Ernest Whitworth Marland was born on May 8, 1874 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest of three children and only son of Alfred and Sarah (MacLeod) Marland. His mother, who also had five daughters by an earlier marriage, was a native of the Isle of Skye. His father, a grandson of Ernest Whitworth, a noted mathematician and head of Whitworth School for Boys in Manchester, was of English birth. Coming to the United States in 1862, Alfred Marland served briefly in the Confederate Army and then, after inventing an iron band for baling cotton, moved in 1864 to Pittsburgh, where he became a wealthy iron manufacturer. Known as an enlightened employer, he served in the state legislature and as a member of the Pittsburgh Select Council for twenty years. Ernest, an unathletic and pampered child, was groomed to be a "gentleman" and a future military leader or chief justice.