James Watson Webb II

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James Watson Webb II
Member of the Vermont House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1884-07-01)July 1, 1884
Burlington, Vermont, U.S.
DiedMarch 4, 1960(1960-03-04) (aged 75)
New York City, U.S.
(m. 1910)
Parent(s)William Seward Webb
Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt Webb
RelativesSee Vanderbilt family
EducationGroton School
Alma materYale University
OccupationChairman of Webb & Lynch

James Watson Webb II[1] (known as James Sr.) (July 1, 1884 – March 4, 1960) was an American polo champion and insurance executive. He was a grandson of William Henry Vanderbilt and James Watson Webb.

Early life[edit]

Webb was born on July 1, 1884 in Burlington, Vermont. He was the son of Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt (1860–1936) of the Vanderbilt family and William Seward Webb. His siblings included Frederica Vanderbilt Webb, William Seward Webb Jr., and Vanderbilt Webb.[2]

His paternal grandparents were James Watson Webb, the United States Ambassador to Brazil during Abraham Lincoln's administration, and Laura Virginia Cram. His paternal uncles included H. Walter Webb, a noteworthy railway executives, and Alexander Stewart Webb, a noted Civil War general. His maternal grandparents were William Henry Vanderbilt and Maria (née Kissam) Vanderbilt. His maternal aunts and uncles included Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843–1899), Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt Shepard (1843–1924), William Kissam Vanderbilt (1849–1920), Frederick William Vanderbilt (1856–1938), Florence Adele Vanderbilt Twombly (1854–1952), Emily Thorn Vanderbilt (1852–1946) and George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862–1914).[3]

Webb attended and graduated from the Groton School and received an A.B. from Yale University in 1907.[4]


After graduating from Yale, Webb started his career with the Chicago and Northwest Railway before joining Marsh & McLennan, the New York insurance brokerage house in 1911. In 1929, he became a partner in Vanderpoel, Pausner & Webb.[4]

In 1933, Webb founded Webb & Lynch, a general insurance brokerage firm, located at 99 John Street in New York, of which he later served as chairman.[4]

Polo career[edit]

In 1921, and, again in 1924 and 1927, he played on the American polo team that won the International Polo Cup from England at the Meadowbrook Polo Club.[5] His teammates in 1921 were Louis Ezekiel Stoddard, Thomas Hitchcock, Jr., and Devereaux Milburn. His teammates in 1924 were Hitchcock, Malcolm Stevenson, Robert Early Strawbridge, Jr. and Milburn, and in 1927, they were Hitchcock, Stevenson and Milburn.[6][7] The Cup was the most anticipated event on the sporting calendar in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s.[8][9]

Webb, a left hander, was named America's all-time all-star polo team in 1934 by Louis E. Stoddard, chairman of the United States Polo Association.[4]

Public service[edit]

During World War I, Webb served in France as a captain of the 311th Field Artillery, 79th Infantry Division, which saw action during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. His wife drove an ambulance in New York City, and was named Assistant Director of the Motor Corps during the War,[10] and in 1942, during World War II she joined the Civilian Defense Volunteer Organization, and directed the Pershing Square Civil Defense Center and its blood bank.[11]

A Republican, Webb served a term in the Vermont House of Representatives in 1921.

Personal life[edit]

In 1910, he was married to Electra Havemeyer (1888–1960), daughter of Henry Osborne Havemeyer and Louisine Waldron Elder. Together, they were the parents of five children:[10][12]

  • Electra Webb (1910–1982), who married Dunbar Bostwick, son of Albert Carlton Bostwick,[13] in 1932.[14]
  • Samuel Blatchley Webb (1912–1988), who married Elizabeth Richey Fisk Johnson (1914–1993) in 1935.[15][16] They divorced and he later married Martha Trinkle (1910–1990).
  • Lila Vanderbilt Webb (1913–1961),[17] who married John Currie Wilmerding (1911–1965),[18] son of Henry A. Wilmerding, in 1935.[19]
  • J. Watson Webb Jr. (1916–2000), who never married.[20]
  • Harry Havemeyer Webb (1922–1975), who married Kate deForest Jennings, a daughter of Brewster Jennings.[21]

James died at his home, 740 Park Avenue in New York City on March 4, 1960.[22][4] His widow died a little over eight months later on November 19, 1960.[23]


Along with his wife, he was a co-founder of the Shelburne Museum.[24][25] The museum was a showcase of his wife's "collection of collections" of early American homes and public buildings, including a general store, meeting house, log cabin, and a steamship.[24][26]

He was also a trustee of the New York Zoological Society and Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, where he received an honorary Doctor of Laws in 1955.[4]


  1. ^ "J Watson Webb II". Roostweb.
  2. ^ Shelburne Farms, Who's who
  3. ^ Vanderbilt rehab a study in family memories, The Chicago Tribune, May 01, 2005
  4. ^ a b c d e f "J. Watson Webb, Sportsman, Dies. Ex-Polo Star Named in '34 to All-Time U. S. Team. Insurance Executive Here". The New York Times. 5 March 1960. Retrieved 7 April 2011. Chairman of Webb Lynch, Inc., general insurance brokers at 99 John.....
  5. ^ Laffaye, Horace A. (2015). The Polo Encyclopedia, 2d Ed. McFarland. p. 394. ISBN 9780786495771. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  6. ^ "America Wins, Polo Cup Stays" (PDF). New York Times. 14 June 1913. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
  7. ^ "Facts: Westchester Cup, International Polo, Great Britain vs. United States". 2009 Westchester Cup. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  8. ^ "Sport: Westchester Cup". Time magazine. 19 June 1939. Archived from the original on 3 December 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  9. ^ "Polo Cup Gift of Deed. August Belmont's Proposals Accepted by Hurlingham Club". New York Times. 30 June 1912. The Hurlingham Club of London has accepted the proposal of August Belmont for the International Polo Cup. The document covering all the details of the deed of gift was framed last year by Mr. Belmont after a consultation with the Hurlingham Club.
  10. ^ a b Hewes, Lauren; Celia Oliver (1997). To Collect in Earnest: The Life and Work of Electra Havemeyer Webb. Shelburne, VT: Shelburne Museum. ISBN 978-0-939384-21-1.
  11. ^ "Electra Havemeyer Webb". Vermont Women's History Project. Vermont.gov. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  12. ^ "Vermont Women's History Project, Vermont Historical Society: Electra Havemeyer Webb". Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  13. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths BOSTWICK, DUNBAR W." The New York Times. 29 January 2006. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  14. ^ "MISS WEBB BRIDE OF D. W. BOSTWICK; The Great-Granddaughter of Commodore Vanderbilt Wed at Garden City. SISTER IS MAID OF HONOR Mrs. R. V. McKim, Bridegroom's Sister, Matron of Honor Dean Sargent performs Ceremony". The New York Times. 29 June 1932. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  15. ^ "ELIZABETH JOHNSON ENGAGED TO MARRY; Troth of New Jersey Girl to Samuel B. Webb Is Made Known by Parents. STUDIED AT DOBBS FERRY School Founded by Two Great Aunts -- Fiance Descendant of Commodore Vanderbilt". The New York Times. 10 October 1934. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Miss Elizabeth R. F. Johnson Bride Of Samuel B. Webb at Rumson, N. J.; Great-Granddaughter of the Late Harvey Fisks Wed to Member of Noted Colonial Family | She Has Ten Attendants | Bridegroom's Father Serves as His Best Man". The New York Times. 2 June 1935. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Deaths. Wilmerding". The New York Times. 13 February 1961. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  18. ^ "John C. Wilmerding, 54, Dead; Bankers Trust Vice President". The New York Times. 11 August 1965. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  19. ^ TIMES, Speclal to THE NEW YORK (16 June 1935). "MISS LILA N. WEBB LONG ISLAND BRIDE; Daughter of the James Watson Webbs Married to John Currie Wilmerding". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  20. ^ "J. Watson Webb, Former Head Of the Shelburne (Vt.) Museum". The New York Times. 14 June 2000. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Deaths. WEBB". The New York Times. 30 January 1975. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  22. ^ "James Watson Webb Sr". Shelburne Museum. Retrieved 29 March 2011. James Watson Webb (1884-1960) was born to Dr. W. Seward Webb and Lila Vanderbilt Webb at "Oakledge," his parent's first home in Burlington, Vermont. He was the second of four children and lived between family homes in New York City and at Shelburne farms in Shelburne, Vermont (now an inn). The Webbs were extremely wealthy, partly attributable to the Vanderbilt rail road business' phenomenal economic success.....
  23. ^ "Mrs. J. Watson Webb, 72, Dead; Co-Founder of Vermont Museum; Started Shelburne Institution With Husband in 1947. Aided Red Cross in 2 Wars". The New York Times. 20 November 1960. Retrieved 9 October 2010. Mrs. Electra Havemeyer Webb of 740 Park Avenue, New York, and Shelburne, widow of J. Watson Webb, an insurance executive and international polo player, died today in Mary Fletcher Hospital.
  24. ^ a b "Museum's Fortunes Rise at Auction". New York Times. 13 November 1996. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
  25. ^ Foderaro, Lisa W. (28 September 2007). "Gifts From the Gilded Age of Vermont". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  26. ^ "Preservation Trust Awards 2005". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2011.