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History of the St Andrew's Society of the State of New York
Biographies: Robert Gordon



Twenty-sixth President
1864-1865; 1869-1872; 1873-1876.

The popularity of the Twenty-sixth President of the Society is attested to by the fact that he has been thrice elected to that honorable office by his fellow-Scotsmen in this country.

Robert Gordon is the son of William Gordon and Sarah Walker, and was born on the 17th November, 1829, at Dumfries, Scotland. He was educated at the Academy in his native town and commenced his business career in the office of Messrs. Reid, Irving and Company, of Liverpool, England, in 1846. Three years later he sailed for America to take a position in the firm of Messrs. Maitland, Phelps & Company, of New York, a house originally established by Scotsmen in 1797. Admitted a partner in this firm in 1853, he remained in active charge of its large and varied interests until 1884, when, having amassed a fortune in the course of his successful business career, Mr. Gordon returned to England, with the intention of retiring from active commercial life.

On reaching England, however, he was sought out by Mr. J. S. Morgan, head of the firm of J. S. Morgan & Co., and invited to become a member of this well-known banking house. After some deliberation Mr. Gordon accepted the offer, and, entering the firm on the 1st January, 1885, for the next fifteen years was actively associated in financial affairs with the late Mr. J. S. Morgan, Mr. Walter H. Burns, Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr., and Mr. Walter S. H. Burns, all well and widely known as prominent and successful bankers. On attaining his seventieth year, however, Mr. Gordon decided to finally withdraw from business life, and his retirement was announced in April, 1900, much to the regret of his many business friends and associates.

His long and upright career, both in New York and London, has won for him a well-deserved repose in the autumn of his life, and he has now retired to his country place at Brockham Park, Betchworth, England.

During his stay in this country, Mr. Gordon was interested and active in many educational, religious and social associations, to all of which he proved an able administrator and a generous patron. He was a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of which lie acted as Treasurer for some years, and is a member of the Century Association and the Junior Carlton Club of London.

He was elected a member of Saint Andrew’s Society on the 30th November, 1852, and became a life member in 1864. He served as a Manager from 1856-1859; as Second Vice-President, 1859-1864; and as President, 1864-1865, 1869-1872, and 1873-1876. He long acted as Treasurer of the Centennial Fund, and it was largely owing to his enterprise and foresight that this fund was created and kept alive.

From his first association with the Society Mr. Gordon gave it his best interest and devoted much time to the duties and cares of the important offices held by him. His many subscriptions to the charitable funds evidence a spirit as kindly as it was generous, and under his wise guidance the Scottish poor of this city were amply provided for and the utility of the Society materially increased.

Long after his final departure from this country Mr. Gordon continued to keep in touch with the work of the association, and in 1898 donated the liberal sum of $5,000 to its Permanent Fund, thereby being able in the course of his lifetime to see his good works applied to the relief of his less fortunate fellow-countrymen.

The success of his business and social career in this city and abroad was due to a most agreeable personality, coupled with a strict sense of justice, keen insight and sound judgment of men and morals. His administrative and executive ability was marked and caused him to be much sought after by those associations and institutions which dealt with the ethical problems of a great city.

Mr. Gordon married on the 19th April, 1855, at Staten Island, N. Y., Frances Burton, daughter of George Burton and Frances Robinson, and had issue: (1) Frances Eleanor; (2) William Gordon; (3) Henry Alexander; (4) Mary Tinker; (5) Lilian Spencer; (6) Diana Etherington.

His portrait is reproduced from an excellent photograph which is now in the possession of the Society.


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