Joseph Ridgeway Grundy

Joseph Ridgeway Grundy

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Joseph Ridgeway Grundy

I am from a small town called Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania. It is along the Delaware River, about 25 miles northeast of Philadelphia. Bristol Borough was founded in 1681. This is the states third oldest borough, that was once a busy river port with important shipbuilding activities (Cohen 438). It is predominately residential, with the exception of Mill Street, the community's traditional commercial street. It includes fine examples of many major styles and idioms, reflecting the community's long history and its importance as a transportation and commercial center (Owen 133). The 28-acre Bristol Industrial Historic District includes the original town of Bristol and the residential area that extends northeast along the bank of the Delaware River (Owen 132). The Bristol Industrial Historic District is a significant collection of the factory and mill complexes containing elements dating from 1875-1937 (Owen 133). Among the mills is the Grundy Mill Complex. It is a visual representation of industrial growth of Bristol Borough. This mill was run by Joseph R. Grundy. The dramatic scale of later buildings stand as the source and monument to the wealth and power of Joseph Grundy (Owen 145). Joseph Grundy was the proprietor of the Bristol Worsted Mills, and one of the most prominent manufacturers and businessmen of Bucks County (Green 252). The Bristol Worsted Mills no longer run but the building is still standing. Bristol owes a lot to Joseph R. Grundy for his contributions to the people and the town itself.

Joseph Ridgeway Grundy was born in Camden, New Jersey, on January 13, 1863 ("Grundy Joseph R. 1). As a small boy, Joe had boundless energy and a vast curiosity. A propensity for childish mischief was taxing. Joe was enrolled in the Moravian Family School for Boys at the age of nine to see if it would help (Hutton 57). His pleasure in all types of athletics was reflected in his letters to home, he loved to skate and go coasting. Joe became a champion bowler, or tenpins player as the game was called at the school, a distinction he retained throughout the years. Now at the age of twelve, his family felt that he had quieted down enough to fit into the family pattern at home and was sent to public school for the next two years and his social contacts widened (Hutton 61).

In 1877, Joe was entering the secondary division at Swarthmore, the Quaker institution serving as both a preparatory school and college (Hutton 63).

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He showed a real enthusiasm for history, especially American History. In 1879, Joe, at the age of sixteen, completed his college preparation (Hutton 64). That same year Joe entered college (Hutton 66). Joe served as the affirmative leader of the debating team which on November 21, 1879, "Resolved: that the annexation of the Canada to the United States would be beneficial to Canada." Grundy's college debating experience would come in handy during the Washington investigations five decades later (Hutton 68)!

Joe Grundy was to cross the Atlantic many times on business as well as for pleasure. His first voyage was to Europe during the summer at age seventeen (Hutton 71). He said "This is the laziest life I think that I ever led" (Hutton 75). He hunted up his English relatives, cousins John, Alfred, and Herbert Grundy (Hutton 81). Joe was learning a great deal from his relatives about industry (Hutton 82). By the time Grundy was seventeen he was an industrialist. He wrote: "This is vast water power is, I think, not used at all, but had we such in America it would be lined with mills" (Hutton 86). On his travels, Joseph Grundy was always comparing things to America. Joseph Grundy was glad to be on his way home from the trip.

After he arrived home, Joe Grundy went to work as a wool sorter in the Bristol mill. He was no boss's son cosigned to a comfortable office near his father. Joe was simply another employee learning his trade (Hutton 94). But apprentice Joe was aware that he needed a great deal more than theoretical knowledge about the woolen industry. He must become familiar with the product itself and with the great variance in the types of wool (Hutton 95). As a wool sorter, Joe Grundy was learning the business from the bottom up, and he did not shirk either the long hours, or the hard work. Young Grundy spent months at each of the mill operations including the unpleasant and difficult job of wool dyeing (Hutton 96).

In the year 1885, after five years of training in the various mill departments, he was promoted to the important job of buying the raw materials. Grundy frequently accompanied his father to Washington in the interests of tariff (Hutton 97). Joe Grundy said "My recollection as a very young man is of making the McKinley Tariff Act..." (Hutton 100). Joe became convinced that higher tariff enabled America to reach undreamed of heights of prosperity. To Grundy, politics was the duty of every citizen and he was highly critical of those who did not exercise their right to vote, especially in the primaries (Hutton 102). He felt this way because he wanted people to make there vote for the people they wanted. This could help out in getting a statesman that wants high tariff.

Joe Grundy was rapidly learning about investments in connection with his new responsibilities as the principal stockholder in the Farmers National Bank (Hutton 106). The bank is no longer in Bristol. Young Joe Grundy's conscientious work in the family back helped to develop his astute business judgement. He became highly proficient in buying and selling stocks as well as wool (Hutton 110). The young Pennsylvanian led a busy social life, but his engagements never overlooked civic and patriotic interests. Young or old he did not forget those who served their country (Hutton 113).

Although Joe Grundy had many interests of national and international scope, it was his home town, Bristol, that came first. He served as a member of the Borough Council for more than thirty years. As the active head of the two Bristol banks he gave wise counsel as well as financial advice to many local family (Hutton 131). Grundy's love for his community did not end with his death on March 3, 1961. The millions left to charity under his will including the establishment of both the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library and the Radcliffe Street home as a museum, are simply extensions of his interest in good citizenship in general and in his home town in particular (Hutton 130). A reporter for an independent Bucks County newspaper interviewed Joseph Grundy in 1909 and commented, "And Joseph Ridgeway Grundy, asking and receiving nothing– refusing honors other men plan and struggle for, fights and spends because he loves his country, state, county, and neighbors." When he became convinced that new fire fighting equipment was a real need in Bristol, he ordered it without consulting anyone, and paid the bill himself (Hutton 131). Certainly the Pennsylvanian felt it in abundance for his family, his home town, and his state (Hutton 132).

Those who admired him called The Pennsylvanian, because of his zeal for an interest in his state (Hutton 1). Joe's zest for life, his ingrained sense of civic responsibility, quiet confidence and relentless ambition all stemmed from parental influence. Grundy came from just such a line of upper class, socially prominent Quakers (Hutton 33). Such an atmosphere probably explains his life-long cheerfulness and imperturbability qualities stemming from the warm security of a happy home life. Young Joe Grundy basked in the affection of both maternal and paternal grandparents as well as devoted parents (Hutton 56). With his blonde good looks, merry blue eyes, and bubbling humor, he never lacked feminine companionship (Hutton 71). Many explained Grundy's bachelorhood in terms of his Victorian sense of responsibility in looking after his sister, burdened with ill health for many years (Hutton 230). When his sister died of a heart attack in 1952, Grundy was grief-stricken. Joseph Ridgeway Grundy died in Nassau, Bahamas, March 3, 1961 ("Grundy R. 1). He never saw Walnut Grove or Bristol again. He died of an illness of ten days. In the end his ninety-eight-year-old heart simply gave out. He finally slept into death as quietly and unostentatiously as he would have wished (Hutton 237).

The Pennsylvanian's interest in hid town, his county, his state, and his country did not end with his death. In the establishment of the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library and Museum named for his sister, Grundy's devotion will continue in helping "projects for the benefit of the inhabitants and institutions of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and for projects or works designed for the benefit and use of the people generally" (Hutton 238).


Bristol Borough Tricentennial Association. Historic Bristol 1681-1981. Pennsylvania: Joseph T. O'Brien Printing. 1981.

Cohen, Saul B., ed. The Columbia Gazetteer of the World. Vol 1. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.

Greene, Doron. History of Bristol Pennsylvania. New Jersey: C.S. Magrath. 1911.

"Grundy, Joseph Ridgeway." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Online. Internet. 14 April 1999. Available

"Grundy, Joseph R." Pennsylvania Biographical Dictionary. Delaware: American Historical Publications, Inc. 1989.

Hopkins, Daniel J., ed. Merrian Webster's Geographical Dictionary. 3rd edition. Massachusetts: Merrian Webster, Inc. 1997.

Hutton, Ann Hawkes. The Pennsylvanian: Joseph R. Grundy. Pennsylvania: Dorrance and Company. 1962.

Owen, Lorrie K., ed. Dictionary of Pennsylvania: Historic Places. Vol. 1. Michigan: Somerset Publishing, Inc. 1998.
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