Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

W.R. Grace & Co. records, 1828-1986 bulk 1861-1960 

W.R. Grace & Co
Phys. Desc: 
90 linear feet (90 linear feet 167 boxes)
Call Number: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Biographical Note

William Russell Grace (1832-1904) and Michael Paul Grace (1842-1920) emigrated from Ireland during the 1850s and set up in business respectively in New York and Callao, Peru as ship's chandlers (boat supplies). They soon developed into shipping brokers and later owned their own fleet, the beginning of the present-day Grace Line. Grace companies were established in San Francisco and London. W.R. Grace was active in New York City politics (Mayor, 1881-1882, and 1885-1886), banking and insurance, real estate interests, and Catholic charities.

Scope and Contents

The records of W.R. Grace & Co. cover the rise of the Grace shipping business from 1864 until World War II. The early correspondence concerns all aspects of the shipping business in New York and South America, mining interests in Peru and Chile, the railroad in Costa Rica, the inter-ocean canal planned for Nicaragua, and political interests throughout Central and South America. There are letter books, correspondence, and scrapbooks of clippings for all aspects of W.R. Grace's career. There are minute books and other documents for more than 50 subsidiary companies owned by W.R. Grace & Co. or by family members. The papers of Joseph Peter Grace (1872-1950) continue the business, family, and philanthropic activities until 1942. There are also 20 reels of motion picture film about the Grace Co. South American interests in the 1950s. This wide-ranging collection of correspondence, administrative records, motion pictures, scrapbooks, and other materials details the development of the W.R. Grace & Co. shipping business as well as more than fifty other companies owned by the company or the Grace family. Apart from merchant and trade activities, prominent topics covered in the collection include mining, railroads, the construction of a trans-Isthmian canal, and South American, Central American, and United States politics.