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Hezekiah Usher: The first book seller in the 13 colonies

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As one of the first settlements of the 13 colonies, Boston also became a place of firsts. The first public school on the continent, the first public garden, the first public park and more happened in Boston. Many of these firsts remain, save the first purveyor of books in the 13 colonies. His name was Hezekiah Usher.

Like all of the early settlers of the British colonies, Hezekiah Usher came from England. He was born there in 1615. He first came to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1638. By 1645, he was living in Boston on State St. Two years after that, he opened the bookstore for which history remembers him. As far as anyone knows, it was the first of its kind.

In keeping with the times, Usher's most popular books were religious in nature. The first book printed in the colonies, the 1640 edition of "Bay Psalm Book" was one of his best sellers. Hezekiah Usher was a member of the London Society of the Corporation for Propagating the Gospel, which dealt with teaching Native Americans the New Testament. In this capacity, Usher printed the New Testament in the Native language and gave it away for three years.

Usher was not just a book salesperson. He had three wives (at different times, of course), with two of whom he had 10 children total. He was a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, which now has a lovely museum on the third floor of Faneuil Hall. He was also a selectman and helped found the First Church in Boston.

Hezekiah Usher died in 1676, a respectably wealthy man. He is buried in the King's Chapel Burying Ground alongside several other notable men from his time up through the American Revolution.



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