Eleanor Searle Whitney McCollum met her first husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (1899-1992), in New York, where she trained as an opera singer. While living in New York and later in wartime Washington D.C., Mr. and Mrs. Whitney maintained close relationships with the political and cultural leaders of the day, as attested by the signatories of this presentation box. For his war-time service, Whitney rose to the rank of colonel and was awarded the Legion of Merit. Whitney was also a pioneer of the aviation industry, co-founding Pan American Airways.
Mrs. Whitney was involved in numerous cultural and charitable activities, lending the Whitney name to many causes. She was also known as a leader of style and fashion, regularly appearing in various society publications. She married secondly the legendary Houston oilman, cattle breeder, banker and philanthropist, Leonard F. 'Mc' McCollum.