Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney [1899-1992] was a prolific businessman and promoter. He was a man of considerable wealth and used his wealth well, not for self-promotion or emulation, but for the founding of new enterprises in a variety of businesses.
Whitney’s parents were Harry Payne Whitney [1872-1932] and Gertrude Vanderbilt [1875-1942]. His great grandfather was William Henry Vanderbilt. He was the only son but had two sisters, Barbara Whitney and Flora Payne Whitney.
Whitney graduated from Yale University in 1922, and then went to work at a mine in Nevada owned by his father. His grandfather, C. V. Whitney was the founder of the Guaranty Trust Company of New York, and in 1926 Cornelius was appointed a director of the firm. In 1927, Cornelius participated in the establishment of the Aviation Corporation of America which a year later became Pan American World Airways.
In 1931, Whitney founded the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company Ltd. of Canada. The company grew into a major zinc mining operation. Whitney served as chairman of the board until 1964.
In the late 1930’s Whitney and his cousin invested heavily in Technicolor, the motion picture producer. They also became financiers for movies including the blockbuster film, “Gone with the Wind”. In the 1950’s he founded C.C. Whitney Pictures and served as its producer. The company produced three films, “The Searchers”, “The Missouri Traveler” and “The Long Legend”.
Whitney was also the financier of Marine Studios in St. Augustine, Florida. It evolved into a major marine life attraction. The facilities were demolished in 1984, but his legacy remained with the Whitney Laboratory.
Outside of his business interests he became involved in horse racing and owned a number of thoroughbreds over the years. His horses ran in all the prestigious races including the Triple Crown races. His horses were never able to win a Kentucky Derby, Belmont or Saratoga race, but came close in a few instances.
Whitney was involved in both World Wars. He served in the Signal Corps at the end of the First World War rising to the rank of second lieutenant. In the Second World War he volunteered and rose to the rank of colonel in the United States Army Air Forces. Under the Truman Administration he served as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force from 1947 to 1949. Later he also served as Undersecretary of Commerce from 1949 to1950.
Whitney was a generous philanthropist. He was a co-founder of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York, a supporter of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and the founder of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art in Cody, Wyoming. He was also a supporter of numerous other art and education oriented organizations.
Whitney was married to Marie Norton from 1923 to 1929. They produced two children Harry Payne Whitney II and Nancy Marie Whitney. His next marriage was to Gladys Crosby Hopkins from 1931 to 1940. They had one daughter named Gail Whitney. His third marriage was to Eleanor Searle from 1941 to 1957, producing one son named Searle Whitney. His last marriage was to Marie Louisa Schroeder from 1958 until his death. They had one daughter named Cornelia Whitney.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney was born on February 20, 1899 and passed away on December 13, 1992 at the advanced age of 93. He is interred in Greenridge Cemetery in Saratoga Springs.
Various web sites including airforce, brittanica, infoplease, wikipedia, and airforce.togetherweserved
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