The Whitney family is an American family notable for their social prominence, wealth, business enterprises and philanthropy, founded by John Whitney (1592–1673) who came from London, England to Watertown, Massachusetts in 1635. The historic family mansion in Watertown was built in 1710.
The New England Whitneys
John Whitney, formerly resident at Isleworth-on-Thames, west London, England, sailed on the Elizabeth and Ann (Roger Cooper, master) in 1635 with his wife and five of this sons. He settled at Watertown, Massachusetts, where he was elected town clerk and, in 1641, appointed constable.
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The New York Whitneys
Rise to prominence
The prominence of the New York branch of the Whitney family began with William Collins Whitney (1841–1904). Born in Conway, Massachusetts, he was a younger brother to Boston industrialist Henry Melville Whitney (1839–1923). William Collins Whitney became an extremely wealthy businessman who made the Whitney name synonymous with thoroughbred horse racing in the United States.
The Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course is named in the family's honor. Whitney-owned horses have won every major race in the United States including multiple wins at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Members of the family also maintained stables and breeding facilities in Newmarket (in Suffolk, United Kingdom); they won important British races including the prestigious Epsom Derby.
A number of the New York Whitney family members were owners of thoroughbred racing operations under various names including Greentree Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Today, Whitney family members remain involved with horse racing, notably in 2004 when Marylou Whitney apologized on national television for denying Smarty Jones the U.S. Triple Crown after her colt Birdstone won the Belmont Stakes.
In addition to horse racing, a number of Whitney family members were important financiers and business owners, statesmen and philanthropists. Joan Whitney Payson, an avid sportswoman, was the first owner of the New York Mets Major League Baseball team from its founding in 1962 until her death in 1975. The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City was founded by a Whitney-by-marriage, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.
Prominent descendants of John Whitney
- Amos Whitney (1832–1920)
- Anne Whitney (1821–1915)
- Asa Whitney (1797–1872)
- Asa Whitney (canal commissioner) (1791–1874)
- Benson Whitney (born 1956)
- Charlotte Anita Whitney (1867–1955)
- Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (1899–1992)
- Courtney Whitney (1897–1969)
- Dorothy Payne Whitney (1887–1968)
- Edward Baldwin Whitney (1857–1911)
- Eli Whitney, Jr. (1765–1825)
- Eli Whitney Debevoise II (born 1953)
- Flora Payne Whitney (1897–1986)
- Harry Payne Whitney (1872–1930)
- Hassler Whitney (1907–1989)
- Henry Melville Whitney (1839–1923)
- James Scollay Whitney (1811–1878)
- Joan Whitney Payson (1903–1975)
- John Hay Whitney (1905–1982)
- Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819–1896)
- Mary Watson Whitney (1847–1921)
- Newel Kimball Whitney (1795–1850)
- Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931)
- Pauline Payne Whitney (1874–1916)
- Payne Whitney (1876–1927)
- Phyllis Ayame Whitney (1903–2008)
- Richard Whitney )1888–1974)
- Wheelock Whitney I (1894–1957)
- Wheelock Whitney II (born 1926)
- Wheelock Whitney III (born 1949)
- William Collins Whitney (1841–1904)
- William Dwight Whitney (1827–1894)
- Willis Rodney Whitney (1868–1958)
- Mary Elizabeth Altemus (1906–1988)
- Charles T. Barney (1851–1907)
- Betsey Cushing (1908–1998)
- Henry F. Dimock (1842–1911)
- Leonard Knight Elmhirst (1893–1974)
- Helen Julia Hay (1876–1944)
- Almeric Hugh Paget, 1st Baron Queenborough (1861–1949)
- Marie Louise Schroeder (born 1925)
- Willard Dickerman Straight (1880–1918)
- Adeline Dutton Train (1824–1906)
- Gertrude Vanderbilt (1875–1942)
- George W. Headley (1908–1985)
- Whitney Research Group – dedicated to the scholarly research of Whitney families around the world and throughout history.
- July 25, 2008 Bloodhorse.com article titled "The Whitney Handicap: a look at a treasured American family"