A Short, Brilliant Polo Career

Dan 4 Photo

Daniel Chauncey Jr. was born into wealth, society and sports, and made full use of them. He went straight from St. Paul’s School into the family brokerage firm and at the age of 22 became a member of the New York Stock Exchange. He was “prominent in society” in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Cedarhurst on Long Island’s southern shore. At 23, he married Grace Fargo, “one of the most popular of the preceding season’s debutantes.” They kept a yacht at the Cedarhurst Yacht Club.

But it was in polo that he truly excelled. The newspaper Brooklyn Life (June 12, 1909) noted, “Mr. Chauncey from earliest boyhood had been adept at all forms of competitive sport to which he had paid attention and was one of the most promising polo players on the Polo Association handicap list, on which he had rapidly risen from the time he was first rated as a junior.”

In 1904, playing for Rockaway with William A. Hazard, Rene La Montague and Peter Fenelon Collier, Chauncey won polo’s Junior Cup, known today as the Silver Cup.

British polo player T.B. Drybrough visited the U.S. in 1905, and the following year, in his book Polo, described Chauncey as “the youngest first-class player in America – probably anywhere,” and continued, “though young in years he is already old at the game, for he must have been loaned his first mounts fully seven or eight years ago… He has a beautifully free style of hitting, and makes all his strokes, near-side, off-side, forward or back-hand, with admirable strength and direction.”

But Chauncey’s polo life was not without misadventure. In July of 1904, he was arrested on the field of the Rockaway Hunting Club, for whom he played. The charge was wearing spurs; the complaint had been lodged by the S.P.C.A. Bail was posted by John E. Cowdin; Chauncey returned to the field in time for the second game; the following morning in court he paid a $10 fine.

In July of 1906, playing against Great Neck, Chauncey took a mallet to the head from Lewis E. Stoddard, an eventual 10-goaler who hit with authority and on this occasion opened up Chauncey’s scalp. The young man recuperated at home and accurately predicted his swift return to the polo field. In 1907, his polo rating was raised to 7 goals and he seemed destined to become one of the game’s greats.

In May of 1909, however, Chauncey’s fortunes took a final wrong turn. Playing for Rockaway, he was again struck on the head by a mallet. As before, he went home to recuperate and felt no ill effects for a week or so. But then his younger sister, Caroline, just 20 years old but long an invalid, died at home in Brooklyn. Daniel Chauncey was “prostrate with grief,” began to complain of headaches, and from the day of his sister’s funeral became “manifestly in ill health.” One week later, he died at home in Cedarhurst. Surgeons found the blow to his head had paralyzed his spinal nerves. He was just 25.

The bodies of Caroline and Daniel Chauncey Jr. were buried side by side in the family plot in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

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