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William Russell Grace

William Russell GraceBorn: 10-May-1832
Birthplace: Queenstown, Ireland
Died: 21-Mar-1904
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Kidney failure
Remains: Buried, Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business
Party Affiliation: Independent [1]

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of W. R. Grace & Company

William Russell Grace was descended from the Counts of Champagne, France. Grace fled Ireland at the height of the potato famine of 1846, and was hired by Bryce Brothers, a South American shipping supply company. For Bryce, he first made his mark by anchoring a supply ship near guano harvesters and shippers off the coast of Peru. With his brother Michael he then established Grace Brothers & Co. (now WR Grace & Co.) in 1854. He soon purchased his former employer, and became one of the world's wealthiest men shipping iron, timber, food, and other goods and supplies between Europe, South America, and North America.

He moved to New York City in 1865, where he ran his businesses from Brooklyn Heights and gained fame as a philanthropist for providing much of Ireland's relief during the potato famine of 1878-79 (with much publicity), while (with far less publicity) providing weapons and financial support for Peru during its 1879-84 war against Chile. He was elected Mayor on New York City twice, in 1880 and again in 1884, and was the first Roman Catholic elected to that position -- not an insignificant accomplishment, as anti-Catholic bigotry was widespread. In office he opposed the powerful Tammany Hall political machinery, had horse manure that had piled up to a foot high in city streets cleaned away, and accepted France's gift of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World. By 1890 his company owned most of Peru's transportation and industrial enterprises. He advocated the construction of the Panama Canal, and ten years after his death a Grace company ship became the first to pass through the new canal's locks.


[1] Elected Mayor of New York City in 1880 and defeated 1882 as a Democrat; elected 1884 as an Independent.

Father: James Grace
Mother: Eleanor Mary Russell Grace
Brother: John Grace (WR Grace executive)
Brother: Michael Grace (WR Grace executive)
Brother: Morgan Grace (physician and New Zealand legislator)
Wife: Lillius Gilchrest Grace (m. 11-Sep-1859)
Daughter: Alice Gertrude D'Oench (b. 11-Jun-1860)
Son: Joseph Grace (WR Grace executive, b. 1872, d. 1950)
Daughter: Louise Natalie Grace (artist, b. 1875, d. 1954)
Son: William Russell Grace, Jr.

    WR Grace & Co. Founder & President (1854-1904)
    Mayor of New York City (1881-83, 1885-87)
    Metropolitan Club
    Naturalized US Citizen
    Irish Ancestry


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