mother of Mrs. Harry Lehr.". New York Times. 26 January 1912. 
  9. ^ a b c d Jordan, John W. (2004). Colonial And Revolutionary Families Of Pennsylvania. Genealogical Publishing Company. p. 536. ISBN 9780806352398. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  10. ^ "DR. C.B. PENROSE DIES ON A TRAIN; Philadelpia Gynecotogist and Zoologist Was a Brother of Late Senator." The New York Times. 28 February 1925. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  11. ^ "LEFT $100,000 TO NURSE.; Dr. Penrose Bequeathed Bulk of $1,000,000 Estate to His Family". The New York Times. 6 March 1925. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  12. ^ "YESTERDAY'S WEDDINGS.; PENROSE--DREXEL". The New York Times. 18 November 1892. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  13. ^ Times, Special To The New York (15 June 1944). "7 GET DREXEL $1,180,867; Children of Mrs. L.D. Dahlgren". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  14. ^ "SOCIETY TOPICS OF THE WEEK". The New York Times. 19 October 1890. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  15. ^ Oct. 15, From The Washington Post (16 October 1890). "ENGAGEMENT OF MISS DAHLGREN". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  16. ^ "Special To The New York Times". The New York Times. 24 March 1912. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  17. ^ a b Times, Special To The New York (16 May 1915). "MRS. J.W. DREXEL WEDS SETON HENRY; Divorced Wife of Dr. J. Duncan Emmet Marries Son of Late General Guy V. Henry. CEREMONY AT CORNWELLS Bride the Daughter of Late J.W. Drexel -- Her Family and Bridegroom's Related by Marriage." The New York Times. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  18. ^ "SEEKS TO DIVORCE AN ADMIRAL'S SON; Mrs. Lucy Drexel Dahlgren Was Married to Him 22 Years Ago by Archbishop Corrigan". The New York Times. 24 March 1912. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  19. ^ "Lady Decies, Widow of Irish Peer, Dies; Former Elizabeth Drexel of Philadelphia Was Once the Wife of Harry Lehr". New York Times. June 14, 1944. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  20. ^ "JOHN VINTON DAHLGREN DEAD.; Son of the Admiral Passes Away at Colorado Springs". The New York Times. 12 August 1899. Retrieved 23 February 2017. 
  21. ^ "Record of the Rich". Time. August 5, 1935. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  22. ^ "Decies to Marry Mrs. Harry Lehr; Widow of New York Leader of Society to Become Bride of Irish Peer on May 23. Announcement in Paris. Bride-Elect Member of Drexel Family. Wrote Book, 'King Lehr and Gilded Age.'". New York Times. May 12, 1936. Mrs. Henry Symes Lehr, widow of Harry Lehr, society leader in New York early in the century, will be married here on May 23 to John Graham Beresford, Lord Decies, Irish peer, according to an announcement made today. 
  23. ^ Hoyt, James (1903). Seen & Heard by Megargee. L.N. Megargee. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  24. ^ Barringer, Paul Brandon; Garnett, James Mercer; Page, Rosewell (1904). University of Virginia: Its History, Influence, Equipment and Characteristics, with Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Founders, Benefactors, Officers and Alumni. Lewis Publishing Company. p. 204. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  25. ^ "EMMET-DREXEL WEDDING; Impressive and Picturesque Ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Trumpeters Herald Arrival of Bride and Starting of Procession in Church -- Reception to the Guests". The New York Times. 10 February 1904. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  26. ^ "SETON HENRY DEAD; REAL ESTATE MAN; Son of Maj. Gen. Guy V. Henry, Ex-Governor of Puerto Rico, Retired 20 Years Ago". The New York Times. 13 October 1946. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  27. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths PARKER, JOSEPHINE HENRY". The New York Times. 15 November 2002. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  28. ^ "Delafield Family Papers (C0391) -- Series 3: Maturin Livingston Delafield, 1836-1917 -- Subseries 3B: Correspondence -- Family and General -- Henry, Josephine Drexel". Princeton University. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  29. ^ Duess, Marie Murphy (November 19, 2007). Colonial Inns and Taverns of Bucks County. Arcadia Publishing. p. 89. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  30. ^ "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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