Male, born 1876-11-02, died 1940-12-04

Associated with the firm network

Austin Company, Building Contractors

Professional History


In 1916, Austin worked for the family business, the Austin Company. Vice President/General Manager, The Austin Company, Industrial Engineers and Builders, Cleveland, OH, c. 1918; in 1918, according to Austin Company stationery, the firm specialized in "Austin Standard Factory Buildings, Industrial Plants and Their Equipment, Power Houses and Heating Systems." The Austin Company had its main office in Cleveland, OH, with branch offices in New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Washington, DC, Detroit, MI, Pittsburgh, PA, Indianapolis, IN, and Chicago, IL. In 1918, J.S. Ruble served as Construction Manager, H.E. Stitt, as Chief Engineer. Founder, Austin Company of California, Los Angeles, CA, c. 1925. President, Austin Company, Cleveland, OH, c. 1930-1940;

Professional Activities

Austin often searched abroad for new business opportunities. According to his obituary in the New York Times: "Mr. Austin was one of the first American industrialists to work in collaboration with Soviet Russian officials on the expansion of industrial construction in Russia under the so-called Five Year Plan, having designed and constructed a large automobile plant in 1929." During the late 1920s and early 1930s, he, his father, Samuel Austin, and Detroit-based Albert Kahn (1869-1942) worked with Stalin's regime to build state-of-the-art industrial plants in Russia. At the same time, Austin became interested in moving his company into American airport design, and became " expert in planning for the growth of the aviation industry in general." According to the obituary, Austin surveyed air terminals across the US in 04/1936, and came to the conclusion that the nation would need $20 million worth of improvements to its airports. (See "Austin An Air Pioneer," New York times, 12/05/1940, p. 31.)


B.S., Case School of Applied Science, Cleveland, OH;


Wilbert lived with his parents in a residence at 1237 Broadway, Cleveland, OH, in 1900. Austin lived with wife and two sons at 4401 Broadway in Cleveland by 1910. They had moved to 1894 Farmington Road in Cleveland a decade later, this time with a live-in servant, Mary F. Rispin (a 55-year-old Irish-born widow). In 1930, Austin lived with his family in a $150,000 house at 2601 Sherbrooke Road, Shaker Heights, OH. At this time, the Austins had two servants, Mary Lebow (a widow, born c. 1892 in OH) and her son, Matthew (born c. 1917 in OH). Austin was one of six who died in a crash of a United Airlines twin-engined plane on its approach in icy conditions to the Chicago Airport on 12/04/1940. (See "Six killed, 10 Hurt in Crash of N.Y. Airliner at Chicago," New York Times, 12/05/1940, p. 1, p. 31.)

Wilbert Austin's father was Samuel Austin (06/1850 in England-05/23/1936 in Willoughby, OH), his mother, Sarah Grim (born 07/1851 in England); they married c. 1874. According to a 1918 US Passport Application, Samuel Austin came to the US in 1872 on a ship from Liverpool, UK, and was naturalized c. 1875. Samuel lived first in Cleveland, OH, and, by 1918, had moved to Willoughby, OH. He founded the Austin Company in 1880. According to the US Census of 1900, Samuel and Sarah had had eight children, five of whom were alive at the turn of the century: Ida M. (born 05/1875 in OH), Wilbert, Lillian E. (born 04/1883 in OH), "Floucie L." (may have been misspelled, born 06/1885 in OH) and Ethel M. (born 04/1887 in OH).

He married Ida S. Austin, (born 11/25/1878 in Senecaville, OH) around 1904. Ida's father had come from OH, her mother, PA.

Wilbert and Ida had two sons and one daughter: Allan S. (born c. 1905 in OH) and Donald Quinn. (born c. 1909 in OH), and Margaret L. (born c. 1913 in OH). Donald went on to prep at Choate, before getting his bachelor's degree at Yale University and an M.B.A. at Harvard University. He became engaged to Elizabeth Gibson Gorham, a descendant of Nathaniel Gorham (1738-1796), the 14th President of the US during the Articles of Confederation, and one of MA's signers at the Constitutional Convention on 09/17/1787. (See "Elizabeth Gorham Engaged to Marry," New York Times, 11/01/1937, p.18.)

According to a US Passport Application of 06/08/1901, Wilbert Austin stood 5 feet 10 3/4 inches tall, had a high forehead, gray eyes, a straight nose, dark brown hair and a dark complexion. Austin traveled a great deal, obtaining new contracts and reviewing existing construction projects. Immediately after World War I concluded on 11/11/1918, he made a six-month business trip to Great Britain, Belgium, France and Italy from New York, NY, on 12/02/1918. On 11/21/1918, Austin requested of a Mr. Ferguson or Mr. Chard of the Washington, DC, office, that they expedite his passport application at the State Department. (See, letter from Wilbert J. Austin to the Washington, DC, office, 11/21/1918, part of his 12/02/1918 passport application papers Roll 0645 - Certificates: 49500-49749, 30 Nov 1918-02 Dec 1918.) Austin departed to visit the destroyed Entente Powers to drum up business in the war's wake. One document dated 11/21/1918, an "Affidavit in Support of Application for Passport to Go Abroad on Commercial Business," indicated that he intended to sell "standard buildings, fabricated steel, steel products, building materials, engineering and construction services" to Philippe-Berger in Paris, France; Cie Ansaldo, Genoa, Italy; Comptoir National Pour la Reprise de L'Activite Economique en Belgique, Brussels, Belgium; Pilkington Bros., Ltd., Saint Helena, England. He and Ida sailed from Cherbourg, France to New York, NY, between 10/04/1930-10/09/1930 aboard the S.S. Bremen. A few months later, they traveled from Honolulu, HI, to Los Angeles, CA, 02/28/1931-03/05/1931 on the Matson liner, Malolo Voyage 66-L. He and his son, Donald, sailed first class on the S.S. Herbert Hoover traveling from Yokohama, Japan on 02/01/1935 to Honolulu, HI on 02/08/1935.

Associated Locations

  • Cleveland, OH (Architect's Birth)
    Cleveland, OH

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  • Chicago, IL (Architect's Death)
    Chicago, IL

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PCAD id: 4274