Warren Delano Jr. (July 13, 1809 – January 17, 1898) was an American merchant and drug smuggler who made a large fortune smuggling illegal opium into China. He was the maternal grandfather of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Warren Delano Jr.
Born(1809-07-13)July 13, 1809
DiedJanuary 17, 1898(1898-01-17) (aged 88)
EmployerRussell & Company
Catherine Robbins Lyman
(m. 1843; died 1896)
Parent(s)Warren Delano Sr.
Deborah Perry Church Delano
RelativesDelano family

Early life

Delano's father, Capt. Warren Delano

Delano was born on July 13, 1809, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was the eldest son of Captain Warren Delano Sr. (1779–1866) and Deborah Perry (née Church) Delano.[1]

After his mother's death in 1827, his father, who was involved in the New England sea trade, remarried to Elizabeth Adams,[2] a widow of Captain Parker of the United States Navy.[1] Among his siblings were brothers Frederick Delano, Edward Delano and Franklin Hughes Delano, who was married to Laura Astor, a daughter of William Backhouse Astor Sr. and a sister of, among others, John Jacob Astor III and William Backhouse Astor Jr.[3][a]

A descendant of Philip Delano (a Pilgrim who arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621), Warren Jr.'s paternal grandparents were Ephraim Delano and Elisabeth (née Cushman) Delano,[6] and his maternal grandparents were Joseph Church and Deborah (née Perry) Church.[7]

He graduated from the Fairhaven Academy at the age of 15 and by age 17 was a trader in the import business.[8]


Delano's daughter Sara and son Philippe in 1865 after returning from Hong Kong

Delano made a large fortune smuggling opium into Canton (now Guangzhou), China.[9][10] Opium, a highly addictive narcotic related to heroin, was illegal in China.

By the 1800s, European demand for Chinese luxury products such as silk, tea, porcelain ("china"), and furniture was immense, but Chinese demand for European products was relatively weak.

As a result, many European nations ran large trade deficits with China. Foreign traders such as the Scottish merchant William Jardine of Jardine Matheson introduced large-scale opium smuggling into China in order to reduce this trade imbalance and to gain further access to coveted Chinese products. The vast increase in opium smuggling into China resulted in millions of people becoming newly addicted to opium in China, and in an unprecedented Chinese trade imbalance with foreign powers, which in turn resulted in the First Opium War of 1840–1843.[10]

Delano first went to China at age 24 to work for Russell & Company, which had pioneered trading with China. John Perkins Cushing – also a Russell & Company partner – had preceded Delano and initiated a close relationship with the largest Chinese hong merchant called Howqua. The two men had established an offshore base – an anchored floating warehouse – where Russell & Company ships would offload their opium contraband before continuing up the Pearl River Delta to Canton with their legal cargo.[11]

By early 1843, Delano had prospered greatly in the Chinese opium trade, rising to become the head partner of the biggest American firm trading with China. He had witnessed the destruction of the Canton system, the humiliation of the Chinese government, and the creation of New China.[12][page needed]

In the 1850s, Delano, along with his brother Franklin and Asa Packer, builder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and founder of Lehigh University, headed a land company that purchased several thousand acres and established the town of Delano, Pennsylvania.[13]

Delano lost much of his fortune in the Panic of 1857. In 1860, he returned to China, except this time he went to Hong Kong where he rebuilt his fortune. During the U.S. Civil War, Delano shipped opium to the Medical Bureau of the U.S. War Department.[8]

Personal life

Catherine Robbins Lyman Delano
A 1910 portrait of Delano's daughter, Katherine Robbins Collier, by Lallie Charles

On November 1, 1843, Delano was married to Catherine Robbins Lyman (1825–1896), a daughter of Joseph Lyman and Anne Jean (née Robbins) Lyman, during a short visit to Massachusetts. Together, they were the parents of eleven children, being:[7]

  1. Susan Maria Delano (1844–1846), who died in infancy.[7]
  2. Louisa Church Delano (1846–1869), who died young and unmarried.[7]
  3. Deborah Perry Delano (1847–1940), who married merchant William Howell Forbes of the Forbes family. After William died in 1896, she married his brother Paul Revere Forbes in 1903.[14]
  4. Anne Lyman Delano (1849–1926), who married merchant Frederic Delano Hitch in 1877.[7]
  5. Warren Delano III (1850–1851), who died in infancy.[7]
  6. Warren Delano IV (1852–1920), who married Jennie Walters, the only daughter of merchant William Thompson Walters.[15]
  7. Sara Ann Delano (1854–1941), who married James Roosevelt I and became the mother of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.[7]
  8. Philippe Delano (1857–1881), who died young and unmarried.[7]
  9. Katherine Robbins Delano (1860–1953), who married Charles Albert Robbins in 1882. After his death in 1889, she married Hiram Price Collier, a Unitarian minister.[7]
  10. Frederic Adrian Delano (1863–1953), who married Matilda Anne Peasley and served as president of the Monon Railroad.[7]
  11. Laura Franklin Delano (1864–1884), who died young and unmarried.[7]

In 1851, Delano bought 60 acres on the Hudson River in Balmville, New York (two miles north of Newburgh). He commissioned Andrew Jackson Downing and Calvert Vaux to remodel an existing farmhouse into an Italianate villa, naming it Algonac.[16][8] His grandson Franklin Roosevelt was married at Algonac in 1905.[7]

Death and burial

The Delano family tomb at Riverside Cemetery in Fairhaven, Massachusetts

His wife Catherine died on February 10, 1896, in Newburgh, Massachusetts. Delano died in Algonac on January 17, 1898, of bronchial pneumonia.[17][9] After a funeral there, he was buried next to his wife in the Delano Family Tomb at Riverside Cemetery in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, which Delano had established in 1850. The tomb was erected in 1859 and designed by Richard Morris Hunt.[18]


The Delano family in an 1889 family portrait at Algonac

Through his daughter Sara, he was a grandfather of the 32nd President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who married his fifth cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and was the father of six children, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, James Roosevelt II, Franklin Roosevelt (who died in infancy), Elliott Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., and John Aspinwall Roosevelt II.[19]

Through his daughter Katherine, he was a grandfather of four, including diplomat Warren Delano Robbins and Katharine Price Collier, a Republican U.S. Representative[20] who in 1917 married George St. George, third son of the second Sir Richard St George, 2nd Baronet.[21]



Both Delano, Pennsylvania, and Delano Township, Pennsylvania, were named for Warren Delano Jr.[13]


  1. ^ Reportedly, Laura Astor Delano was the favorite granddaughter of John Jacob Astor, the founding Astor family patriarch who was America's first millionaire.[4] As they had no children, Laura and Franklin's 1851 home, Steen Valetje, was inherited by Warren Jr.'s son, Warren Delano IV.[5]


  1. ^ a b Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 1060. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  2. ^ "Delano Family Papers, 1568–1919". www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  4. ^ Homberger, Eric (2004). Mrs. Astor's New York: Money and Social Power in a Gilded Age. Yale University Press. p. 105. ISBN 9780300105155. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  5. ^ "WARREN DELANO KILLED BY TRAIN AT BARRYTOWN His Favorite Horse, Frightened by Express, Dashed On Track, Carrying Him to Death. BORNE 150 FEET BY ENGINE Uncle of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Had Large Coal interests in Pennsylvania. OWNED STABLE OF HORSES He Intended to Exhibit Animal HeWas Driving at Dutchess County Fair Tomorrow" (PDF). The New York Times. September 10, 1920. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  6. ^ Americana, American Historical Magazine. National American Society. 1919. p. 303. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Roosevelt Genealogy". www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Archived from the original on 1 March 2019. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  8. ^ a b c "Delano Homestead Bed and Breakfast – The Homestead". www.delanohomestead.com. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Warren Delano". New-York Tribune. 18 January 1898. p. 2. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  10. ^ a b Grant, Frederic. ""A Fair, Honorable, And Legitimate Trade" | AMERICAN HERITAGE". www.americanheritage.com. No. 5. American Heritage. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  11. ^ "GLIMPSES OF LIFE IN THE METROPOLIS Macaulay on Men and Affairs in and Around New York. A BUDGET OF GOSSIP. Notable Newspaper Men—The Week in Art Circles—Opening of the Stewart Collection—Death of Warren Delano—Notes". Democrat and Chronicle. 29 January 1898. p. 9. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  12. ^ Bradley, James (2016). The China Mirage.
  13. ^ a b Beynon, Jo (August 26, 1999). "FDR had ties to coal mining in Mt. Savage". Cumberland Times-News. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  14. ^ "Society at Home and Abroad" (PDF). New York Times. 14 June 1903.
  15. ^ Pottker, Jan (2014). Sara and Eleanor: The Story of Sara Delano Roosevelt and Her Daughter-in-Law, Eleanor Roosevelt. St. Martin's Press. p. 44. ISBN 9781466864511. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  16. ^ Kowsky, Francis R. Country, Park, & City: The Architecture and Life of Calvert Vaux. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  17. ^ "DIED" (PDF). The New York Times. 19 January 1898. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  18. ^ Riverside Cemetery and Crematorium. A Brief History of Riverside Cemetery. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  19. ^ Clemens, Cyril (1935). The Literary Education of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. International Mark Twain Society. p. 13. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  20. ^ "ST. GEORGE, Katharine Price Collier (1894–1983)". bioguideretro.congress.gov. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  21. ^ "ST. GEORGE, Katharine Price Collier". history.house.gov. US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved 27 January 2020.