Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney

Last updated

Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (cropped)).jpg
C. V. Whitney
U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce
In office
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Charles W. Sawyer
Succeeded byW. Walter Williams
U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force
In office
President Harry S. Truman
Personal details
Born(1899-02-20)February 20, 1899
Roslyn, New York, U.S.
DiedDecember 13, 1992(1992-12-13) (aged 93)
Saratoga Springs, New York, U.S.
(m. 1923;div. 1929)

Gwladys Crosby Hopkins
(m. 1931;div. 1940)

(m. 1941;div. 1957)

(m. 1958)
Parents Harry Payne Whitney
Gertrude Vanderbilt
RelativesSee Vanderbilt family and Whitney family
Residence Old Westbury, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Yale University
Film producer
Racehorse owner/breeder
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Branch/serviceFlag of the United States Army.svg  United States Army
Flag of the United States Air Force.svg  United States Air Force
Rank Second Lieutenant (Army)
Colonel (Air Force)
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit

Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (February 20, 1899 – December 13, 1992) was an American businessman, film producer, government official, writer and philanthropist. He was also a polo player and the owner of a significant stable of Thoroughbred racehorses.


Early life

Born in Old Westbury, New York, he was the only son of the wealthy and socially prominent Harry Payne Whitney (1872–1932) and his wife, Gertrude Vanderbilt (1875–1942). He had a younger sister, Barbara Whitney, and an elder sister, Flora Payne Whitney (1897–1986). [1] As a member of both the Whitney and Vanderbilt families, he inherited a substantial fortune. He also proved to be a very capable businessman in his own right. [2]


After graduating from Yale University in 1922, he went to work at a Nevada mine owned by his father. Whitney's paternal grandfather, William Collins Whitney, was a co-founder and director of the Guaranty Trust Company of New York, and in 1926, Whitney was appointed a director, serving on the bank's board until 1940. In 1927, Whitney 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.

Equine sports

His father, Harry Payne Whitney, had been an avid polo player and thoroughbred racehorse owner, and C.V. Whitney followed in his footsteps, winning the U.S. Open polo title three times. Since 1979, the Greenwich Polo Club at Conyers Farm in Greenwich, Connecticut, has awarded the C.V. 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. C.V. 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. Equipoise would go on to become a success on the racetrack and as a leading sire, and would be inducted into 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, and was also voted into the U.S. 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.

In 1972 the Keeneland Association honored Whitney with its Mark of Distinction for his contribution to Keeneland and the Thoroughbred industry. [3]

Film production

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, C. V. Whitney served as a producer through his own "C.V. Whitney Pictures". His company made three films, the first being the acclaimed 1956 production, The Searchers , directed by John Ford. The second was The Missouri Traveler in 1958 with Brandon deWilde and Lee Marvin, and the third was 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 nearby. [4]

Government and military service

Having spent considerable time in France, 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 C. V. Whitney joined the United States Army, serving as an aviation cadet in the Signal Corps, rising to the rank of second lieutenant and becoming a military pilot. During the first World War, Whitney served as a flight instructor in Texas. [5]

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 Forces. [6] He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit. [7]

At the end of the war, Whitney served under U.S. President Harry S. Truman as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force from 1947 to 1949, and United States Under Secretary of Commerce from 1949 to 1950. [8] He was also appointed President Truman's special envoy to the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Spain and Italy in 1950. [9]


One of Whitney's homes was the "Cady Hill" estate at Saratoga Springs, New York, not far from the Saratoga Race Course. [2] 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 winner. [10]

Upon his death, Whitney 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 Whitney's "Whitney Industries" for $17.1 million. [2]

Personal life

Whitney's fourth wife, Marylou Whitney, with children, 1959 Marylou and children 1959.jpg
Whitney's fourth wife, Marylou Whitney, with children, 1959
C.V. and Marylou Whitney with Governor and Mrs. John Y. Brown Jr. Mr. and Mrs. C.V. Whitney and Governor and Mrs. John Y. Brown 001.jpg
C.V. and Marylou Whitney with Governor and Mrs. John Y. Brown Jr.

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, [11] in Paris. [12] They were married from 1923 until 1929, when they divorced. [13] Marie later married New York Governor and diplomat Averell Harriman, and she was First Lady of New York from January 1, 1955, to December 31, 1958. [11] She and Whitney had two children together:

Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney's second marriage was to Gwladys Crosby "Gee" Hopkins, from 1931 to 1940. They had one daughter:

In 1941, in Plymouth, Ohio, he married for the third time to Eleanor Searle (c. 19082002), [24] daughter of Dr. and Mrs. George James Searle. [25] Before their divorce in 1957, they had one son: [26]

On January 25, 1958, he married for the fourth, and final, time to Marie Louise Schroeder (1925–2019). [28] She was an actress in a movie he produced, called The Missouri Traveler . [28] They remained married until his death. Together, they had one daughter:

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 son. [30]

Whitney 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 "C.V. Whitney Memorial Highway." [31]

Philanthropy and arts patronage

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

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, C. V. 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.

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.

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 C.V. Whitney Laboratory for Experimental Marine Biology and Medicine (now called The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience). [32] 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 campus. [33]

In 2000, his widow helped finance the publication of Legend of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney by Jeffrey L. Rodengen. [34]

Written works

Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney wrote five books:

See also

Related Research Articles

Belmont Park A major thoroughbred horse racing facility in Elmont, New York

Belmont Park is a major thoroughbred horse racing facility in the northeastern United States, located in Elmont, New York, just east of the New York City limits. It was opened on May 4, 1905.

Equipoise (1928–1938) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. In a career which lasted from 1930 until 1935, he ran fifty-one times and won twenty-nine races. A leading two-year-old in 1930, he missed most of the next season, including two of the three American Triple Crown races through injury and illness. "Ekky" returned to the track in 1934 and proved to be a dominant champion, winning numerous important stakes races in the next three years. Equipoise died in 1938 after a short but promising stud career.

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr.

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr. was a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family, a son of the first Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who died a hero in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. His mother, Margaret Emerson, was one of America's wealthiest women and most sought-after hostesses, operating at least seven large estates around the country. His grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, had been one of America's most revered businessmen; his great-grandfather, William Henry Vanderbilt had been the richest man in the world. "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt started the family fortune in shipping and railroads as the founder of the New York Central Railroad and builder of Grand Central Depot, the precursor to Grand Central Terminal, built on approximately the same location, and completed by Cornelius II in 1913.

Native Dancer American-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Native Dancer, nicknamed the Gray Ghost, was one of the most celebrated and accomplished Thoroughbred racehorses in American history and was the first horse made famous through the medium of television. He was a champion in each of his three years of racing, and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1963. In the Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century, he was ranked seventh.

Harry Payne Whitney American businessman and horse breeder

Harry Payne Whitney was an American businessman, thoroughbred horse breeder, and member of the prominent Whitney family.

Greentree Stable, in Red Bank, New Jersey, was a major American thoroughbred horse racing stable and breeding farm established in 1914 by Payne Whitney of the Whitney family of New York City. Payne Whitney operated a horse farm and stable at Saratoga Springs, New York with his brother Harry Payne Whitney, who also had a large stable of horses. Greentree Stable had a training base at Aiken, South Carolina, while Greentree Farm in Lexington, Kentucky was established in 1925 as its breeding arm.

Joan Whitney Payson

Joan Whitney Payson was an American heiress, businesswoman, philanthropist, patron of the arts and art collector, and a member of the prominent Whitney family. She was also co-founder and majority owner of Major League Baseball's New York Mets baseball franchise, and was the first woman to own a major-league team in North America without inheriting it.

Marylou Whitney American socialite and philanthropist

Marie Louise "Marylou" Whitney was an American socialite and philanthropist. A prominent owner and breeder of thoroughbred racehorses, Whitney was notable for "reigning for decades as the social queen of the Saratoga and Lexington racing seasons".

Sylvester E. "Syl" Veitch was a Hall of Fame thoroughbred horse trainer.

Counterpoint (1948–1969) was an American ChampionThoroughbred racehorse. He was sired by 1943 U.S. Triple Crown champion Count Fleet and out of the racemare Jabot, a multiple stakes winner and Santa Anita Parktrack record setter against 13 of the premier stake racers in the United States.

Whitney Tower was an American journalist reporting on Thoroughbred horse racing and a president of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Mary Elizabeth Whitney Person Lunn Tippett was a wealthy American socialite and philanthropist who was a champion horsewoman and for more than fifty years, a prominent owner/breeder of Thoroughbred racehorses.

The National Stallion Stakes was an American Thoroughbred horse race held sixty-two times between 1898 and 1971. Inaugurated as the National Stallion Race at Morris Park Racecourse in Westchester County, New York, the event was open to horses of either sex until 1948 when it became a race exclusively for colts and geldings and a National Stallion Stakes was created. Contested on dirt at a distance of five furlongs, from 1905 onward it was hosted by Belmont Park in Elmont, New York except for 1963 through 1967 when it was run at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, Queens, New York.

Richard Thornton Wilson Jr. was an American banker and businessman who was a prominent figure in Thoroughbred horse racing in the early decades of the 20th Century.

Fisherman was an American Thoroughbred racehorse.

Robert Livingston Gerry Sr. American businessman and racehorse owner

Robert Livingston Gerry Sr. was an American businessman and owner of thoroughbred racehorses.

Andrew Schuttinger was an American jockey, trainer and owner in the sport of thoroughbred horse racing. A highly successful jockey, Andy Schuttinger won numerous important races including the Travers Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and what would become the second leg of the U.S. Triple Crown series, the Preakness Stakes. Among the many top horses he rode was Man o' War, as well as two-time American Champion Filly, Milkmaid, the 1914 American Horse of the Year and a Hall of Fame inductee, Roamer, and another Horse of the Year in 1917, Old Rosebud,

Raymond "Sonny" Workman was an American National Champion and Hall of Fame jockey in Thoroughbred horse racing. During his fifteen years as a professional rider from 1926 through 1940, he won an exceptional twenty percent of his starts.

Thomas J. Healey was an American Thoroughbred horse racing Hall of Fame trainer.

Whichone (1927–1944) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse who was named the American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt of 1929. Although Whichone earned important race wins as a three-year-old, injuries hampered his racing career including a bowed tendon sustained in the running of the 1930 Travers Stakes that ended his career.


  1. Howe, Marvine (July 19, 1986). "FLORA WHITNEY MILLER IS DEAD; WAS ART MUSEUM CHAIRMAN". The New York Times . Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 Gelder, Lawrence Van (January 10, 1997). "Marylou Whitney: Life at the Gallop". The New York Times . Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  3. "Mark of Distinction" (PDF). Keeneland. March 20, 2013. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  4. "National Register of Historical Places – Florida (Fla.), Flagler County". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 1986. Retrieved January 4, 2010.
  5. Folwell, Elizabeth. "Our Air Force | A who's who of North Country aviators". Adirondack Life. September/October 2004. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  6. "Whitney, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Col". United States Air Force. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  7. "Citations | Medals | Awards". Military Times. Archived from the original on February 26, 2014. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  8. Egan, Charles E. (March 28, 1950). "C.V. Whitney Offers Resignation As Under Secretary of Commerce; OFFERS TO RESIGN". The New York Times . Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  9. Staff, Times; Reports, Wire (December 14, 1992). "C.V. Whitney; Scion of Two Noted Families". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  10. "Entrepreneur Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney dead at 93". UPI. December 13, 1992. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  11. 1 2 "Mrs. W. Averell Harriman Dies; Former Governor's Wife Was 67". The New York Times. September 27, 1970. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  12. "Quiet Whitney Wedding" (PDF). The New York Times. March 2, 1923. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  13. "Divorces C.V. Whitney" (PDF). The New York Times. September 24, 1929. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  15. Staff (September 26, 1985). "Harry Payne Whitney Is Dead; Yachtsman From Manhattan". The New York Times . Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  16. 1 2 "Deaths LUTZ, NANCY WHITNEY". The New York Times . October 30, 2006. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  17. "MRS. MORGAN MARRIED; Daughter of Mrs. Harriman Wed to C. Russell Hurd" (PDF). The New York Times . August 28, 1957. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  18. "Wedding Is Held For Mrs. Morgan And E. A. Hurd Jr.; Daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Married in Illinois" (PDF). The New York Times . July 2, 1958. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  19. 1 2 Dribben, Irwin (September 14, 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 February 15, 2017.
  20. "Gail Whitney Becomes a Bride | Wed at Apartment of Friends Here to Richard Cowell". The New York Times . January 26, 1958. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  21. Eagle, Julie (January 28, 1985). "Palm Beach Pair Keeps In Shape By Water-skiing". Sun-Sentinel . Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  22. "Gail Cowell Divorced". The New York Times . August 7, 1959. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  23. "Gail Whitney Wed To Louis S. Stur". The New York Times . April 20, 1961. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  24. "Paid Notice: Deaths MCCOLLUM, ELEANOR SEARLE WHITNEY". The New York Times . August 14, 2002. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  25. "C.V.WHITNEY 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 . June 19, 1941. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  26. "C. V. Whitneys End Court Fight; Ex-Wife Gets $2,000,000 Cash". The New York Times . July 12, 1958. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  27. "C. SEARLE WHITNEY's Obituary on New York Times". The New York Times . May 10, 2015. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  28. 1 2 "CORNELIUS WHITNEY MARRIES IN NEVADA". The New York Times . January 25, 1958. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  29. Hays, Charlotte (August 24, 1998). "Driving Mrs. Whitney". New York Magazine . 31 (32). p. 32. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  30. New York Times – August 13, 1922
  31. "Route 50 may be renamed to honor C.V. Whitnet". The Daily Gazette. November 19, 1993. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  32. Info Archived January 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  33. Shaman, Diana (October 27, 1996). "On a Slice of the Whitney Estate, a New Subdivision". The New York Times . Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  34. Jeffrey L. Rodengen (2000). Melody Maysonet (ed.). The legend of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: Write Stuff Enterprises. ISBN   0-945903-60-X.

Further reading