Paul Drennan Cravath

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Paul Drennan Cravath
Paul Drennan Cravath.png
Paul Drennan Cravath
Born (1861-07-14)July 14, 1861
Berlin Heights, Ohio
Died July 1, 1940(1940-07-01) (aged 78)
Locust Valley, New York
Nationality United States
Education Oberlin College
Columbia Law School
Occupation Lawyer
Known for The Cravath System
Height 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight 240 lb (109 kg)
Spouse(s) Agnes Huntington (1892–1940)
Children Vera 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]


The earliest known male ancestor of Paul Cravath was a weaver in Germany named Kravet who in 1635 married a French Huguenot named La Bodouine. The family subsequently moved to Wales where the name "Kravet" was changed to "Cravath". The weaver's son, Ezekiel, emigrated to Massachusetts in the middle of the 17th century. The word Kravet is of Sorb, Czech or Polish origin - meaning "tailor" (from "kroit" to cut).[2][3]

Paul graduated from Columbia Law School in 1886 and was awarded first Municipal Law prize. An early client was George Westinghouse, who was being sued by the Edison Illuminating Company for infringing on Thomas Edison's incandescent lamp patent.[4][5][unreliable source?]

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.[6] His name was added to the firm's moniker in 1901.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[6]

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.[10] 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.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

A lightly fictionalized Cravath (name unchanged) is the protagonist in Graham Moore's 2016 historical novel, The Last Days of Night. The major events in the novel are roughly in accord with those in the real Cravath's life. The novel received generally positive reviews.[11][12]


  1. ^ Richard E. Mendales (July 1, 2001). "Paul Drennan Cravath". American National Biography. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  2. ^ Swaine, Robert T., The Cravath Firm and its Predecessors, 1819-1947
  3. ^ "Kravet Surname, Family Crest & Coats of Arms". 
  4. ^ Dewey, Katrina (August 29, 2016). "Consider The Lawyer: How A Young Paul Cravath Took On Edison". Lawdragon. Retrieved July 24, 2017. 
  5. ^ Moore, Graham (Aug 16, 2016). The Last Days of Night. Penguin Random House. ISBN 9780812988901. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP" (PDF). 
  8. ^ Robert Taylor Swaine, The Cravath Firm and Its Predecessors (New York: Ad Press, 1946-48)
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ Hawley, Noah, "Fighting for the Light", New York Times (September 4, 2016), p. BR7
  12. ^ Anderson, Patrick, "The Last Days of Night: The flaws of Thomas Edison, both real and imagined", The Washington Post (August 22, 2016)

External links[edit]