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Barbara Hutton photo

Barbara Hutton, granddaughter of F.W. Woolworth

Paternal 9th cousin, 2x removed.

Barbara Hutton was the daughter of Edna Woolworth and Franklyn Laws Hutton. Barbara was the granddaughter of F.W. Woolworth, founder of the Woolworth five & dime stores. Her father, Franklyn Hutton, was the brother of Wall Street stockbroker, Edward Francis Hutton, better known as E.F. Hutton.

 

Barbara was born into wealth and privilege on November 14, 1912, in New York City.  From all accounts, the marriage of Barbara's parents was not a happy one and her father's indiscretions were well known. On May 2, 1917, Edna Hutton was found dead by Barbara, who was only 4 at the time. No autopsy was performed, but the official cause of death was listed as mastoiditis, but most people believe it was suicide.

 

After her mother's death, Barbara was sent to live with various relatives and raised by a governess. Her father's neglect probably played a large role in Barbara becoming an introvert as a child, and more than likely played a large part in her later-life troubles. 

 

When Barbara's maternal grandmother, Jennie Woolworth died in 1927, she left Barbara a total of $28.2 million in a trust fund, which by the time she turned 21 in 1933, her father had increased to almost $40 million (over $1 billion in today's money), not including another $28 million in her mother's estate. This made Barbara Hutton one of the richest women in the world. 

 

On Barbara's 18th birthday, as was the tradition in New York Society, she was presented to polite society as a debutante at her coming-out party. Barbara's party was an extravagant affair, especially during the height of the Great Depression. The cost of the part was $60 thousand dollars, a fortune at the time, and was attended by members of the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families. The entertainment included Rudy Vallee and Maurice Chevalier among others.

 

Barbara's isolated upbringing in a world of wealth and privilege left her completely out of touch with most people, including the customers of F.W. Woolworth & Co., with some commenting that Barbara spent more on clothing than they made all year.

 

Barbara's childhood was an unhappy one, with her mother dead and her father absent. Soon the label of "Poor little rich girl" was given to young Barbara. Things didn't get any better as she aged, and Barbara had a string of failed marriages, marrying 7 times, each ending in divorce. 

 

One of Barbara's husbands was actor Cary Grant, and he was the only husband who didn't want her money when they divorced. Of all 7 marriages, Barbara had only one child, a boy, Lance Reventlow. Lance was born on February 24, 1936, and would later die in a plane crash in 1972, devastating Barbara. Barbara's marriage to Lance's father, Kurt Haugwitz-Reventlow was a violent one which ended after he beat her, causing her to be hospitalized and he was arrested.

 

Barbara, while rich beyond most people's comprehension, was also very generous. In fact, Barbara's generosity helped to contribute to her lack of money later in life. With the winds of war approaching in 1939, Barbara moved to California (where she would later meet and marry Cary Grant) where she was active in raising funds for Free French France, making generous donations, donating her private yacht to the Royal Navy and using her celebrity to sell war bonds.

 

Barbara also had an affair with Howard Hughes who, at the time, was engaged to marry actress Katherine Hepburn while the two stayed at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1938. 

After many failed marriages, all of which required Barbara to pay alimony (except for Cary Grant), and Barbara's generosity with anyone who would pay her a little attention, combined with questionable actions by her accountant, Barbara had lost most of her wealth by the 1970's. She donated Winfield House, the estate of the Woolworth family in London's Regent's Park, to the US government to be used as the US Ambassador's residence. Despite having built a collection of jewelry including the Pasha diamond and pieces previously owned by Marie Antoinette and Empress Eugene, and artwork including paintings done by the Masters as well as by Faberge, Barbara was ultimately to die penniless at the age of 66 in May of 1979at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, of a heart attack.

Barbara Hutton, the "Pool Little Rich Girl", and yet another intriguing member of my family. Hopefully, in death, Barbara has found the peace and love that eluded her in life.