William Russell Grace

William Russell Grace

William R. Grace, as Mayor of New York City
Born May 10, 1832
Ballylinan, County Laois,
Died March 21, 1904(1904-03-21) (aged 71)
New York City, New York,
United States
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn
Residence 31 E. Seventy-ninth St.,
New York City
Occupation Businessman, politician, philanthropist
Known for Mayor of New York City
Founding co-benefactor of the Grace Institute
Board member of W. R. Grace and Company,
Grace Brothers & Co.
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Lillius Gilchrist
Children Joseph Peter, William Russell Jr., Alice, Lily, Louise
Parent(s) James Grace & Ellen Russell
Relatives Siblings: Michael Paul, John William, Morgan Stanislaus, Alice

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


Grace was born in Ireland in Riverstown near the Cove of Cork to James Grace and Eleanor May Russell (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 the 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.[1]

William married Lillius Gilchrist Sept. 11, 1859. She was the daughter of George W. Gilchrist, a prominent ship builder of Thomaston, Me. They had eleven children.[2]


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. In 1854, the company was renamed Bryce, Grace & Company, in 1865, to Grace Brothers & Co., and then W. R. Grace and Company.[3]

Reform politics

Opposing the famous Tammany Hall, Grace was elected as the first Irish American Catholic mayor of New York City in 1880.[4] 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.[5] During his second term, Grace received the Statue of Liberty as a gift from France.


William Russell 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.[6] In 1897, he and his brother, Michael, founded the Grace Institute for the education of women, especially immigrants.


His nephew Cecil Grace attempted a crossing of the English Channel in December 1910 in an aeroplane. He flew 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.[7]

See also



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
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