Bethnal Green, London, England
|Died||May 14, 1676|
|Residence||Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony|
|Known for||first bookseller in British America|
|Spouse(s)||Frances Usher, Elizabeth Symmes, and Mary Alford Butler|
Usher was born in 1615. The medieval records known as the Hundred Rolls show that Usher came from the then hamlet of Bednall Green, today's Bethnal Green in East London in England.  The Usher family line itself is believed to be originally from the town of Bednall Green. The Usher family name is known in English history and literally means "one who introduced strangers." Usher and his brother Robert left Bednall Green (aka Bethnal Green) and settled in the thirteen colonies. Usher came first to Cambridge.
As of 1642, he was the owner of a house in Cambridge (northeast corner of Dunster and Winthrop) that was the property of William Andrew in 1635. Later, in 1645 Usher settled in Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He lived on the north side of Boston on State Street near the market-place. Usher opened his first bookstore in Boston in 1647. His affairs prospered, and by 1652, he had become a well known merchant and bookseller. Robert, his brother, had settled in Stamford, Connecticut.
Usher was a commercial merchant and a real estate investor. He was the first known colonial bookseller. Most of the items he had for sale in his business as a merchant were books. One such book that he sold that was well received was the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in the thirteen colonies. The first edition was sold by Usher in Cambridge in 1640 and the fourth edition of the Bay Psalm Book was sold in Boston by Usher in 1652. He had also printed and distributed for free John Eliot's catechism in 1653.
Usher was agent for the London Society of the Corporation for Propagating the Gospel in managing the money matters between the corporation established in England for spreading the New Testament among the Indians in America and the commissioners of the thirteen colonies in New England. He was able to obtain paper and type fonts for printing the New Testament in the Indian language when he went to England in the winter of 1657/58.
The printing items he received he put in charge of Samuel Green in 1659 at Cambridge to print the Indian New Testament and other works. Usher distributed the Indian New Testaments free of charge from 1660 to 1663. Usher was the publisher of the laws of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for seven years under the monopoly he received from the Massachusetts General Court in 1672.
Wives and families
Usher's first wife was Frances (died February 25, 1652).
Their children were
- Hezekiah, born in Cambridge June 6, 1639; m. 1679 Bridget (daughter of John Lisle, Esquire, one of Cromwell's Lords) (widow of Dr. Leonard Hoar, president of Harvard College). Hezekiah Jr. was accused of witchcraft in 1692 but not officially charged.
- Rebecca, born in Cambridge Nov 1640, married Abraham Brown, May 1, 1660.
- John, born in Cambridge September 11, 1643, died December, 1645.
- Elizabeth, born in Boston February 1, 1645; married Samuel Shimpton of the Bethnal Green Shrimpton family line.
- John, born in Boston April 17, 1648.
- Mehitable, born in Boston March 21, 1649
- Sarah, born in Boston Sept 11, 1650; married Jonathan Tyng.
- Rebecca, born in Boston 1651; married Abraham Brown 1 May 1660.
Usher's second wife was Elizabeth Symmes (daughter of Rev. Zachary Symmes); married September 2, 1652.
Their children in this family were
- Hannah, born December 29, 1653; died July 24, 1654.
- Zechariah, born December 26, 1654, died August 23, 1656.
Usher died in May 1676. His will is dated 11 May 1676 and proved 19 May 1676. During his lifetime he had accumulated much wealth in selling books and publications. Two of his sons quarreled over his estate, which ultimately had to be settled in court. The will of Usher talks about his sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Harwood, and his brother-in-law, John Harwood. Usher and several of his family members are buried at the historic King's Chapel Burying Ground on Tremont Street in Boston.
Usher was one of the founders of the First Church in Boston. He was a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. Usher was interested in Boston civic matters and held several town positions. He was elected selectman in 1659, a position he held until his death.
His son, also named Hezekiah Usher, built a mansion in Boston in 1684, which was located at today's Tremont Street and Temple Place.
- Usher 1895, p. 79.
- Cutter 1919, p. 40.
- Bigelow 2005, p. 102.
- Chapter 1907, p. 58.
- Roberts 1895, p. 81.
- Wroth 1964, p. 10.
- Chambers 1901, p. 315.
- Lossing 1893, p. 1567.
- Imperial 1898, p. 389.
- Thomas 1810, p. 410.
- Davis & West 1996, p. 9.
- Thomas 1810, p. 409 Hezekiah Usher was the first bookseller in English America, of whom I can find any account..
- Thomas 1810, p. 409.
- National Council 1877, p. 99.
- Howland 1877, p. 125.
- Cogley 1999, p. 211.
- Roberts 1895, p. 80.
- Leypoldt 1886, p. 658.
- History of Cambridge, Massachusetts (1630-1877), page 673. Internet Archive
- History of Cambridge, Massachusetts (1630-1877), page 674. Internet Archive
- Friedman 1955, p. 40.
- Rossiter 1915, p. 95.
- "Hezekiah Usher (1616-1676) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2015-03-28.
- Rossiter 1915, p. 96.
- Thomas 1874, p. 205.
- Tebbel 1972, p. 24.
- Cran 1885, p. 13.
- Yale University 1931, p. 47.
- New England 1939, p. 75.
- Lehmann-Haupt 1951, p. 47.
- Britannica 1956, p. 880 The first bookseller of the Colonies was Hezekiah Usher of Boston.
- Ashmore 1961, p. 881 The first bookseller of the Colonies was Hezekiah Usher of Boston.
- Publishers Weekly 1912, p. 647.
- Bishop & Freedley 1861, p. 161.
- Ripley & Dana 1873, p. 76.
- Americana 1919, p. 784.
- Americana, Encyclopedia (1919). The Encyclopedia Americana: A Library of Universal Knowledge. Encyclopedia Americana Corporation.
- Ashmore, Harry S. (1961). Encyclopædia Britannica: a new survey of universal knowledge. Encyclopædia Britannica.
- Bigelow, Francis Hill (1 March 2005). Historic Silver of the Colonies and Its Makers. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4179-9160-0.
- Bishop, John Leander; Freedley, Edwin Troxell (1861). A history of American manufactures from 1608 to 1860..: comprising annals of the industry of the United States in machinery, manufactures and useful arts, with a notice of the important inventions, tariffs, and the results of each decennial census. E. Young.
- Britannica, Encyclopædia (1956). Encyclopædia Britannica: A New Survey of Universal Knowledge. Encyclopædia Britannica.
- Chambers, W. & R. (1901). Chambers's encyclopaedia: a dictionary of universal knowledge. W. & R. Chambers, Limited.
- Chapter, Hannah Winthrop (1907). AN HISTORIC GUIDE TO CAMBRIDGE.
- Cran, Ellery Bicknell (1885). Historical Notes, on the Early Settlements of Worcester, Massachusetts: With Notices of the Settlers from the Year 1665 to 1704. C. Hamilton.
- Cogley, Richard W. (1999). John Eliot's Mission to the Indians Before King Philip's War. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-47537-3.
- Cutter, William Richard (1919). American Biography: A New Cyclopedia. Pub. under the direction of the American historical Society.
- Davis, Cynthia J.; West, Kathryn (28 March 1996). DAVIS WRITING IN TIME P. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-535812-4.
- Friedman, Lee Max (1955). Jewish pioneers and patriots. Jewish Publication Society of America.
- Howland, Edward (1877). Annals of North America, Being a Concise Account of the Important Events in the United States, the British Provinces, and Mexico... J.B. Burr Publishing Company.
- Imperial, reference library (1898). Imperial reference library: comprising a general encyclopædia ... Syndicate pub. co.
- Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut (1951). The Book in America: A History of the Making and Selling of Books in the United States. Bowker.
- Leypoldt, F. (1886). The Publishers Weekly. F. Leypoldt.
- Lossing, Benson John (1893). Harpers' popular cyclopaedia of United States history from the aboriginal period: containing brief sketches of important events and conspicuous actors. Harper.
- National Council (1877). Minutes of the National Council of the Congregational Churches of the United States of America at the ... Session. The Council.
- New England, Quarterly (1939). The New England Quarterly. New England Quarterly Incorporated.
- Publishers Weekly (1912). Publishers Weekly. R. R. Bowker Company.
- Ripley, George; Dana, Charles Anderson (1873). The American Cyclopaedia: A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge. D. Appleton and Company.
- Roberts, Oliver Ayer (1895). History of the Military company of the Massachusetts, now called the Ancient and honorable artillery company of Massachusetts. 1637-1888. A. Mudge & son, printers.
- Rossiter, William Sidney (1915). Days and Ways in Old Boston. R.H. Stearns and Company.
- Tebbel, John William (1972). A History of Book Publishing in the United States: The creation of an industry, 1630–1865. R. R. Bowker Company. ISBN 978-0-8352-0489-7.
- Thomas, Isaiah (1810). The history of printing in America, with a biography of printers, and an account of newspapers. To which is prefixed a concise view of the discovery and progress of the art in other parts of the world.
- Thomas, Isaiah (1874). The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers. To which is Prefixed a Concise View of the Discovery and Progress of the Art in Other Parts of the World. In Two Volumes. From the Press of Isaiah Thomas, jun. Isaac Sturtevant, Printer.
- Usher, Edward Preston (1895). A Memorial Sketch of Roland Greene Usher, 1823-1895. Press of N. Sawyer & Son.
- Wroth, Lawrence C. (1964). The Colonial Printer. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-28294-7.
- Yale University, Library (1931). The Yale University Library Gazette. Yale University Library.