Barron Collier

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Barron Gift Collier (March 23, 1873 – March 13, 1939) was an American advertising entrepreneur who became the largest landowner and developer in the U.S. state of Florida, as well as the owner of a chain of hotels, bus lines, several banks, and newspapers, and of a telephone company and a steamship line.

Collier was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He quit school at age 16 to work for the Illinois Central Railroad. Within four years, he started his own business, the Consolidated Street Railway Advertising Company of New York City. At age 26, his assets were valued at a million dollars.


In 1907, Barron Collier married Juliet Gordon Carnes, also a native of Memphis. In 1911, they visited Fort Myers, Florida on vacation and developed an enduring relationship with the area. They bought nearby Useppa Island for the sum of $100,000.

Barron Gift Collier was a highly successful and diversified entrepreneur with a portfolio that went far beyond his first business, the Consolidated Street Railway Advertising Company of New York City. His varied business interests included:

  • A chain of hotels, such as the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City, the Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo, and the Hotel New Yorker in Miami Beach.[1]
  • Bus transportation, through the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, operational in New York City and other locales[1]
  • Banking institutions like the Bank of Everglades, Immokalee State Bank, and Collier County Bank[1]
  • Media outlets, including Collier's Weekly, the New York American, and the Miami Daily News[1]
  • The Collier County Telephone Company, offering telephone services to rural regions in Southwest Florida[1]
  • Atlantic Coast Line Steamship Company, a steamship line connecting Florida and Cuba[1]
  • Agriculture, through citrus groves, cattle ranches, sugar cane plantations, and vegetable farms.[2]
  • Property development ventures, including the Tamiami Trail, Everglades City, and multiple master-planned communities[2]
  • Energy sectors, through oil and mineral exploration via a subsidiary called Collier Resources Company.[3]

Collier was an avid fisherman and established the Izaak Walton Club at their Useppa Island resort; it became one of the most exclusive sporting clubs in the world. Collier next developed golf courses and improved the Rod and Gun Club, a hunting[dubious ] club in Everglades City, Florida, that also attracted wealthy tourists. Over the next decade, the Colliers went on to acquire more than a million acres (4000 km2) of land in Southwest Florida, making them the largest private land owners in the state. He invested millions of dollars to transform and develop the wilderness, including drainage of the Everglades and construction of the Tamiami Trail. To recognize his influence on, and investment in, the state's future, the Florida legislature named the newly created Collier County for him on May 8, 1923.

He manifested tremendous energy in other pursuits. He was involved[vague] in the national Boy Scout movement. In New York, serving as special deputy commissioner for public safety, he introduced the use of white and yellow traffic divider lines on highways. Following the Lindbergh kidnapping in March 1932, he was influential in persuading the U.S. government to join, in 1938, INTERPOL,[4] which had been formed in 1923.[5] He was decorated by nine foreign governments.[6]

His wife, Juliet Carnes Collier, appeared on the cover of the U.S. edition of the Tatler, the Tatler and American Sketch, in the early 1930s.

Collier died March 13, 1939, in Manhattan, survived by his wife and three sons, Barron Jr., Miles, and Samuel, and was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York.[7] Although the Great Depression had strained his finances and slowed development of their Florida lands, the next generations of his family would continue his development work in subsequent decades.

The family members participated in many sports, including motorsports, and especially road racing, which led to the sons Miles and Sam founding the Automobile Racing Club of America in 1933, renamed in 1944 as the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Miles, Cameron Argetsinger, and Briggs Cunningham were instrumental in founding[when?] the Watkins Glen racing facility, near one of their summer retreats. Juliet worried about the risks of racing and tried to influence her sons against it; Sam would indeed die in a racing accident at Watkins Glen in 1950.[8] Briggs's renowned automobile collection was purchased by a member of the Collier family, and is now part of the Revs Institute for Automotive Research in Naples, Florida, which is open to the public.[9]

The Collier County Public School System named Barron Collier High School in honor of Barron Gift Collier, Sr.

Personal relationships[edit]

  • His three sons, Barron Jr., Miles, and Samuel, carried on his legacy after inheriting his business. They served in World War II and afterward took charge of the family enterprise. They broadened the company's horizons into various sectors.[10] All three sons had untimely deaths: Barron Jr. in 1976, Samuel in a 1950 car racing accident, and Miles from a viral infection in 1954. They were passionate about car racing and founded the Automobile Racing Club of America.
  • John H. Phipps, his friend and business collaborator, was a well-heeled industrialist and philanthropist. They teamed up on several projects, including the development of Useppa Island and the construction of the Hotel Pennsylvania.[11] They were also avid fishers and hunters and were members of the Izaak Walton Club on Useppa Island.
  • His mentor and friend, Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, had a great influence on him. They met in 1905 and shared mutual admiration. Collier supported Roosevelt's conservation projects and progressive stances.[12] He even visited Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill and went on a hunting expedition with him in Louisiana.
  • His business associate, Henry Flagler, was instrumental in Collier's vision for Florida. Both men aimed to turn Florida into a modern state and a travel hotspot. Collier gained insights from Flagler's past experiences in developing Florida's east coast.[13] He even collaborated with Flagler's Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to bring rail service to Southwest Florida.

Political connections[edit]

Collier had relationships with several U.S. Presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. He also maintained ties with influential senators, governors, and diplomats.[14] His political involvements covered a range of causes such as:

In addition, he was a generous donor to various political campaigns and charitable organizations.[15]

Influence in Florida[edit]

In Florida, Collier was a significant player in both state government and local communities. He played a key role in:

  • The creation of two new Florida counties: Collier County and Hendry County[16]
  • The funding and completion of the Tamiami Trail, a vital road linking Tampa and Miami through the Everglades[16]
  • Serving as a special commissioner for public safety in Florida, particularly during the 1926 hurricane[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barron Collier Commercial - Investing in Real Estate - Naples, FL.
  2. ^ a b Collier Resources Company - Barron Collier Companies.
  3. ^ Commercial Properties | Barron Collier Companies.
  4. ^ America joins Interpol
  5. ^ Archived June 4, 2012, at Interpol
  6. ^ "Barron Gift Collier". Archived from the original on June 26, 2010. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  7. ^ "BARRON COLLIER DIES SUDDENLY, 65; Leader in Advertising on Street Cars and in Subways Began Career at 17 HEADED MANY COMPANIES Once Special Deputy Police Commissioner--Owned Vast Tracts of Land in Florida," New York Times, March 14, 1939, Page 27.
  8. ^ "Sam Collier, 38, Killed in Racing Accident in N.Y." Fort Myers News-Press. September 24, 1950. Retrieved July 23, 2020 – via
  9. ^ "Vehicles Archive".
  10. ^ Racing Heroes - Miles and Sam Collier | Hemmings
  11. ^ Barron and Juliette Collier had 3... - Collier County Museums - Facebook
  12. ^ Watch TR | American Experience | Official Site | PBS
  13. ^ Collier family - Forbes
  14. ^ The History of Barron Collier Companies.
  15. ^ The History of Barron Collier Companies.
  16. ^ a b c People of influence: Barron Collier - The News-Press.

External links[edit]