Thomas W. Lawson (businessman)

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Thomas W. Lawson
Thomas W. Lawson.jpg
BornThomas William Lawson
(1857-02-26)February 26, 1857
Charlestown, Massachusetts
DiedMarch 8, 1925(1925-03-08) (aged 68)
Boston, Massachusetts
Jeannie Augusta Goodwillie
(m. 1878; his death 1925)
Parent(s)Thomas Lawson
Anna Maria Loring
RelativesThomas L. McCall (grandson)

Thomas William Lawson (February 26, 1857 – February 8, 1925) was an American businessman and author. A highly controversial Boston stock promoter, he is known for both his efforts to promote reforms in the stock markets and the fortune he amassed for himself through highly dubious stock manipulations.[1]

Early life[edit]

Boston financier Thomas Lawson's residence in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, when he was promoting the town as the next great steel-making center, to rival Pittsburgh and Birmingham.

Thomas William Lawson was born February 26, 1857 at Charlestown, Massachusetts. He was the son of Thomas and Anna Maria (née Loring) Lawson.[2] Lawson's father, a carpenter, died when he was eight years old.[2]


At 12 years old,[2] Lawson ran away from home to become a clerk in a Boston bank, and soon began speculating in stocks. He was a principal mover in the promotion of companies trying to establish the small town of Grand Rivers, Kentucky as a major steel-producing city. Lawson specialized in shares of copper-mining companies, which were then a staple of the Boston stock market, and became a multimillionaire during the copper boom of the late 1890s. He built the lavish estate called Dreamworld[3] in Scituate, Massachusetts at a cost of $6,000,000.[2]

In 1899, he joined Henry H. Rogers and William Rockefeller in forming Amalgamated Copper Mining Company, a company that combined several copper mining companies, mostly in Butte, Montana, and which tried to dominate the copper market. Amalgamated Copper was the subject of much criticism then and for years afterward. Amalgamated later became Anaconda Copper Mining Company in 1915. However, Lawson later broke with the financial backers of Amalgamated, and became an advocate for financial reform.[4]

Lawson was an independent candidate for the United States Senate in 1918. He finished a distant third with 5.26% of the vote.[5]

Lawson authored several books, the most famous of which was Frenzied Finance: the Crime of Amalgamated, his controversial account of the formation of the Amalgamated Copper Company.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Lawson married Jeannie Augusta Goodwillie (1857–1906) in 1878, and the couple had six children, including:[7]

  • Gladys Lawson, who married Eben Blaine Stanwood in 1905.[8]
  • Dorothy Lawson McCall (1888–1982), who married Henry McCall (1886–1947), the son of Massachusetts governor and congressman Samuel W. McCall.[9]
  • Arnold Lawson,[10] who married Lucie Mitchell Seeley, the divorced wife of Herbert Barnum Seeley, grandson of P.T. Barnum.[11] Arnold and Lucie divorced in 1921.[12]
  • Marian Lawson, who married James F. Lord, son of Edgar A. Lord, in 1909.[13]
  • Douglas Lawson[14]
  • Jean Lawson, who married Burgess Allison Edwards (d. 1922) in 1919. After his death, she married Karl Wickerhauser in 1939.[15]

Though once a very wealthy man, Lawson died in poverty in February 1925.[16] He was buried beside his wife.[14]

His grandson Thomas Lawson McCall (1913–1983), the son of his daughter Dorothy, served as governor of Oregon.[9]

Legacy and honors[edit]

The Lawson Tower, Scituate, Massachusetts. The tower was part of Lawson's Dreamworld estate.

The Thomas W. Lawson, the only seven-masted schooner ever built, was named after him.[17] As an odd coincidence, Lawson, who was intensely superstitious, wrote the novel Friday the Thirteenth in which a broker picks that day on which to bring down Wall Street; the Thomas W. Lawson, in which he had invested heavily, was wrecked off the Isles of Scilly at 2:30 am GMT on Saturday 14 December 1907, but to Lawson, at home in Boston, it was at that time still Friday the 13th.

Lawson is believed to have been the inspiration for the protagonist of David Graham Phillips' 1905 novel The Deluge.

He is generally credited in the U.S. with the Lawson sofa, made for him at the turn of the 20th century. It was a square, overstuffed sofa on a generous scale with loose seat cushions and pillows.[18]

The Scituate, Massachusetts Historical Society proclaimed 2007 the "Year of Thomas W. Lawson" in commemoration of the sesquicentennial of Lawson's birth.

The Lawson Tower, originally part of his private Dreamworld estate, still stands. The structure is a water tower with a shingled outer shell and observatory which offers views of the area from an observation deck.[6]


  • The Krank: His Language and What it Means (1888) a glossary of baseball expressions
  • History of the Republican Party
  • The Lawson History of the America's Cup (1902), with Winfield M. Thompson[19]
  • Frenzied Finance, the Crime of Amalgamated (1906)[20]
  • Friday the Thirteenth (1907)
  • The Remedy (1912)
  • The High Cost of Living (1913)
  • The Leak (1919)


  1. ^ Carol Miles and John J. Galluzzo, Beauty, Strength, Speed: Celebrating 100 Years of Thomas W. Lawson’s Dreamworld (Virginia Beach, VA: Donning Co. Publishers, 2002)
  2. ^ a b c d "Thomas W. Lawson". Millicent Library | Dictionary of American Biography. 1933. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  3. ^ Dreamworld Archived February 17, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "I NEVER SPECULATE LAWSON TO THE TIMES; Considers Values Alone -- Amalgamated Fight for the Public. HE'S LOSING MILLIONS BY IT Courts Investigation of His Methods -- Wouldn't Spread False Impressions or Hurt Any One". The New York Times. 1905. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  5. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Massachusetts (1918). Number of assessed polls, registered voters and persons who voted in each voting precinct in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the state, city and town elections.
  6. ^ a b MacTaggart, Ross (2004). Millionaires, Mansions, and Motor Yachts: An Era of Opulence. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 52–72. ISBN 9780393057621. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  7. ^ MacTaggart, Ross (2004). Millionaires, Mansions and Motor Yachts: An Era of Opulence. New York: W.W. Norton.
  8. ^ "MISS LAWSON A BRIDE.; Is Married to E.B. Stamwood -- The Barn Dance Programme". The New York Times. 12 October 1905. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Governor Tom McCall: Biographical Note". Oregon State Archives. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
  10. ^ "LAWSON'S SON IN AUTO CRASH.; Thrown in Collision Into Bushes, Which Break His Fall". The New York Times. 11 August 1908. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  11. ^ "ARNOLD LAWSON ENGAGED.; Eldest Son of Thomas W. to Marry the Former Mrs. Herbert Seeley". The New York Times. 17 December 1905. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  12. ^ "MRS. LAWSON GETS DIVORCE; Boston Court Frees Daughter-inLaw of Thomas W. Lawson". The New York Times. 10 March 1921. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  13. ^ The Lumber World. Lumber World Publishing Company. 1909. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  14. ^ a b "LAWSON RITES HELD IN COTTAGE 'THE NEST'; The Famous Dreamwold Chimes Played -- Financier Rests Beside Wife in Tomb on Grounds". The New York Times. 11 February 1925. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  15. ^ "MRS. J.C. EDWARDS IS WED IN BOSTON; She Is Married in Brother's Home to Karl Wickerhauser". The New York Times. May 11, 1939. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  16. ^ "T. W. LAWSON DIES AFTER AN OPERATION; Succumbs to Diabetes in Massachusetts General Hospital at Boston". The New York Times. 8 February 1925. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  17. ^ "A SEVEN-MASTED SCHOONER.; The First Vessel of the Kind Ever Constructed Launched at East Wey- mouth, Mass". The New York Times. 11 July 1902. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  18. ^ For example, Harrington Galleries: "The original Lawson sofa was created for Thomas W. Lawson (1857-1925), a Boston financier."
  19. ^ Lawson, Thomas W; Thompson, Winfield M (1902). The Lawson History of the America's Cup. Boston: Winfield M. Thompson. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  20. ^ Lawson, Thomas W (1906). Frenzied Finance, the Crime of Amalgamated. New York: Ridgway–Thayer Company. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  • Dan Plazak A Hole in the Ground with a Liar at the Top (Salt Lake: Univ. of Utah Press, 2006) ISBN 978-0-87480-840-7 (includes a chapter on the life of Thomas W. Lawson)
  • David A. Zimmerman, Panic! Markets, Crises, and Crowds in American Fiction (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2006) ISBN 978-0-8078-5687-1 (includes a chapter on Lawson's panic campaign and fiction writing)

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