Moses H. Grinnell
Moses H. Grinnell.jpg
Grinnell as Collector of the Port of New York in 1869
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1839 – March 3, 1841
Preceded byChurchill C. Cambreleng
Succeeded byCharles G. Ferris
Personal details
Born(1803-03-03)March 3, 1803
New Bedford, Massachusetts
DiedNovember 24, 1877(1877-11-24) (aged 74)
New York City
Resting placeSleepy Hollow Cemetery
Political partyWhig
RelationsJoseph Grinnell (brother)
Parent(s)Cornelius Grinnell and Sylvia (née Howland

Moses Hicks Grinnell (March 3, 1803 – November 24, 1877) was a United States Congressman representing New York, and a Commissioner of New York City's Central Park.

Early life

Grinnell was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on March 3, 1803. He was the son of Cornelius Grinnell (1758–1850) and Sylvia (née Howland) Grinnell (1765–1837). His siblings included Henry Grinnell and Joseph Grinnell.[1]

After attending public school, he took his first paying job at the age of 15, working in the counting room of a bank in New York City.

Shipping career

In 1815, his brother Joseph Grinnell helped to establish the shipping firm Grinnell, Minturn & Co.[2] Moses and his brother, Henry Grinnell, became members of the firm in 1825. In 1830, Robert Bowne Minturn joined the firm and it became Grinnell & Minturn. The company stayed active until 1880.[3]

Grinnell became a successful New York merchant and shipper and was subsequently appointed as president of the New York Chamber of Commerce. The pilot boat Moses H. Grinnell, was built in 1850 for the Jersey pilots and designed by George Steers. She was owned by George W. Blunt of New York.[4] The Grinnell was the first pilot boat to show the fully developed long entry that was to become the New York schooner's trade mark.[5]

The shipping company is best known for owning the clipper ship Flying Cloud. Grinnell bought her from Donald McKay in 1851 for $90,000.[6]

Political career

However, unlike his brother Joseph Grinnell, who represented Massachusetts for four terms as a Whig, Moses did not stick to a single political party. He was first a Democrat, then became a Whig in the 1830s, was an "out-and-out Native American party man" the 1840s, and in the 1850s joined the newly founded Republican Party, for which he served as a presidential elector in 1856.[7][8]

In February 1860, president-elect Abraham Lincoln, on his way to Washington, D.C., visited the Manhattan home of Grinnell's daughter, whose father had invited many of New York City's most prominent businessmen to meet the first Republican president. Grinnell subsequently wrote Lincoln with introductions for others, becoming something of a conduit of political power, if not a wielder of such himself.[7]

Grinnell was Collector of the Port of New York from March 1869 to July 1870, and the Port's Naval Officer of Customs from July 1870 to April 1871. Perhaps best remembered for his work as Central Park Commissioner during the early years of the urban park's design and construction.

Personal life

Moses Grinnell died in Manhattan on November 24, 1877. His funeral service was at the Unitarian Church of All Souls and he was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York.[7][9]


  1. ^ Emery, William Morrell (1919). The Howland Heirs: Being the Story of a Family and a Fortune and the Inheritance of a Trust Established for Mrs. Hetty H. R. Green. E. Anthony and Sons, Incorporated. pp. 249-250. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  2. ^ "Grinnell Family Papers in the New Bedford Whaling Museum". New Bedford Whaling Museum. Archived from the original on September 25, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  3. ^ Scoville, Joseph Alfred (1866). The Old Merchants of New York City. Carleton. p. 113. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  4. ^ Chapelle, Howard Irving (1967). The search for speed under sail, 1700-1855. New York, Bonanza Books.
  5. ^ Cunliffe, Tom (2001). Pilots, The World Of Pilotage Under Sail and Oar. Brooklin, Maine: WoodenBoat. p. 73. ISBN 9780937822692.
  6. ^ McCague, James; Mays, Victor (1927). When clipper ships ruled the seas. Champaign, Ill., Garrard Pub. Co. p. 12.
  7. ^ a b c "Moses Hicks Grinnell". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved May 1, 2011. ... a Representative from New York; born in New Bedford, Mass., March 3, 1803; pursued an academic course; entered a countingroom in New York City in 1818; subsequently engaged in mercantile pursuits; elected as a Whig to the Twenty-sixth Congress (March 4, 1839-March 3, 1841); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1840 to the Twenty-seventh Congress; presidential elector on the Republican ticket in 1856; president of the chamber of commerce and of the Merchants Clerks’ Savings Bank; commissioner of charities and corrections; Central Park commissioner; one of the Union defense committee; collector of the port of New York from March 1869 to July 1870; appointed naval officer of customs and served from July 1870 to April 1871; died in New York City November 24, 1877; interment in Sleepy Hollow Burying Ground, Tarrytown, N.Y.
  8. ^ Hone, Philip (1889). Tuckerman, Bayard (ed.). The Diary of Philip Hone: 1828-1851. Vol. II. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 212.
  9. ^ "The Late Moses H. Grinnell". New York Times. November 26, 1877. Retrieved May 1, 2011. The arrangements for the funeral of the late Moses H. Grinnell were made yesterday. The funeral services will take place at 10 o'clock to-morrow morning in the Church of All Souls, at the corner of Fourth-avenue and Twentieth-street, the Pastor, Rev. Dr. Henry W. Bellows, officiating. Mr. Grinnell and Dr. Bellows were friends for many years, and it was by the aid of Mr. Grinnell's liberality that

Further reading