March 14, 1859 – August 9, 1933
Even though they are less well known than the Carnegies, Fricks and Mellons, the Thaws were among the most prominent of the members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club.
Benjamin Thaw was the son of William and Mary C. Thaw of Allegheny, PA. William Thaw’s father John Thaw came to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia in order to establish a branch of the United States Bank of Philadelphia. John Thaw was associated with that institution for the remainder of his life. The Thaws were major stockholders in that enterprise.
Their son, transportation and banking genius William Thaw was born in Pittsburgh on October 12, 1818 and died in Paris the same year as the Johnstown Flood, on August 17, 1889. He began his business career as a clerk in his father’s bank. Thereafter he worked for McKee, Clark and Co.
In 1841, William Thaw married Eliza Burd Blair (she died in 1863). In 1842, he and his brother-in-law established themselves in as transporters and owners of steam canal boats. Competition was rife but Clarke and Thaw controlled the Pennsylvania and Ohio line. Their business grew to include canal, portage railroad and steamboat lines. As canal changed to rail transportation, William Thaw engaged in the new technology while divesting himself of the canal business. He was a founder of the Pennsylvania Company, which managed the interests of the Pennsylvania railroad west of the mountains, and was therefore an advisor to and the constant when the transitions occurred by successive Pennsylvania railroad presidents, Thompson, Scott and Roberts. While he concentrated mainly on the financial aspects of the railroad after 1873, William Thaw also helped to establish the first international steamship line, the Red Star Line, to which was later added the American line. He underwrote Prof. Langley’s expiation to Mt Whitney and the building of the Allegheny Observatory for John Brashear. The telescope that his son provided in his memory is considered to be one of the ten best in the world...
NUMBER 7 — 30-inch William Thaw Telescope by John Brashear, Allegheny Observatory, Pittsburgh PA; 1914. Number 7 is the youngest in this list, the 30-inch by Brashear at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh. Railroad tycoon William Thaw was friendly with observatory director Samuel Pierpoint Langley, and had donated generously to the Observatory. The 30-inch was the gift of his son in his memory in 1914. It is a photo-refractor of 46-feet focal length and was used for one of the most extensive studies of stellar parallax.
William Thaw was a Presbyterian and his church, Third Presbyterian, was a frequent beneficiary of his support.
William Thaw was the majority stockholder in the Pennsylvania and served on its board of directors. (Many of the S F F & H C members had ties to the Pennsylvania Railroad). Thaw had similiar investment in other railroads, as well. Thaw was known not so much for his fortune as for the admirable ways in which he had spent it, endowing science fellowships at Harvard and Princeton and bestowing lavish gifts on art and education.
William Thaw's efforts extended well beyond Western Pennsylvania. When the East St. Louis and Interurban Water Co. turns on city's first water mains, it was courtesy of William Thaw. The company was run by Thaw (who had been encouraged to come to East St. Louis by John Bowman) who later also ran the city's first gas company. About one hundred families availed themselves of this service when it was first offered.
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Benjamin Thaw, the son of William and Eliza Thaw, was born on March 14, 1859. Following the death of Eliza Burd Blair Thaw (1863), William married Mary Sibbet Copley, the daughter of Josiah Copley (who was one of the founders of Kittanning and at one time the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch).
Benjamin had the following siblings:
Children of Wiliam and Eliza Thaw:
- William Thaw, Jr. (1853-1892) married Elizabeth "Lizzie" Dohrmann (1854-1948), their son was Wililam Thaw III.
- Mary Thaw (?) married William Reed Thompson in 1879; they had five children. Their daughter Helen Thaw Thompson married John Crossan Dilworth.
- Blair Thaw (1861-) married a Miss Dawes from Boston.
Children of William and Mary Thaw:
- Harry Kendall Thaw (February 12, 1871 - February 22, 1947) - married Evelyn Nesbit, murdered Stanford White (about which, more, below)...
- Edward "Eddie" Thaw (January 1, 1873-May 17, 1924) - In an infamous case of 1887, his aunt Mrs. Bunnell was charged with poisoning her nephew, Eddie Thaw. George Elphinstone City Attorney of Allegheny, appeared in this case as prosecuting attorney. Eddie survived, and married Freida Lawrence Marsh in April of 1896.
- Josiah Copley Thaw (June 13, 1874 - ) As noted below I have made this correction on the wife of Josiah Copley Thaw: Her name was Mary Harrington Thomson, born 18 Jun 1880 in Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan, daughter of John Webster Thomson and Ida Harrington. Mary met Josiah Copley Thaw when visiting the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Rice in St. Clair, Michigan, and they were married in Grace Episcopal Church, Port Huron, 18 Nov 1903. Mary died in New York City 23 Feb 1947 and is buried in Southampton, New York. J.C. Thaw surrounded himself with exquisite accoutrements in a massive European-style seaside mansion built in Southampton, Long Island in 1911. Josiah Thaw and H C Frick were the chief benefators of the new building for Third Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, which stands at Wilkins and Fifth Avenues (The building it replaced stood where the William Penn Hotel now stands--Frick bought the old church so he could build the hotel there.)
- Margaret Copley Thaw (January 9, 1877 - January 9, 1942) married George Lauder Carnegie (1876-1921), the son of Andrew Carnegie's brother Thomas Morrison Carnegie (1844-1886) and his wife Lucy Ackerman Coleman (1847-1916), therefore Andew Carnegie's nephew. Their island is now Cumberland Island National Seashore. Settled by this branch of the renowned Carnegie family in 1881, Cumberland Island became a national park in 1972. Along with the wild horses and the ruins of Lucy Carnegie's home Dungeness, Cumberland Island is the home of Plum Orchard – a 1898 Georgian Revival mansion built by Lucy Carnegie for her son, George and his wife, Margaret Thaw. This mansion was donated to the National Park Foundation by the Carnegie family in 1971. SFF&HC member Cyrus Elder's son George Reuben Elder and family were their friends and frequent visitors. George Carnegie's mother gave each of her children a piece of the island and the money to build any type of home they chose if they agreed to live there and raise their children. Of course, living there meant staying there for about 6 months of the year before retiring to their other residences in the Northeast. She retained possession the parcels of land and the homes; controlling them even after her death by not allowing any property to be sold until the youngest of her children passed away... Margaret and her sister Alice were their mother's supporters in the courtroom during the trial of their brother Harry K Thaw. Margaret married (2) Count Roger Perigny on Nov. 1923 in Paris, France. They divided their time between Paris and their farm in Kenya. Margaret Copley Thaw Carnegie died in Kenya at "Kongoni Farm", on her 65th birthday.
Here are George Carnegie and his siblings, who themselves made interesting marriages...
William Coleman Carnegie - b: 24 APR 1867
Frank Morrison Carnegie - b: 12 SEP 1868
Andrew Carnegie II - b: 1 JUN 1870 in Pittsburgh, PA [his granddaughter Nancy Campbell Sherlock Carnegie married James Stillman Rockefeller great-nephew of John D. Rockefeller]
Margaret Carnegie - b: 1872 [The hotel on Cumberland Island, GA known as Greyfield Inn was built in 1901 as a wedding present from Lucy Coleman Carnegie to her daughter Margaret who married Oliver Ricketson.]
Thomas Morrison Carnegie Jr - b: 6 JAN 1874
George Lauder Carnegie - b: 1876
Florence Nightengale Carnegie - b: 1879
Coleman Carnegie - b: 24 JUL 1880
Nancy Trovillo Carnegie - b: 1881
- Alice Thaw (January 2, 1880 - ? March 1969) - Baptized 11 DEC 1881 at 3rd Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania Alice Cornelia (Thaw) Seymour Whitney; in a much talked of international match, she became the Countess of Yarmouth. She married George Francis Alexander Seymour (20 October 1871, d. 16 February 1940), the son of Hugh de Grey Seymour, 6th Marquess of Hertford and Hon. Mary Hood, on 27 April 1903 in Pittsburgh. It is said that the earl extorted money from her at her wedding and promptly deserted her. Her marriage to George Francis Alexander Seymour was annulled in 1908. He was styled Lord Hertford; he died in 1940, aged 68 and childless, and his titles passed to his nephew. Later (before 1914), Alice Thaw became Mrs. Geoffrey G. Whitney (Geoffrey Gordon Whitney was born July 21, 1882 in Boston). Their estate was at Woods Hole.
By 1880, William and Mary Thaw’s Allegheny household was both a large and lavish one, they kept at least nine household servants including two nursemaids, a cook, a housekeeper, a waiter and a coachman. Thereafter they removed to an estate called "Lyndhurst" on Beechwood Boulevard.
Benjamin Thaw attended the Western University (now Pitt) (A.B. I878), and Yale. Not surprisingly, Benjamin Thaw started his business career as a clerk with the Pennsylvania railroad. Thereafter he entered into the coke business, in partnership with his elder brother and the Darsie brothers, organizing the Heda Coke Company. This firm was merged with SFF&HC member Henry Clay Frick’s Frick Coke Company in 1905; thereafter Benjamin Thaw withdrew from active participation in the coke company and concentrated his attention on managing the William Thaw estate, as well as engaging in philanthropic activities.
On January 28, 1886, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Benjamin Thaw married Elma Ellsworth Dows (October 13, 1861 - November 13, 1931). Elma was the daughter of Stephen Leland and Henrietta (Safely) Dows; her sister was Elizabeth Holroyd Dows who became Mrs. Thompson McClintock of Pittsburgh.
Their children were:
- The Rev. Stephen Dows Thaw (April 12, 1887 - ) a graduate of Shady Side Academy and Yale (Class of '07). His wife's first name was Elise; Alexander Blair Thaw III (see below) was their son.
- Benjamin Thaw (Dec. 11, 1888 - March 5, 1937) Known as Benny. Secretary of the American Legation in Brussels, Belgium; later, First Secretary of the Embassy at Santiago, Chile and secretary to the US Embassy in London from 1930-1933; he married one of the three glamorous Morgan sisters, Consuelo Morgan. They were the daughters of Harry Hays Morgan, an American diplomat who was U.S. consul in Buenos Aires and in Brussels, and his half-Chilean, half-Irish-American wife, Laura Delphine Kilpatrick. Consuelo's twin sisters were more famous than she: Thelma Morgan (August 23, 1904 – January 29, 1970), the wife of Marmaduke, Viscount Furness (who was the mistress of and introduced Wallis Simpson to the future Edward VIII); and Gloria Morgan, the wife of Reginald Vanderbilt (mother of the jeans designer; and grandmother of news anchor Anderson Cooper). Here is their wedding notice from TIME, June 4, 1924: Married. Consuelo Morgan, divorced wife of the Comte de Maupas du Juglart, daughter of Harry Hays Morgan, American Consul General at Brussels, and sister of Mrs. Reginald C. Vanderbilt, to Benjamin Thaw, Jr., acting chargé d'affaires of the American Embassy, at Ixelles, Belgium. Theirs was a happy marriage. After Benjamin Jr's death, Consuelo would marry again, see this notice from TIME, May 11, 1942, Married. Consuelo Morgan Thaw, 40, sister of Mrs. Reginald Vanderbilt (mother of Gloria), of Lady Furness, of Harry Hays Morgan Jr.; and Alfons Beaumont Landa, 44, law partner of Joseph E. Davies; she for the third time, he for the second; in Beverly Hills. However, she would be buried with the Thaw family in Allegheny Cemetery (see below).
- Henrietta Thaw (Slade) (April 19, 1891 - January 1, 1942) married Lawrence Slade (August 7, 1891 - April 11, 1942). The Sunday Journal and Tribune Knoxville, Tennessee: January 3, 1915: Displayed is a photo of Miss Henrietta Thaw with title "Engaged to Wed". The text: "Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Thaw, of Pittsburg, have announced the engagement of their daughter, Miss Henrietta Thaw, to Lawrence Slade, of New York. Miss Thaw is a granddaughter of Mrs. William Thaw. Her brothers are Mr. Stephen D. Thaw, Mr. Benjamin Thaw, Jr.; Mr. William Thaw, 2nd, an aviator, who offered his services to the French government when the war in Europe started, and Mr. Alexander B. Thaw, 2nd. Mrs Benjamin Thaw was Miss Elena Dows. Mrs. Thaw and her daughter returned from Europe in September. Mr. Slade's home is in New York. He is the Paris representative of the Equitable Trust Company and is now in Paris. He is a member of an old New York family." (Note that SFF&HC member John G A Leishman's daughter Marthe married (2) James Hazen Hyde the son of the founder of Equitable).
- William Thaw, Jr. (August 10, 1893 - April 22, 1934) Called "Bill". Also a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. He wrote of his European travels which were published in the university’s “Journal”. Rose to the rank of Major in W W I and was a member of the famous Lafayette Escadrille. Abandoning his studies at Yale in 1913, Thaw obtained a pilot's certificate from the Curtiss school and became a flight instructor. When war broke out in Europe, he volunteered for the French Air Service but was rejected. Instead, on 4 September 1914, he joined the French Foreign Legion and served in the trenches. Despite poor vision, defective hearing and a bad knee, Thaw was permitted to join the French Air Service in December 1914. After serving as an observer/gunner, he received flight training and was reassigned to the Escadrille Americaine on 28 April 1916. By the time this squadron was disbanded in February 1918, Thaw had achieved two confirmed victories. While serving with the 103rd Pursuit Squadron, he scored three more victories to become an ace. The first American to be cited for gallantry and promoted by the French, Thaw may well have been the first American to participate in aerial combat during World War I. When the war ended, he returned to the United States and became an insurance agent. Married Marjorie Everts of St. Louis.
"For extraordinary heroism near Reims, France, 26 March 1918. Major Thaw was the leader of a patrol of three planes which attacked five enemy scouts and three two-seaters. He and another member of the patrol brought down one enemy plane and the three drove down out of control two others and dispersed the remainder." DSC citation.
"For extraordinary heroism in action near Montaigne, France, 20 April 1918. In the region of Montaigne, Major Thaw attacked and brought down burning an enemy balloon. While returning to his own lines the same day, he attacked two enemy scouts, one of which he shot down in flames." DSC Oak Leaf Cluster citation.
"Voluntarily enlisted for the duration of the war. Remarkable pilot by his spirit, skill and scorn for danger. Recently, he had eighteen aerial combats at close quarters. On the morning of 24 May , he attacked and downed an enemy plane. The same evening, he attacked a group of three German planes and pursued them from 4,000 meters to 1,000 meters. Severely wounded during the course of the combat, he succeeded, by the grace of his strength, skill and audacity, to return to our lines with his plane severely damaged and landed normally. Already cited twice in orders." Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur citation, 18 June 1916.
- Alexander Blair Thaw (Dec. 23, 1895 – Aug. 18, 1918) Lt. A. Blair Thaw, CO of the 135. th. Observation Squadron was killed in an air crash during World War I; Alexander Blair Thaw was an early advocate of aviation along with his brother Wm. Jr.:
LIEUTENANT THAW IS AN AVIATION VICTIM
Brother of Major Thaw Has Engine Trouble and Plane Collapses Upside Down With the American Army in France,
August 22. - (By the Associated Press) - Lieutenant Blair Thaw, of Pittsburg, a member of the American aviation service, was killed Sunday evening when his airplane fell as the result of engine trouble. Lieutenant Thaw, who was a brother of Major William Thaw and a son of Benjamin Thaw of Pittsburg, was traveling in a pursuit group near the front toward Paris. The engine trouble developed at an altitude of 2,000 feet and the machine when it fell struck a number of telephone wires and collapsed, upside down. Thaw was instantly killed and his companion aviator was badly injured. Thaw, although less well known than his brother, had just been promoted to command a flying squadron and was on his way to take over the squadron when he fell to his death. His body was taken to an evacuation hospital, where impressive funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon. The body was buried in the same plot where the remains of Major Raoul Lufbery are interred. (Altoona Tribune, Friday morning, August 23, 1918, page 9).
Their family home on Moorewood Place in the East End...
5010 Morewood Place, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The house was built in the very early first decade of the 1900's at a significant cost of $135,000 with some $15,000 alone going into just one of the carved marble fireplaces imported from Italy and dated from the year 1500. It was a three-and-one-half story building, of grey brick, erected at a time when houses were built to stay up; the exterior walls were two feet thick. There were 20 rooms and eight baths, and a six-car garage in the basement.
On the first floor was the entrance hall, two lounging rooms, dining room, butler's pantry, kitchen, a servant's sitting room and a lavatory. All of the rooms were extra large. The walls of the first floor rooms were covered with tapestry, as were the walls of the hallways throughout the house. The second floor had six study rooms and five baths. The third floor had three study rooms, two sleeping rooms, two baths, a servant's suite of three rooms, and a game room. The game room took up the whole front part of the third floor and measured 50 by 20 feet. Its walls were covered with deep red tapestry. It was furnished with a pool table, a ping-pong table, a piano, a radio and several lounging chairs and sofas.
Once the scene of some of the city's most glittering social affairs, the Thaw home was lavishly furnished with eighteenth-century French and English furniture, Goebin tapestries, priceless rugs and sculptures that were museum pieces. The Thaw family enjoyed their home for some 30 years.
Most of the treasures were distributed to the family following Benjamin Thaw's death in 1933. But at the time it was bought by the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternty in 1936, the walls of the drawing room were still covered with a deep green tapestry and there hung a lone portrait of Andrew Carnegie.
The stone and marble mantles, centuries old, the tapestry covered walls and rich dark woodwork was all that remained. This suggesting the elegant, more leisurely days when Pittsburgh's first families lived and entertained in huge dwellings, modeled after European palaces..
In the early 1900s, the Thaw family also had a home at 854 Fifth Avenue, New York, which had undergone extensive remodelings by the architectrual firm of Lamb and Rich in 1891.
Benjamin Thaw was a member of the Duquesne Club, the Pittsburgh Athletic Club and the Aero Club of America. He served as a trustee of the University of Pittsburgh from 1890 until his death in 1933. Their summer home was "Beach Mound" (sometimes spelled "Beachmond") at Newport, RI; it is still standing.
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Sadly, the best-remembered member of the Thaw family is Benjamin's brother, the ill-fated Harry K. Thaw, who shot society architect Stanford White over Mrs. Thaw the former Evelyn Nesbit. Evelyn, a Pittsburgh native, had been an artists' model in New York and served as the original of Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girl". She was photographed by Burr McIntosh (son of the SFF&HC member) and also appeared on stage as one of the celebrated "Floradora" Girls from the Broadway show of that name.
There are many fine resources in print and on line about this tragic event, including the novel “Ragtime” as well as a study of Stanford White's life by one of his descendents, "Architect of Desire".
Evelyn Florence Nesbit was the daughter of Winfield Scott Nesbit and Florence Evelyn McKenzie. Afer her father' s death, she and her mother went to New York. Subseqnetly, her mother married C J Holman.
Harry K. and Evelyn Nesbit Thaw were wed by the Rev. W. L. McEwan in the parsonage of Third Presbyterian Church on April 4, 1905 after much speculation in the press regarding their relationship, his mother, Mrs. William Thaw having been opposed to the match and Pittsburgh society having snubbed Evelyn.
At the time of his arrest for the shooting, Thaw said, "I would appreciate if you would tell Burr McIntosh, or ex-judge Hornblower, or Joseph H. Choate of what has happened."
They had one son, Russell William Thaw. Here is his biography as it appears in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Russell William Thaw (25 October 1910 in Berlin, Germany - 6 May 1984 in California) was a racing pilot who fought in World War II. Thaw was the son of Evelyn Nesbit and, legally, he was also the son of her husband Harry K. Thaw. The Thaw-Nesbit couple became notorious after Thaw murdered Stanford White, Nesbit's former lover, at Madison Square Garden in 1906. Born in Berlin, Germany, Russell William Thaw was treated indifferently by the man supposed to be his father, as Harry K. Thaw never accepted Russell William as his son—quite reasonably, as Russell was born four years after his putative father had been incarcerated in the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Thaw's mother, who initially testified that Russell was Harry's son, eventually admitted he was not, but refused to name his actual biological father. As a child, Russell Thaw co-starred with his mother in at least five films: Threads of Destiny (1918), Redemption (1917), Her Mistake (1918), The Woman Who Gave (1918), I Want to Forget (1918), and The Hidden Woman (1922). Thaw participated in two of the cross-country Bendix trophy races, which were instituted in 1931 and held annually to promote and encourage the achievements of U.S. aviation. Flying the Gee Bee "Model R-2" - P&W Wasp, he withdrew from the 1933 race. Flying the Northrop Gamma - Wright Cyclone, he came in third in the 1935 race from Los Angeles to Cleveland (ahead of Amelia Earhart in 5th place). Around this time, he also was the private pilot to the Guggenheim family. On 17 July 1936, he married Katherine "Kay" Roberts, whom the New York Times described as a Beverly Hills debutante and a graduate of Radcliffe College. After their wedding, they moved to White Plains, New York. They separated on 15 March 1939, when Katherine Thaw sued her husband for cruelty and "refused to live with her." Their divorce was finalized on 8 July 1941, with Katherine Thaw stating that her husband had separated from her because he said he could not support them both. During World War II, Russell William Thaw became one of the most noted American pilots, obtaining five air victories, three of them as part of the 103rd Squadron. In his later years, he served as the postmaster of a small town in Connecticut. He died in Santa Barbara, California.
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Here are the Thaws who are buried in Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh:
THAW, Agnes, Aug 7, 1883-Jan 1, 1885 (daughter of William and Mary)
THAW, Albert Copely, Jan 7, 1869-July 4, 1869, son of William and Mary
THAW, Alexander Blair III, Jan 13, 1920-Feb 14, 2001, born in Pittsburgh, died in Washington DC, beloved son of Elise and Stephen Dows Thaw, beloved husband of Thelma"Sandra" Thaw
THAW, Alexander Blair, Jr., Dec 22, 1898-Aug 18, 1918, St. Mihiel, France
THAW, Benjamin, Jr., Dec 11, 1888-Mar 5, 1937
THAW, Benjamin, Mar 14, 1859-Aug 9, 1933
THAW, Edward, Jan 1, 1873-May 17, 1924
THAW, Eliza Burd Blair, June 17, 1822-Apr 7, 1863, (first) wife of William Thaw, married June 17, 1841
THAW, Elizabeth Dohrman, 1854-1948, wife of William Jr.
THAW, Elma Dows, Oct 13, 1861-Nov 13, 1931 (w/o Benjamin)
THAW, Henry Kendall, Feb 12, 1871-Feb 22, 1947
THAW, John Alexander, July 19, 1852-Jan 6, 1853, son of William and Eliza
THAW, Laura Consuelo Morgan, Dec 17, 1901-Aug 26, 1979, wife of Benjamin, Jr.
THAW, Louisa, May 10, 1842-Aug 19, 1843, daughter of William and Eliza
THAW, Marjorie E., Dec 4, 1890-Mar 15, 1936
THAW, Mary Copely, June 14, 1842-June 9, 1929, (second) wife of William Thaw, I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.
THAW, William Jr., 1853-1892
THAW, William, Oct 21, 1818-Aug 17, 1889 (died in Paris, France)
SLADE, Henrietta Thaw, Apr 19, 1891-Jan 1, 1942, wife of Lawrence, buried on Benjamin Thaw lot
SLADE, Lawrence, Aug 7, 1891-Apr 11, 1942, buried on Benjamin Thaw lot