Merchant Adventurer

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Merchant Adventurer: The Story of W. R. Grace

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This splendid biography of William R. Grace (1832-1904) tells the story of a poor Irish immigrant who created an international empire. Although originally scheduled to appear in 1948 and commissioned by Grace's son, Joseph, the book, written by Pulitzer Prize- winner James, was withheld from publication by W. R. Grace executives who believed that the manuscript depicted the firm unfavorably. University of Alabama history professor Clayton discovered the galleys in a Manhattan warehouse while researching a history of the corporation. In a tale rich with details of Grace's maritime and political ventures as well as his personal life, James, who died in 1955, chronicles an extraordinarily varied career. Grace opened up commerce with South America, where he made his first fortune trading guano, then dealt in everything from lumber and sewing machines to torpedoes for the 1879 war between Peru and Chile. A reform Democrat, he twice served as mayor of New York City during the 1880s and remained active in both business and politics right up to his death. ( Sept. )
This previously unpublished work, by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer James (1891-1955), tells the story of Irish-born William R. Grace (1832-1904) who, arriving in America as a teenager in 1846, worked his way up from ordinary seaman to become master of a vast commercial empire, reformer of the Democratic party, and New York City's first Catholic mayor. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Margaret Flanagan
"Merchant Adventurer", a rousing chronicle of the life and times of business magnate William Russell Grace, was initially scheduled for publication in 1948. Though it was commissioned by Grace's son and authored by Marquis James, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson, executive officers representing W. R. Grace & Company successfully lobbied against its release. The manuscript surfaced decades later during the course of research conducted by Professor Lawrence Clayton. Now Clayton presents the narrative in its original form and offers a new introduction, providing additional details about both the author and his fascinating subject. W. R. Grace (1832-1904), an Irish immigrant, arrived in the U.S. at the age of 14. Over the next 50 years, Grace established a shipping and trading empire, amassed a huge fortune, and was twice elected to the office of mayor of New York City. Though contemporary readers may find James' spirited style a bit dated, the appeal of this rags-to-riches saga is timeless.
Kirkus Reviews
A long-lost literary treasure with an absorbing tale of its own. In the course of a distinguished career, James (d. 1955)—winner of two Pulitzers, for The Raven (1930) and Andrew Jackson (1938)—developed the lucrative sideline of producing corporate histories. Commissioned in 1944 to write the life story of William Russell Grace (founder of the multinational enterprise that still bears his name), James completed a manuscript that Viking was set to publish in 1948. For reasons still not entirely clear, the project was aborted and the galleys consigned to a warehouse. They were unearthed years later by Lawrence A. Clayton, a University of Alabama professor researching a scholarly history of W.R. Grace & Co. in Latin America. The finder arranged for the text's publication and here has contributed an informative introduction on the belated appearance of an altogether engrossing period piece. Drawing on unrestricted access to corporate archives and personal papers, James offers a detailed account of an immensely successful ‚migr‚. A son of Ireland's impoverished gentry, Grace (1832-1904) decided early on to make his way across the water. Having amassed a small fortune as a supplier to the sailing vessels that exported Peru's vast guano deposits, after the Civil War he moved his base of operations and family to Manhattan. There, Grace became even wealthier, building a mercantile empire whose far-flung interests ranged from railroads and rubber plantations through global shipping lines. He also found time for politics, bucking Tammany Hall to win election as the city's first Roman Catholic mayor. More merchant prince than robber baron, Grace earned considerable influence in thehighest councils of the Democratic Party as an advocate of good government and reform. A lively chronicle, doubly welcome because it rescues from undeserved obscurity one of the Gilded Age's more consequential players—as well as a master annalist's handiwork.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780842024440
  • Publisher: Sr Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/1993
  • Series: Latin American Silhouettes Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 1.06 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

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