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  • #31 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: Some Notes on Tycoons

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Today we return to the "American legends" covered in Notable Kin, Volume Two. Having treated folkloric figures in columns #25-27, and listed New York-linked tycoons in column #28, I now wish to summarize my findings on the royal descents (RDs) of tycoons associated with cities west of New York. Before doing so, however, I can quickly list the RD immigrant ancestors of Jay Gould – Rev. Peter, Jane (Allen), and Grace (Chetwode) Bulkeley; of J.P. Morgan – Simon Lynde and Gov. William Leete of Conn. (a line I shall reconstruct in a second edition of The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants, due in 2001); of the Rockefellers – Mrs. Anne Humphrey Palmes Myles, a great-great-great-granddaughter of Lady Mary Boleyn (sister of Queen Anne Boleyn), possibly by Henry VIII; of James Stillman – Samuel and Judith (Everard) Appleton, and Mrs. Margaret Wyatt Allyn; of C.L. and L.C. Tiffany – Griffith and Margaret (Fleming) Bowen; of Mrs. W.S. Paley (Barbara Cushing) – Thomas Bressie and Thomas Trowbridge; of Mrs. J.I. Straus (Margaret Shelton Hollister) – Thomas Trowbridge and Roger Ludlow; of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II (Alice Claypoole Gwynne) – Thomas Trowbridge (and James Claypoole of Pa.); of Mrs. W.C. Whitney (Flora Payne) – Thomas Bressie and Edward Raynsford, plus the possible RD Constant Southworth; of Hetty Green – Act. Gov. Jeremiah Clarke, Katherine (Marbury) Scott, and Dr. Richard Palgrave; of Mrs. W.H. (Pamela) Harriman – Anne (Marbury) and Katherine (Hanby) Hutchinson, Samuel and Judith (Everard) Appleton, Elizabeth (Bulkeley) (Whittingham) Haugh, and John Lawrence of L.I.., all through Mrs. John Singleton Copley, wife of the painter; and of Brooke Astor – Robert Traill of N.H. and Samuel and Judith (Everard) Appleton.

    Tycoons associated with upstate New York, New Jersey, or Philadelphia include Mrs. Russell Sage (Margaret Olivia Slocum), founder of the Sage Foundation, a descendant of Katherine (Marbury) Scott; Mrs. Alanson Bigelow Houghton (Adelaide Louise Wellington) of Corning Glass, a descendant of Dr. Richard Palgrave and Bulkeley niece Elizabeth (St. John) Whiting; Theodore Newton Vail, founder of AT&T, a descendant of Edward FitzRandolph and Bulkeley great-nephew Rev. Thomas James (of L.I.); and Joseph Wharton, founder of the Wharton School of Finance, also a Clarke and Katherine (Marbury) Scott descendant. After the colonial period, many duPonts of Delaware have married descendants of RD immigrants. Especially notable are Elizabeth Canby Bradford and her half-nieces, the sisters Mary Alicia Heyward Bradford Maddox and Eleutheria DuPont Bradford, wives of Alexis Irenée, Alfred Irenée, and Henry Belin duPont. One or more of these three duPont wives was descended from Gov. Thomas Dudley of Mass., Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson, Mabel (Harlakenden) (Haynes) Eaton, and a second Bulkeley niece, Olive (Welby) Farwell.

    Midwestern tycoon families include the Marshall Field department store and newspaper tycoons of Chicago, descendants of Thomas Bressie; and the Pillsburys of the Flour Co., descendants of Edward and Ellen (Newton) Carleton. Mrs. Harvey Samuel Firestone, Jr. of the tire family, Akron, Ohio and Newport, her daughter Mrs. William Clay Ford of Detroit, and her grandson, Ford Company executive William Clay Ford, Jr., were descendants of Rev. Peter and Grace (Chetwode) Bulkeley, Elizabeth (Alsop) (Baldwin) Fowler, Rev. Charles Chauncey of Harvard, and Alice (Freeman) (Thompson) Parke. Nancy Maria Fowler, wife of reaper inventor Cyrus Hall McCormick and ancestress of the International Harvester but not the Chicago Tribune McCormicks, was also a descendant of Alice (Freeman) (Thompson) Parke; and Mrs. James Edmund Scripps (Harriet Josephine Messinger) of Detroit and its newspapers was a descendant of Martha (Bulkeley) Mellowes. Henry Clay Folger, Jr., president of Standard Oil of New York, is known largely as the founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Associated philanthropically with its National Gallery, and with Yale, was Paul Mellon of the Pittsburgh dynasty, whose second wife, Rachel Low (Lambert) Lloyd of Lambert Pharmaceuticals, was also an Alice (Freeman) (Thompson) Parke descendant. Also more affiliated with the location of his philanthropies than with his residence was Edward Stephen Harkness, who financed the Harvard houses and Yale colleges, and whose wife Mary Elizabeth Stillman was also descended from Act. Gov. Jeremiah Clarke of Rhode Island.

    Of western and southwestern tycoons, William Marsh Rice of Houston, founder of Rice University, was a descendant of Gov. Thomas Dudley and Dr. Richard Palgrave. Two of his great-nieces, descended from Olive (Welby) Farwell as well, married Exxon founder W.S. Farish, Jr. and billionaire recluse Howard (Robard) Hughes (Jr.). of Hughes Tool Co., Houston, and Las Vegas. Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times was descended from Griffith and Margaret (Fleming) Bowen. Mary Lily Kenan, a descendant of Rev. Charles Chauncey of Harvard, married firstly Henry Morrison Flagler, founder of Palm Beach, Florida, and secondly Robert Worth Bingham, the diplomat and Louisville (Ky.) newspaper tycoon.

    As you can see, via only these RD ancestors various tycoons or tycoon families were distantly related to each other. A few of these families intermarried – Rockefellers with both Stillmans and McCormicks, Whitneys with Vanderbilts, and Firestones with Fords (and sisters of Mrs. Paley married Vincent Astor and John Hay Whitney). However, I undertook these chapters in part to replace a bad older literature, dating from the 1880s or later, which suggested the "specialness" of both royal descents and the tycoon families of the Gilded Age. Royal descents are in fact shared by most middle-class Americans with colonial New England, Quaker, or Tidewater ancestry. Almost all of the RD immigrants mentioned above (excluding perhaps only Traill) have left over 1,000,000 descendants each, and are ancestors of several dozen if not more major figures in American history, plus a large number of readers and Society members. There is, in short, nothing "special" about royal descent. Many tycoon families, as descendants of a sizable number of Great Migration immigrants, have such ancestry. And what is "special" about tycoon families is the achievement of the family founder, plus frequently the inheritance of major assets and corporate responsibility by children, grandchildren, etc. Often able to develop talents or interests by using their extraordinary wealth, many of these children, grandchildren, etc. have also been major figures in American life – especially in philanthropy, business, and the arts. I have come to know, and often respect, members of several of these families, but their ancestry is mostly "typical" and older wealth is constantly being eclipsed by newer accumulations. The ancestry of tycoons is certainly of interest, but no more so than the ancestry of political, literary, folkloric, or entertainment figures, and I eagerly await the Steven Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Eisner, etc. biographies whose equivalents for earlier figures provided the initial information about origins and spouses from which I could begin to trace the ancestry of American notables. My next few columns will deal with figures from Hollywood, the movies, theater, and television.
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