Founders of the Massachusetts Bible Society - 1809

The Massachusetts Bible Society began on July 6, 1809 and is an ecumenical, Christian organization dedicated to promoting Biblical literacy, understanding, and dialogue. This blog lists brief biographies of our founders who gathered in the Massachusetts State House Senate Chamber on that historic day to sign the Charter founding MBS. Please visit our website:

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Location: Newton Centre, MA, United States

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mr. Josiah Bumstead

The lives of our founders were multi-faceted and Josiah F. Bumstead is a good example of that. On the religious front, he was a founder of Park Street Church in Feb. 1809 and remained a deacon there for 50 years.

At that point in his life he was tending to his wallpaper manufacturing business in Roxbury, a trade shared with fellow founder, Moses Grant. But somewhere along the way, Josiah Bumstead became interested in the new developments in education and turned his focus toward young children learning to read.

With the invention of the blackboard in 1801, learning became more visual and its importance was not lost on Mr. Bumstead, who wrote in 1841, “The inventor or introducer of the blackboard system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not among the greatest benefactors of mankind.”

As he thought about the pedagogy of reading, Josiah Bumstead became a fierce advocate of the new word-method of teaching, publishing a series of readers between 1840-1843 that were used in all the primary schools in Boston. The first in that series, My Little Primer (1840) was the first reader anywhere to be specifically based on the word method.

In the 1934 book American Reading Instruction by Nila Banton Smith, Bumstead is quoted as saying about this method: “In teaching reading, the general practice has been to begin with the alphabet and drill the child upon the letters, month after month, until he is supposed to have acquired them. This method, so irksome and vexatious to both teacher and scholar, is now giving place to another, which experience has proved to be more philosophical, intelligent, pleasant, and rapid. It is that of beginning with familiar and easy words, instead of letters.”

Josiah Bumstead’s only actual teaching experience was as the superintendent of a Sunday School for Negroes.

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