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H. Walter Webb

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Henry Walter Webb, Sr.
Born(1852-06-06)June 6, 1852
DiedJune 18, 1900(1900-06-18) (aged 48)
EducationColumbia College School of Mines
Columbia Law School
(m. 1884)
ChildrenHenry Walter Webb, Jr.
J. Griswold Webb
ParentJames Watson Webb
RelativesWilliam Seward Webb (brother)
Alexander S. Webb (brother)
James Watson Webb II (nephew)
Alexander S. Webb Jr. (nephew)

Henry Walter Webb, Sr. (May 6, 1852 – June 18, 1900) was an American railway executive with the New York Central Railroad under Cornelius Vanderbilt and Chauncey Depew. He was also Vice President of the Wagner Palace Car Co.[1]

Early life


Webb was born on May 6, 1852, in Tarrytown, New York.[2] He was the son of James Watson Webb (1802–1884), a United States Minister to Brazil, and his father's second wife, Laura Virginia Cram (1826–1890). Among his siblings was brother Dr. William Seward Webb, who was married to Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt; and Alexander Steward Webb, the longstanding President of City College of New York.

Webb was head of his class in the Columbia College School of Mines (now incorporated into the School of Engineering and Applied Science). He was a member of the fraternity St. Anthony Hall.[1] While still an undergraduate, he participated in the Orton expedition that ascended the Amazon River almost to its source, and crossing the Andes, he exited South America by way of Peru, returning to the US by ship. He then studied law, also at Columbia, and passed the bar in 1875.[3][4]


Webb's country residence, Beechwood.

After briefly practiced law, which he found unsatisfying, he soon thereafter became active in Wall Street banking and brokerage. He drifted into the railway business almost by accident through his brother, Dr. William Seward Webb, who married Eliza Vanderbilt, a daughter of William H. Vanderbilt, and became interested in the Wagner Palace Car Company which the Vanderbilts controlled. When Webster Wagner, the company's president was suddenly crushed between two of his own cars in 1882, Dr. Webb became president of the company and invited his brother to join it.[5]

Webb was an advocate of fast railway travel and ran what was then the fastest railway train in the world, averaging nearly 60 miles per hour over 450 miles. In 1893 he made a bold and ultimately true prediction for the next hundred years: By 1993, a traveler will be able to have his breakfast in New York City and his evening meal in Chicago.[6]

Webb lived in Scarborough, New York, was Show Chairman of the Westminster Kennel Club (1880–1882), subscriber to the Blackstone Memorial (1891), and helped dedicate a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus in Central Park (1894).[7]

H. Walter Webb retired due to tuberculosis around 1897.[8]

Personal life


In 1884, Webb married Leila Howard Griswold (1856–1910), and they had three children, two of whom survived to adulthood:[8]

He died from heart trouble on June 18, 1900, at his country residence, Beechwood, in Scarborough, New York.[8] After his death, his widow married architect and interior decorator Ogden Codman Jr.,[11] best known for novel co-authored with Edith Wharton, The Decoration of Houses (1897), which became a standard in American interior design.[12][13]


  1. ^ a b Catalogue of the Members of the Fraternity of Delta Psi. New York: Fraternity of Delta Psi, 1889 via Google Books
  2. ^ Henry Walter Webb passport application from 21 May 1890
  3. ^ Transactions of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers. New York City: American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers. 1902. p. 34.
  4. ^ Officers and Graduates of Columbia University, Originally the College of the Province of New York Known as King's College: General Catalogue ... New York: Columbia University. 1900. p. 364.
  5. ^ Haddock, John A. (1895). A Souvenir: The Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River from Kingston and Cape Vincent to Morristown and Brockville. With Their Recorded History from the Earliest Times ... Profusely Illustrated ... Weed-Parsons Printing Company.
  6. ^ "How will we get around in 2095?". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  7. ^ Presentation of Suñol's Bronze Statue of Christopher Columbus: The Mall, Central Park, New York, Saturday, May 12, 1894. New York: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. 1894. p. 30.
  8. ^ a b c "Death Of H. Walter Webb. Succumbs Unexpectedly to Heart Disease at Country Home". New York Times. Jun 19, 1900. Retrieved 2013-11-24. H. Walter Webb, at one time actively connected with the management of the New York Central Railroad, died at Beechwood, his country place, at 12:45 this afternoon, of acute heart trouble. His death was entirely unexpected, for, although he had been reported as suffering from tuberculosis for some time, his health had recently improved. ...
  9. ^ "Death of H. Walter Webb" (PDF). New York Times. January 20, 1919. Retrieved 2013-11-24. Henry Walter Webb, son of the late Henry Walter Webb and Leila Howard Griswold Webb, is dead at his home, 840 Park Avenue, In his thirty-third year. Mr. Webb was graduated from Yale and was a member of the Yale Union and Racquet Clubs. He was married on Nov. 3, 1010 to Miss Constance Eastman, an actress. Mr. Webb was a kinsman of the Vanderbilt family.
  10. ^ "J. Griswold Webb, Legislator, Dead. State Senator, 43, Succumbs at His Hyde Park Estate After a Long Illness". New York Times. May 6, 1934. Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  11. ^ "Mrs. H. Walter Webb Married to Ogden Codman, Jr". The New York Times. 9 October 1904. Retrieved 20 July 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ Doyle, Jnr, David D. (Oct 2004). ""A Very Proper Bostonian": Rediscovering Ogden Codman and His Late-Nineteenth-Century Queer World". Journal of the History of Sexuality. 13 (4): 446. doi:10.1353/sex.2005.0022. S2CID 145674902.
  13. ^ Ferentinos, Susan. Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 135–7.