Birthday: March 15, 1887
Died At Age: 86
Sun Sign: Pisces
Born Country: United States
Born in: Springfield, Illinois, United States
Famous as: Socialite
Spouse/Ex-: Edward Bennett Closem (1905–1919), Edward Francis Huttonm (1920–1935), Herbert A. Maym (1958–1964), Joseph E. Daviesm (1935–1955)
father: C. W. Post
mother: Ella Letitia Merriweather
children: Adelaide Breevort Close, Dina Merrill, Eleanor Post Hutton
Died on: September 12, 1973
U.S. State: Illinois
education: Mount Vernon Seminary and College
Who was Marjorie Merriweather Post?
Marjorie Merriweather Post was an American businesswoman, philanthropist, and socialite, who was also known as one of the richest women of 20th-century America. She had inherited ‘Postum Cereal Company’ from her father, business tycoon C.W. Post. She got married and divorced four times, and also strengthened her empire, acquiring several companies and naming the conglomerate ‘General Foods.’ One of her biggest investments was the construction of her lavish Palm Beach retreat named ‘Mar-a-Lago.’ She opened it as an entertainment center for her socialite friends and then attached the ‘Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ to it. She invited underprivileged children to her shows and raised funds for them too. The property was later sold to the U.S. government and then re-sold to the ‘Post Foundation.’ Finally, it was acquired by Donald Trump, who made it his private club and later his “Winter White House.” Following Marjorie’s death, most of her property went to her three daughters.
Childhood & Early Life
Marjorie Merriweather Post was born on March 15, 1887, in Springfield, Illinois, United States. She was the only child of businessman C.W. Post and his wife, Ella Merriweather. Theirs was a middle-class family initially. In 1894, C.W. Post came up with ‘Postum,’ an alternative drink to coffee, made of wheatberries, molasses, and bran.
As a child, Marjorie often helped her father sell ‘Postum’ to stores, but they were initially not too successful. C.W. Post then launched an advertising campaign to popularize ‘Postum,’ and by the time Marjorie stepped into her teenage years, her family became affluent.
Marjorie’s father often trained her in business and also made her attend company meetings and visit factories. Margorie attended finishing school at ‘Mount Vernon Seminary’ in Washington, D.C. because her father wished her to be groomed for society.
Marjorie got married soon. Her father later left her mother and married his secretary, Leilah Young. He left half his stock to Leilah.
In 1914, her father committed suicide. Following this, Marjorie took over the family business and also proved that her father had promised all his stock to her. She paid Leilah $6 million.
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Marjorie became the owner of ‘Postum Cereal Company’ at 27. When the U.S. joined World War I, Marjorie sent her husband, Edward Bennett Close, off to war and made huge donations to the biggest U.S. field hospital in France. She sent supplies worth $75,000 to Europe. Unfortunately, the ship carrying the supplies sank, but Marjorie sent the same amount of supplies again.
While her husband was away at war, Marjorie devoted herself to the New York art scene and joined art history classes. She became a well-known socialite soon.
Later, she divorced Close and married E.F. Hutton. The couple owned lavish properties, which included a 54-room apartment in New York, the ‘Topridge Camp’ in New York, and the ‘Hillwood Estate’ on Long Island.
By the early 1920s, Marjorie had made up her mind to build a seaside retreat in Palm Beach. She had a mansion named ‘Hogarcito’ in the same area but wished to create another place for parties and other entertainment.
She selected 17 acres between Lake Worth and the Atlantic Ocean. The location inspired the name of the property, ‘Mar-a-Lago,’ which means "sea to lake" in Spanish.
Hutton gave her around $1 million to build their new home. Architect Marion Sims Wyeth was initially asked to look into the plans. However, Architect Joseph Urban was finally chosen by them to design the retreat. Joseph was famous for creating theater and opera sets, such as that of the ‘Metropolitan Opera.’ ‘Mar-A-Lago’ took 2 years to be built and involved 600 laborers.
It was completed in January 1927. The resulting estate had a total of 115 rooms, including 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms, and cost Marjorie around $2.5 million.
Marjorie later hosted the Duke and Duchess of Windsor there. Several weddings, mainly those of the children of her staff, were also held there.
The estate was built with Spanish tiles from Genoa, Italy. It had a 75-foot tower with astounding views. The bathrooms had gold fixtures. It also had a dining room that was modeled on Rome's ‘Palazzo Chigi.’ The living room had a gold ceiling similar to the one at the ‘Accademia's ‘Thousand Wing Ceiling’ in Venice.
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In 1923, Hutton became the chairman of the board of ‘Postum Cereal Company.’ Marjorie and Hutton expanded ‘Postum Cereals’ significantly.
Hutton acquired many American food companies, such as ‘Hellman’s Mayonnaise,’ ‘Baker’s Chocolate,’ and ‘Jell-O.’ By 1926, ‘Postum Cereal Company’ became ‘General Foods.’ The company’s value tripled. However, with the company’s growth, Marjorie’s relationship with Hutton soured.
Once, while tasting a goose while holidaying on her yacht, Marjorie was amazed at how well the goose had been frozen. She came to know it had been bought from Clarence Birdseye, who had invented a new way of food preservation.
Hutton agreed to buy Birdseye’s company. However, there was some disagreement with Hutton over this acquisition, and that created issues in Marjorie’s second marriage.
During the Great Depression, Marjorie started a soup kitchen in an indoor dining room in New York, exclusively for women and children. She thus served countless people through her canteens
In 1932, she attended her first ‘Democratic National Convention’ in Chicago. She supported President Roosevelt’s campaign.
Conservative Hutton did not like this. The rifts between them widened, and she soon divorced Hutton, citing infidelity.
She then married lawyer Joseph E. Davies and supported President Roosevelt’s re-election campaign.
After Roosevelt’s re-election in 1936, he made Joseph the U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Marjorie and Joseph went to St. Petersburg. s
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In Russia, Marjorie invested in Russian art, especially those acquired from Russian aristocrats and found in Stalin’s storehouses. After the World War II began, they went back to the U.S. Her Russian art collection is still the largest outside Russia.
In 1929, Marjorie acquired ‘Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ and added it to ‘Mar-a-Lago,’ to arrange a show featuring trapeze artists, clowns, and the world's smallest mule.
She entertained some of her high-society friends and also raised funds for charity through the circus. She also invited underprivileged children to enjoy the circus. She later added a place to host square dances and movie screenings.
In April 1944, she opened ‘Mar-a-Lago's grounds to provide occupational therapy to recovering soldiers of World War II. Soldiers were trained in carpentry, printing, and sculpting. Returning veterans were provided counseling.
Marjorie initially offered ‘Mar-a-Lago’ to the state of Florida, which rejected her offer due to the costs involved. She then offered it to the federal government to be used as a "Winter White House." The U.S. government accepted the offer in 1972.
However, after Marjorie’s death in 1973, the maintenance costs soared. In 1981, the government returned the estate to the ‘Post Foundation.’ In 1985, then-businessman Donald Trump bought ‘Mar-a-Lago’ for $8 million. He later turned part of it into a golf club. As the president of the United States, he now visits the site often.
Family, Personal Life, and Death
At 16, Marjorie met Edward Bennet Close, a lawyer based in Connecticut. Two years later, in 1905, they got married. Close was mostly away at war.
They had two daughters, Adelaide and Eleanor. However, in 1919, they divorced. The following year, she got married to stockbroking tycoon E.F. Hutton. They had a daughter, Nedenia, who later became known as famous actor Dina Merrill.
Marjorie divorced Hutton in 1935, after a 15-year marriage, and became the second-richest woman in the U.S., after she regained full ownership of her company.
The same year, she married Joseph E. Davies, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer. Joseph’s leftist views led to their divorce in 1955. They had no children together
In 1958, she married Herbert A. May, a Pittsburgh-based businessman. However, in 1964, she found out he was gay and divorced him.
Marjorie died after a prolonged illness, on September 12, 1973, at her Hillwood home. She left most her estate and property to her three daughters.