Perhaps you have some connection to a historically famous object or event. So it is with me. I discovered a slight tie-in between me, the R.M.S. Titanic, and the Widener family. Nothing really significant—but fun, just the same.
You see, my great, great-grandfather—my mother’s mother’s mother’s father—was Wilson Fitzgerald of Camden, New Jersey, a “self-made” man. His son was John Lawrence Fitzgerald, whose wife was Adele Annie Kite.
I’m Getting Warm
We’re getting warm. Adele was the daughter of Thomas Mason Kite—a railroad conductor, and his wife—Emma Jane Widener. Notice, the image associated with this article is of Emma, as identified for us by her daughter, Adele. Later, Emma, family informed me, became enamored of money, and so left her husband to marry the well-propertied Samuel Champion Cooper.
Emma Jane Widener is not very well known. She was born November 15, 1837, to John and Sarah Fulmer Widener, and was sister to the much more famous, Peter Arrell Brown Widener (PAB Widener), three years her senior, almost to the day.
Peter became wealthy through government contract, selling meat to Union soldiers during the Civil War. He thereafter invested his earnings in metropolitan trolley cars and public transit. The National Gallery of Art says, “He collected in the princely tradition; antique furniture, tapestries, and decorative arts created a palatial setting for his Old Master paintings and sculpture.”¹
The Titanic? I’m Getting Hot
Most interestingly, Peter had some fiscal pull in connection with the White Star Line, the owners of the Titanic. Peter would marry Hannah Josephine Dunton, and later father a son, George Dunton Widener Sr. Had Peter not gained such prominence and the particular connections that came with it, the Widener name would not be such a household word, today.
George was the husband of Eleanor Elkins—the name Elkins, itself, being by no means unknown. George, Eleanor, and son Harry Elkins Widener, were to sail R.M.S. Titanic. George and Harry would “go down with the ship.” Eleanor, of course, was put aboard a lifeboat. In her grief, desiring to memorialize her husband and son, she donated funds to create Widener Library at Harvard University, in memoriam.
And that is my tale of the Wideners, R.M.S. Titanic, and me. I enjoy having the connection, but am ever so glad it is distant, indeed.