Born in Illinois in 1887, Marjorie Merriweather Post inherited the Postum Cereal Company, which later became the General Foods Corporation, at 27 upon the death of her father. Though a shrewd businesswoman and dedicated philanthropist, she is most remembered for her extravagant tastes, which included many lavish homes and possessions. Post died on September 9, 1973, in Washington, D.C.
Early Life and Career
Marjorie Merriweather Post was born on March 15, 1887, in Springfield, Illinois. The only child of Charles William Post and Ella Letitia Merriweather, Marjorie became owner of the successful Postum Cereal Company at age 27 after her father died. She married four times: in 1905 to investment banker Edward Bennett Close, in 1920 to financier Edward Francis Hutton, in 1935 to Washington lawyer and Soviet ambassador Joseph E. Davies, and in 1958 to Westinghouse executive Herbert A. May Jr.
In 1923, after Post's second husband, Edward Hutton, became Postum's chairman of the board, the company expanded to include such brands as Birdseye Frozen Foods and became the General Foods Corporation. The move was largely instigated by Post, a shrewd businesswoman who saw the need for prepared food in an age of increasingly independent women. After she and Hutton divorced in 1935, Post joined the company's board of directors, becoming one of the first women to join the board of directors of a major American corporation.
Post was renowned for her lavish homes, and a few have since become landmarks. The Long Island home she shared with her third husband is now the C.W. Post College at Long Island University. The 115-room Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, was purchased from the Post Family Trust in 1985 by Donald Trump, who reopened it as a private club. Her Washington, D.C. estate, Hillwood, was left to the Smithsonian and reopened to public in 1977 as a museum to display Post's extensive French and Russian art collection.
Though an avid socialite with expensive tastes—owning, among many things, the largest privately owned sea-going yacht in the world and a pair of 20-carat diamond earrings belonging to Marie Antoinette—Post was renowned for her substantial charitable donations. Over the years, she donated millions of dollars to charities, including $100,000 to build the Kennedy Center. She also set up soup kitchens in New York during the Depression and contributed to the Soviet War Relief of World War II, the Boy Scouts of America and the National Symphony Orchestra's "Music for Young America" program. After donating funds to construct field hospitals in France during World War I, Post was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government.
Marjorie Merriweather Post died on September 9, 1973, at the age of 86, in Washington, D.C.
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