William Grigsby McCormick

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William Grigsby McCormick
man in Victorian suit
About 1896
Born (1851 -06-03)June 3, 1851
Died November 29, 1941 (1941 -11-29) (aged 90)
Occupation Businessman
Known for Kappa Sigma Fraternity
Parent(s) William Sanderson McCormick
Mary Ann Grigsby
Plaque on his college residence

William Grigsby McCormick (June 3, 1851 – November 29, 1941) was an American businessman of the influential McCormick family in Chicago. He was a co-founder of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.


William Grigsby McCormick was born June 3, 1851 in Chicago.[1] His father was William Sanderson McCormick (1815–1865) and mother was Mary Ann Grigsby (1828–1878) of the Hickory Hill estate in Virginia. His father managed finances for the family agricultural machinery business which became International Harvester until he died in an insane asylum in 1865. His mother then moved the family back to Baltimore, Maryland near her Virginia family estate.[2] He attended the University of Virginia in 1868 and 1869, where he founded the Kappa Sigma Fraternity with four other friends on December 10, 1869. A plaque was later affixed to his 1869 room, which was numbered 46 East Lawn, where the first Kappa Sigma meeting was held.[3][4]:341

When she was widowed, his mother had sold her share of the family business to his better-known uncle Cyrus McCormick, but he acquired a fortune of his own. First, he left the university of Virginia in May 1870 and traveled with brother Robert to Europe, returning to Baltimore in November. He worked for two years as a banker for John S. Gittings, and then married Eleanor Brooks on October 23, 1873 at the Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. His wife was daughter of former railroad executive Walter Booth Brooks. After the couple took another year of travel and a few months in Baltimore, they moved to Chicago in February 1875.[4]:353–356

He first worked for McCormick Brothers & Findlay, and then started his own business selling insurance and real estate, with offices in Chicago and New York. He was elected to the Chicago City Council as alderman representing the 18th ward in 1880 for one term. In 1884 he formed the partnership Smith, McCormick & Company to trade commodities on the Chicago Board of Trade.[5] He became a member of the New York Stock Exchange in 1885. The business became part of the Schwartz, Dupee & Company stock trading firm (with partners Gustavus Schwartz and John Dupee, Jr.).[6] He worked for them until the panic of 1893.[4] He then formed a partnership of Price, McCormick & Company with Theodore Hazeltine Price on March 18, 1895. After some initial success, the firm ran into trouble in a failed attempt to take over Hanover Insurance in 1899.[7] He retired after that firm failed on May 24, 1900, due to a steep drop in the prices of cotton futures contracts.[8] Besides losing his own money, it was reported another backer was George Crocker, son of San Francisco banker Charles Crocker.[9]

Mccormick's favorite drink was scotch whiskey.

He was a guest at the fraternity house named for the family in 1916.[10] The area is now a complex known as the McCormick Road Residence Area.[11] He died on November 29, 1941 at the family estate known as St. James Farm near Wheaton, Illinois.[12][13] At the time Kappa Sigma was the fourth largest fraternity in the country.[14]

He and his wife had seven children:[1]

  1. Carrie McCormick was born July 24, 1874
  2. William S. McCormick was born November 22, 1875 and died as a child on January 1, 1881.
  3. Mary Grigsby McCormick was born July 18, 1878, married Herbert Stuart Stone (son of Melville Elijah Stone), in 1900[15] and died June 10, 1955.
  4. Walter Brooks McCormick was born September 10, 1880.
  5. Eleanor Harryman McCormick was born November 7, 1882.
  6. Chauncey Brooks McCormick (1884–1954) was the father of Brooks McCormick (1917–2006) who was the last McCormick to lead the family firm, then called International Harvester.
  7. Reubenia ("Ruby") McCormick was born December 9, 1891.

The Stone family had founded the Chicago Daily News.[16] McCormick's brother Robert Sanderson McCormick (1849–1919) married the daughter of the founder of the Chicago Tribune.[2] Their son Chauncey Brooks McCormick with their nephew Robert R. McCormick purchased the Hickory Hill estate of Reuben Grigsby in 1929.[17]

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ a b Leander James McCormick (1896). Family record and biography. p. 308. 
  2. ^ a b Richard Norton Smith (2003). The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, 1880–1955. Northwestern University Press. pp. 23–25. ISBN 978-0-8101-2039-6. 
  3. ^ Boutwell Dunlap (1907). "The Founding of Kappa Sigma". The Kappa Sigma Book: A Manual of Descriptive Historical, and Statistical Facts Concerning the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. The Cumberland Press. p. 14. 
  4. ^ a b c Kappa Sigma (1904). "William Grigsby McCormick". Caduceus of Kappa Sigma 19. 
  5. ^ Chicago's First Half Century, 1833-1883. Inter Ocean Publishing Company. March 16, 2010. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-4290-2294-1. 
  6. ^ Bessie Louise Pierce (1957). A history of Chicago. A. A. Knopf. p. 88. 
  7. ^ "Hanover Fire Regime Upheld. Price, McCormick & Co.'s Efforts to Obtain Control of Company Come to Naught" (pdf). The New York Times. January 10, 1899. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Price, McCormick & Co.; Schedules Show Liabilities Only $228,639.98 in Excess of Actual Assets" (pdf). The New York Times. June 23, 1900. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Big Brokerage Firm Fails for $13,000,000; Price, McCormick and Company's Suspension Causes Excitement" (pdf). The New York Times. May 25, 1900. Retrieved January 5, 2011.  Article incorrectly says he was Cyrus' son instead of nephew.
  10. ^ "Kappa Sigmas Entertain Founder of their Frat". The Cavalier Daily. February 12, 1916. p. 3. Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  11. ^ "McCormick Road Residence Area". University of Virginia web site. Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  12. ^ "WM. G. M'Cormick dies in Chicago, 90; Banker, First Member of His Family Born in City, Was Nephew of Inventor". The New York Times. November 30, 1941. Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  13. ^ "William G. McCormick Dies In Middle West: Former Chicago Banker Was Founder Of Kappa Sigma Fraternity". The Baltimore Sun. November 30, 1941. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Milestones". Time. December 8, 1941. Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Stone—McCormick Betrothal" (pdf). The New York Times. August 9, 1900. Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  16. ^ Harold J. Bingham (1962). History of Connecticut: Industrial and institutional records. Family and personal records. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. 
  17. ^ Donald J. Hasfurther (March 17, 2006). "Hickory Hill registration form" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 

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