Mr William Crothers Dulles was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 21 December 1872.1. He was the son of Andrew Cheves Dulles (b. 11 July 1832), a lawyer and insurance agent, and Mary Bartow Cooke Crothers (b. 12 June 1849), Pennsylvania natives who were married on 19 April 1870. He had one sibling, his sister Margaret (b. 9 March 1877, d. 1934, later Mrs John Irvin and later again Mrs (Baroness) Ettore Romano Benedito Fontana).
Dulles appears on the 1900 census living with his family at South 12th Street, Philadelphia—an address he would maintain for the rest of his life—but had no stated profession at that time. He was allegedly qualified as an attorney in his native Philadelphia but seemingly never practised2, he also owned a horse-breeding farm, Tophill Farm in Goshen, New York where he was also a member of the Goshen Driving Club. He also accumulated a large collection of equine-related books and art—reportedly one of the largest in the world—much of which he kept stored in a specially-built, fortified bunker at his country home, of which he was the sole keyholder. A frequent visitor to Newport, Rhode Island where his sister lived, he was also a dog fancier and numerous newspapers describe him showing his Chevalier (Cavalier King Charles Spaniels) dogs at shows across the east USA.
William Crothers Dulles of Tophill Farm Goshen, N.Y., is 36 years old, and a graduate of Yale. He also studied at the University of Pennsylvania Law School but never practiced law. Stephenson Crothers, his uncle and his mother Mrs. Andrew Cheves Dulles, live in Philadelphia, where they are prminent socially.
His 1901 passport describes Dulles as standing at 6’ 1” and having an oval face with a straight nose, low forehead, small mouth and chin, with dark brown hair, hazel eyes and a fair complexion.
A bachelor with an estimated personal wealth of between $1,500,000 and $2,500,000, Dulles had been travelling Europe with his mother, spending time in Britain searching for more rare equine books. He parted company with his mother in Paris and boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as a first-class passenger (ticket number PC 17580 which cost £29, 14s) and occupied cabin A-18.
During the voyage survivor William Sloper remembered befriending Mr Dulles and the two spent many hours conversing on numerous topics. It was reported that Mr Dulles was returning on the Titanic with a dog; the specific breed is unknown, but likely a Chevalier.
William Crothers Dulles died in the sinking. His body was recovered by the MacKay Bennett (#133) and forwarded to R. R. Bringhurst in Philadelphia on 1 May 1912. The only key to his large collection of equine ephemera was not amongst his effects.
N0. 133. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 50.
CLOTHING - Green suit; grey sweater and overshoes.
EFFECTS - Gold watch and chain; gold plated knife and chain; gold tie clip; "W. C. D."; four memo books; gold stud; 11s. 6 1/2d.
NAME - W. C. DULLES.
William Dulles was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia on 6 May 1912 in a family mausoleum whilst a service commemorating his death was later held at St Luke’s Epiphany Church on 28 May 1912. In later years vandals damaged the doors to the Dulles mausoleum and knocked out the glass. The interior of the mausoleum was not disturbed and, owing to the actions of the miscreants, one can read the inscription on the Dulles' crypt:
WILLIAM CROTHERS DULLES
DECEMBER 19, 1872 - APRIL 15, 1912
DIED FROM S.S. TITANIC
Dulles’ extensive equine art print and book collection, the only key to which was lost on Titanic, was later accessed only by expert locksmiths. The contents of the vault were later placed on display before being auctioned:
The Library of the late WILLIAM C. DULLES NOW ON EXHIBITION
Sporting and Colored Plate Books. ‘The largest and Choicest Collection ever offered for sale by auction in America or Europe. Annals of Sporting, National Sports of Great Britain, set of American Turf Register, Tour of Dr. Syntax, choice collection of Books illustrated by the Cruikshanks, Egans Life in London, many dooks illustrated by Rowlandson, and other great rarities. To be Sold on the evenings of Tuesday, Wednesday and ‘Thursday, December 10th, 11th and 12th - New York Herald, 1 December 1912
Books about horses were sold by auction in New York last week at prices which several instances were higher than ordinary horses, or even very fair racehorses, sometimes command. The occasion was the dispersal of the sporting library formed by the late William C. Dulles, who went down on the Titanic last spring when returning from a hunt for rare volumes in England. Mr Dulles was one of a number of wealthy young horse fanciers who have of late years taken to collecting the best literature relating to horses. His library of sporting books was well known on both sides of the Atlantic. He had a vault of steel and concrete constructed for their safekeeping in his country house at Goshen, N. Y. As there was only one key, which he always carried in his pocket, it became necessary to have an expert pick the lock before the vault could be opened after the Titanic sank. - New York Herald, 15 December 1912
When William D, Dulles of Philadelphia lost his life in the Titanic disaster, he carried
in his pocket the only key to the special vault of steel and concrete he had constructed in
his library at Tophill Farm, Goshen, New Jersey, containing a remarkable collection of sport-
ing books and of books with colored plates. In order to open the vault, his executor found
it necessary to employ an expert locksmith, who worked many hours before he succeeded in
his task. - American Courier - New York, January 8th, 1913
Dulles’ mother later died on 7 April 1931. His sister Margaret, Baroness Fontana, separated from her Italian husband Ettore Fontana and later filed for divorce in November 1932. Ettore died in September 1933 from heart failure, having been cut off from his wife’s estate. Margaret died on 24 January the following year and her estate was combined with that of her mother, totalling $800,000, and was bequeathed to the University of Pennsylvania to establish Crothers Dulles Hospital, memorialising William:
“… for the purpose of erecting a building of brick and limestone to be used for a hospital for treatment of cancer or such other diseases as the Board of Trustees shall deem advisable.”