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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
John Gribbel


JOHN GRIBBEL, President of the Union League of Philadelphia, was born in Hudson City, New Jersey, March 29, 1858, the son of James and Anna (Simmons) Gribbel. He was educated in the New York public schools and the College of the City of New York, and is well known in banking and financial circles throughout the country.

Mr. Gribbel is a public-spirited citizen and a man of fine literary taste. He has a valuable collection of American Colonial historical documents and autograph letters, English and French, seventeenth and eighteenth century engravings, and rare books of the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His chief possession, however, is his collection of Burns manuscripts.

In December, 1913, Mr. Gribbel forever endeared himself to every loyal Scot at home and abroad by purchasing and giving to Scotland under a deed of trust the priceless Glenriddell Manuscripts of the poet Robert Burns. These two volumes, strongly bound in calf, comprise the largest collection of Burns manuscripts in existence, and contain the letters and a selected number of poems which he wrote out and presented to his friend and patron, Robert Riddell of Glenriddell, in 1791. The dedication is considered one of the best pieces, of prose from the poet’s hand. When Riddell died, in 1794, the two volumes passed back to "Bonnie Jean," Burns’s widow, and were given by her to Dr. Currie to be used by him in connection with the preparation of his edition of the poet’s works. In 1853, fiftyseven years after Burns ‘s death, they were placed by the widow of Dr. Currie’s son in the keeping of the Liverpool Athenaeum Library. On the fly-leaf of the volume of letters is pasted the original letter of presentation from Mrs. S. Currie. In the summer of 1913 the trustees of the library sold the volumes to an unknown dealer. Some months afterward, in November, 1913, the manuscripts were offered to Mr. Gribbel in Philadelphia by a broker; and December 1, 1913, at the annual banquet of the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia, he announced amid applause that he had bought them with the purpose of returning them to the people of Scotland.

Mr. Gribbel entered the banking business in New York City in 1876, with the Importers and Traders Bank, and with the Leather Manufacturers Bank in 1877. From 1883 to 1890, he was New York agent for Harris, Griffin & Company, manufacturers of gas , meters. In 1890 he was admitted into partnership with Mr. John J. Griffin, and since 1892 has been proprietor of the business under the title of John Griffin & Company. He is President of the Fairmount Savings Trust Company; Royal Electrotype Company, Philadelphia; Athens (Georgia) Gas and Fuel Company; Vice-President of the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company; director of the Girard National Bank, Real, Estate Trust Company, Canadian Meter Company (Hamilton, Ontario) ; President of the Tampa (Florida) Gas Company; Helena (Arkansas) Gas and Electric Company; and Corpus Christi (Texas) Railway and Electric Company. He is a director in the Curtis Publishing Company.

Mr. Gribbel is an honorary member of the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia, and of no less than eighteen other Scottish societies throughout the world. He is President of the Union League of Philadelphia. and a member of the University and Art clubs, Philadelphia, and of the Lotos Club, New York. In politics he is an independent Republican. He is a trustee of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, and has received the honorary degrees of M.A., from Wesleyan University, and LL.D.. from Temple University, Philadelphia. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church.

Mr. Gribbel married, January 8, 1880, Miss Elizabeth Bancker Wood, of New York City. His home address is Wyncote, Pennsylvania; his office address, 1513 Race Street, Philadelphia.


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