Archive:Joan (Whitney) Payson (1903-1975)

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Archives > Archive:Biographies > Joan (Whitney) Payson (1903-1975)

Joan WHITNEY was daughter of Payne and Helen (HAY) WHITNEY, born 5 Feb 1903. She married Charles Simpson PAYSON. She lived in Jupiter Island, FL, New York City, and Manhasset, Long Island, NY, and died 4 Oct 1975.

"Greentree in Manhasset was one of a number of the residences of the Whitneys. Greentree had been bought by Jock Whitney's father, Payne Whitney, for his bride, Helen Hay, in 1904. It sprawled across nearly 600 acres in Manhasset. According to Jock Whitney's biographer, E. J. Kahn, it was "unarguably one of the grandest residences in America. It was quite possible to hold a fund-raising dinner for 150 people under part of the Greentree roof without disturbing the family under another part of it. The estate was comparatively modest in scale when Payne Whitney acquired it, but he made extensive alterations and additions. He bought adjacent land from some of the old families in the neighborhood--Schencks, Brinkerhoffs, Kissams, Mitchells." Eventually Whitney owned property from what is now the Long Island Expressway to Northern Boulevard and from Shelter Rock Road to Community Drive. The Whitneys donated the land on which North Shore University Hospital now stands to the hospital.
"After the death of Jock Whitney's sister, Joan Whitney Payson, her property which was adjacent to her brother's and part of the original estate, was sold to the Unitarian Universalist Society for use as a church and meeting halls. South of Mrs. Payson's property, land that had been sold to William Paley when he was married to Mrs. Whitney's sister, Barbara, was later sold to developers who are presently building a complex called Stone Hill. What will become of Greentree is now a burning question."

She and her husband lived in Jupiter Island, FL, along with the Bush and Harriman families.

"Charles Payson and his wife, Joan Whitney Payson, were extended family members of Harriman's and business associates of the Bush family.
"Joan's aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, was a relative of the Harrimans. Gertrude's son, Cornelius Vanderbilt ("Sonny ") Whitney, long-time chairman of Pan American Airways (Prescott [Bush] was a Pan Am director), became Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force in 1947. Sonny's wife Marie had divorced him and married Averell Harriman in 1930. Joan and Sonny's uncle, Air Marshall Sir Thomas Elmhirst, was director of intelligence for the British Air Force from 1945 to 1947.
"Joan's brother, John Hay ("Jock") Whitney, was to be ambassador to Great Britain from 1955 to 1961--when it would be vital for Prescott and George Bush to have such a friend. Joan's father, grandfather and uncle were members of the Skull and Bones secret society.
"Charles Payson organized a uranium refinery in 1948. Later he was chairman of Vitro Corp., makers of parts for submarine-launched ballistic missiles, equipment for frequency surveillance and torpedo guidance, and other subsurface weaponry."
"George Herbert Walker, Jr., was extremely close to his nephew George Bush, helping to sponsor his entry into the oil business in the 1950s. "Uncle Herbie" was also a partner of Joan Whitney Payson when they co-founded the New York Mets baseball team in 1960."

[George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, by Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chaitkin.]


She owned racehorses, and was a patron of the arts (see the Portland Museum of Art and Colby Museum of Art).

In 1943 she established and endowed the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, named in honor of her mother, Helen Hay Whitney. Originally established to stimulate and support research in the area of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, the Foundation later expanded its interests to include diseases of connective tissue and, ultimately, all basic biomedical sciences.

In 1960-1961 she was a founding owner of the New York Mets baseball team.

"The heirs of original owner Joan Whitney Payson (who had died in 1975) sold the club to Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon in January 1980."


This is what Hoyt has to say about the genesis of the Mets:

"When the children were grown, Joan Payson found time heavy on her hands, and she looked around for a new and exciting investment. She found it in 1950 when she bought a single share of stock in the New York Giants--the National League baseball team.
"In the next ten years, a stockbroker named Donald Grant bought up ten percent of the stock in the Giants for her. Then the Giants moved to San Francisco, and Mrs. Payton sold out. She wondered for a bit what to do, considered founding a third major league and was talked out of it, and then agreed to finance the New York Mets as a team to replace the Giants in the city. Soon she was president of the company (Casey Stengel was her coach), and the Mets took as big a place in her heart as had the track.
"Her interest was extreme; she made decisions regarding players, particularly in the early years when the Mets were not doing well. When she went off sailing in the Greek islands one spring, she had her chauffeur attend all the games, and keep a running score and send her the scorecards."

Her son John Whitney PAYSON donated art to the Joan Whitney Payson Collection of the Portland Museum of Art. According to Hoyt, he "went to Maine to make his mark and live his own life."


Her ancestry: Joan11 WHITNEY (Payne10, William Collins9, James Scolly8, Stephen7, Josiah6, Josiah5, Richard4, Richard3, Richard2, John1),


Copyright © 1999, 2006, The Whitney Research Group

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