Dr. Fred Stark Pearson

Dr. Fred Pearson Saloon Passenger Lost
Fred Pearson image:  New York Times, Sunday, 16 May 1915.
Born Fred Stark Pearson 3 July 1861 Lowell, Massachusetts, United States
Died 7 May 1915 (age 53) At sea
Age on Lusitania 53
Ticket number 46094
Cabin number B 51
Traveling with - Mabel Pearson (wife) - David Walker (secretary) - friends and colleagues on separate tickets
Body number 16
Interred ?
Occupation - Electrical engineer - Entreprenuer
Citizenship United States
Residence New York City, New York, United States
Other name(s) Frederick Stark Pearson
Spouse(s) Mabel Ward (1887 - 1915, their deaths)
Signature Michael Poirier Collection/National Archives
Fred Pearson (1861 - 1915), 53, and his wife, Mabel Pearson (née Ward), were United States citizens traveling aboard Lusitania for business and to visit their daughter Natalie Nicholson. Pearson was a consulting engineer in New York City, New York, United States, and was also head of the Pearson-Farquhar Syndicate at 115 Broadway which did extensive engineering around the world. Fred's secretary, David Walker, was accompanying them. Dr. and Mrs. Pearson and David Walker were lost when the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk.
  1. Youth and education
  2. Career
  3. Family
  4. Hobbies
  5. Financial troubles
  6. Lusitania
  7. Related pages
  8. Links of interest
  9. Notes

Youth and education

Pearson was born on 3 July 1861 in Lowell, Massachusetts, United States, the son of Ambrose Pearson and Hannah Amelia Edgerly.  The family moved often with his father's job as a civil engineer with the Boston and Lowell Railroad. As a youth he had "a fragile constitution," but had a thirst for knowledge that included philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, and he had a great aptitude for science. Ambrose Pearson died in 1876, and the responsibility for raising the family fell on Fred's mother. Financial straits compelled Fred to take employment as a stationmast on the Boston and Lowell at Medford by 1877. A loan from an uncle in 1879 gave Fred the resources to enroll in Tufts College (now Tufts University) in Medford. He lecturer for a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge before returning to Tufts.  Pearson obtained a bachelor of mechanical arts from Tufts in 1883 and was awarded the Walker instructorship in mathematics. The Mixed Claims Commission would say of him, "Through his own efforts he obtained a college education and thoroughly equipped himself for constructive work on a large scale in the then comparatively unexplored field of electrical engineering."


While in college, Pearson gained a reputation for being a polymath. Aside from his job as an electrical engineer, Pearson was also an executive and promoter of projects for the development of natural resources. He was also manager of the Somerville Electric Light Company, then consulting engineer for the Brooklyn Heights Railway Company.  Pearson was instrumental in the organization of the Dominion Coal Company in 1893.  He designed and oversaw the construction of the 70,000 horsepower electric station on 96th Street. Pearson was an engineer, and executive, and a stockholder in many enterprises in different parts of the world, principally in Mexico and Brazil. Pearson also assisted in building power, railway and light systems in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Barcelona, Spain. His involvement in a dam and irrigation project in Medina County, Texas, in 1911 led to one community, Pearson, being named after him and another, Natalia, being named after his daughter Natalie.


Fred Pearson and Mabel Ward married on 5 January 1887.  Mabel was also from Lowell and were childhood sweethearts, but they only became serious after Fred encountered her while in Dresden, Germany in 1886.  She was the daughter of one of Fred's father's contracting partners. Fred and Mabel had two sons and a daughter, Ward Edgerly, Frederick Ambrose, and Natalie, 27, 23, and 25 years of age respectively as of May 1915. Dr. Pearson supplied his family with creature comforts and gave his children educational and social advantages. Ward E. Pearson, the eldest child, graduated from Yale in 1909 and married soon thereafter. He was employed in his father’s office at comparatively small salaries paid by several corporations. Frederick A. Pearson, the youngest child, graduated from Yale in 1914 and was employed in Spain by a corporation in which his father was interested. This son married soon after his father’s death and had two children. In February 1915, the daughter Natalie Pearson married British subject Reginald Nicholson. The Mixed Claims Commission states that Dr. Pearson was more generous in providing for his daughter than with his sons. While the Pearsons considered themselves New Yorkers, the Pearsons had homes at Great Barrington, Massachusetts; Coombe House, Kingston Hill, Surrey, England; and 271 Calle Mallarca, Barcelona, Spain.


In 1898 Pearson indulged a childhood fancy and bought an ocean yacht. He sailed the yacht to the Caribbean and arrived in Cuba near the end of the Spanish-American War. He became peripherally involved in schemes to set up public utilities there. The Pearsons both had a love of music. Fred loved church organs and had one installed in his home for $40,000.  The Pearsons were also good friends of the "Champagne King" George Kessler.  The Pearsons gave parties in their houses at Mayfair and Dorset, but they would not claim to be as extravagant as Kessler.

Financial troubles

The Mexican Revolution of 1910, an American financial panic, and the World War that came after upset the global economy that Pearson depended on for his wealth. The international situation made it impossible for Pearson to raise additional capital for some of his companies. As a result, he invested his own money into the companies. Values continued to shrink and security markets collapsed with the unfolding war. Most of Pearson's fortune was lost. In his last years, Pearson's income came solely from his salaries, and he cut his living and other expenses to the limit. At the time of his death, Dr. Pearson’s estate was found to be insolvent. Had he lived, Dr. Pearson would have been 57 years of age at the signing of the armistice and close to retirement. It is unknown if he could have recouped his fortune, but his many abilities and having the confidence of important people would have allowed him to make back a significant amount of money.


In May of 1915, Fred and Mabel were traveling on the Lusitania with his secretary, David Walker.  Their friend George Kessler would also be on board, as would work colleague, Surgeon-Major Warren Pearl. Pearson had also convinced fellow electrical entreprenuer Robert Rankin to book passage on Lusitania as well. During the Lusitania's last voyage, Pearson was seen playing bridge with Sir Hugh Lane and Lady Allan in the smoking room.  The Pearsons were also present at Kessler's party on 6 May where Kessler inquired Staff Captain Anderson as to why Captain Turner had no intention of giving the passengers a lifeboat drill. On the afternoon of 7 May, Pearson was in the smoking room with Charles Klein discussing church organs when George Kessler, who had just bought a ticket in the ship's pool, passed by. "Didn't you know that Fred and I are the Aeolian Company's best customers?"  Klein asked Kessler. The Pearsons did not survive the sinking.  His body were retrieved and identified the week the following the sinking.  Dr. Pearson was body #16, Mabel Pearson was body #216.

Related pages

Fred and Mabel Pearson at the Mixed Claims Commission

Links of interest

Frederick [sic] Stark Pearson at Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online Frederick [sic] Stark Pearson at English Wikipedia


While many biographies state that Pearson's first name was "Frederick," his passport and court docket from the Mixed Claims Commission name him as "Fred" not "Frederick," indicating that his legal name was "Fred" only. Contributors: William Graham Judith Tavares References: Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster.  G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1981. The New York Times, Sunday, 16 May 1915. McDowall, Duncan. "Pearson, Frederick Stark." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Web. Accessed 29 June 2011. <http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7645>.

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