Robert J. Collier

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Robert J. Collier
Picture of Robert J. Collier.jpg
Picture of Robert J. Collier, by Arthur Hewitt
Born Robert Joseph Collier
(1876-06-17)June 17, 1876
New York City
Died November 9, 1918(1918-11-09) (aged 42)
Education Georgetown University (1894)
Harvard University
Oxford University
Known for Collier Trophy
Spouse(s) Sara Steward Van Alen (1881-1963) (m. 1902–18)
Parent(s) Peter Fenelon Collier
Relatives Robert Collier, cousin

Robert Joseph Collier (June 17, 1876 – November 9, 1918) was the son of Peter Fenelon Collier, and a principal in the publishing company P. F. Collier & Son. Upon his father's death, he became head of the company, and for a time was editor of Collier's Weekly. He was president of the Aero Club of America.


He was born in New York City on June 17, 1876 to Peter Fenelon Collier.

He attended Georgetown University and graduated in 1894, winning the Merrick Medal from the Philodemic Society that same year. He then spent two years at Harvard University and Oxford University.

He married Sara Steward Van Alen (1881-1963), a daughter of James John Van Alen and Emily Astor as well as a granddaughter of William Backhouse Astor, Jr. and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn. They married on 26 July 1902 in Newport, Rhode Island.[1] They had no children. Prior to his marriage he dated the showgirl Evelyn Nesbit, amongst others.

Collier, a friend of Orville Wright and a director of the Wright Company, purchased a Wright Model B aircraft in 1911 and loaned it to the United States Army, which assigned it to Lieutenant Benjamin Foulois. Foulois and civilian Wright Company pilot Phil Parmalee used this aircraft to fly along the Rio Grande border of Mexico and the United States in one of the first scouting duties by the U.S. Army using an airplane. Foulois and Parmalee later crashed the airplane into the Rio Grande but escaped from drowning.

In 1911 he commissioned the Collier Trophy devoted to achievements in aviation.

In 1914 he developed uremic poisoning from kidney failure at his summer home in Raquette Lake, New York.[2]

He died of a heart attack at his dinner table, on November 8, 1918 a few hours[3] after arriving home from France.[4] His estate was valued at just $2,194.[5]


In his will he made three friends, Peter Finley Dunne, Harry Payne Whitney, and Francis Patrick Garvan, the residuary legatees of his estate and, thus, his publishing company. Collier evidently believed that his wife had sufficient money of her own. In fact, she did not and would receive only a few thousand dollar from her husband's will. Dunne, Whitney, and Garvan then renounced the bequest so that Mrs. Collier could benefit fully.[6] In addition to selling the troubled publishing company, his wife donated their home in Wickatunk, New Jersey to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd who made it a home for troubled young women. This was later opened up to children of all ages and what has become known as Collier High School is still open today.

He was portrayed by Phillip Reed in the 1955 film on Evelyn Nesbit, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing.


  1. ^ "Collier-Van Alen Wedding. Much Interest in the Marriage Which Will Take Place at Newport on Saturday." (PDF). New York Times. July 24, 1902. Retrieved 2009-08-04. Interest in the Martin-Oelrichs wedding has been superseded in Newport society by the announcement of the early marriage of Miss Sara Van Alen and Robert J. Collier. The story that came from New York on Tuesday that the Collier-Van Alen wedding was to take place this week set everybody to wondering if it could be true. 
  2. ^ "Publisher, Unconscious Since Sunday, Being Rushed Here on a Special Train. Efforts to Rouse Him Fail. Wife and Physicians Hurriedly Summoned to Summer Home at Raquette Lake.". New York Times. August 27, 1914. Retrieved 2010-03-30. Robert J. Collier, editor and publisher of Collier's Weekly, is critically ill with uremic poisoning. Late tonight he was removed from his Summer home here to his private car Vagabondia, and will arrive in New York early tomorrow morning. 
  3. ^ nytimes, november 9, 1918
  4. ^ "R. J. Collier Dies At Dinner Table. Editor, Just Returned from the Front, Is a Victim of Heart Attack. Recall Had Been Reported. Washington Admits His Credentials Had Been Canceled, but Denies Knowledge of the Reason. Stricken at Dinner Table. Had Many Libel Suits." (PDF). New York Times. November 9, 1918. Retrieved 2009-08-04. Robert J. Collier, editor of Collier's Weekly and President of the publishing house of P.F. Collier Son, died of heart attack at his home at 1,067 Fifth Avenue at 7:45 last night, a few hours after he had landed from an army transport upon which he had returned... 
  5. ^ "Mrs. R. J. Collier Gets Only $2,194. Appraisal Shows Deductions of $200,000 from Net Estate of Publisher. Corporation Lost $200,000 on Its Accounts Due from Soldiers In Great War." (PDF). New York Times. January 16, 1920. Retrieved 2009-08-04. Robert J. Collier, owner of P. F. Collier Son, publishers of Collier's Weekly and other publications, who died suddenly at his home, 1,067 Fifth Avenue, on November 8, 1918, the day he returned from France, left a residuary estate of only $2,194 instead of $5,000,000, as estimated soon after his death. 
  6. ^ The New York Times, December 17, 1918 and January 16, 1020.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Norman Hapgood
Collier's Weekly
Succeeded by
Norman Hapgood