Today in History, May 11, 1816:
The American Bible Society was founded in New York City. The Society was formed as a consortium of numerous smaller societies, mostly state based. The members were abolitionists Christians with the mission to put Bibles into as many hands as possible “without note or comment.”
The first President of the Society was Elias Boudinot, who had also been President of the Continental Congress for a time. Other prominent officers included Supreme Court Justice John Jay and Star Spangled Banner author Francis Scott Key.
The Society distributed many translations of the Bible, including into Native American languages. It provided pocket Bibles to soldiers during the Civil War and in wars since.
At it’s outset the Society was devoutly Protestant, and had a rocky start with the many Catholic immigrants to the United States. In the mid nineteenth century it took steps to correct this problem.
The ABS has distributed millions of copies of the Bible in countries all over the world since its inception. Today it manages an online resource to search Bible text in several languages.