Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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GRINNELL, Joseph, merchant, born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, 18 January 1789; died there, 7 February, 1885. He came to New York, and in 1815 aided in establishing the firm of Fish and Grinnell. His two younger brothers became members of the firm in 1825, and in 1828 Joseph retired, and his place was taken by Robert B. Minturn. Joseph resided at New Bedford for fifty-six years, and was president of the Marine Bank, the Wamsutta mills company, and the New Bedford and Taunton railroad. He was a member of the governor's council in 1839-'41, and in 1843-'51 was a representative in congress, having been elected as a Whig. His niece and adopted daughter married the poet N. P. Willis. His brother Henry, merchant, born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1800; died in New York city, 30 June, 1874, was graduated at New Bedford academy in 1818, and in the same year became clerk in a commission house in Pine street, New York. In 1825 he was made a member of the firm of Fish and Grinnell, afterward Grinnell, Minturn and Company. He was much interested in geography, and especially in arctic exploration, and in 1850, at his own expense, fitted out an expedition to search for Sir John Franklin, from whom nothing had been heard in five years. The expedition sailed from New York in May, 1850. Under command of Lieutenant E. J. De Haven, with Dr. E. K. Kane as surgeon and naturalist. It discovered land in lat. 75º 24' 21", which was named Grinnell Land, in honor of Mr. Grinnell. In 1853, in conjunction with George Peabody, he spent $50,000 in the equipment of the second Franklin search expedition, giving it also his personal supervision. This expedition was placed in charge of Dr. Kane, and the government bore part of its expenses. Mr. Grinnell also contributed freely to the Hayes expedition of 1860, and to the "Polaris" expedition of 1871. He retired from business in 1852, but in 1859 engaged in insurance. Mr. Grinnell was throughout his life an earnest advocate of the interests of sailors, and was the first president of the American geographical society, in 1852-'3, and a vice president from 1854 till 1872.--His daughter, Sylvia, married Admiral Ruxton, of the English navy, and in 1886 presented to that society a crayon portrait of her father, framed in wood taken from the ship "Resolute." (See BELCHER, Sir EDWARD.)--Another brother of Joseph, Moses Hicks, born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, 3 March, 1803; died in New York city, 24 November, 1877. Entered a New York counting house in 1818, and, after several voyages as supercargo, became in 1825 a member of the firm of Fish and Grinnell. In 1839-'41 he was a representative in congress, having been elected as a Whig. He was a presidential elector on the Fremont ticket in 1856, and in 1869-'70 collector of the port of New York. He became president of the chamber of commerce in 1843, was a member of the original Central park commission, and in 1860-'5 a commissioner of charities and correction. He gave liberally toward Dr. Kane's arctic expedition of 1853, and toward the National cause during the civil war. He was president of the Union club from 4 September, 1867, till 5 November, 1873. Mr. Grinnell was one of the merchant princes of New York, and enjoyed the friendship of Daniel Webster and William H. Seward.
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