10 May-William Russell Grace

The village of Arles, County Laois, Ireland lies about six kilometres northwest of Carlow town. The Grace family mausoleum is a conspicuous building in the grounds of the Sacred Heart Church in Arles village. The Grace family farmed 100 hectares (250 acres) in nearby Ballylinan County Laois. They were a prominent family who were also involved in quarrying and other local industries. A member of the Grace family, William Russell, was mayor of New York when the Statue of Liberty arrived as a gift from the people of France to the United States of America on June 19th 1885.

William Russell Grace was born in Cobh Co Cork, when his family was there on holidays, in 1832. William was educated locally. He wanted to join the Royal Navy but his father, James, persuaded him to take a position with a ships chandler company in Liverpool. At the age of 16 in 1848 William left Liverpool and moved to New York where he worked at various jobs before returning to Ireland in 1848.

A few years later in 1851 he accompanied his father to Callao in Peru where his father intended to establish an Irish agricultural community farming on sugar plantations. His father returned to Ireland a short time later, but before he did he helped William find a job, again as a ships chandler. William was joined a short time later by his brother James. The brothers eventually took over the company and established Grace Brothers & Co in 1865.

The Grace Brothers became very wealthy supplying ships which were transporting natural fertiliser from the Guano Islands off the coast of Peru to destinations all over the world. In 1865 William, who had married in 1859, moved back to New York for health reasons. He established the head office of his company in the city.

In 1879, having lost the war with Chile, Peru owed $250 million. The debt was taken over by Grace and another Irishman John Hely-Hutchinson, 5th Earl of Donoughmore. The debt was taken over in return for many concessions, including silver mines. W. R. Grace and Co is today one of the biggest chemical and fertiliser companies in the world. It employs over 6,000 people in over 30 countries around the world.

William Grace was elected Mayor of New York on two occasions. He introduced several reforms, reduced the tax rate and fought against corruption. He became a renowned philanthropist, contributing large amounts of humanitarian aid to Ireland during the famine of 1879

With his brother Michael, William established the Grace Institute for the tuition-free education of women, especially emigrants. The Grace Institute still provides non-sectarian, tuition-free education for immigrant women at its school in New York City. William Grace visited Ireland on several occasions. He continued to work in his business until shortly before he died on March 21st 1904 at the age of 71.

William Russell Grace from Ballylinan Co Laois, Ireland, former Mayor of New York and founder of W R Grace and Company was born in the year 1832 On This Day.

W.R. Grace Building, NYC by PhotoHenning on 2013-10-02 19:27:11


Grace family mausoleum, Sacred Heart Church, Arles, Co Laois, Ireland


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