Paul Drennan Cravath

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Paul Drennan Cravath
Paul Drennan Cravath.png
Paul Drennan Cravath
Born(1861-07-14)July 14, 1861
DiedJuly 1, 1940(1940-07-01) (aged 78)
NationalityUnited States
EducationOberlin College
Columbia Law School
Known forThe Cravath System
Height6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight240 lb (109 kg)
Spouse(s)Agnes Huntington (1892–1940)
ChildrenVera Agnes Huntington Cravath

Paul Drennan Cravath (July 14, 1861 – July 1, 1940) was a prominent Manhattan lawyer and a partner of the law firm today known as Cravath, Swaine & Moore.[1]


Paul graduated from Columbia Law School in 1886 and was awarded first Municipal Law prize. An early client was George Westinghouse,[2] who was being sued by the Edison Illuminating Company for infringing on Thomas Edison's incandescent lamp patent.[3]

He joined the law firm of Blatchford, Seward & Griswold in 1899. His book of business included: Bethlehem Steel, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Kuhn, Loeb & Co., Chemical Bank, E. R. Squibb & Sons, Columbia Gas & Electric, Studebaker Corp.[4] His name was added to the firm's moniker in 1901.[5] Cravath was the authoritative head of the firm from 1906 until his death in 1940, and his formal statement of his conceptions of proper management of a law office still controls its operations.[6] Even today, that law firm structure is widely called "the Cravath System."

Foreign policy[edit]

Cravath was highly influential in foreign policy as a leader of the "Atlanticist" movement, comprising influential upper-class lawyers, bankers, academics, and politicians of the Northeast, committed to a strand of Anglophile internationalism. For Cravath, the First World War served as an epiphany, building a deep concern with foreign policy that dominated his remaining career. Fiercely Anglophile, he demanded American intervention in the war against Germany. His goal was to build close Anglo-American cooperation that would be the guiding principle of postwar international organization.[7]

He was one of the founding officers of the Council on Foreign Relations in 1921. The founding President of the CFR was John W. Davis, a name partner of the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, while Cravath served as the inaugural Vice-President. Cravath became chairman of the Metropolitan Opera in 1931. He died in 1940.[4]

Fisk University[edit]

Cravath spent most of his childhood in Nashville, Tennessee, where his father Erastus Milo Cravath was a co-founder and the first President of Fisk University from 1875 to 1900. Cravath served as a member and Chairman of the Fisk Board of Trustees for over thirty years and until his death in 1940.


Paul Drennan Cravath with daughter Vera circa 1913

He had a daughter: Vera Agnes Huntington Cravath (1895–1985). She was born on August 28, 1895.[8] Vera Cravath married at least twice: to Lt. James S. Larkin, about 1917, and to William Francis Gibbs in 1927. She died in Rockport, Massachusetts in July 1985.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

A fictionalized Cravath (name unchanged) is the protagonist in Graham Moore's 2016 historical novel, The Last Days of Night. The novel received generally positive reviews.[9][10]

The cinematic adaptation of The Last Days of Night is in development, starring Eddie Redmayne as Cravath.[11][12]


  1. ^ Richard E. Mendales (July 1, 2001). "Paul Drennan Cravath". American National Biography. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  2. ^ Blair, Rebecca (15 August 2016). "Cravath Lawyer Spotlighted in Book, Movie with Eddie Redmayne". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  3. ^ Dewey, Katrina (August 29, 2016). "Consider The Lawyer: How A Young Paul Cravath Took On Edison". Lawdragon. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Died". Time magazine. July 8, 1940. Retrieved 2008-12-08. Paul Drennan Cravath, 78, massive, magisterial corporation lawyer, head of one of the nation's greatest law firms, Cravath, de Gersdorif, Swaine & Wood; of a heart attack; in Locust Valley, L. I.
  5. ^ "Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-08-28.
  6. ^ Robert Taylor Swaine, The Cravath Firm and Its Predecessors (New York: Ad Press, 1946-48) Archived 2008-05-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Priscilla Roberts, "Paul D. Cravath, the First World War, and the Anglophile Internationalist Tradition." Australian Journal of Politics and History 2005 51(2): 194-215. ISSN 0004-9522 Fulltext in Ebsco
  8. ^ a b "Vera Cravath Gibbs, 89, Dies; Was Active in Opera Groups". New York Times. July 30, 1985. Retrieved 2009-11-30. Vera Cravath Gibbs, a former member of the board of the Metropolitan Opera Association and widow of William Francis Gibbs, the naval architect, died Saturday at her home in Rockport, Mass., following a heart attack. She was 89 years old.
  9. ^ Hawley, Noah, "Fighting for the Light", New York Times (September 4, 2016), p. BR7
  10. ^ Anderson, Patrick, "The Last Days of Night: The flaws of Thomas Edison, both real and imagined", The Washington Post (August 22, 2016)
  11. ^ Nolfi, Joey (25 July 2016). "Last Days of Night: Eddie Redmayne to star in big screen adaptation of Graham Moore novel". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  12. ^ "The Last Days of Night - IMDb". IMDB. Retrieved 9 October 2018.

External links[edit]