Whitney, Harry Payne, 1872-1930

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Exist Dates

1872 April 29 - 1930 October 26

Biographical or Historical Note

HARRY PAYNE WHITNEY was born on April 29, 1872 in New York City to Flora Payne Whitney and William Collins Whitney. Harry was the eldest sibling, with one brother and two sisters.

Whitney was the sponsor of the Whitney South Sea Expedition. The idea was proposed to him by friend Leonard C. Sanford. The AMNH affiliated Whitney South Sea Expedition was an ornithological expedition with the mission of systematically exploring Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia for previously undiscovered or little-known bird specimens. It was the largest ornithological expedition ever conceived. Active field research was conducted from 1920 to 1941. Upon Whitney’s death in 1930, his widow Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney continued funding the expedition through the Whitney Fund. The Whitney family and the city of New York funded the construction of the AMNH Whitney Wing, which opened in 1935. The building was dedicated to the museum’s ornithology department.

Harry Payne Whitney was born into the affluent Whitney family. He attended Groton School and graduated Yale University with a law degree in 1894. He was a businessman, philanthropist and sportsman. Whitney was well known as a thoroughbred horse breeder and racer.

On August 25, 1896 Harry married Gertrude Vanderbilt. Gertrude Vanderbilt, an artist, art collector and philanthropist, founded the Whitney Museum of American Art. The couple had three children, Flora Payne Whitney, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and Barbara Whitney. Harry Payne Whitney died on October 26, 1930 in New York City at the age of 58.


    Library of Congress Name Authority File no. 2001120418
    “H.P. Whitney Dies at 58 of Pneumonia; Only Ill a Few Days.” The New York Times (New York, NY), October 27, 1930.



Written by: Cara Shatzman
Last modified: 2016 November 7


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