Amy Vanderbilt

Biography of Amy Vanderbilt

Amy Vanderbilt (July 22, 1908 – December 27, 1974) was an American authority on etiquette. In 1952 she published the best selling book Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette. The book, later retitled Amy Vanderbilt's Etiquette, has been updated and is still in circulation today. The most recent edition was edited by Nancy Tuckerman and Nancy Dunnan. Its longtime popularity has led to it being considered a standard of etiquette writing.

She is also the author or collector of cooking materials, including the 1961 book Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cook Book illustrated by Andy Warhol. This cookbook's illustrations are attributed to "Andrew Warhol" (sic), predating Andy Warhol's first New York solo pop art exhibition (hosted at Eleanor Ward's Stable Gallery November 6–24, 1962) in which he revealed his groundbreaking Marilyn Diptych and 100 Soup Cans. His illustrations for the Vanderbilt cookbook are simple line drawings in pen and ink, emotionally spare, and contrast starkly with the otherwise sumptuous cookbook setting.

Amy Vanderbilt descended from either an uncle or brother of Cornelius Vanderbilt and is therefore not an official descendant-member of the Vanderbilt family. She was born in New York City and worked as a part-time reporter for the Staten Island Advance when she was 16. She was educated in Switzerland and at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn before attending New York University. She worked in advertising and public relations, and published her famous book after five years of research. From 1954 to 1960 she hosted the television program It's in Good Taste and from 1960 to 1962 she hosted the radio program The Right Thing to Do. She also worked as a consultant for several agencies and organizations, including the U.S. Department of State.

From 1929 to 1932 she was married to Robert Brinkerhoff. In 1968 she married Curtis Kellar, a lawyer for Mobil Oil.

On December 27, 1974, she died from multiple fractures of the skull after falling from a second-floor window in her townhouse at 438 East 87th Street in New York.

To this day, it is not clear whether her fall was accidental (most likely due to the medications she took for hypertension, which friends and relatives (including Pauls Knopf) later said caused her to have severe dizzy spells) or whether she committed suicide. She was buried at the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn.

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