1877 May 11 - 1960 October 25
Vernay was born May 11, 1877 in Weymouth, England, and maintained his British citizenship. In 1905 he traveled to New York as a young, poor man and found work in a furniture store. He opened his first antiques shop at 10-12 East 45th Street in 1906. Arthur S. Vernay, Inc. was a successful business and he was able to open a second gallery in 1925 at 19 East 54th Street. (1) Besides dealing in the antiquities trade, the business also was known for restorations and interior design service, such as the installation of period paneled rooms. Various branches of the business would open and close both domestically and abroad over time. By the 1920s the business was secure and Vernay had invested wisely enough that he was able to focus his attention on his interest in nature, hunting, and collecting animal specimens for museums. In 1922 he began his association with the American Museum of Natural History, having offered to accompany and finance an expedition to south Asia with his friend Colonel John C. Faunthorpe. The resulting six Faunthorpe-Vernay Expeditions took place between 1922 and 1929 and culminated in an enormous gift to the Museum. The Vernay-Faunthorpe Hall of South Asiatic Mammals opened on November 17, 1930 and was dedicated to the two men.
This was the first of many working collaborations Vernay would experience with the Museum. In total he led fifteen expeditions on their behalf, including the Vernay Angola Expedition in 1925, the Vernay-Lang Kalahari Expedition in 1930, the Vernay Malaysian Expedition in 1933, the Vernay-Hopwood-Chindwin Expedition in 1934, and the Cutting-Vernay Expedition to Tibet in 1935. His last expedition would be to South Africa in the Vernay Nyasaland Expedition of 1946-47. The Nyasaland Expedition was the first instance of field work sent overseas by the Museum after World War II began in 1939. (2) Through his association with the Museum he traveled with scientists such as Harold E. Anthony, Herbert Lang, and Leonard Brass. He was responsible for contributing numerous specimens to the Museum, particularly the Departments of Birds and Mammals. From 1933 he retained the title of Field Associate for the Department of Mammalogy. (3) In 1935 he was named to the Board of Trustees, remaining an active and then Honorary member until his death. (4)
Vernay had retired from his antiques business in 1941, leaving it to the care of three associates: Stephen J. Jussel, J. Gordon Irving, and J.L. van den Broeck. Jussel had acted as general manager under Vernay in the 1930s, and would later buy the business when the other trustees died. Arthur S. Vernay, Inc. would eventually be known as Vernay and Jussel, Inc. and closed in 1994. (5)
Upon his 1941 retirement, Vernay moved to his home in Nassau, Bahamas. The only expedition he made after his retirement was the Nyasaland expedition from 1946-1947. He continued his interest in botany, naturalism and conservation and grew prize-winning orchids. Vernay is also credited with saving the Bahamian flamingo. (6) Vernay died on October 25, 1960 and was survived by his wife Marian Kelley.
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