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John Hay Whitney and Betsey Cushing Whitney family papers

Call Number: MS 1938
Scope and Contents

The collection, spanning the decades of the 1820s to the 1990s, provides a substantive resource for the study of the private and public lives of the Whitney family, a prominent American family widely known for its members’ engagement in business, public service, government service, publishing, philanthropy, horse racing and breeding, and fine art collecting. While the majority of the papers document the lives of John Hay Whitney and Betsey Cushing Whitney, principally from the 1950s to the 1990s, there are also materials on their family members, particularly John M. Hay, Payne Whitney, Helen Hay Whitney, Joan Whitney Payson, Harvey Cushing, and Kate Crowell Cushing. Material on many of these family members, especially John Hay Whitney and Betsey Cushing Whitney, are found throughout the collection and each series must be consulted to find applicable papers.

The private lives of the Hays, Whitneys, and Cushings, are documented through correspondence, diaries, financial records, property records, photographs and scrapbooks, newspaper and magazine clippings, and estate files. These materials can be used to study family milestones, including births, deaths, and marriages; the properties they acquired and in which they lived; their financial and investment profiles; family social networks; travels; and cultural pursuits. There are extensive files on the art collection amassed by John Hay Whitney and Betsey Cushing Whitney and their support of various charitable causes, especially in the fields of medicine, education, and art.

The business files in the collection are mostly from the 1960s to the 1990s. John Hay Whitney’s professional life as one of the country’s first venture capitalists and his development of J. H. Whitney & Company in 1946; his founding of Pioneer Pictures in 1934, which introduced and developed Technicolor movies; and his purchase and management of the New York Herald Tribune in 1957 are documented through correspondence, financial records, legal files, and audio recordings. The most substantive material related to his ambassadorship is his speech files from 1957 to 1961. There is limited documentation on his involvement with the Republican Party and support of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Helen Hay Whitney’s writing career is documented through various short writings, some of which appear to be unpublished, and correspondence with friends and family members. There is only minimal documentation of Payne Whitney’s business interests and John M. Hay’s government service, and no documentation on Joan Whitney Payson’s ownership of the New York Mets. Materials on Harvey Cushing, Kate Crowell Cushing and their daughters Barbara, Mary, and Betsey, include correspondence, biographical materials, diaries, and photographs. The collection also includes a limited amount of correspondence, topical files, newspaper clippings, and photographs documenting the relationships of Betsey Cushing Whitney and James Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt during the 1930s when James Roosevelt was married to Betsey Cushing Whitney.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the Yale community for research and teaching. Other researchers require the written permission of the Greentree Foundation to access the collection prior to January 1, 2050, after which the papers are open for research without restriction.

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult Copying Services information on the Manuscripts and Archives website.

Copies of commercially produced audiovisual materials contained in this collection cannot be made for researcher use outside of the repository.

Conditions Governing Use

Per agreement with the donor, Yale will not provide copies of materials in the Collection, regardless of the means of reproduction, to the Yale Community or to third parties, nor will it permit anyone in the Yale Community or any third party to have access to the Collection with any device capable of copying materials in the Collection, including cameras and portable devices that include cameras before January 1, 2050. Reproductions in any form of this material require the written permission of the Greentree Foundation until January 1, 2050. After January 1, 2050, reproduction is permitted but subject to applicable copyright laws. Copyright has been transferred to Yale University for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Greentree Foundation, 2009, 2011, and 2018.


The papers are arranged in five series and one addition: I. John Hay Whitney and Betsey Cushing Whitney, 1849-2008. II. Payne and Helen Hay Whitney Family, 1826-1988. III. Audiovisual Materials, 1946-1998. IV. Photographs, 1854-2000. V. Scrapbooks, 1860-1995.

Related Materials

Related materials about the family can be found in the following collections in this repository: Harvey Williams Cushing Papers (MS 160), John Hay Whitney Foundation Records (MS 1952), and Greentree Stud and Stable Records (MS 1953).

There is also related material in the following collections and repositories: John Hay (Jock) Whitney Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, John Hay Collection at the John Hay Library at Brown University, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York, and the United States National Archives in Washington, D.C.

242.35 Linear Feet (472 boxes)
Related Names
Whitney, John Hay, 1904-1982
Whitney, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt, 1908-1998
Whitney, John Hay, 1904-1982
Language of Materials