Thomas M. Mulry was born in New York City and his early school-days were spent in St. Joseph’s parochial school and then at De La Salle Academy. In 1874, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society, an international organization of Catholic laymen dedicated to helping the poor. A successful businessman and banker, he devoted extensive time and resources to charitable work.
On October 6, 1880 he was married to Mary E. Gallagher and they set up a home in Greenwich Village. Mulry became a director and for ten years president of the Emigrant Industrial Saving Bank, the largest institution of its type in the world. He was also a director of the Mutual License Insurance Company and served for many years on the General Committee of Tammany Hall.
His charitable activities led President Theodore Roosevelt to name him vice-chairman and presiding officer of the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children in 1909.