Whitney, William Collins, 1841–1904, American financier and political leader, b. Conway, Mass. After attending (1863–64) Harvard law school, he moved to New York City, became successful as a corporation lawyer, and was associated with various public utility companies and transportation interests. He helped lead the fight that brought about the downfall of William Marcy Tweed and the election (1874) of Samuel J. Tilden as governor. As city corporation counsel (1875–82) he helped save New York City much money. Whitney, important in Democratic politics, served (1885–89) as Secretary of the Navy under President Cleveland and secured legislation for the making of armor-plated war vessels. In 1892 he supported Cleveland for the presidency, but in 1896 he refused to support the candidacy of William Jennings Bryan. He was a society leader and an outstanding sportsman.
See biography by M. D. Hirsch (1948, repr. 1969).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.