Jump to: navigation, search

Joan Whitney Payson

Joan Whitney Payson
Born 5, 1903(1903-Template:MONTHNUMBER-05)
New York, New York, U.S.
Died 4, 1975
New York, New York, U.S.
Occupation Businesswoman:
Sports team owner
Racehorse owner/breeder
Art collector

Joan Whitney Payson (February 5, 1903 – October 4, 1975) was an American heiress, businesswoman, philanthropist, patron of the arts and art collector, and a member of the prominent Whitney family. She was a sports enthusiast who co-founded and was the majority owner of Major League Baseball's National League's New York Mets baseball franchise.

Joan Whitney was born in New York City, the daughter of Payne Whitney and Helen Julia Hay. Her brother was John Hay Whitney. She inherited a trust fund from her grandfather, William C. Whitney and on her father's passing in 1927, she received a large part of the family fortune.

She married lawyer and businessman Charles Shipman Payson, a native of Maine and a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School. Her husband was a Board member of Pepperdine University and together they provided the funds to build the university's library that was named for them. Named in honor of her mother, in 1943 Joan Whitney Payson established and endowed the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation for medical research.

An avid art collector, she purchased a variety of artwork but favored Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works with her collection containing watercolors, drawings and paintings. She owned numerous pieces including those by James McNeill Whistler, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Gustave Courbet, Maurice Prendergast, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Honoré Daumier, Joshua Reynolds, Claude Monet, Henri Rousseau, Jan Provost, Édouard Manet, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Alfred Sisley. Payson was also a strong supporter of American artists, acquiring works by Thomas Eakins, Arthur B. Davies, Andrew Wyeth and John Singer Sargent. Payson donated significant works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where the "Joan Whitney Payson Galleries" can be found.

The Joan Whitney Payson Collection is on permanent loan to the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine and to Colby College in Waterville, Maine for one semester every two years. Regular educational tours of parts of the collection are offered to institutions throughout the United States.

New York Mets

Joan Whitney Payson was a sports enthusiast who was a minority shareholder in the old New York Giants Major League Baseball club. She voted against transferring the team to San Francisco, California in 1957. After the majority of the shareholders approved the move, Ms. Payson sold her stock and began working to get a replacement team for New York City. In 1961, she was the co-founder and majority owner of the New York Mets and served as the team's president from 1968-1975. Active in the affairs of the baseball club, she was much admired by the team's personnel and players. She was inducted posthumously into the Mets' Hall of Fame in 1981. She was also the first woman to buy majority control of a team in a major North American sports league, rather than inheriting it.[1]

Payson was instrumental in the return of Willie Mays to New York City baseball in May 1972 by way of trade and cash from the San Francisco Giants.[2]

Thoroughbred horse racing

Joan Whitney also inherited her father and grandfather's love of thoroughbred horse racing. Following her father's death, her mother took over management of his Greentree Stable, an equestrian estate and horse racing stable in Saratoga Springs, New York, and the Greentree breeding farm in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1932, her mother gifted her a colt named Rose Cross whom she raced under the nom de course, Manhasset Stable. Rose Cross won the 1934 Dwyer Stakes and finished a good fifth in the Belmont Stakes.

In partnership with her brother, Joan Whitney operated the highly successful Greentree stable, winning numerous important Graded stakes races including the Kentucky Derby twice, the Preakness Stakes once, and the Belmont Stakes four times. Payson and her husband owned an art-filled 50-room mansion at Greentree, the Whitney family estate in Manhasset, New York.[3]

Joan Whitney Payson died in New York City, aged 72, after the 1975 baseball season. She is buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery, in Falmouth, Maine. Following her death, her daughter, Lorinda de Roulet, assumed the title of president of the Mets.

Her heirs sold their stock in the New York Mets in January 1980 as well as Greentree Farm. In 2005, the equestrian property in Saratoga Springs was put up for sale with an asking price of $19 million. In 1991, her son, John Whitney Payson, permanently installed the Joan Whitney Payson Collection in the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine where the Charles Shipman Payson Building cornerstones the Museum and is home to seventeen paintings by Winslow Homer he donated.


  1. Weiner, Evan. "Women Owners Slowly Gaining Traction", The New York Sun, June 13, 2008. Accessed July 15, 2008. "Joan Payson was a minority owner of the New York Giants baseball team; in 1957, she voted against moving the franchise to San Francisco. In 1961, after the Giants eventually moved, she became the co-founder and majority owner of the expansion Mets, becoming the first woman to buy a major league sports franchise."
  2. Post, Paul; and Lucas, Ed. "Turn back the clock: Willie Mays played a vital role on '73 mets; despite his age, future Hall of Famer helped young New York club capture the 1973 National League pennant", Baseball Digest, March 2003. Accessed July 15, 2008. "Mets owner Joan Payson had always wanted to bring the `Say Hey Kid' back to his baseball roots, and she finally pulled it off in a deal that shocked the baseball world."
  3. Reif, Rita. "The Paysons' home on view", The New York Times, April 27, 1984. Accessed November 12, 2007. "JOAN WHITNEY PAYSON, the ebullient, highly visible owner of the New York Mets until her death in 1975, was the extremely private mistress of a 50-room, fieldstone mansion in Manhasset, L.I., that she and her industrialist husband, Charles Shipman Payson, filled with art, antiques, collectibles and souvenirs."


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...