Mr. Coe was born in Worcestershire, England; at fourteen he moved with his family to Philadelphia. Two years later, he joined the Philadelphia branch of New York insurance brokers and average adjusters, Johnson & Higgins. He remained in Philadelphia for about seven more years, until being promoted and transferred to the New York office as manager of the adjusting department in 1893. In 1902 he became a director, was named president in 1910, and served as chairman of the board from 1916 to 1943. Coe also chaired the Average Adjusters Association of the U.S., the executive committee and board of directors of the Virginian Railway Company, and directed the Loup Creek Colliery Company and the Wyoming Land Company. Two major interests of Coe's were race horses and materials related to the American West. During the 1920's and '30's, he operated a large racing stable, and paid record prices for some of his prize-winning horses. In 1910, Coe purchased "Buffalo Bill" Cody's ranch in Wyoming. He began gathering original diaries, letters, manuscripts and photographs describing the hard life of American pioneers, and in 1948 he presented this collection to Yale University. He received honorary degrees from the University of Wyoming in 1948 and from Yale University in 1949, and in later years he made other important gifts to both universities. Coe willed a large portion of his 410-acre Long Island Estate, Planting Fields (including the thirty-seven-room Elizabethan mansion), to the New York State Agricultural College's Farmingdale, Long Island branch. Mr. Coe was married three times; first, to Jeanie H. Falligant [d. 1898]. In 1900, he married Mai H. Rogers [d. 1924], daughter of Henry H. Rogers, vice president of Standard Oil Co. They had a daughter and three sons, one of whom, Robert D. Coe, became the Ambassador to Denmark. After Mai's death, Coe married Caroline Graham Slaughter [d. 12 October 1960].
"William R. Coe, 85, Sportsman, Dead." [The New York Times?]. 16 March 1955: 33: 1.