Marjorie Merriweather Post

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Marjorie Merriweather Post
Marjorie Merriweather Post Hutton Davies NYWTS.jpg
Post in 1942
Born(1887-03-15)March 15, 1887
DiedSeptember 12, 1973(1973-09-12) (aged 86)
Alma mater Mount Vernon Seminary and College
Occupation Postum Cereal Company, General Foods owner; philanthropist, socialite
Net worth US$5.7 billion (2017 dollars)
Edward Bennett Close
(m. 1905;div. 1919)

Edward Francis Hutton
(m. 1920;div. 1935)

Joseph E. Davies
(m. 1935;div. 1955)

Herbert A. May
(m. 1958;div. 1964)
ChildrenAdelaide Close
Eleanor Post Hutton
Dina Merrill
Parent(s) Charles William "C. W." Post
Ella Letitia Merriweather
Awards Legion of Honour

Marjorie Merriweather Post (March 15, 1887 – September 12, 1973) was an American businesswoman, socialite and the owner of General Foods, Inc. She used much of her fortune to collect art, particularly pre-revolutionary Russian art, much of which is now on display at Hillwood, the museum that was her estate. She is also known for building Mar-a-Lago.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 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. 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 most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

A socialite is a person who plays a prominent role in high society. A socialite spends a significant amount of time attending various fashionable social gatherings.

General Foods defunct company

General Foods Corporation was a company whose direct predecessor was established in the USA by Charles William Post as the Postum Cereal Company in 1895. The name General Foods was adopted in 1929, after several corporate acquisitions. In November 1985, General Foods was acquired by Philip Morris Companies for $5.6 billion, the largest non-oil acquisition to that time. In December 1988, Philip Morris acquired Kraft, Inc., and, in 1990, combined the two food companies as Kraft General Foods (KGF). "General Foods" was dropped from the corporate name in 1995; a line of caffeinated hot beverage mixes continued to carry the General Foods International name until 2010.


Early life

Marjorie Merriweather Post was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter and only child of C. W. Post and the former Ella Letitia Merriweather. At age 27, when her father died, she became the owner of the rapidly growing Postum Cereal Company, founded in 1895. She was subsequently the wealthiest woman in the United States, with a fortune worth about US$250 million. [1]

Springfield, Illinois State capital and city in Illinois, United States

Springfield is the capital of the U.S. state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County. The city's population was 116,250 at the 2010 U.S. Census, which makes it the state's sixth most-populous city and the largest city in central Illinois. As of 2013, the city's population was estimated to have increased to 117,006, with just over 211,700 residents living in the Springfield Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Sangamon County and the adjacent Menard County.

C. W. Post American businessman

Charles William "C. W." Post was an American inventor, breakfast cereal and foods manufacturer and a pioneer in the prepared-food industry.

United States dollar Currency of the United States of America

The United States dollar is the official currency of the United States and its territories per the United States Constitution since 1792. In practice, the dollar is divided into 100 smaller cent (¢) units, but is occasionally divided into 1000 mills (₥) for accounting. The circulating paper money consists of Federal Reserve Notes that are denominated in United States dollars.

Post attended the Mount Vernon Seminary and College (now the George Washington University's Mount Vernon Campus). She maintained a close lifelong relationship with her alma mater and served as its first alumna trustee. Today, a collection of her correspondence with Mount Vernon administrators is maintained by GWU's Special Collections Research Center. [2] Post's complete collection of personal papers, as well as those of her father, are held by the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library. [3]

The Mount Vernon Seminary and College was a private women's college in Washington, D.C. It merged with George Washington University in 1999 and is now known as the Mount Vernon Campus of The George Washington University.

George Washington University university in Washington, D.C.

The George Washington University is a private research university in Washington, D.C. It was chartered in 1821 by an act of the United States Congress.

University of Michigan Public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

The University of Michigan, often simply referred to as Michigan, is a public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The university is Michigan's oldest; it was founded in 1817 in Detroit, as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the territory became a state. The school was moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet spread out over a Central Campus and North Campus, two regional campuses in Flint and Dearborn, and a Center in Detroit. The university is a founding member of the Association of American Universities.


Mar-a-Lago, Marjorie Merriweather Post's estate on Palm Beach Island MaralagoLoC.jpg
Mar-a-Lago, Marjorie Merriweather Post's estate on Palm Beach Island
Entrance to Mar-a-Lago owner's suite, April 1967 Mar-A-Lago1.jpg
Entrance to Mar-a-Lago owner's suite, April 1967
Boathouse at Camp Topridge Topridge Boathouse.jpg
Boathouse at Camp Topridge

In addition to Hillwood and other estates, Post's other lavish home was Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Designed by Marion Sims Wyeth and Joseph Urban, Post willed Mar-a-Lago to the United States federal government in 1973 as a retreat for presidents and visiting foreign dignitaries. [4] The mansion was not, however, used for this purpose, prior to being declared a National Historic Landmark in 1980. [5] [6]

Mar-a-Lago United States historic place

Mar-a-Lago is a resort and national historic landmark in Palm Beach, Florida, built from 1924 to 1927 by cereal-company heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. The 126-room, 62,500-square-foot (5,810 m2) mansion contains the Mar-a-Lago Club, a members-only club with guest rooms, a spa, and other hotel-style amenities. It is located in Palm Beach County on the Palm Beach barrier island, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Florida's Intracoastal Waterway to the west.

Palm Beach, Florida Town in Florida, United States

The Town of Palm Beach is an incorporated town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The Intracoastal Waterway separates it from several neighboring cities including West Palm Beach and Lake Worth. As of 2010, Palm Beach had a year-round population of 8,348. In 2018, Bloomberg ranked Palm Beach as the 27th-wealthiest place in the United States.

Marion Sims Wyeth American architect

Marion Sims Wyeth (1889–1982) was an American architect. He designed mansions including Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, and Shangri La in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Post and her second husband, E. F. Hutton, owned Sea Cloud (Hussar V), the largest privately owned sea-going yacht in the world at the time. [7] Post also owned Camp Topridge on Upper St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks, which she considered a "rustic retreat". [8] It included a fully staffed main lodge and private guest cabins, each staffed with its own butler. The expansive Great Camp, built in 1923 by Benjamin A. Muncil, eventually contained nearly 70 buildings, as well as a Russian dacha, on 300 acres. It was one of only two Adirondack camps to be featured in Life magazine. Another home, which she shared with Joseph Davies in Washington, D.C., was called Tregaron. [9]

Edward Francis Hutton American financier

Edward Francis Hutton was an American financier and co-founder of E. F. Hutton & Co., one of the largest financial firms in the United States.

<i>Sea Cloud</i> sailing cruise ship

Sea Cloud is a sailing cruise ship of the Sea Cloud Cruises line. Initially built as a private yacht, it subsequently served as a weather ship for the United States Coast Guard and United States Navy during World War II. The ship served as the first racially integrated warship in the United States Armed Forces since the American Civil War. Following the war, Sea Cloud was returned to private ownership, serving as a yacht for numerous people, including as presidential yacht of the Dominican Republic. The ship currently sails in Europe and the Caribbean as part of a fleet of sail cruise ships operated by Sea Cloud Cruises GmbH of Hamburg, Germany, often under contract to the National Geographic Society.

Yacht Recreational boat or ship

A yacht is a watercraft used for pleasure or sports. The term originates from the Dutch word jacht, and originally referenced light, fast sailing vessels that the Dutch Republic navy used to pursue pirates and other transgressors around and into the shallow waters of the Low Countries. The yacht was popularized by Charles II of England as a pleasure or recreation vessel following his restoration in 1660.

Some of Post's jewelry, bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is displayed in the Harry Winston exhibit. Pieces in the collection include the Napoleon Diamond Necklace and the Marie Louise Diadem, a 275-ct (55 g) diamond-and-turquoise necklace and tiara set that Napoleon I gave to his second wife, Empress Marie Louise; a pair of diamond earrings set with pear shapes, weighing 14 ct (2.8 g) and 20 ct (4 g), once belonging to Marie Antoinette; the Blue Heart Diamond, a 30.82-ct (6.164 g) heart-shaped blue diamond ring; and an emerald-and-diamond necklace and ring, once belonging to Mexican emperor Maximilian. [10] [11]

Smithsonian Institution Group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government

The Smithsonian Institution, also known simply as the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. It was founded on August 10, 1846, "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. It was originally organized as the "United States National Museum", but that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.

Harry Winston American jeweller

Harry Winston was an American jeweler. He donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958 after owning it for a decade. He also traded the Portuguese Diamond to the Smithsonian in 1963.

Napoleon Diamond Necklace

The Napoleon Diamond Necklace is a diamond necklace commissioned by Napoleon I of France c. 1811–1812. It is currently on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., United States.

Post funded a U.S. Army hospital in France during World War I, and, decades later, the French government awarded her the Legion of Honour. The Merriweather Post Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue in Columbia, Maryland, is named for her. [12]

In 1971, she was among the first three recipients of the Silver Fawn Award, presented by the Boy Scouts of America. The 425-acre (172 ha) Lake Merriweather at Goshen Scout Reservation in Goshen, Virginia, was named in her honor.

Russian art collection

During the 1930s, the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin began selling art treasures and other valuables seized from the Romanov family and former Russian aristocrats after the Russian Revolution to earn hard currency for its industrialisation and military armament programs. Critics [ who? ] have claimed that these items were expropriated; however, Post and Davies's transactions were from the recognised governmental authority. [13] Neither she nor Davies were involved with the original seizing of the items. Allegations later surfaced that many works of art from the Tretyakov Gallery and other collections were either donated or offered at nominal prices to Post and Davies, who were both art collectors. Davies is also alleged to have purchased art expropriated from Soviet citizens well after the Russian Revolution, including victims of Stalin's Terror at discount prices from Soviet authorities. [14] [13]

Many of the items, which remain under the control of the Post estate or its agents, can be viewed at Hillwood, her former estate. [15] Hillwood has operated as a private museum since Post's death and displays her French and Russian art collection, featuring the work of Fabergé, Sèvres porcelain, French furniture, tapestries, and paintings. [16]

Personal life

Post married four times. In 1905, she married investment banker Edward Bennett Close of Greenwich, Connecticut, and they divorced in 1919. Together, they had two daughters: [16]

Via his second marriage, Edward Bennett Close would later become the paternal grandfather of actress Glenn Close.

Post was married for a second time, in 1920, to financier Edward Francis Hutton. In 1923, he became the chairman of the board of the Postum Cereal Company, and they developed a larger variety of food products, including Birdseye Frozen Foods. The company became the General Foods Corporation in 1929. Post and Hutton divorced in 1935. They had one daughter:

Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband Ambassador Joseph E. Davies (center) with Carlton Skinner at a presentation of a Naval Reserve Pennant. Carlton Skinner aboard the Sea Cloud.jpg
Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband Ambassador Joseph E. Davies (center) with Carlton Skinner at a presentation of a Naval Reserve Pennant.

In 1935, Post married her third husband, Joseph E. Davies, a Washington, D.C. lawyer. They had no children and were divorced in 1955. From 1937 to 1938, in a crucial period leading up to World War II, Davies served as the American ambassador to the Soviet Union, ruled at that time by Joseph Stalin. During this time, Davies and Post acquired many valuable Russian works of art from Soviet authorities.

In 1951, their Long Island estate, which she had purchased in 1922 with Hutton, located in Brookville, New York, was sold to Long Island University for $200,000. It became C.W. Post College in 1954, now known as LIU Post. In 1966, she became honorary housemother of Zeta Beta Tau's Gamma Delta chapter, often hosting the fraternity brothers for brunches. Post served as the honorary house mother of the college's first local fraternity, Sigma Beta Epsilon, which, in 1969, became the New York Beta chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Since Post had borne only girls, she referred to the fraternity of sons-in-law as her "boys", while they called her "Mother Marjorie". Post was honored by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity as a "Golden Daughter of Minerva".[ citation needed ]

Her final marriage, in 1958, was to Herbert A. May, a wealthy Pittsburgh businessman and the former master of fox hounds of the Rolling Rock Hunt Club in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. That marriage ended in divorce in May 1964 and she subsequently reclaimed the name Marjorie Merriweather Post. [16]

Post died at her Hillwood estate on September 12, 1973, after a long illness, and was buried there. [16] [17] She left the bulk of her estate to her three daughters. [18]

She appears as a character in the movie Mission to Moscow (1943), played by Ann Harding.

She is played by Morgan Bradley in the documentary The Food that Built America (2019)

As of 2008, a film based on The New York Times feature "Mystery on Fifth Avenue", describing a riddle-laden renovation of a triplex undertaken by Eric Clough and the architectural firm 212box, built for Merriweather Post in the 1920s, [19] was in development by J. J. Abrams. [20]

Animal Collective's 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavilion is named for the pavilion that bears her name.

See also

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  1. Robertson, Nan (2 July 1978). "A Lot of Grape Nuts". The New York Times . Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  2. Guide to the Mount Vernon Seminary and College Collection of Biographical Materials and Correspondence with Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1901-1999, Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University
  3. "Post Family Papers: 1882-1973". Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
  4. Rothman, Lily (February 16, 2017). "The Mar-a-Lago Club Was a 'Winter White House' Even Before President Trump Got There". Time .
  5. "Mar-a-Lago". 23 December 1980. Archived from the original on 2 April 2009.
  6. McKithan, Cecil N. (August 31, 1981). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Mar-a-Lago". National Park Service.Cite journal requires |journal= (help) and Accompanying 4 photos, exterior, from 1967. (942 kB)
  7. "Sea Cloud - IMO 8843446 Sea Cloud, bt. 1931, gt. 2531" . Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  8. "State Finds No Buyer For Mountain Camp". The New York Times . 28 April 1985. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  9. Rubin Stuart, Nancy (1995). American Empress: The Life and Times of Marjorie Merriweather Post. New York: Villard Press. p. 204. ISBN   978-0-5957-5202-7.
  10. "Maximillian Emerald". Smithsonian: National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  11. "Blue Heart Diamond". Smithsonian: National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  12. "The Best Amphitheaters in America: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  13. 1 2 Wright, William (1978). Heiress: The Rich Life of Marjorie Merriweather Post. New Republic Books. pp. 164–165. ISBN   978-0915220366.
  14. Tzouliadis, Tim (July 17, 2008). The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia. Penguin Press. ISBN   978-1-59420-168-4.
  15. 1 2 3 Fabrikant, Geraldine (16 March 2011). "Hillwood Museum Plans Society Bridal Exhibit". The New York Times . Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 "Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post Is Dead at 86". The New York Times . 13 September 1973. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  17. Marjorie Merriweather Post at Find a Grave
  18. "Mrs. Post's Will Filed in Capital". The New York Times. 26 September 1973. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  19. Green, Penelope (June 12, 2008). "Mystery on Fifth Avenue". The New York Times.
  20. "Observer". Archived from the original on 2008-06-24.