Thomas W. Lawson (businessman)

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Thomas W. Lawson
Thomas W. Lawson.jpg
Thomas William Lawson

(1857-02-26)February 26, 1857
Charlestown, Massachusetts
DiedMarch 8, 1925(1925-03-08) (aged 68)
Boston, Massachusetts
Relatives Tom McCall (grandson)

Thomas William Lawson (February 26, 1857 – February 8, 1925) was an American businessman and author. A highly controversial Boston stock promoter, he is known for both his efforts to promote reforms in the stock markets and the fortune he amassed for himself through highly dubious stock manipulations. [1]


Early life

Thomas William Lawson was born February 26, 1857 at Charlestown, Massachusetts. He was the son of Thomas and Anna Maria (née Loring) Lawson. [2] Lawson's father, a carpenter, died when he was eight years old. [2]


At 12 years old, [2] Lawson ran away from home to become a clerk in a Boston bank and soon began speculating in stocks. Lawson specialized in shares of copper-mining companies, which were then a staple of the Boston stock market, and became a multimillionaire during the copper boom of the late 1890s. He was a principal mover in the promotion of companies trying to establish the small town of Grand Rivers, Kentucky as a major steel-producing city. He built the lavish estate called Dreamwold [3] in Scituate, Massachusetts at a cost of $6,000,000. [2]

Boston financier Thomas Lawson's residence in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. He promoted the town as the next great steel-making center to rival Pittsburgh and Birmingham. Thomas-Lawson-House-Grand.jpg
Boston financier Thomas Lawson's residence in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. He promoted the town as the next great steel-making center to rival Pittsburgh and Birmingham.

In 1899, he joined Henry H. Rogers and William Rockefeller in forming Amalgamated Copper Mining Company, a company that combined several copper mining companies, mostly in Butte, Montana, and which tried to dominate the copper market. Amalgamated Copper was criticized for years afterward. It became Anaconda Copper Mining Company in 1915. Lawson broke with the financial backers of Amalgamated and became an advocate for financial reform. [4]

Lawson was an independent candidate for the United States Senate in 1918. He finished a distant third with 5.26% of the vote. [5]

Lawson died in poverty in February 1925. [6] He was buried beside his wife. [7]

Personal life

Lawson married Jeannie Augusta Goodwillie (1857–1906) in 1878, and they had six children: [8] Gladys, [9] , Dorothy, [10] Arnold Lawson, [11] Marian, [12] Douglas [7] and Jean. [13]

Legacy and honors

The Lawson Tower, Scituate, Massachusetts. The tower was part of Lawson's Dreamwold estate. Scituate Lawson Tower.jpg
The Lawson Tower, Scituate, Massachusetts. The tower was part of Lawson's Dreamwold estate.

The Thomas W. Lawson, the only seven-masted schooner ever built, was named after him. [14] Lawson, who was intensely superstitious, wrote the novel Friday the Thirteenth in which a broker picks that day on which to bring down Wall Street; the Thomas W. Lawson, in which he had invested heavily, was wrecked off the Isles of Scilly at 2:30 am GMT on Saturday December 14, 1907, but to Lawson, at home in Boston, it was at that time still Friday the 13th.

Lawson is believed to have been the inspiration for the protagonist of David Graham Phillips' 1905 novel The Deluge.

He is generally credited in the U.S. with the Lawson sofa, made for him at the turn of the 20th century. It was a square, overstuffed sofa on a generous scale with loose seat cushions and pillows. [15]

The Lawson Tower, originally part of his private Dreamwold estate, still stands. The structure is a water tower with a shingled outer shell and observatory which offers views of the area from an observation deck. [16]



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  1. Carol Miles and John J. Galluzzo, Beauty, Strength, Speed: Celebrating 100 Years of Thomas W. Lawson’s Dreamworld (Virginia Beach, VA: Donning Co. Publishers, 2002)
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Thomas W. Lawson". Millicent Library | Dictionary of American Biography. 1933. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  3. Dreamworld Archived February 17, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  4. "I NEVER SPECULATE LAWSON TO THE TIMES; Considers Values Alone – Amalgamated Fight for the Public. HE'S LOSING MILLIONS BY IT Courts Investigation of His Methods – Wouldn't Spread False Impressions or Hurt Any One". The New York Times . 1905. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  5. Office of the Secretary of State of Massachusetts (1918). Number of assessed polls, registered voters and persons who voted in each voting precinct in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the state, city and town elections.
  6. "T. W. LAWSON DIES AFTER AN OPERATION; Succumbs to Diabetes in Massachusetts General Hospital at Boston". The New York Times . February 8, 1925. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  7. 1 2 "LAWSON RITES HELD IN COTTAGE 'THE NEST'; The Famous Dreamwold Chimes Played – Financier Rests Beside Wife in Tomb on Grounds". The New York Times . February 11, 1925. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  8. MacTaggart, Ross (2004). Millionaires, Mansions and Motor Yachts: An Era of Opulence. New York: W.W. Norton.
  9. "MISS LAWSON A BRIDE.; Is Married to E.B. Stamwood – The Barn Dance Programme". The New York Times . October 12, 1905. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  10. "Governor Tom McCall: Biographical Note". Oregon State Archives. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
  11. "LAWSON'S SON IN AUTO CRASH.; Thrown in Collision into Bushes, Which Break His Fall". The New York Times . August 11, 1908. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  12. The Lumber World. Lumber World Publishing Company. 1909. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  13. "MRS. J.C. EDWARDS IS WED IN BOSTON; She Is Married in Brother's Home to Karl Wickerhauser". The New York Times . May 11, 1939. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  14. "A SEVEN-MASTED SCHOONER.; The First Vessel of the Kind Ever Constructed Launched at East Wey- mouth, Mass". The New York Times . July 11, 1902. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  15. For example, Harrington Galleries: "The original Lawson sofa was created for Thomas W. Lawson (1857–1925), a Boston financier."
  16. 1 2 MacTaggart, Ross (2004). Millionaires, Mansions, and Motor Yachts: An Era of Opulence. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 52–72. ISBN   9780393057621 . Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  17. Lawson, Thomas W; Thompson, Winfield M (1902). The Lawson History of the America's Cup. Boston: Winfield M. Thompson. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  18. Lawson, Thomas W (1906). Frenzied Finance, the Crime of Amalgamated. New York: Ridgway–Thayer Company. Retrieved May 6, 2012.