Harry was a noted collector of rare books, included in his collection was a Shakespeare Folio and a Gutenberg Bible. Harry developed his bibliophilic interests while in college, when he did research among early books with coloured plates illustrating costumes for a Hasty Pudding Theatrical. In the spring of 1912, he went to England to buy books (including the second edition of Bacon's Essais, 1598) and it was while returning from this visit that he lost his life along with many of the books purchased.
On the night of April 14th Harry and his parents threw a party in honour of Captain Smith which was attended by some of the most wealthy passengers on board the Titanic.
Later that night Harry helped his mother into lifeboat 4 and then stood back to await his fate, at one point he was joined by William Ernest Carter who advised him to try for a boat but Harry "I'll think I'll stick to the big ship, Billy, and take a chance."
A story, never confirmed by Mrs Widener, romanticizes the death of her son. He was about to step into a lifeboat that would have saved his life when he remembered a newly acquired and unique copy of Bacon's Essais and ran back to get it.
Harry's body, if recovered, was never identified.
After his death the librarians turned to Mrs Widener for a donation in memory of her bibliophile son. His mother gave $2,000,000 for the construction of the building that would also house her son's collection and in 1915 the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library was dedicated.
Portrayal in 2012 Miniseries TitanicEdit
Harry Widener was portrayed in the 2012 Miniseries Titanic. He falls in love with the fictional character Georgiana Grex.
At the Captain's table, Harry takes his seat next to Georgiana. Lady Manton notices the romance already growing. Paolo Sandrini serves the table and flirtatiously winks to Georgiana.
After dinner, they head to the reception, where the band plays "Autumn" on Georgiana's request. Harry nods to Lord Manton, who nods back, meaning he allows it. Harry asks her to dance, which she accepts. They dance and talk while being guarded by the Mantons.
Soon after, Jack Thayer crashes the party and takes Georgiana from him.
That Sunday, Harry joins a conversation with Georgiana, the Mantons and the Batleys.
Before dinner, Harry's mother tells him to keep approaching Georgiana.
After dinner, Harry and Geogiana go for another stroll. He gives his coat to her after he sees her shiver. He confesses to her and they share a kiss.
When the ship is sinking, Harry finds Georgiana again. He heads with the Mantons and their servants to a lifeboat, where his mother leaves in with the Countess of Rothes. Mrs. Widener has a shocking revelation: Harry can't swim.
Harry got sepearted from the Mantons and when they find each other again, Harry explains the last boats are being prepared. The whole group herads there, and Bruce Ismay calls Lord Manton. Harry literally drags Georgiana into the lifeboat and then steps back.
Harry assists with other passengers in trying to lauch the last lifeboat. The ship takes its final plunge and everyone is swept away by a wave. Harry is last seen going underwater. He drowns.