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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James Wood

President of the American Bible Society, 1912-1919

Church Affiliation: Society of Friends (Quaker)

Black and White Portrait of James Wood from a color portrait by Jassa Salganik

James Wood was born November 12, 1839 and spent much of his life in the estate his family had owned for more than 100 years in Mount Kisco, NY. He was a manager for many years of both Haverford College (1885-1918) and Bryn Mawr College (1887-1918), founder and President of the Board of Managers of the New York State Reformatory for Women (1900-1918).

He was principally known as a leader in the Society of Friends, serving as presiding officer of its Five-Year meetings - the highest position that may be held in the Society. He worked in the field of prisoner welfare and served on the Executive Committee of the New York Prison Association.

The Bible Society Record of April, 1919 carried these remarks under the title “Our Retiring President”

During eight remarkable years, Mr. James Wood has served the American Bible Society as its President. He was elected in November, 1911 and retired at the last meeting of the Board. Some months ago, he presented his resignation with the understanding that it should take effect on the choice of a successor, and at any rate, before the close of the year 1919. At the earnest solicitation of the Board, he continued in office until April.

During his Presidency the Society assisted in the celebration of the Tercentenary of the King James Version of the English Bible, with notable meetings held in various parts of the ocuntry, and especially at Carnegie Hall, in New York City, at which he presided. This was a meeting of great enthusiasm, packing the hall to its utmost capacity.

In 1916 he had general charge of the celebrations of the Centennial of the American Bible Society held in various parts of the world, and presided at the meeting in Washington at which the President of the United States and others distinguished in the church and the nation participated.

During his Presidency the Society undertook its greatest task of recent years, that of reaching every soldier and sailor of the United States Army and Navy with a gift of a copy of the Holy Scriptures. Seven million copies of the New Testament or some other portion of copies of the Scriptures have during this period gone forth to the fighting men of the world.

It was while he was President that Mrs. Russell Sage made her offer to the Society of half a million of dollars for its endowment; provided another half million was secured, and, under his general supervision the plans for the campaign resulting in this achievement were carried out.

His visit to Panama led to the building of a Bible House at Cristobal, at the Atlantic end of the Canal, from which it is expected that hundreds of thousands of copies of Scriptures will be distributed to the shipping passing through the Canal, thus reaching dwellers in many lands using this great waterway of the nations. This Bible House was the Centennial gift of the Maryland Bible Society. Mr. Wood also presided at the World's Bible Congress which was held in San Francisco in the summer of 1915 in connection with the celebration of the opening of the Panama Canal.

Mr. Wood represented the Soceity at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference and in conferences with the British and Foreign Bible Society in New York and London.

During his Presidency the work of the Society has reached its largest output, and also received its largest gifts, particularly those of Mr. Bloodgood Cutter, Mr. John S. Kennedy, and Mrs. Russel Sage.

For fifteen years previous to his election as President Mr. Wood had closely identified himself with the affairs of the Society. He was a leader in the meetings of the Board of Managers. His extensive acquaintanceship in the country, his connection with innumerable important boards in the state, in neighboring states, and in the nation, his presidency of the Five-Year Meeting of the Society of Friends, all made him a conspicuous figure in the social and religious life of the country. Like his predecessor, John Jay, the second President of the Society, he was also President of the Westchester County Bible Society. From his home in Mt. Kisco, near New York, he has traveled all over the world.

Few men have had more comprehensive knowledge of affairs throughout the whole world, and no one could have more devotedly used his knowledge for the Bible Society than he. The Book has been treasured in his own heart and home and he believes its teachings are the only solution of the world's needs.