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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mr. Samuel Salisbury, Esq.

Samuel Salisbury was born on November 29, 1739, possibly making him the oldest man in the room, depending on the exact birthdate of Thomas Bumstead. The eighth of eleven children he attended Boston’s Latin School but not college.

He became a hardware merchant and, along with his brother, Stephen (who opened a store branch in Worcester), was among the largest wholesale importers in Boston. His mother came to live with him, an arrangement he found most difficult, writing to his brother, I have been made uneasy by our honoured Mother interfering and talking to me about the affairs of my family that my life has been thereby rendered very unhappy. You know very well that I could never bear it about the business of the shop, but by keeping things hid from her I could then make it out pretty well. But now my house is so nigh and she is so often finding fault with my conduct . . . which determines me to change my situation.”

As with most merchants of the time, he had conflicted loyalties during the Siege of Boston in 1774 and the economic disaster it created. In a letter to his brother in Worcester, Samuel Salisbury described John Hancock as a “Son of Liberty, Son of Hell” after purchasing some English writing paper from Mr. Hancock. Mr. Salisbury joined the covenant of those pledging not to buy or sell English goods only after many refusals to do so had earned him considerable displeasure among his fellows. Suffice it to say that he was not with founder Moses Grant dumping the tea overboard.

During the siege, Samuel initially stayed behind to watch over his store, but his family was allowed by the British to receive safe passage with their goods to Worcester where Samuel’s brother Stephen had gone. As things grew worse, Samuel also removed to Worcester.

Back in Boston, he continued to prosper after the Revolution, eventually owning a fine mansion on Summer Street in Boston. In 1791 he was elected a selectman. The portrait shown here was painted by Gilbert Stuart. Samuel Salisbury died on May 2, 1818 with an estate valued at $400,000.

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