Devereux Milburn

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Devereux Milburn
Devereux Milburn on Time Magazine.jpg
Devereux Milburn on September 5, 1927 edition.
Occupation Lawyer, Polo player
Born (1881-09-19)September 19, 1881
Buffalo, New York
Died August 15, 1942(1942-08-15) (aged 60)
Westbury, New York
Major racing wins
Westchester Cup (1909, 1911, 1913, 1921, 1924, 1927)
Cover of TIME Magazine (September 5, 1927)
Inducted into the National Polo Hall of Fame (1990)

Devereux Milburn (September 19, 1881 – August 15, 1942) was an American champion polo player in the early to mid twentieth century.[1] He was one of a group of Americans known as the Big Four in international polo, winning the Westchester Cup six times.[2] He is "remembered as possibly the best polo player this country ever produced."[3] His given name has been alternatively spelled as "Devereaux" in some publications.

Family and early life[edit]

Milburn was born September 19, 1881 in Buffalo, New York.[1] He was the son of New York lawyer and politician John George Milburn, born in England, and Mary Patty Stocking, a teacher and the daughter of farmers in Wyoming County, New York. He had two younger brothers, John G. Milburn, Jr., born in 1882; and Ralph, born in 1888.[3]

Their father was notably the chairman of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, where President William McKinley was fatally shot by an assassin. McKinley was taken to the Milburn family home, where he died. Devereux Milburn was not present at the time.

Milburn started at Oxford University in 1903, where he gained a rowing Blue. He was also on the university swimming team. Thirdly, he guided the Oxford University Polo team to victory in successive Varsity matches, winning by a margin of 14 goals on both occasions. He sometimes swam competitively and played polo against the same university on the same day.[4]

Milburn (left) and C.F. Holmes in 1917 at Chatel-Chéhéry.


Milburn served during World War I as a major in the field artillery in France.[1] He served as an Aide-de-camp for Major-General James H. McRae at Chatel-Chéhéry in 1917. He later practiced law at his father's firm Carter Ledyard & Milburn. His brother John G. Milburn, Jr. also went into law.[3]

Milburn was one of the Big Four who played polo internationally against the United Kingdom in the early 20th century. He participated on teams that won the Westchester Cup six times. He is "remembered as possibly the best polo player this country ever produced."[3]

Milburn was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine on September 5, 1927 and was referenced in an article on the upcoming polo season in that edition.

Personal life[edit]

Milburn married Nancy Gordon Steele on November 1, 1913. She was the daughter of Charles Steele, a partner in J. P. Morgan and Company.[5] They had two daughters, Katharyn and Nancy, and two sons, Devereux Jr.[6] and John.[1] John was a combat pilot in World War II who died in an airplane crash in Virginia on December 2, 1942, four months after his father.[7]

Milburn's main residence was in Old Westbury, New York on Long Island. Called Sunridge Hall, it was built on the North Shore near his in-laws' estate. Milburn also maintained a residence at 627 Magnolia St. in Aiken, SC in the Gilded Age Aiken Winter Colony. The Aiken Winter Colony was at the nexus of the start of polo in the United States and was a primary center for polo in the early 1900s.

Milburn died on August 15, 1942 at the age of 60 of a heart attack, while playing golf at the Meadowbrook Polo Club in Westbury, Long Island.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

Paul Auster's true-story collection, True Tales of American Life, includes a work about a visit by Milburn's son John and two Air Force colleagues to the family home on Long Island.[8] The story was first featured on NPR's National Story Project on All Things Considered.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Devereux Milburn Dies Playing Golf". New York Times. August 16, 1942. Devereux Milburn, the greatest back to ever play polo, died of heart disease at 6 o'clock tonight on the ninth tee of the Meadow Brook Club here, where he had been playing golf. He would have been 61 years old next month. 
  2. ^ "Devereux Milburn". Westchester Cup. Retrieved 2011-03-30. In 1909 Devereux Milburn played in his first international match with Harry Payne Whitney, Lawrence Waterbury and Monte Waterbury on what would come to be known as the Big Four. 
  3. ^ a b c d "The Milburns and Their Famous Home: 1168 Delaware Avenue", Western New York Heritage, Archive, 2017
  4. ^ E.D. Miller: Fifty Years of Sport. London: Hurst & Blackett 1923, p. 240.
  5. ^ "Devereux Milburn weds Miss Steele: Polo player married to daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Steele at Westbury". New York Times. November 2, 1913. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Devereux Milburn, 82, Sportsman and Lawyer". The New York Times. January 15, 2000. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "John Milburn dies in army plane crash". The New York Times. December 3, 1942. Second Lieut. John G. Milburn, 24, second son of the internationally famous polo player Devereux Milburn, was killed Tuesday night when the plane he was piloting crashed near Waterford, Virginia 
  8. ^ "The Ten-Goal Player" by Paul Ebeltoft, in Paul Auster (editor), True Tales of American Life, 2001, pp. 273-5
  9. ^ "National Story Project with Paul Auster, June 2000". NPR Weekend All Things Considered. Retrieved 19 October 2014.