Joan Whitney Payson

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 also co-founder and majority owner of Major League Baseball's New York Mets baseball franchise, and was the first woman to own a major-league team in North America without inheriting it.

Joan Whitney Payson
Joan Whitney Payson.jpg
Joan Whitney

(1903-02-05)February 5, 1903
DiedOctober 4, 1975(1975-10-04) (aged 72)[1]
New York City, New York, U.S.
EducationMiss Chapin's School
Alma materBarnard College (1925)
Brown University
Sports team owner
Racehorse owner/breeder
Art collector
(m. 1924)
Children5, including Lorinda de Roulet
Parent(s)Payne Whitney
Helen Julia Hay
RelativesSee Whitney family

Early lifeEdit

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 death in 1927, she received a large part of the family fortune. She attended Miss Chapin's School, then entered Barnard College with the class of 1925, as well as taking some courses at Brown.[2][3]


New York MetsEdit

Joan was a sports enthusiast who was a minority shareholder in the New York Giants Major League Baseball club. She and her husband opposed moving the team to San Francisco in 1957. After the majority of the shareholders approved the move, Mrs. Payson sold her stock and began working to get a replacement team for New York City. Along with M. Donald Grant, the only other director who opposed the Giants' move, Payson put together a group that won a New York franchise in the Continental League, a proposed third major league. The National League responded by awarding an expansion team to Payson's group, which became the New York Mets.

Payson served as the team's president from 1962–1975. 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 New York 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.[4]

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 Giants.[5]

Thoroughbred horse racingEdit

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 gave 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.[6]

Art collectionEdit

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 and Vincent Van Gogh. Payson was also a strong supporter of American artists, acquiring works by Thomas Eakins, Arthur B. Davies, Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer 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.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1924, she married Charles Shipman Payson, a lawyer and businessman who was a native of Maine and a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School. Together they had five children:

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.

Besides the Greentree estate in Manhasset, the family lived in an Italian Renaissance-palazzo style mansion in Manhattan. It was a wedding present from Joan's great uncle, Oliver Payne, her father's namesake, and designed by Stanford White. Located at 972 Fifth Avenue, it housed not just the family but 13 servants.[16]


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. In 1943, she established and endowed the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation (named in honor of her mother) for medical research.


  1. ^ Durso, Joseph (October 5, 1975). "Joan Whitney Payson, 72, Mets Owner, Dies; Head of Greentree Stables Inherited Millions in 20's". The New York Times. p. 63. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2011-10-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Barnard, Spring 1994 | Barnard Digital Collections". Retrieved 2020-06-26.
  4. ^ Weiner, Evan (June 13, 2008). "Women Owners Slowly Gaining Traction". The New York Sun. Retrieved 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.
  5. ^ Post, Paul; Lucas, Ed (March 2003). "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. Archived from the original on May 6, 2007. Retrieved 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.
  6. ^ Reif, Rita (April 27, 1984). "The Paysons' home on view". The New York Times. Retrieved 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.
  7. ^ "PAYSON, Daniel C". Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  8. ^ Durso, Joseph (5 October 1975). "Joan Whitney Payson, 72, Mets Owner, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  9. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (25 July 2004). "Sandra Payson, 78, Influential Arts Patron". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  10. ^ "Daughter Born to Mrs. C. S. Payson". The New York Times. 29 June 1926. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  11. ^ "British Publisher And Mrs. Meyer Will Be Married; George Weidenfeld to Wed Niece of John Hay Whitney". The New York Times. July 14, 1966. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  12. ^ "A Daughter to Mrs. C. S. Payson". The New York Times. 6 August 1927. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  13. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths MIDDLETON, HENRY BENTIVOGLIO". The New York Times. 18 August 2002. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  14. ^ "ORCA - Ocean Research and Conservation Association - Team & Staff". Archived from the original on 2 December 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  15. ^ Span, Paula; Tully, Judd (12 November 1987). "$53.9 MILLION FOR VAN GOGH". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  16. ^ Thomas, Joan M. "Joan Payson". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 15 March 2019.