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

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rev. Joseph McKean

Rev. McKean was born in Ipswich, MA on April 19, 1776 and, showing a sharp mind, was sent to Andover to prepare for college at age 11. He matriculated at Harvard in 1790 and quickly became part of the social life of the campus. As a freshman he was called upon to host a gathering of students who just liked to get together for food, drink, and socializing and for that occasion, young McKean chose to roast a whole pig.

From his successful idea, and probably a fair amount of wine, this later corresponding secretary for the Society for the Suppression of Intemperance became known as the founder of the “pig club,” which became Harvard’s Porcellian Club. The McKean Gate at Harvard pictured here is named for him. McKean graduated from Harvard in 1794, studied theology, and was ordained at the Congregational Church in Milton in 1797.

Having a frail constitution, he gave up the pulpit in 1804 and traveled for a bit in warmer climates. After returning to Boston he was courted by Harvard as a Professor, first refusing the chair in Mathematics later offered to founder John Farrar but finally accepting the position of Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, where he remained for ten years.

Again plagued by ill health, Rev. McKean traveled to Havana, where he died on March 17, 1818 at the age of 42.

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