Once upon a time, Palm Beach, already a legend in American society, was also a real American small town -- indeed even a family town, where everyone knew his neighbor. While the town was always famous for its celebrity guests and occasional residents and their accompanying notoriety, one family has had a predominant presence in throughout the last century; and that is the Munns.
Through the Munns, some of the most prominent families in Palm Beach (and elsewhere) are related to each other. Amorys, Pulitzers, Boardmans, Armours, Vanderbilts, Wannamakers, Biddles, Drexels, Spreckels and van Rensselaers are only some of the many which are all interwined on the Munn vast and glamorous family tree. Exploring those branches and separating them into a coherent piece is a formidable task and Palm Beach historian Augustus C. Mayhew has done just that with a treasure trove of archival photographs of the families’ life in Palm Beach. It doesn’t matter if, when you get to the end of this story, you still haven’t figured out how who’s related to who. Most importantly the history reflects a time in American life when families dominated communities, gave them their flavor and their atmosphere. The Munns and their exponents were practitioners of the Good Life on a scale that seems incomparable today not because of their fortunes, but because of their relationship to this cornucopia of wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins and more cousins.
House of Munn: The Palm Beach Story By Augustus C. Mayhew
Munn family at Seaside Cottage. The Breakers, Palm Beach, c. 1936.
L. to r.: Peter Pulitzer, Patsy Pulitzer, Charles Amory, Jr., Grace Amory, Gladys Munn Pulitzer, Reginald Boardman, Dennie Boardman, Carrie Louise Munn Boardman, Fernanda ('Nonie') Wanamaker Munn, Gurnee Munn, Jr., Gurnee Munn, Sr., Frances Munn, Mary Munn, Charles Munn, Jr., Pauline Munn, Charles A. Munn, Sr. ('Mr. Palm Beach'), Noel Spenser Munn (sitting center). Not pictured: Ector Munn.
Patsy Pulitzer Preston, pictured second from left, next to her little brother, Peter Pulitzer, "remembers the day when we were all lined up in our white shoes."
"My mother, Gladys Munn, was the most loving, most caring person in the world, who died of TB in 1938, two years after the photo. My father's last years with my mother were spent traveling around the world trying to find a cure that did not exist. Because of the contagion and beliefs of the time, we were unable to be in the same room with her. Imagine, never being able to see the person you love the most," she expressed.
The photograph of the Charles Munn family appears to be the cast from the 1942 film, The Palm Beach Story, with Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, and Mary Astor, but actually, it may be the real Palm Beach story, the one that includes a genuine Mary Astor.
Today's Social Register does not list the Charles Munn name but the family's Grands, Greats, and Great-Greats are from one of Palm Beach's most exclusive clubs — the island's most formidable social conglomerate — the family.
A Munn family séance would fill a hall greater than Mrs. Astor's fabled ballroom with the world's most-recognized bold-faced names: Amory, Armour, Astor, Baker, Bessborough, Biddle, Boardman, Bostwick, Dow, Drexel, Gurnee, Orr, Pulitzer, Ryan, Spreckels, Vanderbilt, Van Rensselaer, Wanamaker, and Waterbury, and others.
In the beginning
Alexander Ector Orr, an established silk-stocking New Yorker, helped his nephew, Charles Munn, newly arrived from Ireland, establish Munn, Orr & Company, a business concern engaged in wholesale provisionals and slaughterhouses.
Alexander Ector Orr (1831-1914).
A prominent New York financier and merchant, who during the Age of Monopoly served on the boards of twenty-nine corporations, Alexander Orr headed the New York Produce Exchange (1887-1888) and was president of the New York Chamber of Commerce (1894). Orr's marriage to Juliet Dows, the daughter of the nation's largest grain dealer, greatly enhanced his power and prominence. After the infamous corruption scandal of 1905, he became president of the Equitable Insurance Company. Best known for arranging the financing and construction of New York's subway system, his estate was valued at more than $10 million in 1914. Charles Munn named two of his children after his proverbial rich uncle, Charles Alexander and Ector Orr Munn.
When Munn, Orr & Co. sought to expand into the Midwest market, Charles Munn went to Chicago to represent the family's interest. The trip was providential, as Munn experienced a serendipitous encounter, resulting in a windfall far greater than anything he might reap from a business venture.
In Chicago, Munn met and married Carrie Louise Gurnee Armour, the widow of Joseph Armour, president of Armour & Co., the world's largest meatpacking and food processing concern, whose mantra was 'We feed the world.' Armour wed Carrie Louise, following the accidental death of his first wife, Amelia Gurnee, Carrie Louise's sister. Armour's second marriage was short-lived. According to published reports, He reportedly died from an accidental fall in 1880, leaving his widow, Carrie Louise, as sole heir and co-executor of his more than $3 million estate as well as his share in the Armour & Co partnership. Childless from both marriages, Armour set aside $100,000 for the construction of a mission and school, named in honor of his first wife, Amelia.
Carrie Louise was a Gurnee, prominent land barons who made their fortune in tannery and railroads. Walter S. Gurnee, Carrie Louise's uncle, (pictured left) was mayor of Chicago (1851-1853) and known as The Father of the North Shore,with holdings that comprise today's Winnetka and Highland Park. Gurnee, IL, is named for him. Whether Carrie Louise returned the wedding presents before she bonded with Munn may never be known but the Munn-Gurnee civil union served as the foundation for an immense social dynasty that would reach into the 21st century.
Rather than live in Victorian lace-curtained Chicago, considering the ambience in the aftermath of The Great Chicago of 1871 and the Haymarket Riot a decade later, Charles, Carrie Louise, and their first child, Charles Alexander, moved to the more refined sophisticated air of Washington, D.C. They lived the life of top hats, walking sticks and fur coats, attended by butlers and maids as they packed and unpacked steamer trunks for ocean crossings and Grand Tours. They lived in a brick mansion at 14th St. and Massachusetts Avenue, where their neighbor was John Wanamaker, Postmaster General (1889-1892), whose grand daughters, Fernanda and Marie Louise, decades later, married two of the Munn's sons.
Following the birth of their other children, Gurnee, Carrie Louise, Ector and Gladys, and, in their search of a healthy clime during the winter months, the Munns discovered St. Augustine, the Newport of the South. They stayed at one of the Carrere and Hastings-designed hotel resorts that catered their every whim. Later, the Munns were among the first arrivals at The Breakers, Flagler's new oceanfront hotel, where an orchestra and mule-driven trolley car greeted guests as they arrived in private railroad cars.
The Munn children with their friends. The Breakers, Palm Beach, c. 1895. The hotel and the pier can be seen in the distance. The Breakers beach served as the winter colony's bath and tennis club until The Bath and Tennis Club was built in 1927. Steamships departed from the pier for Havana, Nassau and Key West.
During the next century as fate and folly diminished the fortunes and standing of some Palm Beachers, the Munn family's confluence of kinship and class generated a social stature as tightly knotted as the Windsors.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join?
A wedding planner may suffice for some families, but for the Munns, marriages require the expertise of a forensic genealogist or a Ptolemaic scholar. Money counted within the Munn's social set but no one counted marriages.
In 1903 Charles Munn died, six years before his son, Charles Munn, Jr.'s, la belle époque marriage to Mary Astor Paul became an international social event. The new Mrs. Munn was blue chip Philadelphia — Drexel, Biddle, van Rensselaer, and Astor.
Anthony J. Drexel (1826-1893). Courtesy of Drexel University Archives & Collections.
L. to r.: Charles Alexander Munn (1885-1981), 'Mr. Palm Beach.' Collection of Anthony Baker; Queen of Palm Beach, Marjorie Merriweather Post, exchanges whispers with Mr. Palm Beach, Charles Munn, at the Red Cross Ball, Palm Beach. Courtesy of Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Charles Munn, a Harvard graduate, was a founder of the Everglades Club, Seminole and Gulf Stream Golf Club. He was a member of le beau monde, Café Society and Jet Set for more than six decades. Considered by many as 'The Last Gentleman,' Munn believed in hard work and civility. He was a perennial nominee to the International Best Dressed list. He is credited with popularizing the blue blazer (Captain's jacket), ascot and flannel trousers, as the official uniform of the social set. He kept a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in the living room of his Palm Beach house and a Rousseau painting of Moliere's characters in the dining room. In one of his last interviews, he recalled the Christmas that Flo Ziegfield gave his sister-in-law, Marie Louise Wanamaker Munn, and neighbor, a full orchestra for one week. 'I will never forget,' Munn said. 'We danced every night, there was nothing like it.'
Mary Astor Paul Munn was the daughter of James William Paul, Jr. (1851-1908) and Frances Drexel (1858- 1901), the daughter of Anthony J. Drexel (1826-1893), the financier known as 'the man who made Wall Street.'
Mary Astor Paul Munn (1889-1950). Oil on canvas, 1927. Philip de Laszlo, artist. Courtesy of Drexel University Archives & Collections.
Anthony J. Drexel was the founder of the banking firm Drexel & Co. She was named for an aunt, Mary Paul Astor, who in 1878 joined fortunes with William Waldorf Astor, better known as Baron Astor of Hever Castle. The Drexel family archives are at Drexel University. Mary Astor Paul was the first Mrs. Charles Munn, Sr. and mother of their four children: Charles, Jr., Mary, Frances and Carrie Louise. Following her divorce from Charles Munn, she moved to Paris where she married Jacques Allez, a renowned WW I French flying ace. For her work with the French Resistance during WW II, when she used the code name, 'Pauline,' to honor her deceased daughter, she was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government and the Medal of Freedom by the United States. She died in Paris in 1950. A family cousin, Katherine Drexel, was recently canonized Saint Katharine by the Catholic Church.
Pauline Munn Doyle (1909-1939). Oil on canvas, 1927. Philip de Laszlo, artist. Courtesy of Drexel University Archives and Special Collections.
Tragic adversities tempered the family's triumphs. The family matriarch, Carrie Louise Gurnee Armour Munn (1862-1922) died in an automobile accident when her car crashed into a tree, near the family's summer home in Manchester by-the-Sea, Mass. She was buried at Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. Charles and Mary Munn's daughter, Pauline, died in Paris at the age of 30 from complications following a foot infection.
In 1927 Pauline Munn made her debut at the Ritz-Carlton in Paris, as well as parties in New York, Philadelphia and Palm Beach. In Paris the Munns gave an intimate dinner for 500 where their daughter wore a 'white robe de style with a belt of red roses hanging around her waist.' She married an American and lived in Paris. She was interred in the same Paris cemetery where her mother would be buried beside her twenty years later. In her father's will, he bequeathed $20,000 to the American Hospital in Paris, to endow a room in memory of his daughter.
Woodcrest was the estate of James W. Paul, Jr. and Frances Biddle Drexel, Mary Astor Munn's parents. Her mother died before the house was completed. Charles and Mary Munn lived at Woodcrest after her father died in 1908 until 1925, when they sold the property for $1 million to Dr. Joseph Dorrance, the inventor of condensed soup and the president of Campbell's Soup. It was the highest price paid at the time for a private house in Pennsylvania. Set on more than 200 acres and designed in the Elizabethan half-timber style, today Woodcrest is part of the Cabrini University campus.
Woodcrest, 1902. Horace Trumbauer, architect. Radnor, PA. Courtesy of Drexel University Archives & Special Collections.
Charles and Mary Paul Munn built Amado on a three-acre oceanfront parcel purchased from John S, Phipps, whose family estate, Casa Bendita, adjoined the property to the south.
Amado, 1920. Addison Mizner, architect. Palm Beach. Collection of Anthony Baker.
In 1927 Munn headed a committee of homeowners who built North County Road to the west and removed North Ocean Boulevard from in front of their oceanfront homes. While the Munns lived in Paris, they would often lease Amado for the winter season. When Flo Ziegfield and his wife, Billie Burke, stayed at Amado, they brought along their daughter's pet lions.
The family's guest register at Amado recorded the names of some of the 20th-century's most distinguished international diplomats, aristocrats and socialites. At one event, the women, including Rose Kennedy, left their lipstick impressions along with their autograph.
Despite revisionist history, Joseph and Rose Kennedy, and their children, were an active part of Palm Beach social life for several decades and among the Munn's inner circle. The Kennedy family lived north of the Munns at La Guerida, an oceanfront Mizner-designed house they purchased in 1933 from Rodman Wanamaker's family.
The guest register from Amado
'We would drive along Ocean Boulevard, shoot quail, and then eat them,' said Munn, describing life in the jungle of Palm Beach in a 1960s interview. 'Back then, all we had was The Breakers commissary. We knew everyone, all our family and friends. It was just us.'
Following his divorce in the 1930's, Charles Munn spent the next two decades dining and dancing among the black-tie international social circuit. Then, in 1953, he exchanged vows with Dorothy Spreckels DuPuy McCarthy, the San Francisco sugar heiress, with whom he enjoyed an extended companionship.
Dolly O'Brien, Charles Munn, and Joanne Ortiz-Patino, Palm Beach. c. 1950s. Courtesy of Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Dorothy Rohnert Spreckels DuPuy McCarthy Munn (1913-2000) was the daughter of Adolf Spreckels, the California sugar king, and Alma Spreckels, the patron saint of San Francisco's Palace of Legion of Honor. An avid bridge player and Francophile, her first husband's family owned the newspaper, Petit Parisien, Her mother, immortalized in the 1990 biography, Big Alma, befriended Auguste Rodin, amassing the largest collection of Rodin sculptures outside of Paris. The Munn's apartment, at 22 rue Barbet de Jouy, overlooked the Rodin Museum. During the 1960s their passion for Paris waned as they spent more time in the south of France. She thought tall buildings were ruining Paris, saying in a 1960 interview, 'Paris is awash with ugliness.' Gallery #5 at the Palace of Legion of Honor is named for her. She endowed the Dorothy Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Sonoma County, CA. Today, Danielle Steele, the novelist, owns the Beaux-Arts Spreckels Mansion on Washington Street in San Francisco. Charles and Dorothy Munn are still together; they share a niche at the Columbarium, Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach.
L. to r.: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Munn, Palm Beach, c. 1960; Dorothy Spreckels Munn, 1942. Oil portrait, Salvador Dali, artist. Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco.
Spreckels Mansion, 2080 Washington St., San Francisco.
Charles A. Munn & Dorothy Spreckels Munn: Last Will & Testaments
Will watch is one of Palm Beach's most engaging indoor sports. Following their wedding in 1953, the Munns entered into an ante-nuptial agreement and both wills acknowledged this previous agreement
In his December 1973 will, Charles Munn bequeathed Dorothy the Palm Beach house, Amado, the Paris apartment and two Rolls Royces, one in San Francisco and the other, garaged in Paris. His nephew, and executor, Reginald Boardman, Jr., received his Palm Beach Rolls. Munn named thirty family members, employees, and friends, as beneficiaries, leaving each a specific amount with eight of them given lifetime monthly incomes from an established trust. He left a portrait of his mother, Carrie Louise Gurnee Munn, painted by Theobald Chartran (1847-1907), a noted French Academy painter, to his two sisters, Mary and Frances. His remaining shares in AmTote were equally divided between, his brother, Ector, his nephew, Reginald Boardman, and his secretary, Norma Ballou. Additionally, Ballou received a substantial cash gift and a lifetime income. Unfortunately, she died a year after Munn's death.
L. to r: Dorothy Spreckels, at 14 with her pet bulldog.Oil portrait. Munn family collection; Munn niche. Columbarium, Episcopal Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea, Palm Beach.
When Dorothy Munn left Amado, the Munn family house valued at $14 million, to her stepchildren, Mary and Frances, veteran Palm Beach will watchers noted a refreshing civility. In addition, according to her American will signed in 1998, and valued at her death in 2000 at $99 million, she bequeathed the residual of her estate, after the provisions in a 1991 Trust for family members and friends, to be equally divided among the following ten charities: The Versailles Foundation, Inc. (also recipient in her French Will), The Lord's Place, Hospice of Palm Beach, The American Lung Association, Norton Museum of Art, Episcopal Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea, Planned Parenthood, Children's Home Society of Florida, Bascom-Palmer Eye Institute (Miami), and the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults (Palm Beach). In 2001 The Florida Bar reprimanded her estate attorney when they discovered he changed the wording of her will after she died. The attorney recused himself when it was learned that he accepted a $2 million gift from her the year before her death.
Dorothy Spreckels Munn donated her private collection of several hundred event photographs and small format family casual snapshots from Paris, London, Palm Beach, New York, and San Francisco to the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. Top, L. to R: Charles Munn having dinner with his grand daughter, Pauline Baker Pitt, Monte Carlo, 1964; Frances Munn Baker with poodle; Charles and Dorothy Munn, Cap D'Antibes, 1965; Duke of Windsor and Dorothy Munn; Munn family, Poinciana Plaza, Palm Beach; Tony Pulitzer, Dorothy Spreckels, Charles Munn, Cannes. Dorothy Spreckels Munn, center, Reginald Boardman; Dorothy Munn readies for an evening at the San Francisco Opera. Charles and Dorothy Munn, Worth Avenue, Palm Beach.
Betrothed and begat
While all weddings call for something blue, for the Munns it meant the Blue Book. In keeping with the tradition of their time, the Social Register was most often the best wedding planner.
Gladys Munn's marriage to Charles Minot Amory, a Beacon Hill Brahmin, resulted in two children, Charles Minot Amory, Jr. and Grace Amory Ryan.
Following their divorce in 1924, Charles Amory hooked up with Margaret 'Bromo-Seltzer,' Emerson Smith Hollins McKim Vanderbilt Baker, perhaps the most married woman of her time. The new Mrs. Amory's marriage to Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt ended suddenly in 1915 when he drowned aboard the Lusitania. The widow Vanderbilt was left with two children, an immense fortune and some of the largest private homes in the country, including Sagamore and seven South Carolina plantations called Arcadia Plantation.
Patsy Pulitzer Preston, New York.
Grace Amory, a noted champion golfer, married Allan A. Ryan. Their house on Wells Road in Palm Beach was situated west of the Herb Pulitzer property, later owned by the Azqueta family. Ryan was the son of Thomas Fortune Ryan, known popularly as, 'the richest man in the South' and #14 on Forbes magazine's first list of the richest people in 1918.
After she and Amory parted, Gladys wed Herbert 'Tony' Pulitzer, (1896 -1957).
Their marriage produced two children, Patsy and Peter. Herbert Pulitzer, the youngest of Joseph Pulitzer's sons, published The New York World. His Palm Beach oceanfront home was on Wells Road, to the south of El Mirasol and the Phipps properties.
Patsy Preston remembers that she and her brother Peter 'lived in the generation when children were not seen or heard.' She married Lewis T. Preston, president, chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, and later, president of the World Bank, 1991-1994. The World Bank Conference Center auditorium is named for him. Also, in his honor, Patsy Preston established a foundation, Preston Education Fund for Girls, now part of the Global Fund for Women. She lives in New York City in a building designed by J. E. R. Carpenter.
Left: Lewis Thompson Preston (1925- 1995). World Bank.
Right: Peter Pulitzer. Oil portrait, c.1960, Jean Abauad, artist. Collection of Liza Pulitzer. Peter Pulitzer, once known as, Herbert 'Peter' Pulitzer, lives in South Florida and Colorado. His elopement with Lillian 'Lilly' McKim, and his subsequent marriage and break up from Roxanne Renckens of Cassadaga, NY, turned this otherwise old shoe into a media sensation. Lilly was the daughter of Lillian Bostwick McKim Phipps (1906-1987), best known as Mrs. Ogden Phipps, and the great-granddaughter of Jabez Bostwick, treasurer of the Standard Oil Trust and a partner of John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler. While much is made of her marrying a Pulitzer, actually, it was Peter Pulitzer who married well. Lilly Pulitzer became a fashion icon for her colorful Palm Beach-inspired designs called 'Lillys'. Peter and Lilly have three children: Liza, Lillian Munn, and a son, Peter McKim Pulitzer. From his second marriage, he has twin sons, MacLean and Zachary Pulitzer, who work in the family's citrus concern, Pulitzer Groves. In addition, he has two children from his current marriage.
Charles Amory, Jr. married Chesbrough Lewis (c. 1913-2005), a well-known and photographed social figure in New York, Southampton, and Palm Beach. Their son, C. Minot Amory, III, lives in Palm Beach with his wife, Victoria. Following his second divorce, Amory, Jr., banded with Julia Aspuru, the former Mrs. Enrique Rousseau; his half-brother, Peter Pulitzer's ex-wife, Lilly, married Enrique Rousseau. Julia Amory lives in West Palm Beach.
Carrie Louise Munn's marriage to Reginald Boardman, a Beacon Hill Bostonian, ended in a publicized divorce and two children, T. Dennie and Reginald, Jr. Carrie Louise would later wed Lawrence Waterbury, a Roosevelt cousin.
Dennie and Reginald Boardman, Jr. (pictured right), Palm Beach, 1936. Dennie Boardman wed Vivian Dixon, granddaughter of Isidor Strauss, owner of R. H. Macy's, who with his wife, Ida, drowned aboard the ill-fated HMS Titanic. Following her split from Dennie, Vivian Boardman became the third Mrs. Rodman Lewis Wanamaker (1899-1976), whose cousins, Marie-Louise and Fernanda, married Munn brothers, Gurnee and Ector, her ex-husband's uncles. Dennie and Vivian's son, D. Dixon Boardman, Optima hedge fund founder, paired up in Hapsburg fashion. He wed Pauline Baker, his second cousin. In 2001 Dixon Boardman exchanged rings with Princess Arriana Theresa Maria Hohenlohe-Langenburgat her family's Marbella Club. Before marrying Prince Alfonso (1924- 2003), Princess Arriana's mother, the English actress, Jackie Lane, later known as Jocelyn Lane, appeared in Playboy (September, 1966) and the film Tickle Me (1965) with Elvis Presley. The Dixon Boardmans live in Palm Beach.
All in the family
The Wanamaker Trust
When Lewis Rodman Wanamaker (1863-1928) died, he left a will and codicils establishing an estimated $120 million trust for his three children and their descendants: Fernanda Wanamaker deHeeren (Munn), John Wanamaker, Jr., and Marie Louise Wanamaker Munn (Kent). For half a century, the trust consisted in part of the stock in the John Wanamaker department store. In 1978, Carter, Hawley, Hale, Inc. offered the trust $40 million for the stock. After protracted negotiations, Carter, Hawley purchased the stock for $60 million.
Lewis Rodman Wanamaker
According to the Wanamaker Trust, upon the death of the Wanamaker children, their children were to split one-half of their parent's shares. The other half share would be accumulated to fund various charities. Although the will did not expressly provide that Wanamaker's great- grandchildren would succeed to their parents' interests in the trust, a court later ruled that the failure to include such specific language was an oversight and that their interest should be divided equally between them.
Ector and Gurnee Munn's union with Lewis Rodman Wanamaker's daughters, Fernanda and Marie Louise, rekindled the affinity for family values begun decades before, when their mother and aunt, Carrie Louise and Amelia Gurnee, were doubly Armoured.
Ector Munn's marriage was childless, and following his divorce from Fernanda Wanamaker, he wed Virginia Abbott. A confirmed vegan, who lived to the age of 102, Ector was a founder of Planned Parenthood in Palm Beach County. For many years he was involved in the family business, AmTote. Later he headed Canada Dry's US division before retiring. Following their split, his wife, Fernanda, married George Kent.
In 1940 Mrs. Ector (Fernanda) Munn and Mrs. Harrison (Mona) Williams, her sister's neighbor in Palm Beach, chaired the American branch of Le Colis de Trianon-Versailles, a French charity that aided servicemen during the war. With the Duchess of Windsor, they organized an exhibition, Paris Openings, to raise money for the charity. Held at the Wanamaker Auditorium in New York, the exhibit displayed evening dresses worn by their friends. Each dress was termed a "hallowed memory," having been worn on a 'Great Occasion.' A complete display of this extraordinary exhibition can be seen at Paris Openings, Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Gurnee Munn (1887-1960), pictured at a dog show in the 1920s. Collection of Suzanne Munn.
Born in Washington and a Harvard graduate, Gurnee Munn was named for his mother's family, the Gurnees of Chicago. Louwana, the Munn-Wanamaker home, became an epicenter for the international set during the 1920s and 1930s. Harrison Williams, often termed the richest man in the world, and his wife, the fabled, Mona Williams, lived next-door to the Munns in Palm Beach. Gurnee held various positions in the family firm, American Totalisator (AmTote). For many years, he was a partner in a real estate firm in Palm Beach, Munn, Hull & Boardman. His will bequeathed his seat on the New York Stock Exchange to his brother, Ector. Gurnee and Marie Louise had two children, Gurnee II (1917-1978) and Fernanda Wanamaker Munn (1920-1989). His daughter, Fernanda married Francis Kellogg in 1942. Following her father's death, Fernanda Kellogg, sold Louwana to her half-brother, Arturo deHeeren and his wife, Aimee. She moved to The Lodge, a house built along North County Road on the Louwana property. Fernanda Kellogg established the Louwana Foundation, to protect wildlife habitats in Kenya and East Africa.
Left: Gurnee Munn, Jr. (1918 -1978) and his wife, Suzanne, aboard their sailboat on Lake Worth, 1970. Gurnee Munn's sudden death in 1978 sparked a contentious court battle over his will between his children from a former marriage and his second wife. The court upheld the will, and his children, Marie Louise, Bridget, and Gurnee III, took their family share of the Wanamaker Trust, leaving Munn's widow with a more than $1 million award. During better times, Munn designed and built his own 100-foot sailing yacht in Scotland and sailed around the world.
Middle: Fernanda Wanamaker Munn & Gurnee Munn, Jr., Palm Beach, 1926. Munn family collection.
Right: Gurnee Munn, Jr., 1925. Pencil sketch. William Von Dressler (1871-1950), artist.
A Fernanda Who's Who
In 1886 Lewis Rodman Wanamaker married Fernanda Antonio deHenry. They named their daughter Fernanda Wanamaker. Fernanda's son, from her marriage to Arturo deHeeren, Rodman deHeeren, named his daughter, Christina Fernanda DeHeeren. Fernanda's sister, Marie Louise, named her daughter, Fernanda 'Nonnie' Wanamaker Munn. She married Francis Kellogg and named her daughter, Fernanda Munn Kellogg. Fernanda Kellogg named her daughter from her first husband, Fernanda Gilligan. Fernanda Pauline Wanamaker, daughter of John Wanamaker and Pauline Disston, wed Francis Wetherill. Their daughter, Fernanda Wanamaker Wetherill became Mrs. Jamie Niven, and their daughter was named Fernanda Wanamaker Niven.
Mary Munn (Countess Bessborough), Fernanda Wanamaker Munn, Fernanda Wanamaker Wetherill. Seated, Frances Drexel Munn Baker, c. 1940. Collection of Fernanda Kellogg Henckels.
Mary and Frances are the children of Charles and Mary Astor Paul Munn. Mary Munn married Frederick Edward Posonby, Viscount Duncannon and the 10th Earl of Bessborough. She became Countess Bessborough. A still-life painter and active historic preservationist, she lives on Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, after living many years in the UK and Paris. Her daughter is Lady Charlotte Petsopoulos, who has lived in London for many years. Both mother and daughter are supporters of Task Brasil, a UK-based organization that supports the welfare of the street children of Brazil. Frances Munn Baker has lived in Palm Beach, New York, and Grasse, France. Her first husband, George F. Baker, Jr., was scion of the First National City Bank banking family, the forerunner of CitiBank. In 1918 George F. Baker was #4 on the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the world. His estimated wealth of $150 million in today's dollars would equal $1.64 billion. Frances Baker's children are Anthony, Pauline, Kane, and Lavinia. Later, she married Peter Bezencenet and lived in France for many years. She now lives in Palm Beach. In December 2005 her son, George F. III, died in an airplane crash off the coast of Nantucket. The Baker family has supported Harvard University for many generations, beginning with George Baker, III's great-grandfather, whose donation of $5 million in 1924 made possible the construction of the Harvard Business School campus and the Baker Library. The George F, Baker house, at 93rd and Park Avenue, was designed by Delano and Aldrich. The Baker House is a part of Classical American Homes Preservation Trust.
Mary Munn Posonby, Countess Bessborough, and her sister, Frances Drexel Munn Baker, 2005. Collection of Anthony Baker.
The family business
Charles Munn, Jr., the oldest brother, believed in hard work as much as he did the art of living well. He and his brothers always worked together in all their business ventures.
In 1926 Munn went to England and founded the Greyhound Racing Association. Within a year, there were forty greyhound racetracks. Charles Munn returned to the US with the patent rights to the ubiquitous mechanical rabbits found at racetracks.
From there, the Munn brothers, along with inventor Henry Straus, developed and patented the automatic betting board for racetracks. Charles and Gurnee Munn formed the American Totalisator Co., known today as AmTote. Charles Munn was the first president and Gurnee the vice-president.
The company introduced an electronic wagering board at Pimlico in 1930, and then, at Hialeah Park in 1931. AmTote's automation revolutionized the racing world. Within a few seasons, every racetrack was equipped with an AmTote system. In addition, the company was among the earliest investors in UNIVAC, the world's first computer. Eventually, Remington Rand bought and developed UNIVAC.
Munn groomed his son, Charles, Jr., to head AmTote. However, following his son's tragic ordeal with Lou Gehrig's disease and death in 1957, Munn sold AmTote, reportedly in excess of $4 million.
The next generation
Chris Kellogg (right) with his late father, Francis Kellogg (c. 1917-2006). Palm Beach, 2005. Photo. Lucien Capehart.
Today's members of the Munn clan are probably no longer found soaking at Marienbad, shooting grouse in Scotland, or dancing on ocean liners. Nevertheless, they can still be found on the social runways between Worth Avenue and Park Avenue, red carpet events and the Amazon Rain Forest. Whether on Page Six, social columns, or in the front lines of social issues, the Munns retain the family's sense of free-spiritedness that first characterized it.
Unlike a distant Munn cousin, Cleveland Amory (1917-1998), who forty years asked Who Killed Society? in his best-selling book of the same name, the Munn family are not trapped by tradition, eclipsed by the shadow and weight of name, or constrained by the values and regimen of the vanishing Old Guard.
'Welcome to Munnsville,' Chris Kellogg remembers the phrase as one of his mother's, Fernanda Wanamaker Munn Kellogg, favorite greetings.
Today Kellogg and his family live at 'The Lodge,' the house his grandfather, Gurnee Munn, built decade ago along the western edge of Louwana.
Left:George Baker IV and his uncle, Anthony Baker.
Right: Pauline Baker Boardman Pitt and her daughter, Serena Boardman. Palm Beach, 2005. Lucien Capehart Photography.
Left: Chris Kellogg's sister, Fernanda Kellogg Henckels (pictured with her husband, Kirk Henckels. NYSD, 2003), lives in Millbrook, NY, supports equestrian events at Fitch's Corner, and is senior vice president for public relations at Tiffany & Co.
Right: Liza Pulitzer, New York, 2005. Liza Pulitzer celebrating her 50th birthday with her sons, Bobby and Christopher Leidy, and their father, her former husband, Bob Leidy.
George F. Baker IV is a flight instructor and an air transport pilot in New York. In 2005 he married Anne Kettle. A Dartmouth graduate, he is a trustee of ReadNext Bronx Charter School. In 2005 his father, George Baker, III, died in an airplane crash. Anthony Baker lives in New York and Palm Beach. A Harvard graduate, he is involved with the Baker Foundation. His sister, Pauline Pitt, heads Pauline Boardman, Ltd, a notable interior design firm in New York and Palm Beach. Her marriage to William Pitt ended upon his premature death. Her daughters, Samantha and Serena Boardman, have become familiar boldfaced names in New York and Palm Beach. Samantha Boardman is a psychiatrist in New York.
Liza Pulitzer's grandmother was Gladys Munn; her great uncles and aunts were Charles, Gurnee, Ector, Mary, and Frances Munn. Her recent third trip down the aisle was an unfortunate misstep, marrying the already-married Phillip Roome, a New York travel advisor. Liza lives in West Palm Beach and is a Realtor at Martha A. Gottfried Real Estate. Her sister lives in Palm Beach and her brother in California.
In 1986, Liza's sister, Lillian Munn Pulitzer, married Rodman Wanamaker Leas. Their vows once again linked two families whose lineage was first joined more than eighty years ago. Her great aunts by marriage were Fernanda and Marie Louise Wanamaker Munn, whose brother, John Wanamaker II, was Rodman Leas' maternal grandfather. Four years after their separation in 1995, Lillian Leas became Mrs. Kevin Michael McCluskey.
Gladys Munn's grandson, C. Minot Amory, III, lives in Palm Beach with his wife Victoria de a Maza Amory, and children. He is a financial advisor. Their midtown home was the 2005 recipient of the Robert I. Ballinger Award, the Town's most prized historic preservation designation. Mrs. Amory is a noted writer and columnist, victoriaamory.com. She is the daughter of Count and Countess de la Maza. Yesterday & Today: The Munn Houses
Amado. 2006. West elevation (Above, left). East oceanfront elevation (Top, right). During the past five years Amado has sold twice and been under re-construction. Despite historical designation, the house was permitted a 180-degree extreme makeover — the house's original rear, west, elevation is now its entrance façade; the original east, oceanfront, is now the rear elevation; the original side formal entrance has been removed along with the central staircase. Photos, Clemmer Mayhew.
Above, right: Louwana, 2006. Built in 1920, Louwana, the Gurnee and Marie Louise Wanamaker Munn house, is located next door to his brother, Charles Munn's villa, Amado. Highlighted by a legendary Mizner courtyard staircase, Louwana is in its original museum condition Louwana is one of the last remaining Mizner-designed houses in Palm Beach. Photo, Clemmer Mayhew.
In 1994 Time magazine named Charles A. Munn, III, the grandson of Charles and Mary Astor Paul Munn, one of the 100 most influential young leaders in the world. Munn founded, and is now chairman, of the board of Tropical Nature, a nonprofit foundation that conserves tropical rain forests through model ecotourism projects in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Gabon.
Charles Alexander Munn, III, (B.A. Princeton 1977, M.Sc. Oxford 1979, Ph.D. Princeton 1984), Amazon Rain Forest, 2005. Photo courtesy of Charles Munn.
In addition, during two decades of fieldwork in South America, Munn earned recognition as the world's leading authority on wild macaws.
The Discovery Channel, PBS, TBS, BBC, NPR, TIME, Newsweek, GEO, and The New York Times have featured Munn's work. In 2002 Conde Nast Traveler chose Manu Wildlife Center, a site designed by Munn, as the number one wildlife lodge in the Amazon basin. Munn has established eco-conservancies in Bolivia, Peru and Brazil that have preserved millions of acres: Tropical Nature,Manu Wildlife Center, Peru, and Napo Wildlife Center - EcoEcuador in Yasuni National Park.
'My father and sister died when I was real young. My sister, Mary Munn, was only three when a milk truck killed her. My mother, Loretta, remarried after my father died and lives in Baltimore,' Charles Munn, III, said.
'I have never been to a race track, not a horse track or a greyhound track,' he expressed. 'I suppose the former is harmless enough, but the latter involves too much cruelty that I could not countenance supporting it in any way.'
'And yes, there is a Charles Alexander Munn, IV. He's a high school senior and I don't know yet what direction he'll be heading,' said Munn.
Napo Wildlife Center, Ecuador.
Charlie Munn III's great-grandparents, Charles and Carrie Louise, first visited Palm Beach more than 120 years ago. Alligator Joe wrestled crocodiles on Worth Avenue. And before the contagion of ficus hedges swept the island, Palm Beachers imported the world's most exotic specimens, transforming the island into a tropical Garden of Eden. Visitors marveled at the island's magnificent trees. Palm Beach was a jungle, much like the one he lives in today.
Munn's down-to-earth life appears distant from his predecessors at Seaside Cottage and paradoxical compared with his great- grandfather Anthony J. Drexel, or his namesake, his grandfather, ' Mr. Palm Beach.' Yet, they each have an innovative spirit shared by pioneers in their field. And, this same divergence may be what separates society's leaders from the crowd. The leaders inherit a legacy, and then, make a name for themselves.