Julia Lynch Olin

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Julia Lynch Olin (1882-1961) Chanler

Copyright 2006, Will Johnson, wjhonson@aol.com, Professional Genealogist, All Rights Reserved.

Julia Lynch Olin (primarily known as Julie Chanler) was the second daughter of Stephen Henry Olin (1847-1925) and his first wife Alice Wadsworth Barlow (1853-1882). Stephen was born on the campus of Wesleyan (in Middletown, Connecticut) during his father, Stephen's presidency of that place. Stephen would later become a copyright law attorney in New York City, New York and a trustee for many years of the New York Public Library.

Julia was born Oct 21, 1882 at "Elsinore", her wealthy grandfather's summer home in Glen Cove, New York. Her mother Alice (1853-82) died shortly after Julie's birth. Her grandparents both died in 1889 at which time Elsinore was sold. Her maternal grandfather was the wealthy financier Samuel Latham Mitchell Barlow. (His obit)

She first married in Dec, 1902 to J. Philip Benkard (1873-1929) and had two daughters Phyllis and Elsie. In Dec 1920, while she was in Paris, they divorced and she then married, in May 1921 in Paris, to Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler (1869-1942), the ex-Lieut. Gov. of New York. Lewis was a descendent, through both sides of his family of John Livingston, Rector of Ancrum (d 1672), and through his mother a member of the wealthy Astor family of New York, who had come from Germany.

Sometime after her return from France, Julia attended some lectures about 1925 or 1926 and through these joined the Baha'i organzation.

In the Dec 1929 engagement notice of her daughter Elsie, it mentions that Julia was living at 132 East Sixty-Fifth in New York City. Her daughter Elsie married Charles H Clarke in 1930 in "...a Bahai ceremony presided over by Ahmad Sohrab." and this couple resided at Oyster Bay, New York.

Her association with Ahmad Sohrab led to the creation of the New History Society and the Caravan of the East and West. Her house in Manhattan was christened the "Caravan House". The New History Society published a number of works. Caravan was an organization to introduce young people to the Baha'i religion, a sort-of youth core, before joining the main body. At one time Caravan boasted of having tens of thousands of members all over the world.

When Edward VIII, King of England resigned his throne in 1936, in order to marry Wallis Simpson, Julia Chanler formed an organization called the Friends of the Duke of Windsor in America.

Sohrab and Julia were ordered to submit to the New York Baha'i organization, to be under their aegis and they refused. For this Sohrab was excommunicated from the religion in 1939 by Shoghi Effendi, the then-head of the religion. Later, in 1941, the National Spiritual Assemby sued Sohrab, Julia and her husband to try to stop them from using the name Baha'i in their efforts. The organization lost this case, setting the precedent that the name Baha'i, standing for a religion, may be used by anyone.

The lawsuit is mentioned by Ruth White in her book Questioned Will and Testament published in 1946, where she also here on page 97, states that Julia publishes two magazines New History and The Caravan. "Her four-story house is used to carry on the work, and these efforts have been crowned with enormous success. In the first twelve years of the publication of The Caravan, from 1933 until January 1945, 480 chapters were established in twenty-four countries, with a membership of 80,000."

It should be noted that the enormous collection of Bahai and New History Foundation material, including such artifacts as a lock of Baha'u'llah's hair, which Julie Chanler discusses in her autobiography, was acquired by the Baha'is of Wilmette, after the death of Ahmad Sohrab and Julie Chanler. According to Lili Townsend, Chanler's grand-daughter, in 2007 during a telephone conversation, stated her own mother, Elsie Benkard-Clarke had bestowed the papers on the NSA of Wilmette upon the representation that they would be made available to researchers. Mrs. Townsend went on to add that she didn't believe anything had ever been done with the papers and clearly had no idea what had happened to them.


  • Living Pictures. In the Great Drama of the 19th Century. (with Ahmad Sohrab) New York: The New History Society, 1933. Reprinted. H-Bahai: Lansing, Michigan, 2004. (this link includes her picture) This link has since been purged by H-Net.
  • Seven Valleys, by Bahá'u'lláh (trans. Julie Chanler), 1936
  • Brand, & Sohrab [libretto Max Brand, and Julie Chandler; Music Max Brand]. The Gate: Scenic Oratorio for Soli, Chorus, and Orchestra in Two Parts (19 Scenes). 61. New York: Associated Music Publishers, 1944.
  • His Messengers Went Forth, by Julie Chanler, Illustrated by Olin Dows. Published by Coward-McCann, Inc. New York. Copyright 1948
  • Ioas, Chanler, & Sohrab. Three Letters. [11] leaves. New York: Caravan of East and West, 1954.
  • From Gaslight to Dawn, New History Foundation, NY 1956
  • Her autobiography

Original documents

  • New York Times, May 17, 1928; pg 25 "[Died] In Paris, May 16, after a short illness, Phyllis, elder daughter of J. Philip Benkard, and Julia Olin Chanler."

Secondary sources

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