Joseph Early Widener was one of three sons of Peter Arrell Brown Widener [1834-1915] and his wife Hannah Josephine Dunton [c.1836-1896]. The son of a bricklayer, Peter went to public schools in Philadelphia, began his career as a butcher's assistant, and eventually rose to power and fortune in the trolley-car and financial industries. Of the three sons of Peter A.B. Widener, only Joseph survived his father. The eldest son, Henry K. Widener, died of typhoid at age 15, and the middle son, George Dunton Widener, died aboard the Titanic in 1912 along with his own son Harry Elkins Widener. Joseph Widener was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and at Harvard. The business of his life was the administration of the Widener estate. He was also active in racing circles, at one point being the largest individual stockholder of Belmont Park and owning stables at his Pennsylvania estate, in Chantilly, France, and in Kentucky. Joseph Widener was married to Ella Pancoast [d. 1929] of Philadelphia and had two children, Peter A.B. Widener, II and Josephine (Fifi), later Mrs. Aksel Wichfeld. The Widener estate, Lynnewood Hall, was located in Elkins Park outside Philadelphia and housed an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative art and porcelains, which was ultimately donated to the National Gallery in 1942, through Joseph Widener.
Widener, P.A.B. Without Drums. New York, 1940.
The New York Times (27 October 1943): 23:1 [obituary].
Finley, David. A Standard of Excellence. Washington, 1973.
Walker, John. Self-Portrait with Donors. Boston, 1974.
Quodbach, Esmé. "'The last of the American Versailles': the Widener Collection at Lynnewood Hall." Simiolus 29, no. 1/2 (2002): 42-96.
Minty, Nancy T. Dutch and Flemish Seventeeth-Century Art in America, 1800-1940: Collections, Connoisseurship and Perceptions. Ph.D. diss, New York University, 2003:172-194, 444-494