John Augustus Griswold

John Augustus Griswold.

John Augustus Griswold (November 11, 1818 Nassau, Rensselaer County, New York – October 31, 1872 Troy, Rensselaer County, New York) was an American businessman and politician from New York. A member of the Griswold political family, his father the Hon. Chester Griswold filled several positions of public trust, serving a number of years as supervisor of Nassau, and was for three years (1823, 1831 and 1835) one of the members of the New York State Assembly, representing the County of Rensselaer. His grandfather Simeon Griswold served as a five time member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.[1]


John Griswold married Elizabeth Hart, daughter of Richard P. Hart, Esq., at Troy, on September 14, 1843. They had six children: three sons and three daughters. Of his father's family, he was the only son, and his only sister was married to Isaac B. Hart, Esq., of the firm of Hart, Lesley & Warren, Troy, N. Y.

Mr. Griswold was educated for commercial pursuits, and at the age of seventeen entered the iron and hardware house of Messrs. Hart, Lesley & Warren, in Troy, N. Y. He remained at the firm for some time living in the family of his uncle, Maj.-Gen. John E. Wool there after engaging in business for himself in banking and iron works creating at the time,one of the largest and most successful establishments in the United States, known as the Albany and Rensselaer Iron and Steel Works, located in Troy.

In 1857 Mr. Griswold became a large owner of the iron mills of Troy having been granted the US Bessemer steel process patents important for expanding the Rensselaer Iron and Steel Works business.

During the early part of the Civil War Mr. Griswold built at his personal expense the first iron-clad Ericsson warship, the USS Monitor to combat the confederate converted frigate the Merrimac, which was subsequently defeated by the Monitor in a historic naval battle in 1862. Griswold was later involved in the production of other "Monitor" vessels, including the Dictator, Kaatskill, Lehigh, Montauk, Passaic, Patapsco, Puritan and Sangamon.[2]

Griswold assisted in raising the 30th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 125th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and 169th New York Volunteer Infantry; and personally raised the 21st Regiment New York Volunteer Cavalry "Griswold Light Cavalry".[1]

He was elected Mayor of Troy, New York in 1855.[3] He was President of the Troy and Lansingburgh Railroad, of the Troy and Cohoes Railroad and of the New Orleans, Mobile and Texas Railroad

Griswold first received the Democratic nomination for Congress in 1857, but was defeated by Abram B. Olin. However, he was later elected as a Democrat to the 38th and as a Republican to the 39th and 40th United States Congresses, serving from March 4, 1863, to March 3, 1869.[3] While in Congress, he served on the Committee on Naval Affairs and the House Committee on Ways and Means.[2] In 1868, he was the Republican candidate for Governor of New York, but was defeated by Democrat John Thompson Hoffman.

Griswold was interested in education, particularly in the areas of science and technology, and served as a trustee of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI); he led the reconstruction movement after RPI and parts of Troy were destroyed by the Great Troy Fire of 1862.[2] Griswold was elected a Regent of the University of the State of New York on April 29, 1869.[3]

In 1871 President Ulysses S. Grant offered the post of Collector of the Port of New York to Griswold, who declined. He then offered it to William Orton, who also declined. Griswold and Orton both recommended Chester A. Arthur; Arthur received the appointment and served until 1878.

Griswold died on October 31, 1872, shortly after being diagnosed with liver disease.[2] He was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy.[3]


  1. 1 2 Hough, Frank (1875). American Biographical Notes. Boston.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "John A. Griswold Papers, 1848-1894". New York State Library web site. New York State Library. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "GRISWOLD, John Augustus, (1822 - 1872)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Library of Congress. Retrieved 15 October 2014.

Additional reading

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
James B. McKean
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 15th congressional district

Succeeded by
Adolphus H. Tanner
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