William Seward Webb

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William Seward Webb
Member of the
Vermont House of Representatives
from Shelburne
In office
Preceded byHenry W. Tracy
Succeeded byWilliam James Sheridan
Personal details
BornJanuary 31, 1851
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedOctober 29, 1926(1926-10-29) (aged 75)
Shelburne, Vermont, U.S.
(m. 1883)
ChildrenFrederica Vanderbilt Webb
James Watson Webb II
William Seward Webb, Jr.
Vanderbilt Webb
Parent(s)James Watson Webb
Laura Virginia Cram
Alma materColumbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
OccupationEntrepreneur, financier, gentleman farmer

William Seward Webb (January 31, 1851 – October 29, 1926)[1] was a businessman, and inspector general of the Vermont militia with the rank of colonel. He was a founder and former president of the Sons of the American Revolution.[2]

Early life[edit]

Webb was born on January 31, 1851, to James Watson Webb and Laura Virginia (née Cram) Webb (1826–1890).[3] Among his many siblings were Alexander Stewart Webb,[4] a noted Civil War general who married Anna Elizabeth Remsen;[5] Henry Walter Webb,[6] also a railway executive who married Amelia Howard Griswold;[7] and George Creighton Webb, a Yale Law School graduate and attorney in New York with Saunders, Webb & Worcester who did not marry.

He studied medicine in Vienna, Paris and Berlin. Returning to America, he entered the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and graduated from there in 1875. In 1881, he married Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt, the daughter of William Henry Vanderbilt. For several years Webb practiced medicine; then forsook the profession for finance at the behest of his wife's family, establishing the Wall Street firm of W. S. Webb & Co.[1]


In 1883, Webster Wagner, the president of the Wagner Palace Car Company, was crushed between two of his own railroad cars. William Vanderbilt owned a controlling interest in the company, and asked his new son-in-law to take over the firm. William Seward invited his brother H. Walter Webb to join him, which started them both on careers in the railroad business. The Wagner Palace Car Company was subsequently merged with the Pullman Company.[1]

Webb later became president of the Fulton Chain Railway Company, the Fulton Navigation Company and the Raquette Lake Transportation Company. He was the builder and President of the Mohawk and Malone Railway. His railroads were instrumental in opening the Adirondacks to the tourism rush of the mid-to-late 19th century and beyond.[1]

Public service[edit]

Webb served as inspector general of rifle practice for the Vermont militia with the rank of colonel. A Republican, he won election to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1896 and 1898.[1]

In 1902, he intended to campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor of Vermont, but left the race in favor of Percival Clement. Clement lost the nomination to John G. McCullough, who went on to win the general election.[1]

Personal life[edit]

680 Fifth Avenue mansion

In 1883, he married Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt, daughter of railroad magnate William H. Vanderbilt.[8] They were the parents of:[1]

He died on October 29, 1926, and was survived by his wife, three sons, and one daughter.[1]


The Webbs lived for thirty years at 680 Fifth Avenue, New York. This house, a wedding gift from William H. Vanderbilt to his daughter, was sold in 1913 to John D. Rockefeller. The Webb property at Shelburne, Vermont, was created from more than thirty separate farms on the shores of Lake Champlain and is known today as Shelburne Farms. The property is a National Historic Landmark, and one of the main concert sites of the Vermont Mozart Festival. The former Webb estate has stunning views and some of the grandest barns of any Gilded Age property.

A great horseman, Dr. Webb had a large collection of carriages, many of which are on display today at the Shelburne Museum. The Vanderbilt Webb's other country estate was an Adirondack Great Camp named NeHaSane, a game preserve of some 200,000 acres (800 km²), most of which was later donated to the State of New York to become part of the Adirondack Park. The town of Webb, New York in the park is named after him.

Published works[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "DR. W. SEWARD WEBB DEAD IN VERMONT; Retired New York Capitalist Succumbs at Shelburne in His 76th Year. ONCE A RAILROAD BUILDER Husband of Former Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt Early Forsook Medicine for Finance". The New York Times. 30 October 1926. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  2. ^ The Society Year Book. Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Vermont. 1906. p. 11. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  3. ^ Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. pp. 1454–1459. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  4. ^ "GEN. A. S. WEBB DIES.; Officer Who Held the Bloody Angle at Gettysburg Succumbs to Old Age". The New York Times. 13 February 1911. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  5. ^ Moffat, R. Burnham (1904). The Barclays of New York: Who They Are And Who They Are Not,--And Some Other Barclays. R. G. Cooke & Company. p. 182. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  6. ^ "DEATH OF H. WALTER WEBB.; Succumbs Unexpectedly to Heart Disease at Country Home". The New York Times. 19 June 1900. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  7. ^ "H. WALTER WEBB'S WILL.; Sent to Chicago to be Proved -- Guardian for Children Denied". The New York Times. 19 July 1900. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  8. ^ "MRS. SEWARD WEBB DEAD IN VERMONT N; Daughter of W. H. Vanderbilt and Widow of Physician and Railroad Financier". The New York Times. 11 July 1936. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  9. ^ "J. Watson Webb, Sportsman, Dies. Ex-Polo Star Named in '34 to All-Time U. S. Team. Insurance Executive Here". New York Times. March 5, 1960. Retrieved 2011-04-07. Chairman of Webb Lynch, Inc., general insurance brokers at 99 John.....
  10. ^ "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. November 20, 1960. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 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.
  11. ^ Lovelace, Joyce (July 25, 2011). "Who Was Aileen Osborn Webb?". American Craft Council.

External links[edit]