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William Proctor Douglas






Ancestors of Mr. William Proctor Douglas (born 1842) were of the great Scottish family of that name, of high rank and imperishable renown. That branch of the family to which Mr. Douglas belongs has been settled in this country for a hundred years. Its members were large land owners in Scotland, but disposed of their possessions there and emigrated to this country in the early years of the present century. George Douglas, the father of Mr. William Proctor Douglas, was born in Scotland in 1792. Coming to the United States early in life, he was one of the leading merchants of his generation. The house of George Douglas & Co., which he founded, did an East India commission business not excelled in extent and importance by any of their rivals in the city, and had an enviable commercial renown even in Europe.

George Douglas was an intense Democrat, and his firm was one of the few business establishments in New York that sided with President Andrew Jackson in the warfare of that executive against the United States Bank. In the Presidential campaign of 1844, he was a Democratic elector at large for the ticket headed by James K. Polk. He was a staunch temperance man throughout his life and carried his temperance principles so far that he refused to receive consignments of brandy and wine sent to his firm, which was the first establishment in the city to take such action.

The Douglas city residence was at 55 Broadway, in a house built by Mr. Douglas when lower Broadway and Battery place were the fashionable residence localities of the city. After that he lived in Park Place, and then in West Fourteenth Street. Later in life, he bought the famous Van Zandt estate, at what is now called Douglaston, Long Island, and thenceforth made that his family residence. This place, on the east side of Flushing Bay, was formerly part of the Weekes farm. Wynant Van Zandt, the New York merchant and alderman, 1789- 1804, bought the land in 1813 and built there the residence, which is still standing and which has been for nearly three quarters of a century the home of the Douglas family. The wife of George Douglas was a daughter of Dr. Maxwell, a celebrated physician of Scotland. Dr. Maxwell died in Scotland, and after his death his wife and three daughters came to the United States and made their home in New York. The daughters were handsome women of distinguished character. One of them married James Scott Aspinwall and another became the wife of a member of the Rogers family of Long Island.

Mr. William Proctor Douglas was born in New York in 1842, and was educated in Edinburgh, Scotland. He inherited from his father the estate at Douglaston, Little Neck Bay, comprising nearly three hundred acres, where he has made his home. His only business pursuit has been in caring for the estate and the corporate investments which his father left to the family. He is a large stockholder in several of the leading banks of New York. Mr. Douglas' interests in gentlemanly sports have made him famous the world over. He has been particularly known for his untiring efforts in promotion of yachting and for his activity in measures for the defence of the America Cup against its British challengers. One of the first yachts that sailed in defence of the America Cup, the Sappho, which defeated the Livonia, in 1871, was owned by him. In later years, he was part owner of the Priscilla, built for a cup defender. He is a member of the New York Yacht, New York Athletic, Racquet, Carteret Gun, Seawanhaka-Corinthian Yacht, Douglaston Yacht, Westminster Kennel, Rockaway Hunt, Meadow Brook Hunt and Coaching clubs, the Country Club of Westchester County and other organizations of similar character. He is also a member of the Metropolitan, Tuxedo and Union clubs. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Academy of Design have him enrolled among their patrons. He is also a member of several European clubs, among them the Austrian Yacht Club.


In 1879, Mr. Douglas married Adelaide L. Townsend, daughter of Effingham Townsend, of the old Long Island family of that name. Two children have been born of this alliance, Edith Sybil and James Gordon Douglas. The city residence of the Douglas family is in West Fifty-seventh Street, near Fifth Avenue.

Mrs Douglas Robinson and Mrs J. Gordon Douglas
New York Journal-American society columnist “Suzy Knickerbocker” (Aileen Mehle) wrote in April 1967: “...and Mrs. J. Gordon Douglas Sr. of Newport. It is Mrs. Douglas who is responsible for one of the most trenchant remarks of recent years. ‘A woman,’ quoth she, ‘can never be too thin or too rich.’”
Wife of J. Gordon Douglas was the son of William Proctor Douglas, who had a New York mansion on West Fourteenth Street that was an early location for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. William Proctor Douglas was a yachtsman who won the America’s Cup; in 1876, he helped introduce polo to America. James Gordon Douglas (who died in 1960) was a stockbroker with E. F. Hutton & Co.
Mrs Douglas Robinson is (probably) the former Fannie (Frances) Monroe, a relative of the US president. Her mother, Mary Douglas married James, brother of Sir William Douglas of Castle Douglas.

Adelaide Townsend Douglas - 1895.
She married William in 1879.

See also:
Douglaston Yacht Squadron, and Sappho





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