William Church Osborn

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William Church Osborn
William Church Osborn 4998195935 e3c966354c o.jpg
Photograph of Osborn, c. 1910 – c. 1915
8th President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
In office
Preceded byGeorge Blumenthal
Succeeded byRoland L. Redmond
Personal details
Born(1862-12-21)December 21, 1862
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJanuary 3, 1951(1951-01-03) (aged 88)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alice Clinton Hoadley Dodge
(m. 1886; her death 1946)
Children5, including Frederick, Aileen
ParentsWilliam Henry Osborn
Virginia Reed Sturges Osborn
RelativesHenry F. Osborn (brother)
Jonathan Sturges (grandfather)
Alma materPrinceton University
Harvard Law School

William Church Osborn (December 21, 1862 – January 3, 1951)[1] was the son of a prominent New York family who served in a variety of civic roles including president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, president of the Children's Aid Society, and president of the New York Society for the Relief of the Ruptured and Orphaned.[2]

Early life[edit]

Osborn was born in 1862 in Chicago, Illinois.[1] He was a son of Virginia Reed (née Sturges) Osborn (1830–1902) and William Henry Osborn, a prominent railroad tycoon who served as president of the Illinois Central Railroad and, later, became a philanthropist who exposed the Boss Tweed ring.[3] His older brother was Henry Fairfield Osborn, a paleontologist who served as president of the American Museum of Natural History for twenty-five years.[4]

His maternal grandfather was businessman and arts patron Jonathan Sturges. His maternal aunt, Amelia "Mimi" Sturges, married banker J. Pierpont Morgan in 1861, but died shortly thereafter in 1862.

Osborn graduated from Princeton University in 1883,[4] and from Harvard Law School in 1889.[1]


A trained lawyer, Osborn was generally regarded as one of New York's first citizens and mostly served in philanthropic positions during his career.[4] At the time of his death, he was the senior partner is the law firm of Osborn, Fleming & Whittlesey located at 20 Exchange Place.[1] He also served as director of his mother's family business, Phelps Dodge, as well as the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad the Picacho Mining Corporation, the Tucson, Cornelia & Gila Bend Railroad Company, the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad, and was the chairman of the executive board of the Texas and Pacific Railroad.[1]

Osborn unsuccessfully ran for New York State Senate in 1894 and 1904 as an Independent Democrat, and sought the governorship in New York in 1918. Although he was endorsed by then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt and put forth at the convention by Samuel Seabury, he lost his bid to Alfred E. Smith, who was elected Governor.[1] He was, nevertheless, very active in the political life of New York City and the wider state, serving as president of the Society to Prevent Corrupt Practices at Elections, as chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee. In 1911, he was legal adviser to Gov. John Alden Dix.[1] He was also the founder, in 1932, president, and chairman of the Citizens Budget Commission.[5]

For fifty years, he served as the president or chairman of the board of the Children's Aid Society and was a trustee of Princeton University for almost forty years.[2]

Art collection[edit]

Like his father, a friend of painter Frederic Edwin Church,[3] Osborn was an art collector who focused on impressionist, post-impressionist, and American art of the 1800s and 1900s. His personal collection included artworks by Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin and Édouard Manet.[6]

Osborn served as president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1941 to 1947 and sat on its board of trustees for forty-five years.[1]

Personal life[edit]

On June 3, 1886, Osborn was married to philanthropist and social reformer Alice Clinton Hoadley Dodge (1865–1946).[7] Alice was a daughter of William E. Dodge, Jr. and the younger sister of Grace Hoadley Dodge, William E. Dodge III, and Cleveland Hoadley Dodge. Together, they lived at 135 East 36th Street (which was owned by J.P. Morgan) in the Murray Hill neighborhood in Manhattan,[8] and were the parents of:[9]

Along with his children, he bought up land on the eastern shore of the Hudson River in New York, mostly small farms, and eventually donated thousands of acres to the state, including Sugarloaf Hill in Putnam County to be known as the Hudson Highlands State Park. He was also involved in the establishment of the Hudson River Conservation Society and the Garrison Landing Association,[15] where he had a larger summer estate in the town of Garrison, New York near his father's estate, known as Castle Rock, which was inherited by his elder brother Henry.[8]

His wife died at their home, 40 East 36th Street, in March 1946.[7] Osborn died at his then home, 720 Park Avenue in New York City, on January 3, 1951.[1] After a funeral at the Brick Presbyterian Church on the Upper East Side (which was attended by John D. Rockefeller Jr., Archibald Roosevelt, Bayard Dodge, Henry Sturgis Morgan, Junius S. Morgan, Frederick H. Ecker, and John F. Curry among others), he was buried at Saint Philip's Church Cemetery in Garrison.[17]

Honors and legacy[edit]

In 1938, he received a gold medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences for "distinguished services to humanity." In 1942, he received an honorary LL.D. from his alma mater Princeton University as well as an honorary LL.D. from Columbia University in 1943.[1]

There is a playground in Manhattan, the Osborn Memorial Playground, named in his memory.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "WILLIAM C. OSBORN, CIVIC LEADER, DEAD; Ex-President of Metropolitan Museum of Art Also Headed Children's Aid Society LAWYER HERE FOR 61 YEARS Was a Founder of the Citizens Budget Commission in 1932 --Served With Railroads" (PDF). The New York Times. 4 January 1951. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Dodge-Osborn Hall". Princeton University Press. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  3. ^ a b "THE OBITUARY RECORD.; William H. Osborn" (PDF). The New York Times. 5 March 1894. p. 5. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Leitch, Alexander (2015). A Princeton Companion. Princeton University Press. p. 142. ISBN 9781400870011. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  5. ^ "William Church Osborn". The New York Times. 5 January 1951. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Osborn, Wm. Church (William Church), 1862-1951". research.frick.org. Frick Art Reference Library. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b "MRS. OSBORN DIES; PHILANTHROPIST, 81; Wife of Head of Metropolitan Museum of Art a Leader in Travelers Aid Society" (PDF). The New York Times. 31 March 1946. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b Miller, Tom (3 January 2019). "Daytonian in Manhattan: The William Church Osborn House - 135 East 36th Street". Daytonian in Manhattan. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  9. ^ a b Dodge, Joseph Thompson (1898). Genealogy of the Dodge Family of Essex County, Mass. 1629-1894: 1629-1898. Democrat Printing Company. pp. 605–606. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  10. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (7 January 1981). "Frederick Osborn, a General, 91, Dies". The New York Times. p. 12. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Aileen O. Webb, Leading Figure In National Crafts Movement, 87". The New York Times. 17 August 1979. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  12. ^ Shaykett, Jessica. "This Month in American Craft Council History: June 2012". www.craftcouncil.org. American Craft Council. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  13. ^ Cook, Joan (13 December 1988). "Earl Dodge Osborn Is Dead at 95; Founded Aircraft Manufacturer". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  14. ^ "Earl Dodge Osborn, Founder of EDO Corporation, Inducted into Long Island Technology Hall of Fame". www.businesswire.com. 2 March 2004. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  15. ^ a b c Dunwell, Frances F. (1991). The Hudson River Highlands. Columbia University Press. p. 197. ISBN 9780231070430. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  16. ^ "Osborn and Dodge Family Papers | Rare Books and Special Collections". rbsc.princeton.edu. Princeton University Library. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  17. ^ "ASSOCIATES ATTEND OSBORN'S FUNERAL; Notables in Several Fields Pay Tribute to Civic Leader at Brick Presbyterian Church" (PDF). The New York Times. 6 January 1951. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Central Park Monuments - William Church Osborn Gates : NYC Parks". www.nycgovparks.org. New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 21 March 2019.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
George M. Palmer
New York State Democratic Committee Chairman
Succeeded by
Edwin S. Harris
Cultural offices
Preceded by
George Blumenthal
Metropolitam Museum of Art by Simon Fieldhouse.jpg
President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Succeeded by
Roland L. Redmond