The Bible in America

History From its founding in 1816, the American Bible Society has grappled with the task of making the Word of God available to Christians and churches in America. From its earliest days, it has worked to provide scriptures to the men, and later women of the military, to local and international bible societies, and to translate the Holy Bible to other languages used by peoples in the United States so that they could not only possess scripture, but could understand its importance in their own lives.

Leaders Starting with a leader of the American Revolution, Elias Boudinot, John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and going right down to the most recent president Lamar Vest, The American Bible Society has always been led by “true believers” in the Bible cause.

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American Bible Society History - Timeline

1816

Founding of the American Bible Society in New York City. Elias Boudinot was elected its first president.

1817

The American Bible Society made its first grant, giving 300 Bibles to the Steuben County Bible Society (Bath, NY).

Bibles were distributed to the crew of the USS John Adams, thus beginning a Scripture grant program to the armed services a program that continues today.

The American Bible Society Library was founded.

1818

Quarterly Extracts, the predecessor to the present day publication American Bible Society Record, was issued.

The American Bible Society published the Delaware Indian/English parallel text of three Epistles of John. Translated by Christian Frederick Dencke, this work marked the first publication by ABS in another language.

1821

John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was elected president of the American Bible Society.

1822

The American Bible Society moved to its first permanent home, 72 Nassau Street, in Lower Manhattan.

The American Bible Society received its first endowment, a $250 bequest made by Seth Warner.

1823

The American Bible Society sent a gift of $1,000 to the missionary William Carey to support his Scripture translation work in India.

1828

Former New York City Mayor Richard Varick was elected president of the American Bible Society.

1831

John Cotton Smith was elected president of the American Bible Society.

1833

The American Bible Society committed $3,000 to print and distribute Scriptures in China.

1835

A gift of $1,000 to the New England Institution for the Blind resulted in the first Scriptures for the visually impaired.

1836

The American Bible Society established its first permanent Foreign Agency in the Levant.

1841

Incorporation of the American Bible Society under New York State law.

1843

The American Bible Society issued its first charitable annuity.

1846

Managers authorized the sale of Scriptures.

United States Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen was elected President of the American Bible Society.

1846-1848

The Mexican War was fought, and the American Bible Society supplied over 7,000 Scriptures to U.S. troops.

1853

The American Bible Society relocated to Astor Place (in New York City).

1861-1865

The American Bible Society provided Scriptures to both the North and South during the Civil War.

1862

Luther Bradish was elected President of the American Bible Society.

1864

James Lenox was elected president of the American Bible Society.

1866

The American Bible Society celebrated its Jubilee Year.

1869

The transcontinental railroad was completed, thus creating new avenues of distribution for Scriptures.

1872

William Henry Allen was elected president of the American Bible Society.

1876

The American Bible Society exhibited a collection of historical Bibles at the Philadelphia Centennial.

1881

Samuel Wells Williams was elected president of the American Bible Society

1884

Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen was elected president of the American Bible Society.

1885

Enoch Lewis Fancher was elected president of the American Bible Society.

1893

The American Bible Society exhibited its rare book collection at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition.

1900

A conference on auxiliaries was called to evaluate current domestic fundraising, distribution and missionary practices. The meeting resulted in greater centralization for the American Bible Society.

1901

The American Bible Society established the Agency Among Colored People of the South. Located in Atlanta, this agency was headed by Dr. John Percy Wragg (1855-1936).

1903

Johns Hopkins President Daniel Coit Gilman (1831-1908) was elected president of the American Bible Society.

1904

The American Bible Society ex

hibited Scripture texts at the St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition.

1905

Frances Snow Hamilton (1863-1915) was appointed agent in Mexico, the first woman in American Bible Society history to hold that position.

1908

New York philanthropist Mrs. Russell Sage promised ABS $500,000 in the form of a matching gift, thus establishing the American Bible Society's first permanent endowment.

1909

Theophilus Brouwer (1827-1911) was elected president.

1911

James Wood (1839-1925) was elected president of the American Bible Society. Mr. Wood was the grandfather of James Wood (1927), the president and chairman of the American Bible Society's Board from 1986 to 1996.

1914

The American Bible Society distributed Scriptures to troops serving in World War I. It also launched a European War Fund Campaign for additional donations.

1915

The American Bible Society sent an exhibit of Bibles to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. It also sponsored the World's Bible Congress. This group brought together distinguished religious leaders from around the world.

>Bible Sunday was first celebrated. The event, held in conjunction with the Panama-Pacific Exposition, continues to the present day.

1916

The American Bible Society celebrated its centennial anniversary.

1918

Emma Baker Kennedy (ca. 1833-1930) and Helen Miller Gould Shepard (1868-1938) became the first female vice presidents of ABS. Mrs. Theodore Weston became its first female manager.

1919

The Advisory Council met for the first time. This group continues to meet today as the National Church Leadership Council.

Churchill Hunter Cutting (1842-1924) was elected the 15th president of the American Bible Society.

1922

The American Bible Society phased out on-site production.

1924

Edwin Francis Hyde (1842-1933), a former president of the Philharmonic Society of New York, was elected ABS president.

1931

J. Frederick Talcott (1866-1944) became president of the American Bible Society.

1933-1934

The American Bible Society sent an exhibit to the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. The display's highlight was a globe “designed to show the parts of the world in which the Bible, the gospels, and portions of the testaments have been translated and distributed.”

1934

John Thomas Manson (1861-1944) was elected president of the American Bible Society.

1936

The American Bible Society relocated to 448-450 Park Avenue (southwest corner of 57th Street) in New York City.

1939-1940

The American Bible Society participated at the New York World's Fair with an exhibit entitled The Book for the World of Tomorrow. A time capsule sponsored by the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company included a King James Version of the Bible.

1940-1945

The American Bible Society provided more than 7.4 million Scriptures to those serving in the U.S. armed forces during World War II.

1944

Daniel Burke was elected President of the American Bible Society.

1945

The Board of Managers established the Department of Visual Aids responsible for production of steropticon slides, motion pictures and filmstrips, radio and television broadcasting, exhibits and displays.

1946

Founding of the United Bible Societies in Haywards Heath, England.

1955

The American Bible Society completed the publication of the Illustrated New Testament with over 500 images and maps.

1957

ABS introduced a finger-operated phonograph - a Finger Fono machine.

1959

The American Bible Society consolidated its domestic work by merging its District Offices into three Regional Offices located in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

1962

The Division of Women's Activities was created, and Inez Moser (1896-1987) was appointed its first director.

The Bible-a-Month Club was begun. Thirty-five staff agreed to contribute $2.00 per month each to support Bible distribution in a selected country of the world. The program continues today.

Everett Smith (1892-1991) was elected ABS president.

1964-1965

The American Bible Society held a special exhibit entitled Good News for a New Age at its headquarters at 450 Park Avenue in New York City. The exhibit coincided with the New York World's Fair. At the close of the New York World's Fair a time capsule was buried by members of the World's Fair Organizing Committee. Among the contents of the capsule was a Revised Standard Version issued by ABS.

1965

Centralized warehouse facilities were opened at 186 Parish Drive, Wayne, N.J.

1966

The American Bible Society celebrated its 150th anniversary.

The American Bible Society published the New Testament in Today's English Version, a translation written in common English language.

Dios Lllega, a translation designed to reach the newspaper reading level of the Spanish-speaking world, was published.

The American Bible Society relocated to its present location at 1865 Broadway.

1967

Edmund F. Wagner (1898-1989) was elected president of the American Bible Society.

The Department of Women's Activities inaugurated Scripture Courtesy Centers.

1973

Jesse Pratt (1909) became the first African American woman to serve on the American Bible Society's Board of Mangers.

1974

The Good News for New Readers program was inaugurated.

1976

The Good News Bible was completed.

1979

Alice Ball was named general secretary, the first woman to achieve this position in the history of ABS.

Dios Habla Hoy, the complete Bible in the Spanish Popular Version, was released.

1982

The American Bible Society sent an exhibit to the World's Fair held in Knoxville, Tennessee.

1984

The American Bible Society provided more than 4 million Scriptures for distribution to athletes and spectators at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

James Wood (1927) was elected president and chairman of the Board of the American Bible Society.

1987

This year marked the first printing of Chinese Bibles on the Amity Press in Nanjiing.

1989

A special appeal drive, “Gifts of Love,” was launched. This program aimed to secure Bibles for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

The Rev. Dr. Bryant M. Kirkland was appointed the first president and chief executive officer of the American Bible Society.

1990

The Gospel of Mark was released in modern Navajo.

The Life of Christ was introduced in the American Sign Language Translation.

Eugene Habecker (1946) was appointed president and chief executive officer of the American Bible Society.

1991

The Contemporary English Version (CEV) New Testament was published.

The American Bible Society provided the military in the Persian Gulf with 300,000 compact Bibles with camouflage covers.

The American Bible Society celebrated its 175th anniversary.

1992

A four-year, $23.5 million commitment was made to Bible work in the Commonwealth of Independent States and former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

Out of the Tombs, a translation of Mark 5.1-20, was produced and sold in video format.

1993

A partnership was formed with 4HIM, a popular contemporary Christian singing group, as part of the Society's Artist Relations Program.

1994

The video, A Father and Two Sons, based on Luke 15.11-32, was completed. In 1995 this product was available in CD-ROM format.

Video and CD-ROM versions of The Visit, based on Luke 1.39-56, were completed.

1995

The Contemporary English Version was completed.

1996

The American Bible Society distributed Scripture resources at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

The American Bible Society pledged to distribute 5,000 Scriptures to African American and interracial churches destroyed by fire bombings.

1998

The American Bible Society completed the renovation of its headquarters at 1865 Broadway. The New York firm of Fox & Fowle Architects supervised this project.

1999

The American Bible Society published the African American Jubilee Bible.

2000

The Learning Bible in the Contemporary English Version was published.

2005

Dr Paul Irwin selected as president and CEO of the American Bible Society

2009

Dr. R. Lamar Vest selected as president and CEO of the American Bible Society