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Marjorie Merriweather Post

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Marjorie Merriweather Post

Posted: 1244707099000
Classification: Obituary
Surnames: Merriweather, Post, Close, Hutton, Davies

Born March 15, 1887(1887-03-15)
Springfield, Illinois
Died September 12, 1973 (aged 86)
Occupation Philanthropist,Socialite, General Foods, Inc. (founder), Postum Cereal Company (owner)
Net worth USD$1 billion (2008 dollars)

Marjorie Merriweather Post a.k.a. Marjorie Merriweather Post Close Hutton Davies May (March 15, 1887 – September 12, 1973) was a leading American socialite and the founder of General Foods, Inc. She was 27 when her father died, and she became the owner of the rapidly growing Postum Cereal Company later becoming the wealthiest woman in America when her fortune reached approximately USD$250 million.

Marjorie Post was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of C. W. Post and Ella Letitia Merriweather.


Post married four times. In 1905, she married investment banker Edward Bennett Close of Greenwich, Connecticut: They divorced in 1919. Their eldest daughter Adelaide married Thomas Durrant, Merrall McNeille, and banker Augustus Riggs; their second daughter, Eleanor Post Close, later known in the media as Eleanor Post Hutton, married director Preston Sturges, Etienne Marie Robert Gautier, George Curtis Rand, Hans Habe, Owen D. Johnson, and conductor Leon Barzin. By his second marriage, Edward Close would become the paternal grandfather of actress Glenn Close.

Secondly, she married, in 1920, Edward Francis Hutton, financier. In 1923, Edward Hutton became the chairman of the board of the Postum Cereal Company, and they developed a larger variety of food products, including Birdseye Frozen Foods. The company became the General Foods Corporation. Post and Hutton divorced in 1935. Their only child, Nedenia Marjorie, became an actress under the name Dina Merrill, who married Stanley M. Rumbough, Jr., actor Cliff Robertson, and Ted Hartley.

In 1935 Post married, as her third husband, Joseph E. Davies, a Washington lawyer: They divorced in 1955. The couple lived in the Soviet Union from 1937 to 1938, while he served as second American ambassador to the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. During this time, Davies and Post acquired many valuable Russian works of art from Soviet authorities.

In 1951 their home, Hillwood located in Brookville, Long Island was sold to Long Island University for $200,000. It became C.W. Post College, now part of the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University.

Her final marriage occurred in 1958 to Herbert A. May; May, a wealthy Pittsburgh businessman, and former Master of Fox Hounds of The Rolling Rock Hunt Club in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. She divorced May in 1964, and subsequently reclaimed her full maiden name of Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Expropriated Russian Art

During the 1930s, the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin began selling art treasures and other valuables seized from Russian citizens after the Russian revolution in order to earn hard currency for its industrialization and military armament programs.

It was later alleged that many works of art from the Tretyakov Gallery and other collections were either donated or offered at nominal prices to Post and her then-husband Joseph E. Davies, who were both art collectors. Davies is also alleged to have purchased art expropriated from Soviet citizens well after the Russian Revolution, including victims of Stalin's Terror at discount prices from Soviet authorities.

Mar-A-Lago, Marjorie Merriweather Post's estate on Palm Beach Island. Library of Congress photograph, HABS.
Entrance to Mar-A-Lago owner's suite, April 1967.

Marjorie Merriweather Post was also known for her lavish homes, the largest of which was Mar-A-Lago which is located in Palm Beach, Florida. Designed by Joseph Urban, Mar-A-Lago was purchased from the Post Family Trust by Donald Trump. Trump in turn had the 110,000 square foot (10,000 m²) house completely restored to its original state. Mar-A-Lago originally had 115 rooms and a 9-hole golf course, and sits on a strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Worth. It is nicknamed "the jewel of Palm Beach." Mrs. Post's other estate, Hillwood (Washington, D.C.), is operated as a museum, displaying her French and Russian art collection featuring the work of Faberge, Sèvres porcelain, French furniture, tapestries, and paintings.

With her second husband, E. F. Hutton, she was the owner of Sea Cloud (Hussar II), the largest privately owned sea-going yacht in the world. Post also owned Camp Topridge in the Adirondacks, which she considered a "rustic retreat", with a fully staffed main lodge and private guest cabins, each staffed with its own butler. The Huttons also owned Hillwood in Brookville, New York, which later became the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. Another home, which she shared with Joseph Davies in Washington, D.C., was called Tregaron.

Marjorie Post donated some of her jewelry to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.; it is displayed in the Harry Winston exhibit. Pieces in the collection include the Napoleon Necklace and Marie Louise Diadem (a 275 carat (55 g) diamond and turquoise necklace and tiara set Napoleon I gave to his second wife, Empress Marie Louise), a pair of 20 carat (4 g) diamond earrings belonging to Marie Antoinette, a 30.82 carat (6.164 g) blue heart diamond ring, and an emerald and diamond necklace and ring belonging to Mexican emperor Maximilian.

Her donation of funds to construct field hospitals in France during World War I was recognized by the French government awarding her the Legion of Honor. In 1971 she was among the first three recipients of the Silver Fawn Award presented by the Boy Scouts of America.

The Merriweather Post Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue, in Columbia, Maryland is named for her.

The Marjorie R. Post Park in Massapequa Park, New York on Long Island has been incorrectly linked with the cereal heiress, but that park was in fact named for Marjorie R. Post (now Marjorie Toombs of Vermont), who was the first woman elected to the board of the Town of Oyster Bay. It is unknown at this time if there is any connection between the Long Island branch of the Post family and Marjorie R. Post for whom the park in Massapequa is named.

Joseph Edward Davies
Birth: Nov. 29, 1876
Jefferson County
Wisconsin, USA
Death: May 9, 1958

United States diplomat. An attorney, he rose to prominence with the administration of President Woodrow Wilson when he was appointed to chair the Federal Trade Commission in 1915. Wilson also appointed him to serve as an economic advisor to the United States during the Paris Peace Conference following World War I. He was married to General Foods heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post from 1935 until their divorce in 1955. He was appointed as the second United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, serving from 1936 to 1938. He wrote a book about his service, "Mission to Moscow", which became a best-seller and was adapted as a movie in 1943, with Walter Huston as Davies and Ann Harding as Post. He also served as Ambassador to Belgium and Minister to Luxembourg concurrently from 1938 to 1939.

Washington National Cathedral
District of Columbia
District Of Columbia, USA

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