John Clarkson Jay and Laura Prime

John Clarkson Jay (1808 – 1891) inherited the Jay Estate in 1843 upon the death of his father. John was a graduate of Columbia College and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.  He later served both institutions as Trustee.  After briefly practicing medicine, he joined the firm of Gracie, Prime & Co. as a partner while also devoting himself to the study of natural sciences.  This foremost conchologist, had learned about shells at the shore of the Rye farm as a child.  His collection of 50,000 specimens and 1,000 volume library, including his own catalogues according to Lamarckian order, would become the nucleus of the American Museum of Natural History’s shell collection.

He was a founder of the Lyceum of Natural History and co-founder of New York Yacht Club (NYYC).  His wife Laura Prime, daughter of banker Nathaniel Prime held the deed for the building that housed the famed restaurant Delmonico’s. Not surprisingly, many of the yacht club’s celebrations were held at that auspicious site.

(Daguerreotype of Laura Prime Jay and daughter Laura, Gift of Anne Andrus Grady in honor of Miriam Jay Wurts Andrus; Black and White portrait of John C. Jay by Samuel Morse, Gift of Emily and John Clarkson Jay)