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History of the St Andrew's Society of the State of New York
Biographies: George Austin Morrison



Thirty-fifth President
1893-1895.

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.

Notwithstanding the 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 England.

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 Society.


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