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History of the St Andrew's Society of the State of New York
Biographies: John Graham

Nineteenth President

John Graham was the son of Thomas Graham of “Burnswark,” an estate near Ecclcfechan, Scotland, and Christian Halliday. He was born on his father’s estate about 1770, and died on the 18th January, 1843, at his residence in New York City.

From the fact that he was a lifelong friend and associate of Robert Halliday, and that his mother was of that name, it has been surmised that the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Presidents of the Society were of close kin.

His early education was received in Glasgow, Scotland, and about 1792, while still a youth, he sailed for New York. On his arrival he at once entered into the employ of a firm engaged in the foreign importation business and realizing the great future of his adopted land and the possibilities of an extensive foreign and domestic trade, he established the trading firm of John Graham & Co. This firm began active business in 1798 and rapidly built up a large and lucrative trade in importing British goods to this country. As the business extended, Mr. Graham associated with himself his brother, William, who remained in Scotland, and Peter, his youngest brother, who came to New York in 1803 and later settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

So much enterprise and ability did Mr. Graham and his brothers bring to this venture that as early as 1809 the firm had developed into three branches, viz.: John Graham & Co. of New York; Peter Graham & Co. of Philadelphia, and William Graham & Brothers of Glasgow, Scotland. The unfortunate dispute between the United States and Great Britain which led to the declaration of war in 1812 paralyzed all the young and growing trade between these nations, and in common with other importers and ship owners, Mr. Graham suffered much hardship and loss during this period. Upon the declaration of peace, however, a general revival of business relations took place, and from this time forward until his death the affairs of John Graham & Co. flourished.

Identified with the early mercantile circles of this city, Mr. Graham was a highly respected citizen and attained prominence in municipal, business and social affairs. He occupied numerous positions of trust and responsibility, and his home was the center of that hospitality which is a marked characteristic of the Scottish people.

He was a prominent member of the Wall Street Presbyterian Church and identified with its charities for many years, and was elected a member of the Chamber of Commerce on the 6th May, 1817.

He became a member of Saint Andrew’s Society on the 8th November, 1804; served as a Manager, 1805-1808; 1811-1813; as Second Vice-President, 1816-1821; as First Vice-President, 1821-1827, and as President from 1828-1831. Thereafter he served as a member of the Committee of Accounts in 1836, and the Standing Committee, 1837 and 1838.

Mr. Graham appears to have possessed a pretty taste for literature and the accomplishment of writing agreeable verse, for in 1835,

1839 and 1840 he wrote original words set to old Scottish airs which were sung at the Anniversary Banquets in those years. Copies of these verses, preserved in the Society’s archives, indicate talent in this line of composition.

It is interesting to note that his brother, Peter Graham, was an important and prominent member of the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia, and was one of the Vice-Presidents in 1831 and in 1837.

Mr. Graham married at New York City, Ann McQueen, daughter of James McQueen, but had no issue.

His portrait is reproduced from a miniature now in the possession of Mr. John Graham of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a grandson of his brother, Peter Graham.

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