The ancestral home of the
“Morrisons” is on the Island of Lewes, among the Western Hebrides of
Scotland, where families of this name have flourished since the earliest
times. The clan of Morrison also forms a small sept of the great clan of
the MacDonalds of Glengarry in the Highlands, and despite its limited
number of members, still preserves an individual clan tartan and arms.
George Austin Morrison,
the Thirty-fifth President of the Society, was the son of Alexander
Morrison and Christian Lyall, and was born on Saint Andrew’s Day, the
30th November, 1832, at “Mondynes,” Parish of Fordoun, Kincardineshire,
Scotland. On his maternal side he is related to the Lyalls, Austins and
Burns, old and well-established Aberdeenshire families.
He attended as a boy the
parish school at Fordoun, and later the Aberdeen Grammar School, and at
the age of sixteen was sent to Aberdeen to reside with his uncle, George
Lyall, who was a general merchant in that city, with a branch of his
business at Montego Bay, Jamaica, West Indies.
strict discipline of his uncle’s establishment and the long business
hours, Mr. Morrison found time to cultivate his taste for mechanics and
drawing in his few leisure hours, and constructed several small steam
and electric engines at this period, as well as making a number of line
drawings and oil paintings of marked merit.
A mercantile career,
however, had been chosen for him, and he was obliged to devote his
energies in this direction rather than to applied mechanics. There is
every evidence, however, that he would have been a successful civil
engineer had his fortune been cast for that career.
After learning the
rudiments of the business under his uncle’s guidance and training, Mr.
Morrison desired to broaden his commercial career and went to London in
1852, entering the large wholesale house of Groucock, Copestake, Moore &
Co., in Bow Church Yard, London, one of the leading mercantile houses in
Here he remained until
1856 when he accepted the management of one of the departments in the
wholesale dry goods house of Cochran & Company in New York, and landed
in that city on the 4th July, 1856. His advance was rapid and he soon
became the European buyer for the firm, and finally was admitted a full
partner in 1865. In 1869, however, when the firm was reorganized under
the name of Cochran, McLean & Company, he severed his connection with
this house, and with John Herriman, another partner, established the
firm of Morrison, Herriman & Company, which did an active and successful
wholesale dry goods business for twenty years.
Realizing the limitation
to the wholesale importing business brought about by the independent
importations of the large retail houses, Mr. Morrison dissolved this
firm and retired from the business in 1889.
Thereafter, he became
identified in banking, industrial and railway affairs, and was for some
years a director in the Third National Bank and the Northern Pacific
Railroad. Since 1895 he has devoted his time to various corporate and
private interests. He became President of The American Cotton Oil
Company in 1895, and is now Chairman of the Board of Directors of that
important industrial corporation.
Mr. Morrison at the
present time is President of the N. K. Fairbank Company, of Chicago,
Illinois; President-Commissarv of the Holland-American Cotton Oil
Company; a trustee of the Greenwich Savings Bank and of the New York
Life Insurance Company, and a director of the Atlas Portland Cement
Company and the Terminal Warehouse Company.
For many years he has
been interested in social organizations and clubs and is a life member
of the New York Historical Society and the American Hackney Horse
Society; a Fellow of the National Academy of Design; a member of the
Chamber of Commerce, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum
of Natural History, the New York Botanical Garden, Holland Lodge of the
State of New York, the St. George’s Society, the Century Association,
the Metropolitan Club, the Lawyers’ Club, and the New York Yacht Club.
He was elected a member
of Saint Andrew’s Society on the 30th November, 1864, and became a life
member in 1881. He served as a Manager, 1884-1889; as First
Vice-President, 1889-1893, and as President, 1893-1895. He has also been
a member of the Committee of Installation in 1867 and of the Standing
Committee since 1897.
Mr. Morrison has always
taken the strongest interest in the welfare and advancement of the
Society, serving repeatedly on important special committees, notably the
Committee on Constitutional Revision in 1895, and has never failed to
attend the business and social gatherings of the Society. It was largely
due to his initiative and energy that the Annual Spring Receptions and
suppers were started, which have since become such enjoyable social
features of the Society.
He is a ready speaker,
possessing a strong sense of humor and a dry method of delivery, which
emphasizes the quaint sayings and folklore of the Scottish people, so
dear to those children of Scotia who have taken up their lives in the
land of their adoption.
He married on the 26th of
May, 1863, in New York City, Lucy Anne King, daughter of Eseck Clarke
King and Sarah Coe McCullen, by whom he had issue: (1) George Austin,
Jr., born 26th March, 1864; (2) Charles King, born 24th June, 1867.
His portrait is
reproduced from an admirable photograph now in the possession of the