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Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney

cornelius vanderbilt whitney, cornelius vanderbilt whitney estate
Cornelius Vanderbilt "CV" "Sonny" Whitney February 20, 1899 – December 13, 1992 was an American businessman, film producer, writer, philanthropist, polo player, and government official, as well as the owner of a leading stable of thoroughbred racehorses


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Career
    • 21 Film producing
    • 22 Sportsman
    • 23 Estates
    • 24 Government and military service
  • 3 Personal life
    • 31 Philanthropy and arts patronage
  • 4 Written works
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading

Early lifeedit

Born in Old Westbury, New York, he was the son of the wealthy and socially prominent Harry Payne Whitney 1872–1932 and Gertrude Vanderbilt 1875–1942 He had a younger sister, Barbara Whitney, and an elder sister, Flora Payne Whitney 1897–19861 As a member of both the Whitney and Vanderbilt families, he inherited a substantial fortune However, he proved to be a very capable businessman2


After graduating from Yale University in 1922, he went to work at a Nevada mine owned by his father CV's paternal grandfather William Collins Whitney was a co-founder and director of the Guaranty Trust Company of New York and in 1926 CV Whitney was appointed a director, serving on the bank's board until 1940 In 1927, CV joined with William Avery Rockefeller III and other investors to back Juan Trippe in establishing the Aviation Corporation of America which a year later would become Pan American World Airways

In 1931, Whitney founded the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co Limited in Canada The company became a major zinc mining operation and Whitney served as chairman of the board until 1964

Film producingedit

CV Whitney became involved in the motion picture industry, notably with his cousin John Hay Whitney as a major shareholder backing the Technicolor Corporation The two were also financiers for the 1939 film classic Gone with the Wind Seventeen years later, CV Whitney served as a producer through his own "CV Whitney Pictures" His company made three films, the first being the acclaimed 1956 production, The Searchers, directed by John Ford Second was The Missouri Traveler in 1958 with Brandon deWilde and Lee Marvin and the third The Young Land in 1959 with Patrick Wayne and Dennis Hopper

Whitney was a major financial partner in the development of Marine Studios, designed as an underwater motion picture studio located on the ocean south of St Augustine, Florida The Studios opened on June 23, 1938 with an estimated 30,000 visitors and eventually evolved into a major marine attraction It was billed as "the world's original marine attraction" Whitney sold the attraction and its amenities to a group of St Augustine businessmen, and Whitney's legacy continues at the Whitney Laboratory nearby3


His father, Harry Payne Whitney, had been an avid polo player and thoroughbred racehorse owner and CV Whitney followed in his footsteps, winning the US Open polo title three times Since 1979, the Greenwich Polo Club at Conyers Farm in Greenwich, Connecticut has awarded the CV Whitney Cup to the winner of an annual polo tournament

He was the third generation of Whitneys to be heavily involved in thoroughbred horse racing The Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course was inaugurated in his family's honor in 1928 CV Whitney acquired his father's stable in 1930 and on May 17, his two-year-old colt Equipoise gave him his first stakes race victory when he won the Keene Memorial Stakes at Belmont Park Equipose would go on to become a success on the racetrack and as a leading sire and would be inducted in racing's Hall of Fame in 1957 Among Whitney's other outstanding horses, Top Flight was the 1931 American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly and the 1932 American Champion Three-Year-Old Filly who was aslso voted into the US Racing Hall of Fame

Although he had fifteen horses compete in the Kentucky Derby, Whitney never won the prestigious race Silver Spoon was the only filly entered in the Derby between the years 1945 and 1980, coming in a credible fifth in 1959 Ridden by jockey Eddie Arcaro and trained by Sylvester Veitch, Whitney's horse Phalanx won the first division of the 1947 Wood Memorial Stakes, finished second in the 1947 Kentucky Derby, took third in the ensuing Preakness Stakes, then won the Belmont Stakes In the 1951 Kentucky Derby, Whitney's Veitch-trained colt Counterpoint was still developing after an injury as a yearling that almost ended his career and tired badly, finishing 11th However, Counterpoint came back to take second place in the Preakness Stakes and subsequently gave Whitney his second win in the Belmont Stakes and then went on to earn 1951 Horse of the Year honors Among other successful horses from his stables, Career Boy won the United Nations Handicap and was voted the Eclipse Award champion Grass Horse for 1956 And First Flight was one of his best fillies, winning the Matron Stakes and beating males in Belmont's Futurity Stakes in 1946


One of Whitney's homes was the "Cady Hill" estate at Saratoga Springs, New York, not far from the Saratoga Race Course2 It was there in 1950 that he founded the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and served as its first president A former director of Churchill Downs, he was given an Eclipse Special Award in 1984 in recognition of his lifetime contribution to thoroughbred horse racing in the United States The C V Whitney Farm in Lexington, Kentucky bred more than 175 stakes winners until age forced him to sell off a large part of the property in the 1980s to Gainesway Farm After his death in 1992, his widow, Marylou Whitney, continued breeding and racing operations on a smaller scale A much respected figure in racing, her "Marylou Whitney Stables" owned Birdstone, the 2004 Belmont Stakes winner4

Upon his death CV owned over 51,000 acres 210 km² in the Adirondacks along with a great camp called Deerlands Located within the Oswegatchie Great Forest, the Whitney estate is home to more than 40 lakes and ponds as well as the headwaters of the Beaver, Raquette and Bog rivers In 1997, New York State bought 14,700 acres 59 km² of the 51,000 acre 210 km² Whitney tract from Marylou's "Whitney Industries" for $171 million2

Government and military serviceedit

Having spent considerable time in France, CV Whitney's mother Gertrude became involved supporting the Allied forces during World War I She dedicated a great deal of her time and money to various relief efforts, establishing and maintaining a hospital in France for wounded soldiers Eighteen-year-old CV Whitney joined the United States Army, serving as an aviation cadet in the Signal Corps, rising to the rank of Second Lieutenant and became a military pilot During the first World War Whitney served as a flight instructor in Texas5

With the onset of American involvement in World War II, Whitney volunteered again for service, rising to the rank of Colonel with the United States Army Air Forces6 He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit7

At the end of the war, CV Whitney served under US President Harry S Truman as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force 1947–49 and Undersecretary of Commerce 1949–50 He was also appointed President Truman's special envoy to the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Spain and Italy in 19508

Personal lifeedit

Whitney's fourth wife, Marylou Whitney, with children, 1959

On March 5, 1923, Whitney married for the first of an eventual four times to Marie Norton 1903–1970, daughter of Sheridan Nook Norton, an attorney, and Beulah Sanfield Einstein,9 in Paris10 They were married from 1923 to 1929 and had two children before their divorce11 Marie later married New York Governor and diplomat Averell Harriman and was First Lady of New York from January 1, 1955 to to December 31, 19589

  • Harry Payne Whitney II 1924-1985, who married Alexandra Ewing 1927-2014, the daughter of Gifford Cochran Ewing and Frances Riker12 and later Andrea R Whitney13
  • Nancy Marie Whitney 1926-2006, who married Edwin Denison Morgan III 1921-2001 in 1958, div 1959, then Edward Augustus Hurd, Jr 1918-2001 in 1959, and later Pierre Lutz 1923-199114

His second marriage was to Gwladys Crosby "Gee" Hopkins from 1931 to 1940; they had one daughter:

  • Gail Whitney 1939-1963,15 who married Richard Cox Cowell in 195816 They were divorced a year later1718 In 1961, she married Louis S Stur19 Gail died at the age of 2415

In 1941, in Plymouth, Ohio, he married for the third time to Eleanor Searle c 1908–2002,20 daughter of Dr and Mrs George James Searle21 Before their divorce in 1957, they had one son:22

  • Cornelius Searle Whitney 1944-2015, an economist, psychologist and a philanthropist23

On January 25, 1958, he married for the fourth, and final, time to Marie Louise Schroeder b 192524 She was an actress in a movie he produced, called The Missouri Traveler24 They remained married to until his death Together, they had one daughter:

  • Cornelia Whitney, an art instructor and divorced mother of one who lives in Ithaca, New York25

Over the 1920s Whitney successfully fended off several million-dollar lawsuits filed by former Ziegfeld Follies dancer Evan-Burrows Fontaine charging him with breach of promise and paternity of her son26

CV died in 1992 in Saratoga Springs, New York at the age of 93 and is buried there in the Greenridge Cemetery In 1994 a portion of New York State Route 50 in the City of Saratoga Springs was designated "CV Whitney Memorial Highway"27

Philanthropy and arts patronageedit

Portrait of Henri II de Lorraine by Anthony van Dyck, 1634, which Whitney donated to the National Gallery of Art

CV Whitney was raised in an artistic environment His mother, Gertrude, was an accomplished sculptor who studied in Paris under Auguste Rodin She was also the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City As an adult, CV Whitney played a role in establishing the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York, was a supporter of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and was a founder of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art in Cody, Wyoming The Mr And Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame collection was provided in 1987 to the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, New York It is the only museum in the world dedicated to professional dance

CV Whitney donated important artworks to various museums Notable donations include the gift of a 1634 Anthony van Dyck painting of Henri II de Lorraine, 5e Duc de Guise, which had been in the Whitney family for three generations, to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC In 1953 Whitney donated the 1872 Thomas Eakins painting, The Biglin Brothers Racing, to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

CV Whitney's interest in the natural history of marine animals resulted in the 1938 founding of the world's first oceanarium Marineland, near St Augustine, Florida, included a small research laboratory that drew academic biologists Eventually, Whitney provided the University of Florida with an adjacent parcel of land plus half of the construction capital required to build a full-scale academic center, the CV Whitney Laboratory for Experimental Marine Biology and Medicine now called The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience28 In addition, he donated Whitney Hall to the university, a building that serves as a conference center and contains dormitories and apartments

In 1963, his estate at Old Westbury, New York was subdivided and offered to the New York Institute of Technology for use as part of its Long Island campus29

In 2000, his widow helped finance the publication of Legend of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney by Jeffrey L Rodengen30

Written worksedit

Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney wrote five books:

  • Lone and Level Sands 1951 – a personal narrative of Allied aerial operations during World War II
  • High Peaks 1977 – autobiography
  • Live a Year with a Millionaire 1981
  • Owl Hoots Again 1988 – a collection of short stories for children
  • First Flight: The Diary of a Cadet in the Signal Corps in World War I 1989

See alsoedit

  • Biography portal
  • World War I portal
  • World War II portal
  • Whitney Marine Lab


  1. ^ Howe, Marvine 19 July 1986 "FLORA WHITNEY MILLER IS DEAD; WAS ART MUSEUM CHAIRMAN" The New York Times Retrieved 13 October 2016 
  2. ^ a b c Gelder, Lawrence Van 10 January 1997 "Marylou Whitney: Life at the Gallop" The New York Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  3. ^ "National Register of Historical Places - Florida Fla, Flagler County" National Register of Historic Places National Park Service 1986 Retrieved 4 January 2010 
  4. ^ "Entrepreneur Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney dead at 93" UPI December 13, 1992 Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  5. ^ Folwell, Elizabeth "Our Air Force | A who's who of North Country aviators" Adirondack Life September/October 2004 Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  6. ^ "Whitney, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Col" airforcetogetherweservedcom United States Air Force Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  7. ^ "Citations | Medals | Awards" projectsmilitarytimescom Military Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  8. ^ Staff, From Times; Reports, Wire 14 December 1992 "CV Whitney; Scion of Two Noted Families" Los Angeles Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  9. ^ a b "Mrs W Averell Harriman Dies; Former Governor's Wife Was 67" New York Times September 27, 1970 Retrieved February 17, 2015 
  10. ^ "Quiet Whitney Wedding" New York Times March 2, 1923 Retrieved February 17, 2015 
  11. ^ "Divorces CV Whitney" New York Times September 24, 1929 Retrieved February 17, 2015 
  12. ^ http://wwwsocialregisteronlinecom/#!alexandra-ewing-whitney/c22j5
  13. ^ Staff September 26, 1985 "Harry Payne Whitney Is Dead; Yachtsman From Manhattan" The New York Times Retrieved 26 March 2016 
  14. ^ "Deaths LUTZ, NANCY WHITNEY" The New York Times October 30, 2006 Retrieved 26 March 2016 
  15. ^ a b Dribben, Irwin 14 September 1963 "Gail Whitney Stur Dies at 24; Wife of Official at Sun Valley; Debutante of '56 Was the Daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney" The New York Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  16. ^ Times, Special To The New York 26 January 1958 "Gail Whitney Becomes a Bride | Wed at Apartment of Friends Here to Richard Cowell" The New York Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  17. ^ Eagle, Julie January 28, 1985 "Palm Beach Pair Keeps In Shape By Water-skiing" Sun-Sentinel Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  18. ^ Times, Special To The New York 7 August 1959 "Gail Cowell Divorced" The New York Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  19. ^ "Gail Whitney Wed To Louis S Stur" The New York Times 20 April 1961 Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  20. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths MCCOLLUM, ELEANOR SEARLE WHITNEY" The New York Times 14 August 2002 Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  21. ^ Times, Special To The New York 19 June 1941 "CVWHITNEY WEDS ELEANOR SEARLE | Sportsman, Arts Patron and Business Leader Marries Singer in Plymouth, Ohio | RELATIVES AT CEREMONY | Nuptials Performed in Church Founded in 1840 by Bride's Great-Grandfather" The New York Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  22. ^ Times, Special To The New York 12 July 1958 "C V Whitneys End Court Fight; Ex-Wife Gets $2,000,000 Cash" The New York Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  23. ^ "C SEARLE WHITNEY's Obituary on New York Times" The New York Times May 10, 2015 Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  24. ^ a b Times, Special To The New York 25 January 1958 "CORNELIUS WHITNEY MARRIES IN NEVADA" The New York Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  25. ^ Hays, Charlotte August 24, 1998 "Driving Mrs Whitney" New York Magazine Vol 31 Issue 32 p 32 Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  26. ^ New York Times – August 13, 1922
  27. ^ "Route 50 may be renamed to honor CV Whitnet" The Daily Gazette November 19, 1993 Retrieved October 6, 2013 
  28. ^ Gulfbaseorg Info
  29. ^ Shaman, Diana 27 October 1996 "On a Slice of the Whitney Estate, a New Subdivision" The New York Times Retrieved 15 February 2017 
  30. ^ Maysonet, Jeffrey L Rodengen ; edited by Melody 2000 The legend of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Fort Lauderdale, Fla: Write Stuff Enterprises ISBN 0-945903-60-X  |access-date= requires |url= help

Further readingedit

  • http://wwwnytimescom/1985/09/26/nyregion/harry-payne-whitney-is-dead-yachtsman-from-manhattanhtml
  • http://wwwindependentcouk/news/people/obituary-cornelius-vanderbilt-whitney-1480302html
  • http://wwwbritannicacom/EBchecked/topic/642886/Cornelius-Vanderbilt-Whitney

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