James Scollay Whitney

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James Scollay Whitney
Born (1811-05-19)May 19, 1811
South Deerfield, Massachusetts
Died October 24, 1878(1878-10-24) (aged 67)

James Scollay Whitney (May 19, 1811 - October 24, 1878) was an American business executive and politician. He was the father of Henry Melville Whitney and William Collins Whitney, founders of the Whitney family business interests.

Whitney was born in 1811 in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, the son of Stephen Whitney, a merchant manufacturer. The family were descended from John Whitney (1590–1673) of London, who settled in 1635 at Watertown, Massachusetts.

In 1835, when he was only 24, Whitney was elected and commissioned brigadier general of the 2nd Brigade of the Massachusetts State Militia, which he was largely influential in reorganizing. Upon succeeding to the management of his father's manufacturing business in 1838, he moved it to Conway, Massachusetts, where he became a large manufacturer.[1]

Whitney married Laurinda Collins, a descendant of William Bradford. The Whitneys were the parents of two sons and four daughters, of whom the following received historical mention:

A Jacksonian Democrat, Whitney was town clerk of Conway from 1843 to 1852. He represented Conway in the legislature of 1851, and in the same year he was appointed sheriff of Franklin County. In 1853 he was elected to the convention for the revision of the state constitution, in which he was prominent in the deliberations of the delegates. Whitney again represented Conway in the legislature of 1854.

In 1854 Whitney was appointed superintendent of the federal armory at Springfield, Massachusetts, by President Franklin Pierce, holding the position until 1860. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1856, which nominated James Buchanan, and also that of 1860, which was wracked by sectional dissension before finally nominating Stephen A. Douglas. When Whitney left the Springfield Armory in 1860, President Buchanan appointed him collect of customs for the Port of Boston. He was removed, however, by the incoming Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln in 1861.[1]

Whitney then went into business in Boston. In February 1866 he joined Boston interests in organizing the Metropolitan Steamship Company, of which he was elected president. His son Henry was named its agent at Boston. The company operated steamships between Boston and New York City on the "outside line" around Cape Cod.[1] The line named the iron steamer General Whitney in his honor in 1873.

A member of the state senate from the 1st Norfolk District in 1872, Whitney was president of the Democratic State Convention of 1876, which nominated Charles Francis Adams, Sr. for governor, and also that of 1878, which nominated Josiah G. Abbott for governor.[1] James S. Whitney died in Boston on October 24, 1878. He was succeeded as president of the Metropolitan Steamship Company by his son, Henry M. Whitney.


  1. ^ a b c d The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. X, p. 154. New York: James T. White & Company, 1909. Reprint of 1900 edition.