Payne Whitney

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Payne Whitney
Born William Payne Whitney
March 20, 1876
New York City United States
Died May 25, 1927
Manhasset, New York United States
Occupation Investor
Racehorse owner/breeder
Religion Protestant
Spouse(s) Helen Julia Hay
Children Joan, John
Parent(s) William C. Whitney &
Flora Payne

William Payne Whitney (March 20, 1876 – May 25, 1927) was a wealthy American businessman and member of the influential Whitney family.

Early life[edit]

William Payne Whitney was born on March 20, 1876. He was the son of William C. Whitney and Flora Payne, and younger brother to Harry Payne Whitney.

Whitney was educated at the Groton School. He attended Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones,[1]:171 Delta Kappa Epsilon, and captained the Yale rowing team. After graduating in 1898, Whitney then studied law at the Harvard Law School, receiving his Bachelor of Laws in 1901.


In addition to a substantial inheritance from his father, Payne Whitney inherited $63,000,000 from his uncle, Col. Oliver Hazard Payne. Amongst his many investments, Whitney had major holdings in banking, tobacco, railroads, mining and oil. He was a member of the board of directors and/or an executive officer of several large corporations, including the City Bank New York, and the Great Northern Paper Company, and the Northern Finance Corporation.


Throughout his life, Payne Whitney was involved in philanthropic work for a variety of causes. A trustee of the New York Public Library, in 1923 he gave the library $12,000,000.

Whitney made charitable contributions to the rowing team at his alma mater, Yale University, including donating funds to build a dormitory for the crew.

Upon his death he made a large bequest to establish the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.


A horse racing enthusiast in the tradition of his father and brother, Payne Whitney's Greentree Stable, named for their Long Island estate, was a very significant racing and breeding operation for thoroughbred horses.

Personal life[edit]

In 1902, Whitney married Helen Hay (1875–1944), the daughter of then-United States Secretary of State (and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom) John Hay. Their Stanford White-designed mansion, Payne Whitney House at 972 Fifth Avenue, was a wedding gift from his maternal uncle, Oliver Hazard Payne. The couple also had an estate, Greentree, in Manhasset, New York. Their son, John Hay Whitney, also served as the Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Their daughter Joan Whitney Payson, an avid sportsperson, was the first owner of the New York Mets Major League Baseball team.

Death and legacy[edit]

Whitney died in 1927 at his Greentree estate. His will bequeathed more than $20 million to the New York Hospital and smaller amounts to other educational and medical institutions. His estate funds contributed to the establishment of the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in 1932. Although he had contributed $1,000,000 to the Yale Endowment Fund shortly before his death, sufficient estate funds were also given to Yale to enable construction of the 9½ storey Payne Whitney Gym that too was completed in 1932. As a tribute to him, a road in Manhasset was named after him, Payne Whitney Lane.


  1. ^ "OBITUARY RECORD OF YALE GRADUATES 1926-1927" (PDF). Yale University. August 1, 1927. Retrieved April 22, 2011.