William Russell Grace

  (Redirected from WR Grace)

William Russell Grace (May 10, 1832 – March 21, 1904) was an Irish-American politician, the first Roman Catholic mayor of New York City, and the founder of W. R. Grace and Company.[1]

William Russell Grace
William Russell Grace.jpg
Grace, while Mayor of New York City
Mayor of New York City
In office
Preceded byFranklin Edson
Succeeded byAbram Hewitt
In office
Preceded byEdward Cooper
Succeeded byFranklin Edson
Personal details
BornMay 10, 1832
Ballylinan, County Laois,
DiedMarch 21, 1904(1904-03-21) (aged 71)
New York City, New York,
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn
Lillius Gilchrist
(m. after 1859)
RelationsMichael P. Grace (brother)
Children11, including Joseph Peter
ParentsJames Grace & Ellen Russell
OccupationBusinessman, politician, philanthropist
Known forFounding co-benefactor of the Grace Institute

Early lifeEdit

Grace was born in Ireland in Riverstown near the Cove of Cork to James Grace and Eleanor May Russell (née Ellen) while the family was away from home, and raised on Grace property at Ballylinan in Queens (now Laois) County near the town of Athy. He was a member of a prominent and well-to-do family. In 1846, Grace sailed for New York against the wishes of his father, and worked as a printer's devil and a shoemaker's helper before returning to Ireland in 1848.[2]

His nephew, Cecil Grace, attempted a crossing of the English Channel in December 1910 in an airplane, flying from Dover to Calais. However, in coming back he became disoriented and over Dover flew northeast over the Goodwin Sands toward the North Sea and was lost.[3]


William and his father, James Grace, traveled to Callao, Peru, in 1851, seeking to establish an Irish agricultural community. James returned home but William remained, where he began work with the firm of John Bryce and Co., as a ship chandler.[4]

In 1854, the company was renamed Bryce, Grace & Company, in 1865, to Grace Brothers & Co., and then W. R. Grace and Company.[5]

Reform politicsEdit

Opposing the famous Tammany Hall, Grace was elected as the first Irish American Catholic mayor of New York City in 1880.[6] He conducted a reform administration attacking police scandals, patronage and organized vice; reduced the tax rate, and broke up the Louisiana Lottery. Defeated in the following election, he was re-elected in 1884 on an Independent ticket but lost again the following time.[7] During his second term, Grace received the Statue of Liberty as a gift from France.


Grace was a renowned philanthropist and humanitarian, at one point contributing a quarter of the aid delivered to Ireland aboard the steamship Constellation during the Irish Famine of 1879.[8] In 1897, he and his brother, Michael, founded the Grace Institute for the education of women, especially immigrants.

Personal lifeEdit

On September 11, 1859, William was married to Lillius Gilchrist (1839–1922), the daughter of George W. Gilchrist, a prominent ship builder of Thomaston, Maine, and Mary Jane (née Smalley) Gilchrest. Together, William and Lillius had eleven children, including:[9]

  • Alice Gertrude Grace (born in South America, June 11, 1860), who married the New York architect Albert D'Oench in 1901.[10]
  • Florence F. Grace (born in South America, September 20, 1861; died September 27, 1861).
  • Lilius Clemintina Grace (born in South America, October 24, 1864; died in Ireland, June 26, 1866).
  • Agnes Isadora Grace (born in Brooklyn, N.Y., April 4, 1867; died in New York City, March 8, 1884).
  • Mary Augusta Grace (born in Brooklyn, September 2, 1868; died there February 16, 1870).
  • Lilius Annie Grace (born in Brooklyn, September 1, 1870; died there August 30, 1871).
  • Joseph Peter Grace (born at Great Neck, N.Y., June 29, 1872; died there July 15, 1950).
  • Lilias Juanita Grace (born in New York City, March 30, 1874), who married George Edward Kent on July 12, 1898.
  • Louisa Nathalie Grace (born in New York City, December 23, 1875).
  • William Russell Grace, Jr. (born April 11, 1878; died in Aiken, South Carolina, March 31, 1943).
  • Caroline S. Grace (born April 22, 1879; died April 21, 1882).

Grace died on March 21, 1904 at his residence, 31 East 79th Street, in New York City.[11] His funeral was held at the Church of St. Francis Xavier on West 16th Street and he was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn.[11] His estate was valued at $25,000,000.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "WILLIAM R. GRACE'S CAREER. Ran Away to Sea as a Boy and Became a Great Merchant" (PDF). The New York Times. March 22, 1904. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  2. ^ Lawrence A. Clayton, "Grace: W.R. Grace and Co., The Formative Years" (1985), 1–9.
  3. ^ New York Tribune December 24, 1910
  4. ^ Marquis James, Merchant Adventurer: The Story of W. R. Grace, Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources (1993) ISBN 0-8420-2444-1
  5. ^ William's Great Great Grandson now works at Nasdaq Grace: W.R. Grace & Co., the Formative Years, 1850–1930- Retrieved April 30, 2012
  6. ^ "Irish Identity, Influence and Opportunity", Library of Congress
  7. ^ Irish Midlands Ancestry,; from Laois Association Yearbook (1981) Archived January 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Hery A. Brann, Catholic Encyclopedia v. VI (1909)
  9. ^ Children- Retrieved April 26, 2012
  10. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States as Illustrated in the Lives of the Founders, Builders, and Defenders of the Republic, and of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work and Moulding the Thought of the Present Time. University Microfilms. 1967.
  11. ^ a b "DIED. GRACE" (PDF). The New York Times. March 23, 1904. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  12. ^ "WILL OF WILLIAM R. GRACE | All But $100,000 of $25,000,000 Estate Left to the Family" (PDF). The New York Times. March 26, 1904. Retrieved June 27, 2018.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Cooper
Mayor of New York City
Succeeded by
Franklin Edson
Preceded by
Franklin Edson
Mayor of New York City
Succeeded by
Abram Hewitt