New York Music and the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust

  • Arts & Culture
  • 1968

When Mary Flagler Cary inherited a great deal of money from her wealthy parents, there was no doubt but that she would use much of it for the flourishing of music. Her father, Standard Oil investor Henry Flagler, had been president of the New York Philharmonic, her family’s rich music collection would be valued in 2005 at $100 million, and artists and musicians had been around the house for her entire life. When Mary died in 1967, she left a $72 million charitable trust focused on two purposes: New York City musical organizations, and national and local groups devoted to nature conservation. There was one catch: the trust must be depleted within 50 years.

Nearly a third of the trust’s gifts went to music. There was a focus on all five of New York City’s boroughs, and on many gifts to small organizations rather than big gifts to large entities. The trust made grants in performance, modern music, and music education, funding small orchestras and opera companies, ensembles, youth symphonies, and the like. The Cary Trust wound down by 2009 as methodically as it had operated, at the end making big gifts and setting up endowments so that its grantees would not be left in the lurch. In its lifetime, the Cary Trust distributed over $330 million.

  • Waleson, Heidi, “A Trust Fulfilled: Four Decades of Grantmaking by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust” (The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, 2009)
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