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  Whitney, William Collins
NameWilliam Collins Whitney
New York, New York , United States
Born July 05, 1841
DiedFebruary 02, 1904 (62 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedRBH
Feb 05, 2013 01:47am
InfoWilliam Collins Whitney, b. Conway, Mass., July 5, 1841, d. Feb. 2, 1904, was an American financier and political leader. He became a corporation lawyer in New York City and served (1875-82) as the city's corporation counsel, helping to reorganize its legal and financial affairs and assisting in the prosecution of the Tweed Ring.
A strong backer of Grover Cleveland in the 1882 New York gubernatorial campaign and the 1884 presidential contest, Whitney served President Cleveland as secretary of the navy (1885-89), securing legislation for the construction of armor-plated war vessels.

Hirsch, Mark D., William C. Whitney, Modern Warwick (1948; repr. 1969)

"William Collins Whitney was born in rural Massachusetts in 1841 of estimable lineage but slender fortune. Educated at Yale, charming, and with a calm authority even in his youth, he seemed destined to a brillant future. His marriage to Flora Payne, the vivacious though not truly beautiful Cleveland heiress, could only have appeared to enhance his prospects.
"Dividing his time between Washington and New York, Whitney abandoned the road to the White House to make a fortune of his own, while trying to accomodate Flora's social ambitions in a day when Mrs. Astor was queen of the "400" and "parvenus' like the Vanderbitls were spending millions to storm the gates. Whitney, the charmer, the mediator, the consummate politician and a pivotal force in Tammany and the national Democratic party, made his fortune by methods so subtle that they remained undiscovered in his lifetime. But he was not to escape tragedy.

"His daughter Dorothy, an heiress to millions, was an orphan at seventeen. A lover of dance and society, but with a social conscience lacking in her parents she fell in love, while touring China, with Willard Dickerman Straight. Although negotiating enormous banking transactions in Peking and serving as advisor to railroad magnate E.H. Harriman, who was attempting to create a round-the-world transportation system by hooking up with the trans-siberian Railway, Straight had neither social standing nor money. Dorothy's family was horrified. she had rejected dozens of suitors who had both. but Straight was handson and gifted and, like Dorothy, had political and social ideals. She married him and and their marriage was touching in its closeness. Persisting in their political and social concern, they were founders of the The New Republic, and Dorothy was instrumental in starting the New School for Social Research. But their marriage, too, would be cut short."

From the flyleaf of Whitney Father, Whitney Heiress Two generations of one of America's richest families, by W.A. Swanberg, published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1980.



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Son Harry Payne Whitney 1872-1930
Grandson Cornelius V. Whitney 1899-1992
Son William Payne Whitney 1876-1927
Grandson John Hay Whitney 1904-1982
Father James S. Whitney 1811-1878
Brother Henry M. Whitney 1839-1923

  06/23/1892 US President - D Convention Lost 0.11% (-67.73%)
  03/06/1885 US Secretary of the Navy Won 100.00% (+100.00%)