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H. Walter Webb (1856-1900) was son of Gen. James Watson Webb (1802-1884), a distinguished journalist who was at one time ambassador of the United States to Brazil. Webb was a railway executive for the New York Central Railroad under Cornelius Vanderbilt and Chauncey Depew.

Webb was head of his class in the Columbia College School of Mines (now incorporated into the School of Engineering and Applied Science). He was a member of the fraternity St. Anthony Hall and while still an undergraduate, he participated in the Orton expedition that ascended the Amazon River almost to its source, and crossing the Andes, he exited South America by way of Peru, returning to the USA by ship. He then studied law, also at Columbia, passed the bar in 1875, and briefly practiced the profession, which he found unsatisfying. Thereafter he soon became active in Wall Street banking and brokerage. He drifted into the railway business almost by accident through his brother, Dr. William Seward Webb, married to a daughter of William H. Vanderbilt, became interested in the Wagner Palace Car Company which the Vanderbilts controlled. When Webster Wagner, the company's president was suddenly crushed between two of his own cars, Dr. Webb became president of the company and invited his brother to join it.

Webb was an advocate of fast railway travel and ran what was then the fastest railway train in the world, averaging nearly 60 miles per hour over 450 miles. In 1893 he made a bold and ultimately true prediction for the next hundred years: By 1993, a traveler will be able to have his breakfast in New York City and his evening meal in Chicago.

Webb lived in Scarborough, New York, was Show Chairman of the Westminster Kennel Club (1880-1882), subscriber to the Blackstone Memorial (1891), and helped dedicate a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus in Central Park (1894).

H. Walter Webb retired due to ill health around 1897, and died of tuberculosis or its complications June 18, 1900 at his country residence. Had he remained healthy he would likely have become president of his railroad. He was survived by his wife, Leila Howard Griswald Webb who he had married in 1884 and two sons.[1]

In 1904, Mrs. Webb remarried to the famous society architect Ogden Codman, Jr. who had designed a townhouse for her at 15 E. 51 St., opposite St. Patrick's Cathedral, in New York City in 1902.[2] Mr. Codman was co-author with Edith Wharton of the highly influential and still in print book The Decoration of Houses.[3]


  1. ^ "Death of H. Walter Webb" The New York Times, June 191900. Retrieved Oct. 20, 2007. This article contains additional material on Mr. Webb, and the New York Times archives in general have a considerable information on him.
  2. ^ Drake, Stuart A. 1997. "Drawings from the Office of Ogden Codman, Jr." Old Time New England page 60. Retrieved October 31, 2007 from
  3. ^ Retrieved October 31 2007 from -- this site contains page images from the book.

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