Seymour DeWitt Ludlum stumbled across the almost deserted village of Rose Glen on a horseback ride from his home in Merion. The setting was perfect for a sanitarium for the mentally ill that the young psychiatrist planned to found. Most of the industry that had thrived along Mill Creek a half century before was gone, but the buildings were intact. It was isolated, calm and beautiful, an ideal location. Dr. Ludlum bought the buildings that had been a little hamlet: the post office and store, the Merion Mills across the stream and nearby houses.
Over the years they were turned into hospital wards, laboratories, doctors’ offices and living quarters. Called The Gladwyne Colony, to the passerby it seemed to be a “little village out of yesterday.”
Dr. Ludlum died at 80. His son, S. DeWitt Ludlum, Jr., who had assisted for many years, became the director of the Colony and ran it for another decade. By this time the newly built Schuylkill Expressway made all of Gladwyne accessible, the land values higher and brought more people to live there.
Ensuing changes in medical standards, increased fees and public attitude made the Colony increasingly difficult to run. It was sold and only Ludlum’s house, Fernside, remains.
J. Presper Eckert (1919-1995) was the co-inventor, in 1946, of the world’s first electronic digital computer, ENIAC.
- The only son of a prominent Philadelphia family of real estate developers and builders, Eckert proved to be an electronic whiz kid. At age 8, he built his own crystal radio on top of a lead pencil; at 12, he designed remote-controlled toys and played complicated numbers games with his father; as a teenager, he constructed the forerunner of today’s portable radio and built hi-fi amplifiers that he installed in his school (Penn Charter). He scored second highest in the country on the college entrance examinations.
- After graduation in 1937, he entered the Wharton School of Business. “I lasted three days,” Eckert recalled with a laugh. “They were putting me to sleep. They took simple ideas and took forever to explain them.” Thwarted in his longing to go into physics, he enrolled at U. Penn’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering. Pres Eckert got his Master’s in 1943 and soon was brainstorming with Prof. John W. Mauchly, a Penn research instructor 12 years older than he. It was an association that would bring fame to both men.
- During World War II, the Army had given a $150,000 grant to the Moore School to find a way to speed up ballistics calculations needed to aim its big guns. To plot the flight of a projectile that might last 60 seconds took one person about 20 hours. The project began on April 9, 1943…Pres’ 24th birthday. 200 people, many working 16 to 20 hours a day (Eckert and Mauchly often slept on cots at school), spent two and a half years on the development of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator.
- That first computer was a 30-ton monster: 80 feet long and 8 feet high, a mass of hundreds of thousands of wires, tubes, resistors and capacitors. In 1946, ENIAC was moved to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland to work its miracles.
- Long after the war, the behemoth was dismantled. In 1955, a large section was sent to the Smithsonian, parts to West Point, and one panel to Eckert’s home in Gladwyne. Pres delighted, at parties, to pull aside the living room drapes to dramatically reveal a homely black panel…his “baby.”
A notable Lower Merion resident who lived in Gladwyne but worked in Camden, was John T. Dorrance, chairman of the board of the Campbell Soup Company. He died of a heart attack at the Bryn Mawr Hospital in 1989 at the age of 70. At the time he was a trustee and heavily involved with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of his many charitable interests. A shy and unassuming man, Dorrance grew up in Radnor, attended the Montgomery School in Wynnewood, St. George’s School in Rhode Island, then Princeton University. After his graduation in 1941, Dorrance was drafted into the Army as a private but rose to become a lieutenant with the OSS during World War II. He served in China.
Jack Dorrance, as he was called, is well remembered in Lower Merion because of his contributions to every honorable charitable organization in the Township, from hospitals to libraries to fire companies as well as the larger organizations in the city and nationally. Dorrance served on the boards of a number of institutions including the Wistar Institute, Princeton University, the Church Farm School, Hampton University in Virginia, the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, the PennJerDel Corporation and the World Wildlife Fund… proof that people of means can make significant commitments to the world about them.
The Pew Family
The Pew family, an extraordinary clan (mainly based in Lower Merion) made important early contributions to American industry. Their plans eventually made an influential impact on a local, national and worldwide scale. Their founding of the Sun Oil Company led to a sensational business success which, in turn, was able to support the family’s beliefs in contributing to the community’s needs. That goal funded The Pew Charitable Trusts, which continues the family’s commitment to support nonprofit organizations working in the areas of culture, education, the environment, health and human services, public policy and religion.
Joseph Newton Pew (1848-1912)
Raised on a farm in western Pennsylvania, he was the youngest of ten children. When Pew was 11, America’s first oil well gushed forth in Titusville, not far from his home. In the 1870s he went forth to seek his fortune in real estate and insurance.
After his marriage to Mary Catherine Anderson, he applied hard work and enterprise to develop the Keystone Gas Company, which used the byproducts of oil (natural gas) to provide local heat and light.
In the late 1880s, the growth of the enterprise led to the founding of the Sun Oil Company. During this period, J.N. Pew and his wife began to raise a family and to pass along those values that they believed were essential to leading a productive and faithful life.
In 1902, Pew entered into a partnership to build a refinery along the Delaware River (an 82 acre site at Marcus Hook). The first oceanborne crude oil was shipped there that year.
By this time, J.N. Pew was the father of five. In 1908, he moved his family to Glenmede, the former Graham estate on Old Gulph Road and Morris Roads in Bryn Mawr. At his death in 1912, Joseph’s second son, John Howard Pew, age 30, became president of Sun Oil Company.
J. Howard Pew (1882-1971)
Under J. Howard’s regime, the Sun Oil volume was estimated to have multiplied forty times. His earliest contributions were scientific. During his regime, he expanded the company into shipbuilding and was proud of Sun Oil’s contribution during two world wars. He was known throughout the organization for his personal interest in his thousands of employees and often made the rounds to check in with workers on all levels.
His 67-acre estate, Knollbrook on Grays Lane, was a short distance from his brother Joe’s place. Unlike Joe, J. Howard led a plain life, disliked entertaining and enjoyed long walks around his estate. During World War II, he ignored his cars and chauffeurs and took the train to work each day. Deeply religious, he participated in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church on local and national levels. J. Howard Pew died just short of his 90th birthday.
Joseph N. Pew, Jr (1886-1963)
Joe Junior, a Cornell graduate, was the more worldly, outgoing brother. As vice-president of Sun Oil, he was a visionary in both science and commerce…the company’s “idea man.” He devised a pipe line from Marcus Hook to the Great Lakes; he innovated the custom blending of gasolines; he introduced “Blue Sunoco.”
At the end of World War II, Sun Oil was one of the few American industries owned and managed by the founding family after five decades. He continued a lifelong commitment to the concept of free competition in the marketplace.
Like his brother, J. Howard, he shared the social responsibility of support for the Presbyterian Church and was a liberal donor to the national Republican Party. He died at 77.
Mary Ethel Pew (1884-1979)
Mary Ethel Pew graduated with honors from Bryn Mawr College. Her mother‘s death in 1935 led to a determination to devote her personal life and inheritance to the support of cancer research.
Mary Ethel made her home at the family’s estate, Glenmede. Her interest in health care prompted her to volunteer at a small hospital run by Lutheran sisters, called Lankenau, which has become an important medical institution in the area.
Ms. Pew, in 1953, gave Skylands, her 26-acre estate in Gladwyne, to the Philadelphia Motherhouse of Deaconesses. Upon her death at the venerable age of 95, her ancestral home, Glenmede, was willed to Bryn Mawr College as its Graduate Center.
Mabel Pew Myrin (1889-1972)
The youngest of J.N.’s children, Mabel devoted her life to “issues of survival,” the improvement of the educational process and the problems of caring for and educating the handicapped.
Like her brothers and sister, she was deeply involved in the support of health service institiutions. Scheie Eye Institute and Presbyterian-University of Pennsylvania Medical Center were two institutions that benefitted from her dedication. She was also a longtime benefactor of Saunders House, a care facility for the elderly in Wynnewood.
Alberta Hensel Pew
Joe Jr.’s wife, Alberta, is a fascinating character in the family tree. Though she embodied many of the principles of a priviledged life, she ignored the trappings of advantage in order to pursue her individual course. An avid sportswoman (especially devoted to salmon and trout fishing) she participated in golf, tennis, swimming, sailing, horseback riding and shooting. She was a champion markswoman…a student of Annie Oakley!
Her interest in gardening and the natural world was exceptional. That led to her advocacy for the preservation of open spaces and buildings of historic importance. Part of her land on Dodds Lane in Gladwyne was deeded to the Natural Lands Trust.
Aside from her personal enthusiasms, she led an energetic life of civic and community service. Mrs. Pew died in 1988 at the age of 96. Her obituary reported that two weeks before her death she snagged seven fish at her Pocono Mountain retreat.