The John D. Crimmins papers consist of the personal correspondence sent to Mr. Crimmins between the years 1877-1910 together with some miscellaneous papers. The subject of the correspondence is related largely to his charitable activities. Of interest are letters from James Cardinal Gibbons and Patrick Cardinal Ryan. Also included in his correspondence file are four letters from U.S. Civil War General and Democratic presidential candidate Winfield Scott Hancock. Among his miscellaneous papers can be found a collection of printed dinner menus for the annual gatherings of Irish-American Historical Society and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and two poems composed by his sister Sr. M. Cecilia Crimmins.
The son of Irish immigrant Thomas Crimmins and Joanna O'Keefe, John D. Crimmins was born in New York City in 1844 and raised in an upper middle class home. After graduating from St. Franics Xavier College High School, he joined his father's contracting firm as a partner, taking over as president in 1873. Under his direction, the firm experienced rapid growth, employing up to 12,000 people at its height. His firm played a prominent role in the renovation and construction of what would become 'modern New York City,' building most of the city's elevated railways, many of its buildings, hospitals, and churches, and laying the first underground lines for telegraph and telephone cables. One observer once wrote: 'few New Yorkers have set their mark deeper upon the very form and structure of the city. In the laying out and construction of streets, of parks and parkways, of great buildings, and in the services rendered in the creation of institutions which are the city's pride.' Much of Crimmins' success was attributed to his innovative use of the steam drill for excavation work.@ He has been characterized as a respected citizen and committed community leader whose counsel was sought by both civil and religious officials. Over his career he served on the boards of a number of corporations and acted as an arbitrator for several labor disputes. He was appointed the city's Park Commissioner and served as a Democratic presidential elector as well as a delegate to the state's constitutional convention. Crimmins also held a prominent role within New York's Catholic community. He donated generously to a number of Catholic charities, including homes for the aged and orphaned African-American children, as well as numerous schools and hospitals, and served as a trustee for several charitable causes. He was a member of the St. Patrick's Cathedral building committee and is recognized as one of the cathedral's greatest benefactors.@ Intensely proud of his Irish heritage, Crimmins joined several Irish-American organizations, including the the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the Irish-American Historical Society. He would assume an active role in the preservation and promotion of the history of the Irish Catholic community in the United States, and in 1905 published a collection of orignial documents entitled 'Irish-American Historical Miscellany.' At his death, he had in his possession an extensive collection of documents and materials related to the Catholic experience in the United States.@ In 1901 he was created Knight Commander, Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Leo XIII, one of the highest honors conferred by the Catholic Church on its lay people, in recognition of his service to the church. He died in New York City in 1917. He was married to Lily Lalor Crimmins (1849-1888) and had at least three children [John D., Jr., Mary, and Thomas].
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