Robert Halliday was the
son of Robert Halliday and born about 1770 in Ayrshire, Scotland. He
died on the 8th April, 1840, at his residence in New York City in the
seventy-first year of his age.
When a mere youth of
fourteen years of age he had the misfortune to lose his father, and was
left in charge of a small estate which he managed for many years for the
benefit of younger brothers and sisters.
In 1790 Mr. Halliday went
to live in Birmingham, England, where he remained six years. Here he
laid the foundation of his business training and career, and after
securing a contract to represent two important Birmingham steel
manufacturing firms in the United States, he sailed for this country in
1796. His success was marked from the start, and his services proved of
such value that William Cairns, the senior partner of one of the firms,
gave him his eldest daughter in marriage. Later he himself became a
member of this firm, then styled “Cairns Freres, Halliday &
Mr. Halliday soon
acquired a considerable fortune in business and built himself a fine
residence, bounded by Greenwich, Washington, Banks and Bethune Streets
in New York City, which before the river front was filled in had a clear
view of the North River, with a private bulk-head, bath house, lawns and
shrubbery, and an office in the yard, where his accounts were kept.
His importations embraced
the entire line of Birmingham steel manufactured articles, and were of
great bulk and value.
On the 10th February,
1801, he filed his intention to become a citizen of the United States in
the Special District Court of the United States for Pennsylvania
District at Philadelphia.
In a letter dated the 6th
August, 1822, Mrs. Harriet Douglas Cruger presented him with a
magnificent two-handled loving-cup of crystal set in a silver frame with
silver thistles and engraved with the arms of Scotland, and he also
received two massive amphorashaped silver pitchers with the word
“Gratitude" engraved thereon, from Mrs. Fanny Munroe, wife of a nephew
of President Munroe. His ward was married to Major-General Alexander
Macomb in the parlor of his residence, No. 99 Bank Street, and the young
bride presented him with a watch 011 which was engraved “To Robert
Halliday, Esq., with the wish that it may be worn for the sake of the
donor, Harriet B. Macomb, 1826.”
Mr. Halliday took an
active part in charitable and social affairs and was identified with
many of the earlier institutions and societies of this city. He is said
to have been six feet three inches in height, weighing two hundred and
forty pounds, and to have possessed unusual strength. He was of athletic
mould and tastes, delighting in the Scotch game of curling, and was wont
to travel to Montreal to visit his married daughter, who lived in that
city, and incidentally play his favorite game on the ice of the St.
Lawrence River. On several occasions he captured with his own hands
thieves and lawbreakers, and it is said that once returning from a Saint
Andrew’s dinner he was followed by a footpad, whom he seized and took to
the gaol himself.
Mr. Halliday appears to
have been a man of many accomplishments, playing the violin, well versed
in polite literature, and with a wonderful memory for Scottish verse,
which he was wont to quote by the page. James Montgomery, the
“Christian” Poet, who was born in 1771 at Irvine, Ayrshire, where his
father was a Moravian preacher, and who died at Sheffield, England, in
1854, was a boyhood and lifelong friend of Mr. Halliday and sent him
many autograph verses.
He possessed a choice
library of books, which is still in existence, and contains over fifty
handsomely bound volumes of classic poetry.
Mr. Halliday also wrote
in a pleasing style, and an article by him entitled the “Metropolitan
Pulpit” which appeared in the Christian Intelligence in 1837, is
admirable in matter and expression.
When the family relics
and silver were lost at sea, he is said to have designed the beautiful
urns, waiters, tea sets, etc., which are still preserved among his
At his death he was a
director of the Greenwich Insurance Company ; President of the Northern
Dispensary; Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Eighth Presbyterian
Church at Greenwich Village, New York, and an influential member of the
American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews, all of which
institutions passed fitting resolutions deploring his decease. He was
also an Honorary Member of the Baltimore St. Andrew’s Society, having
been elected on the 14th May, 1807.
He was elected a member
of Saint Andrew’s Society of the State-of New York on the 9th February,
1797; served as a Manager, 1S14-1815; as Second Vice-President,
1815-1816; as First Vice-President, 1816-1821, and finally as President,
He married about 1805 at
Torr Estate, Castle Douglas, Mary Cairns, daughter of William Cairns of
Torr and Shirland, and had issue, all born in New York City: (1) Mary
Ann, born 22d September, 1806; (2) Josephine, born 28th May, 1809; (3)
Agnes, born 1st February, 1811; (4) Edward C., born 31st January, 1817;
(5) Isabella, born 30th December, 181S; (6) Robert, born 9th September,
His portrait is
reproduced from a pen and ink sketch of a bas-relief made by the
Scottish sculptor, Tams, the creator of the groups “Auld Lang Syne” and
“Old Mortality,” when Mr. Halliday was President of Saint Andrew’s
Society. This bas-relief is now in the possession of his
daughter-in-law, Mrs. Edward C. Halliday, of Washington, D. C.