06 October 2018

Saving the Best For Last

Stars of DAR
Two Generations of Service

I have presented a five part series of famous women who are members of DAR.  I saved the last four ladies for a post (pun intended as you will soon see) of their own.  Marjorie Merriweather Post and her three daughters.  It is difficult for us mere mortals to imagine the unlimited means these women had to create and have anything they desired.  Maybe that's why I find their stories fascinating.

Mary Baker Allen Chapter, Vermont

In 1914, Marjorie was only 27 years old when her father, C. W. Post, died making her the owner of the Post Cereal Company and worth over $250 million making her the wealthiest woman in America at that time.  Marjorie was well qualified to run the company because from a very young age her father had taught her every aspect of running the business.  She was married to her second husband at this time - E. F. Hutton.  Together they developed a larger variety of food products including Birdseye Frozen Foods and by 1929 it became General Foods Corporation.  Her husband was the heir of one of the largest financial investment firms in the U. S. - E. F. Hutton & Company.  

With business doing so well, Marjorie decided she needed a home in Florida. Taking three years to complete (1924-1927), 62,500 sq ft and 126 rooms, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach became a lavish reality.  When she died in 1973, she bequeathed Mar-A-Lago to the National Park Service asking that it be used as a "Winter White House."  In 1981, Congress passed an Act to return the estate to the Post Foundation - it was too expensive for the upkeep and difficult for security as it lies in the flight path of the nearby airport.  In 1985, the Post Foundation sold it to its present owner. (Name withheld on purpose as I hate to even say his name).  Also during this time, Marjorie purchased "Camp Topridge" in the Adirondacks in New York.  This little retreat consisted of 207 acres that had 68 buildings and at the time was only accessible by boat.  In her will, she bequeathed this estate to the State of New York and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

When Marjorie married for the third time to Joseph Davies (Economic Advisor to President Wilson) she owned Sea Cloud.  At 316 feet, it was the largest privately owned sea-going yacht in the world at the time.  In 1937 Davies was the U. S. Ambassador to Russia and the yacht was used as a floating embassy.  In 1942 Marjorie gifted her yacht to President Roosevelt to be used in service by the Coast Guard during WWII.

In 1955, after Marjorie divorced Davies, she purchased the Hillwood Mansion and 25-acre estate in Washington, D.C. and took three years to turn it into a museum that would inspire and educate the public.  She gave it to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. when she died.  Some of her jewelry was also left to the Smithsonian. Pieces in the collection include a 275-ct diamond-and-turquoise necklace and tiara set that Napoleon I gave to his second wife, Empress Marie Louise.  A pair of diamond earrings set with pear shapes, weighing 14 ct and 20 ct once belonging to Marie Antoinette. 

Beyond setting his daughter Marjorie up for a life in business, C. W. Post stressed the importance of sharing one’s wealth with others. She would become a committed philanthropist in her adult years, supporting such causes as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts of America, and the National Symphony. She funded Number 8 Base, a U.S. Army hospital in France during World War I, and, decades later, the French government awarded 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 for her gifts and funding of their camps. 

Marjorie Merriweather Post, one of the richest, most different, least dull women of the century.


Mary Baker Allen Chapter, Vermont

Adelaide was the eldest daughter of Marjorie and her first husband Edward Close.  She was a very quiet, behind-the-scenes type of person who was more interested in  breeding and racing horses and breeding and showing dogs. She was a member of the Maryland Jockey Club, Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, Metropolitan Club of Washington, Chevy Chase Club, Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames of America.  She gave to soup kitchens, halfway houses, Planned Parenthood and was one of the early supporters of the Seeing Eye Foundation of America. It was all done without any recognition expected or desired.  She married three times.  First to Thomas Wells Durant, who was great friends with Spencer Tracy and was a writer for Charlie Chaplin. Second to Merral MacNeile who was a fixture in the Maryland thoroughbred horse world. And third to Augustus Riggs, a Maryland horse breeder.

Mary Baker Allen Chapter, Vermont

Eleanor was the second daughter of Marjorie and Edward Close.  She was much more like her mother than her older sister.  After WWII ended, Eleanor moved to Europe where she lived the rest of her life.  Much prettier than her older sister, Eleanor married six times! First to playwright and director Preston Sturges, second to polo player Etienne Gautier, third to attorney George Curtis Rand, fourth to author Janos Bekessy, fifth to a staff member at the American Embassy Owen de la Garde.  None of these five marriages lasted over two years.  Her sixth marriage to Leon Eugene Barzin was the love of her life.  Leon was the founding music director of the New York City Ballet.
Civic-minded and a philanthropist, Eleanor served on the board of the American Hospital of Paris Foundation.  She received the French Legion of Honor. She contributed to other organizations, including the American Friends Service Committee; the American Hospital of Paris; Doctors Without Borders; the International Eye Foundation; the National Orchestral Association; the Salvation Army; and the Versailles Foundation.

Dina Merrill 
Mary Baker Allen Chapter, Vermont

Born Nedenia Marjorie Hutton, Dina was the only child of Marjorie and her second husband Wall Street broker E. F. Hutton.  After graduating from college, she defied her parents and went to Hollywood and became an actress. In 1959, she was called the "New Grace Kelly."  She appeared in over 50 major motion pictures and made several guest appearances on TV.  In 1191 Dina and her third husband Ted Hartley owned RKO Pictures Movie Studios. She was a presidential appointee to the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a trustee of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, and a vice president of the New York City Mission Society. In 1980, she joined the board of directors of her father's E. F. Hutton & Co., continuing on the board of directors of Lehman Brothers when it acquired Hutton. All of this wonderful life was not without heartache.  In 1973 her 23 year old son David was killed in a boating accident.  A few weeks later, her mother Marjorie passed away.  In 2007, her 38 year old daughter Heather died from ovarian cancer.  Dina married three times.  First to Stanley Rumbough who was heir to the Colgate-Palmolive fortune.  Second to actor Cliff Robertson and third to Ted Hartley.  One of her greatest accomplishments was creating and funding the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.  

I found it necessary to keep a  score card of the women, their marriages and their children:

MARJORIE + EDWARD BENNETT CLOSE = Two daughters, Eleanor and Adelaide
MARJORIE + E. F. HUTTON = one daughter, Nedenia (Dina Merrill)

ELEANOR + JANOS BEKESSY  = A son, Antal Post Bekessy

ADELAIDE + THOMAS WELLS DURANT  = One daughter, Marjorie Merriweather Durant Dye. 
ADELAIDE + MERRALL MACNEILE =  Two daughters, Ellen Charles and Melissa Cantacuzene.  

NEDENIA + STANLEY MADDOX RUMBOUGH = Two sons,  David Rumbaugh and Stanley Rumbough and one daughter, Nedenia Rumbough Roosenberg
NEDENIA + CLIFF ROBERTSON = One daughter, Heather Robertson

To read the post that got me started with women of the DAR, click HERE


  1. Wonderful series. Just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Hey!
    Love your blog,Just wanted to reach out to say a big thank you for what you’ve been publishing lately.

    On top of my genealogy, I’ve been using my data from 23andMe and Ancestry to do more with my DNA and gain insights into what is right for me in terms of my health nutrition. https://ginihealth.app.link/freereports
    I was able to upload my data to Gini and get a lot of free reports.
    Or just visit https://ginihealth.com

    Also their food lens is awesome. You should check it out. They encyrypt and deidentify all data and don't share it with third parties - so if you value your privacy, definitely take a looksie.

    Keep up the awesome work 🙂

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. As a DAR member, I find this very fascinating and informative. Thank you for your hard work.
    It's unfortunate that you can't mention the current owner of Mar-A-Lago though. It is history nonetheless. God Bless America and the people that have made her the great nation that it is.