Jun 22 2015

Mystery Foto #25 Solved: Waterbury ,Sears, McGrann and Vanderbilt at the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Okay Mystery Friday Foto fans, here was a real tough one for you!

Mystery Foto question:

  • Identify these four spectators (from left to right) who are watching the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race from the Hempstead Plains grandstand.

Hints  may be provided throughout the weekend.

11:25 AM Friday Hint: The man on the far right owned a race car that ran in the Vanderbilt Cup Races. 

8:30 PM Friday Hint: The woman second from the left was the great-great-granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson .

11:00 AM Saturday Hint: The man on the left was a champion polo player.

12:00 PM Sunday Hint: The woman third from the left "fancied horses" and was married to an inventor.

9:30 PM Sunday Hint: The woman second from the left was a tennis champion.

2:45 PM Monday Hint: The man on the far right was related to Willie K.

From left to right: Larry Waterbury, Eleonora Sears, Mrs. Richard McGrann, and Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt

Congrats to Greg O. and Art Kleiner (see Kleiner's Korner) for correctly identifying all four spectators.


Howard Kroplick

Larry Waterbury

Inductee to the Polo Hall of Fame

Lawrence Waterbury
Elected March 18, 1993

A versatile, all around athlete, Lawrence "Larry" Waterbury was a competitor with an insatiable appetite. A ten-goaler and a member of The Big Four, polo's undefeated international team, he helped usher in an era of a new style of aggressive and fast polo that dethroned Great Britain's supremacy.

A daring rider and brilliant hitter, Larry was known for his accurate passing game in the front of a team, yet his reputation as a back was equally formidable. He is the only one in the history of the Westchester Cup to have played all four positions.

In addition to five Westchester Cup victories between 1909 and 1914, he won the first US Open Championship and seven Senior titles.

Eleonora Sears

Eleonora R. Sears (1881-1968)

Gender barrier-breaker Eleonora R. Sears, nicknamed “Eleo,” was born in Boston in 1881.  The great-great-granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson, Sears enjoyed all the benefits of an aristocratic upbringing.  In her youth she was part of the social elite that vacationed each summer in Newport, RI, where she learned to play tennis and golf, rode horses, swam, and sailed.  In 1911, Sears began to play tennis competitively, when she and her friend Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman won the United States women’s doubles championship. Over the next five years, Sears won four more doubles championships, scandalizing crowds each time with her rolled up shirt-sleeves.  In 1912, Sears nearly lost her membership to the Burlingame Country Club in Birmingham, CA, when she rode front-saddle into the all-men’s polo arena wearing pants.  Despite receiving criticism for her unfeminine style of dress and her avid participation in athletics, Sears was unfailingly popular among the upper class circles of Boston and New York.  She was a frequent guest at the all-men’s Harvard Club, where she learned to play squash.  She eventually became the first woman squash champion in history.  She frequently topped New York’s “10-best dressed” list, and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward III) said Sears was his favorite dance, squash, and tennis partner.  Sears played and coached women’s squash into her 70s, was famous for her frequent marathon walks between Boston and Newport, and consistently raised blue-ribbon horses for the National Horse Show.  Eleonora Sears’ died in 1968, and her obituary read that her controversial determination to participate in athletics, “paved the way for women’s entrance in sports.”

Eleonora Sears' 1916 Scripp-Booth Model D Landau Town Car was recently displyed at the Elegance at Hershey.

Mrs. Richard McGrann

Mrs. Richard McGrann attended the 1909 race with her husband Richard McGrann of Lancaster, PA. In 1909  McGrann  applied for a patent on a unique medicine bottle. According to Brooklyn Life, Mrs. Richard McGrann "fancied horses."

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (1877-1915) was William K. Vanderbilt Jr.'s cousin and the owner of the FIAT driven by Paul Sartori in the 1904 and 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Races. Alfred Vanderbilt was traveling with his valet Ronald Denyer on the Lusitania to a meeting of the International Horse Breeder' Association. When Lusitania was torpedoed, Vanderbilt and Denyer assisted many others, especially children, to safety.  Vanderbilt made no attempt to save himself, and was last seen giving his lifebelt to second cabin passenger Alice Middleton.  Vanderbilt was lost in the sinking and his body was never recovered

Kleiner's Korner (Submitted by Art Kleiner)

New York Times, November 7, 1909.



Jun 18 2015 Mitch Paluszek 10:42 PM

Willie and his sister, Consuelo, and their childhood neighbors, Dr. and Mrs. Sol Epstein….(No?)

Jun 19 2015 Joseph Oesterle 12:40 AM

I would say Ava Belmont Vanderbilt is the woman on the left side of the photo.  The guy directly to her left is definitely Sean Connery.  smile

Jun 19 2015 Ariejan Bos 9:23 AM

I could wait until the first hint, but I’ll give it a guess. The couple could be Alice and John Ramsey. Alice Ramsey, a keen motorist, had accomplished her transcontinental tour not long before, and she could well have been a guest of honor during the event. So, I’ll await the hints and if it appears that I’m wrong I’ll give it another try!

Jun 19 2015 Greg O. 10:28 PM

From left to right;
Larry Waterbury, Eleanora Sears, Mrs. McGrann, Alfred G. Vanderbilt

Jun 21 2015 Art Kleiner 12:45 AM

Identify these four spectators (from left to right) who are watching the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race from the Hempstead Plains grandstand.

Larry Waterbury, Eleanora Sears, Mrs. McGrann and Alfred G. Vanderbilt

Jun 21 2015 Ariejan Bos 10:18 AM

Ok, this is my second attempt. If I read polo player, I must immediately think of Foxhall Keene, sportsman, polo player and participant in the Vanderbilt Cup race of 1905. The man who owned racing cars was Alfred G. Vanderbilt. And finally the woman in the middle: Eleonora Randolph Sears, great great grand-daughter of Thomas Jefferson, famous tennis player, and dating Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, third child and second son of William K..

Jun 21 2015 RLR 11:56 AM

Here are my guesses from left to right: Foxhall Keene, Alice Ramsey, Eleanora Sears, and no guess for the car owner. Going for 3 out of 4. Alice Hulsey Ramsey was the first woman to drive across the U.S. (1909).
Hope all is well there. Still working on the Holcomb/Knox project here. Very interesting.
Enjoying the Mustang adventures. You’re never bored, are you.
Best Regards,
Dick Rowley

Jun 22 2015 Karen Cordaro 9:55 AM

I’m guessing that the woman (third from left) could be Mrs. Belmont—not really sure of the others.

Jun 22 2015 Ariejan Bos 10:42 AM

I guess this is my final answer, so my previous answers can be discarded.

I must admit this was one of the most challenging mystery photos till now, which without hints would have been impossible for me to solve. Even now I’m not 100% sure about my answers, but they are all either a Vanderbilt or directly related to them, which makes sense. The advantage was that I’ve met a lot of new people from the era, which was an interesting and refreshing experience.

When I read polo player, my first thought was Foxhall Keene. However more likely is that the man on the left is Harry Payne Whitney, who was also an avid polo-player. Moreover he married Gertrude Vanderbilt, the great-granddaughter of the Commodore.
The man who owned racing cars was Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt.
The woman on the left: Eleonora Randolph Sears, great great grand-daughter of Thomas Jefferson, famous tennis player, and dating Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, third child and second son of William K..
First I thought that the woman with the veil had to be Margaret Emerson (daughter of inventor Isaac E Emerson). Alfred G. Vanderbilt would marry her in 1911, having been divorced in 1908 from his first wife Ellen French. Margaret Emerson had inherited a race horse stable from her father, which she would give later to her son Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt II. As stated however, Margaret Emerson is the inventor’s daughter, so my guess is then that the woman with the veil is her mother, Emily Askew.

Jun 23 2015 Ted 12:49 PM

Hi all.I have a few minutes now, while waiting for a delivery to come.This certainly was a challenging one without the hints.All is well here,very slow process,trying to get the place the way we want it.Still unpacking boxes.Weather been hot 90 to 102,not much rain.Be in touch whenever I get chance.

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