Jay Family Stories: John Jay II and Stephen Myers

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During the years leading up to the Civil War, when tensions were highest, John Jay II and famed abolitionist Stephen Meyers worked closely to help enslaved persons escape to Canada along the Underground Railroad. Jay used his position as an attorney to free people escaping enslavement through the courts in New York City, while Myers,…

Jay Family Stories: Chanler Chapman

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This month’s story looks at one of the most interesting and eccentric Jays of the 20th century, Chanler Chapman (1901-1982). Chanler was the only son of American writer John Jay Chapman (1862-1933) and Elizabeth Chapman (1866-1937). John was the great-great grandson of John Jay (1745-1829), and Elizabeth was an Astor descendant. Chanler grew up on…

Jay Family Stories: John Jay II and the Founding of the Met

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John Jay II (1817-1894) played an integral role in the founding of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His position as President of the Union League Club of New York City enabled him to bring together prestigious artists and philanthropists together to create an art institution that would best represent America’s unique national identity. It all…

Jay Family Stories: Anne Erwin and Mary Jay Okill

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This month’s family story takes a closer look at early feminism in the Jay family.  John Jay once wrote to his daughter Sarah Louisa, “I am not anxious that you should be what is called a ‘learned Lady’ but it would mortify me to have any of my children classed with the ignorant and illiterate.” …

Jay Family Stories: William Jay and the American Anti-Slavery Society

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In honor of Black History Month, this month’s Jay Family Story is about William Jay’s (1789-1858) involvement with the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). Founded in Philadelphia in December of 1833, and modeled after London’s Anti-Slavery Society, the main objective of the AASS was to abolish slavery in the United States. By 1838, there were 1,350…

Jay Family Stories: “The face of the Madonna and the eyes of a child”

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“The face of the Madonna and the eyes of a child”, is how artist John Singer Sargent described Elizabeth Chanler when he first met her in London in June 1893. Elizabeth was the oldest surviving daughter of U.S. Representative John Winthrop Chanler (1826–1877) and Margaret Astor Chanler (1838–1875).  By the time she was eleven both…

Jay Family Stories: William Jay and the Gag Rule

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As a key figure in the anti-slavery movement in America, William Jay (1789-1858) found himself in the middle of one of the most heated political battles of the era, known as the petitioner movement in Congress. In the months leading up to May 1836, Congress was getting flooded with tens of thousands of petitions, letters,…

Jay Family Stories: A Visit from St. Nicholas

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For many American families, A Visit from St. Nicholas is part of their yearly Christmas celebration. For descendants of John (1745-1829) and Sarah Jay (1756-1802), the poem is more than a holiday tradition. It is a family story. Whether it is a family story for all Jay descendants, or only for some, depends on who…

Jay Family Stories: Dr. John Clarkson Jay

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Dr. John Clarkson Jay (1808-1891) was a pioneer in the science and study of mollusk shells, commonly referred to as conchology. Born September 11, 1808, he was the eldest of Peter Augustus Jay and Mary Rutherford Clarkson’s eight children. John Clarkson received the prestigious elementary education that was customary for upper class families like the…

Jay Family Stories: Adam Von Trott zu Solz and Operation Valkyrie

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This month’s story is that of 20th century German statesman Adam Von Trott Zu Solz (1909-1944), a descendent of John Jay through his maternal grandmother Anna Jay Von Schweinitz, daughter of John Jay II. Von Trott zu Solz is perhaps best known for his participation in the infamous Operation Valkyrie plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler…

Jay Family Stories: John Jay Chapman (1862-1933)

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John Jay Chapman was a lawyer, author, and the great-great grandson of John Jay. Born in 1862 in New York City, Chapman attended Harvard Law School and was admitted to the Bar in 1888. After only practicing law for a decade, he dedicated the rest of this life to writing books and essays focusing on…

Jay Family Stories: Mary Rutherfurd Jay (1872-1953)

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Our story for this month is about one of America’s earliest landscape architects, and major proponent of advancing careers for women, Mary Rutherfurd Jay (1872-1953). She was the daughter of Peter Augustus Jay (1841-1875) and Julia Post, and the granddaughter of Dr. John Clarkson Jay. Mary grew up at the Jay family estate in Rye,…