William Lukens Elkins

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William Lukens Elkins
William Lukens Elkins.jpg
William Lukens Elkins, 1899
Born (1832-05-02)May 2, 1832
Wheeling, West Virginia
Died November 7, 1903(1903-11-07) (aged 71)
Elkins Estate, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
Resting place Laurel Hill Cemetery
Residence Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
Occupation Businessman, investor, art collector
Board member of
Spouse(s) Maria Louise Broomall
Children George W. Elkins, Ida Amelia Elkins, Eleanor Elkins, William Lukens Elkins Jr.
Parent(s) George Elkins, Susanne Howell Elkins

William Lukens Elkins (May 2, 1832 – November 7, 1903) was an American businessman, inventor, and art collector.[1]

Early life[edit]

William Elkins was born in Wheeling, West Virginia on May 2, 1832. His father, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was George Elkins, and his mother was Susanne (née Howell) Elkins.[2]


He started his working life at a grocery store in Philadelphia where his family had returned to live. He next worked for a produce company and eventually formed a partnership with Peter Saybolt to operate their own produce business. By 1860, Elkins had bought out his partner and had built their produce operation into the largest store of its kind in the United States.[1]

Always looking for business opportunities, William Elkins soon recognized the potential for the usages of oil being pumped from the developing oilfields of Northwestern Pennsylvania and became a pioneer in the refining of crude oil. In Philadelphia he founded Monument Oil Works that built a primitive oil refinery which he constantly modernized and soon expanded into other locations. His company was the first to make gasoline and was involved in the production of asphalt. In 1875, the increasingly wealthy Elkins entered into a partnership with Standard Oil, becoming a significant shareholder in that oil giant.[1]

In 1873, William Elkins first met Peter Widener and the two became trusted friends who would partner in street car and railway businesses that would expand to major cities across the United States and make them both enormously wealthy.[3] A member of the Board of Directors of numerous enterprises in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, among his investments William Elkins held sizeable share positions in American Tobacco Company and International Mercantile Marine Co.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In 1858, William Elkins married Maria Louise Broomall with whom he had two daughters and two sons:[4]

  • Ida Ameila Elkins (1859–1904), who married Sidney Frederick Tyler (1850–1935), bearing no children.
  • Eleanor Elkins (1861–1937), who married George Dunton Widener, with whom she had three children, and lost her husband and elder son, Harry, in the April 15, 1912 sinking of RMS Titanic.[1]
  • George W. Elkins (1858–1919), who married Stella McIntire (1861–1913) and had four children. After her death, he married Allethaire Chase Ludlow (1880–1977).
  • William L. Elkins, Jr. (1863–1902), who married Kate Felton, a daughter of Col. C. W. Felton of California.

William Elkins died at his summer home, at age seventy-one on November 7, 1903 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Among his philanthropic gifts, William Elkins left $240,000 to the Masonic Home for Girls in Philadelphia. He bequeathed his art collection to the city to be given following the death of his last heir.[5]


Through his son George, he was the grandfather of four grandchildren. They included Stella Elkins (1884–1963), who married George F. Tyler and founded the Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art. Another granddaughter, Louise Elkins (1890–1977), married Wharton Sinkler. A grandson, William McIntire Elkins (1882–1947), was a book collector whose collection of early Americana is held at the Free Library of Philadelphia.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e "William L. Elkins Dead." New York Times. November 8, 1903.
  2. ^ Wiegle, A. Descendants of William Elkins: Generation No. 1, page 2. ©1998, 1999[better source needed]
  3. ^ New York Times - May 6, 1899 article titled "Chicago Roads Change Hands"
  4. ^ Wiegle, A. Descendants of William Elkins: Generation No. 1, page 1. ©1998, 1999[better source needed]
  5. ^ New York Times - November 15, 1903 article titled "Will of William L. Elkins"
  6. ^ Shaffer, Ellen, and Howell J. Heaney. Portrait of a Philadelphia Collector: William Mcintire Elkins (1882-1947). Philadelphia: Free Library of Philadelphia, 1956.

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