Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library

The Gift to Harvard


Public Ledger—Philadelphia—Sunday Morning, June 2, 1912.

Within weeks of the Titanic sinking, the fact that Harry Widener had left his collection to Harvard became public knowledge. As his will shows, though, Harry left it to his mother, with the request that she give it to the University “whenever in her judgment Harvard University will make arrangements for properly caring for my collection of books.” He also stipulated that the collection be known as the Harry Elkins Widener Collection.

It did not take Eleanor Elkins Widener long to decide to give “the whole” – by August, 1912, a deed of gift was already drawn up, stating that she, the sole donor, would “at her own cost and expense cause to be erected and completed upon the site hereinafter mentioned... a library building... which shall not only house the special collection of her son but also the general library of Harvard.”