Thompson was named after his maternal grandfather - James Harrison Wilson, a US Civil War general whose postwar career took him to countries around the world. As he result of his travels, the family was introduced to the world of Siam, as Thailand was then known.

Wilson went to England as President Cleveland's representative at the wedding of the future King George V and Princess Mary of Teck. While there, he met the Siamese Crown Prince, Vajiravudh (later crowned King Rama VI), son of Chulalongkorn (King Rama V), son of King Mongkut (Rama IV).

Silks woven by Jim Thompson's company were used in the film version of the musical, "The King and I"

Chulalongkorn was the young prince whom legendary Anna came to teach in the King and I.

A few years later, when Prince Vajiravudh made an official tour of the United States, a request was sent out to General Wilson to act as his guide.

A garden party was held at the Thompson's country home near Greenville, and photographs of the Prince were taken.

Thompson was not yet born but as a child, he enjoyed looking at the faded pictures and listening to stories told of the royal garden party for King Rama VI of Siam.

The Dining Room
The carved teak tables were made for gaming and bear the insignia of King Chulalongkorn (1868 - 1910). The plates are 17th century blue and-white porcelain.

Forty years later, Thompson acquired a pair of ornate, antique (Mahjong) gaming tables from the former palace. The tables which were originally presented as gifts to King Chulalongkorn and bear the Royal Insignia of Rama V engraved in gold.

As a boy, the young Thompson made a number of trips to Europe with his family and school friends, but never displayed any particular interest in Asia, despite his grandfather's association with this part of the world.

The Thompson family at their Delaware home in 1927, when Jim Thompson was at Princeton.
Top row, left to right: Elinor Thompson, Jim Thomas Reath III. Second row: Mrs. Katherine T. Wood, Henry B. Thompson (holding Robert A. Reath), Mrs. Henry B. Thompson, Jr., Henry B. Thompson, Jr.

Henry B. Thompson saw comparatively little of his youngest son in the early years. His offices were in New York and he would return home to Delaware only on the weekends.

He was President of the United States Finishing Company, with mills in Connecticut and Rhode Island, which printed cottons, and later when they were developed, rayons.

Two other interests of Henry Thompson were greater influences on Jim Thompson than his involvement in the textile business. Architecture and landscaping, neither of which he had ever studied.

Inspired by his father's interest in the subject, Thompson opted for architecture as his initial career.