Joseph E. Widener

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Joseph Early Widener
Joseph E Widener by Augustus John 1921.jpg
1921 portrait by Augustus John.
Born(1871-08-19)August 19, 1871
DiedOctober 26, 1943(1943-10-26) (aged 72)
Resting place West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia
Residence Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
Education Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania
OccupationBusinessman, horseman, art collector, philanthropist
Spouse(s)Eleanor Holmes Pancoast
Children1. Peter Arrell Browne Widener II
2. Josephine "Fifi" Widener Leidy Holden Wichfeld Bigelow
Parent(s) Peter A. B. Widener &
Hannah Josephine Dunton

Joseph Early Widener (August 19, 1871 October 26, 1943) was a wealthy American art collector who was a founding benefactor of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. A major figure in Thoroughbred horse racing, he was head of New York's Belmont Park and builder of Miami, Florida's Hialeah Park racetrack.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

National Gallery of Art national art museum in Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art, and its attached Sculpture Garden, is a national art museum in Washington, D.C., located on the National Mall, between 3rd and 9th Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW. Open to the public and free of charge, the museum was privately established in 1937 for the American people by a joint resolution of the United States Congress. Andrew W. Mellon donated a substantial art collection and funds for construction. The core collection includes major works of art donated by Paul Mellon, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, Lessing J. Rosenwald, Samuel Henry Kress, Rush Harrison Kress, Peter Arrell Browne Widener, Joseph E. Widener, and Chester Dale. The Gallery's collection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts traces the development of Western Art from the Middle Ages to the present, including the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas and the largest mobile created by Alexander Calder.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.


Early life

Widener was born in Philadelphia, the second son of the extremely wealthy transportation and real estate magnate Peter A. B. Widener (1834 1915) and Hannah Josephine Dunton (1836 1896). His older brother was George Dunton Widener. Joseph Widener attended Harvard University, and for a short time studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, sometimes known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2017 census-estimated population of 1,580,863. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

George Dunton Widener United States financier

George Dunton Widener was an American businessman who died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Harvard University private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning, and its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities.

Thoroughbred horse racing

Joseph Widener used his great wealth to pursue his interest in Thoroughbred horse racing on a large scale. Not only did he become an owner of a large stable of racehorses, Widener acquired the Elmendorf Farm in Lexington, Kentucky and the Belmont Park racetrack in New York, plus he built Hialeah Park racetrack in Miami, Florida.

Elmendorf Farm is a Kentucky Thoroughbred horse farm in Fayette County, Kentucky, involved with horse racing since the 19th century. Once the North Elkhorn Farm, many owners and tenants have occupied the area, even during the American Civil War. Most of the land acquired during Haggin's era has since been sold off to neighboring stud farms, but the original 765 acres including the columns and many of the historic barns and houses still exist at Elmendorf.

Lexington, Kentucky Consolidated city-county in Kentucky, United States

Lexington, consolidated with Fayette County and often denoted as Lexington-Fayette, is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 60th-largest city in the United States. By land area, Lexington is the 28th largest city in the United States. Known as the "Horse Capital of the World," it is the heart of the state's Bluegrass region. It has a nonpartisan mayor-council form of government, with 12 council districts and three members elected at large, with the highest vote-getter designated vice mayor. In the 2017 U.S. Census Estimate, the city's population was 321,959, anchoring a metropolitan area of 512,650 people and a combined statistical area of 856,849 people.

In 1901, thirty-year-old Joseph Widener began purchasing Thoroughbred horses to compete in both flat racing and steeplechase events. He hired future U.S. Racing Hall of Fame horse trainer, J. Howard Lewis. For the next four decades they combined to race fourteen Champions, two in flat racing and twelve Steeplechase Champions. Widener's steeplechase horses won numerous important races including three editions of the American Grand National with Relluf (1914), Arc Light (1929), and Bushranger (1936). His steeplechasers Bushranger and Fairmount were both elected to the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame.

Flat racing is a form of horse racing which is run on a level racecourse. It is run over a predetermined distance from 2 furlongs (402 m) up to 3 miles (4,828 m) and is either test of speed, stamina, or both, whilst the skills of the jockey is determined by his ability to restrain the horse or impel it. Flat racing does not require horses to jump over any obstacles such as is required for hurdling or steeplechase. It differs from harness racing where horses are pulling a sulky and wear a harness. While in many countries flat racing is the most common form of horse racing, in Great Britain and Ireland it is used to describe the racing season that comes after the jumps racing which is traditionally held over the winter period.

Steeplechase (horse racing) distance horse race in which competitors are required to jump diverse fence and ditch obstacles

A steeplechase is a distance horse race in which competitors are required to jump diverse fence and ditch obstacles. Steeplechasing is primarily conducted in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, Australia and France. The name is derived from early races in which orientation of the course was by reference to a church steeple, jumping fences and ditches and generally traversing the many intervening obstacles in the countryside.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Professional sports hall of fame in Saratoga Springs, New York

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame was founded in 1951 in Saratoga Springs, New York, to honor the achievements of American Thoroughbred race horses, jockeys, and trainers. In 1955, the museum moved to its current location on Union Avenue near Saratoga race course, at which time inductions into the hall of fame began. Each spring, following the tabulation of the final votes, the announcement of new inductees is made, usually during Kentucky Derby Week in early May. The actual inductions are held in mid-August during the Saratoga race meeting.

Following the death of August Belmont Jr., Joseph Widener and friends W. Averell Harriman and George Herbert Walker, purchased much of Belmont's Thoroughbred breeding stock. For his Elmendorf Farm breeding operation, Widener acquired Belmont's very important sire Fair Play and the broodmare Mahubah, the parents of Man o' War. He also purchased a son of Fair Play named Chance Shot who would go on to win the 1927 Belmont Stakes and following the 1929 death of Fair Play would become Elmendorf Farm's leading sire. Widener had a life-size statue of Fair Play erected by his grave at Elmendorf Farm.

August Belmont Jr. American athletes

August Belmont Jr. was an American financier. He financed the construction of the original New York subway (1900-1904) and for many years headed the Interborough Rapid Transit Co., which ran the transit system. He also financed and led the construction of the Cape Cod Canal in Massachusetts, which opened in 1914. Belmont bought the land for and built New York's Belmont Park racetrack—named for his father—and was a major owner/breeder of thoroughbred racehorses. He served as chairman of the board of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. He also served as a director of the Southern Pacific Co., parent of the railroad, and National Park Bank.

W. Averell Harriman American businessman, politician and diplomat

William Averell Harriman, better known as Averell Harriman, was an American Democratic politician, businessman, and diplomat. The son of railroad baron E. H. Harriman, he served as Secretary of Commerce under President Harry S. Truman and later as the 48th Governor of New York. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952 and 1956, as well as a core member of the group of foreign policy elders known as "The Wise Men".

George Herbert Walker American financier

George Herbert "Bert" Walker Sr. was an American banker and businessman. He was the maternal grandfather of President George H. W. Bush and a great-grandfather of President George W. Bush, both of whom were named in his honor.

As part of the selloff of the August Belmont Jr. estate, in 1925 Joseph Widener also acquired majority control of Belmont Park in Elmont, New York and would serve as the race track's president until 1939 when failing health necessitated his stepping down.

Belmont Park horse racing venue in 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. Opened 114 years ago on May 4, 1905, it is operated by the non-profit New York Racing Association, as are Aqueduct and Saratoga Race Course. The group was formed in 1955 as the Greater New York Association to assume the assets of the individual associations that ran Belmont, Aqueduct, Saratoga, and the now-defunct Jamaica Race Course.

Elmont, New York Census-designated place in New York, United States

Elmont is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) located in northwestern Hempstead in Nassau County, New York, United States, along its border with the borough of Queens in New York City. It is a suburban bedroom community located on Long Island. The population was 33,198 at the 2010 census.

In 1930, he imported the stallion Sickle from Lord Derby in England who came to visit the U.S. that year and was Widener's guest at the 1930 Kentucky Derby. A son of the very important sire Phalaris, Sickle would produce 45 Graded stakes race winners and be the leading sire in North America in 1936 and 1938.

Following Chance Shot's win in the 1927 Belmont Stakes, Widener's racing stable won the race two more times with Hurryoff in 1933 and with a son of Chance Shot in 1934 named Peace Chance. He also had five horses compete in the Kentucky Derby with his best finishes a second place earned by Osmand in 1927 and by Brevity in 1936.

Joseph Widener's father had had business interests in France and like other wealthy elite Americans of that era, maintained a place in fashionable Paris. In addition to racing horses in the United States, Widener also kept a stable of Thoroughbreds in France. Competing in French grass racing, his horses won the 1923 and 1926 editions of the Prix La Rochette and the 1923, 1924, and 1937 runnings of the Prix d'Aumale.

Widener also owned English Hackney horses who competed at various shows.

Personal life

He married Eleanor ″Ella″ Holmes Pancoast (1874–1929) with whom he had two children:

Joseph Widener raised his family at Lynnewood Hall, his father's 110-room Georgian-style mansion in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Designed by Horace Trumbauer and Jacques Greber, the mansion, along with its extensive and important art collection, was part of the huge fortune he inherited.

In poor health for several years, Joseph Early Widener died at his Lynnewood Hall estate in 1943 and was interred in the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Hialeah Park

In 1930, Joseph Widener built a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. [1] where he would spend a good part of most winters. That same year, he purchased a controlling interest in the Miami Jockey Club and in 1931 renovated Hialeah Park. Hailed as one of the most beautiful Thoroughbred race tracks in the world, in 1979 Hialeah Park was listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places. Major races here were the Widener Handicap inaugurated in 1936, and the Flamingo Stakes, an important stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby for 3-year-old horses. Following Widener's death, ownership of the facility changed hands several times and after running into financial difficulties it closed in 2001.

Art collection

Joseph Widener added to the extensive and valuable art collection he had inherited from his father. His collection included a dozen or more works by Rembrandt as well as those by Johannes Vermeer, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and others. In 1939, Widener made a number of donations from his assorted collections including manuscripts of historical and artistic importance given to the Rare Book Department at the Free Library of Philadelphia. However, his most important philanthropic endeavor was as a founding benefactor of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.. Widener's 1939 donation of a vast collection was announced by U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Gallery's opening ceremony. Known as the Widener Collection, the more than 2,000 sculptures, paintings, decorative art, and porcelains went on display in 1942. Joseph Widener's own 1921 portrait by Augustus John hangs in the National Gallery of Art.

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  1. "In Palm Beach, the Ultraluxury Market Is Sizzling". New York Times . 2001-08-05. Retrieved 2008-08-10.