In Memoriam – William Crothers Dulles, Titanic Victim and Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany Congregant (1872-1912)

Philadelphians are woven throughout world history and sometimes tragedy. For instance, William Dulles, who was an avid book collector, devoted to his widowed mother, lived on S. 12th street, a confirmed bachelor, and a Titantic victim.

He was born 14 Dec 1872 in Philadelphia to Andrew Cheves Dulles and Mary Bartow Crothers. Andrew  was born in Philadelphia to Joseph Healty Dulles and Margaret Welsh. Margaret Welsh Dulles’ brother was William Welsh, who played a key role in the founding and early survival of St. Luke’s Church. Andrew was educated as a lawyer, and he did practice law briefly, before moving into land management and fire insurance underwriting. He also managed his own vast wealth thanks to his interests in the Dulles plantations in South Carolina. Andrew married Mary Bartow Crothers. Besides William C. they had a daughter, Mary, born in 1877.

William was baptized by Rev. Rudder at St. Stephen’s Church on South 10th Street. In 1885, the Dulles family moved their membership to St. Luke’s and rented Pew 6 (rented pew 7 after Andrew’s death in 1901).  It is unclear where William was educated. His obituaries indicate he graduated from Yale and then University of Pennsylvania Law School. However no such evidence exists either at Yale or at Penn. The only recorded William Dulles to attend Penn Law graduated in 1880, and therefore can’t be our William. If William was indeed a lawyer, he was likely trained by his father. It is clear, however, book collecting and horse breeding consumed the majority of William’s attention. After his father’s death, the care of his widowed mother became his life’s focus. His obituaries remarked that he was tirelessly devoted to her and they almost inseparable. He was her escort to every proper Philadelphia occasion.

In December 1911 Mrs. Dulles traveled to Paris in order to visit her daughter, Mary, and her son in law, Ettore Romano Fontana. William joined them on 20 January 1912. Evidence indicates that Mrs. Dulles was rather keen for William to return to Philadelphia. They had intended to return together later in the spring. For whatever reason, he returned to the United States early. During the mid-afternoon on 10 April 1912 William boarded the RMS Titantic at Cherbourg, France. He was booked into first-class cabin A-18. The only account I could find about William during the crossing  comes a memoir by William Sloper of Hartford, CT. Sloper wrote:

“I remember I chummed around those first four days with a young, unmarried man about my age by the name of William Dulles who had been the steamer going over in the winter. My friend Bill Dulles was a gentleman, farmland trotting horse breeder from Goshen New York [where William had a large estate and kept his horses]. I saw him early Sunday evening, but I never saw him again”

Once the news of the sinking reached Paris , Mrs. Dulles and Mary rushed to the White Star Line offices. Upon learning William was not among the rescued, Mrs. Dulles was in a near state of collapse. Likely the outpouring of emotions was the reason why the Chicago Evening Post misidentified her as his grieving widow instead of his grieving mother. She remained in Paris for about a month, during which time she tried to regain her emotional and physical strength. Meanwhile in Philadelphia rumors abounded about William’s personal life. One such story, found in the Inquirer, suggested that he was engaged. As the Public Ledger reported, however, his friends vehemently denied he was ever engaged. William died without a will, and his estate was valued at $2,500,000 ($54,871,658 adjusted for inflation). William’s funeral was performed by Rev. Dr. David M. Steele, rector of St. Luke and The Epiphany at the time, and held at the Church (his body recovered by the Mackey Bennett soon after the disaster).  In addition, he was remembered the Annual All Saints mass that November. Dulles’ grand mausoleum can be seen at the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

William has no living direct descendents, as he was unmarried and his sister died childless. His papers do not survive. Worse still not even a photograph survives of this 36 year old victim.

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