Samuel Turell Armstrong

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Samuel Turell Armstrong

Birthplace: Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: March 26, 1850 (65)
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Place of Burial: Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Armstrong and Elizabeth Williams
Husband of Abigail Armstrong

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Samuel Turell Armstrong

Samuel Turell Armstrong (April 29, 1784 – March 26, 1850) was a U.S. political figure. Born in 1784 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, he was a printer and bookseller in Boston, specializing in religious materials. Among his works were an early stereotype edition of Scott's Family Bible, which was very popular, and The Panoplist, a religious magazine devoted to missionary interests.

Armstrong began to withdraw from the printing business in 1825, and focused instead on politics. He was active in Boston politics during the 1820s, twice winning a seat in the Massachusetts General Court (state legislature). In 1833 he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts as a Whig, and served three terms. For most of the last term he served as Acting Governor after the resignation of John Davis. He lost a bid to be elected governor in his own right in 1836, but was elected Mayor of Boston, a post he held for one year.

Printer and bookseller

Samuel Armstrong was born on April 29, 1784 in Dorchester, Massachusetts to John Armstrong and Elizabeth (Williams) Armstrong. His father died when he was ten, and his mother died three years later. He was apprenticed to Manning and Loring, bookbinders and printers who were described as "the principal book-printers in the town" of Boston. Following his apprenticeship he opened a print shop with a partner in Boston, but a few years later opened his own business in Charlestown. In 1811 he returned the business to Boston, establishing a bookshop on Cornhill. His principal business was in the printing of religious tracts; his most notable work was in publishing The Panoplist, a religious magazine devoted to missionary matters. One of his major successes was the printing of the first stereotype of Scott's Family Bible, a highly popular work that sold tens of thousands of copies. He also opened his bookshop for church-related activities, including fundraising for foreign missionary work.

After he moved to Boston Armstrong took on two apprentices, Uriel Crocker and Osmyn Brewster. In 1818, upon the end of their apprenticeship, Armstrong turned over operation of the printing business to them (which then became known as Crocker & Brewster) and focused his activities on the bookshop. In 1825, he withdrew from the day-to-day operations of the business, but would retain a financial share until 1840, and continued to maintain a personal interest in the business until his death. The business was a significant financial success, and made Armstrong fairly wealthy.

Church and politics

Armstrong was a member of the Old South Church. He served on its vestry (including as its secretary), and was chosen deacon in 1829. When the church was formally incorporated in 1844 Armstrong was named as one of its proprietors. In 1816 Armstrong discovered the original manuscript of the third volume of colonial Governor John Winthrop's History of New England in the church's tower; the volume was presented to the Massachusetts Historical Society. He was also in part responsible for the church's loss of a perfect specimen of the 17th century Bay Psalm Book, one of five that had been willed to the church by Thomas Prince, an early minister of the congregation. Writer Robert Wallace suggests that the Armstrong trade of two copies of the book in exchange for offers by the recipients (George Livermore and Edward Crowninshield) to rebind the other copies was naive, and was essentially a scam by Livermore and Crowninshield (both knowledgeable in the rare book trade) to acquire the valuable books for a bargain price.

Armstrong entered state politics as a representative in Massachusetts General Court, serving in that body from 1822–1823 and in 1828–1829. From 1828 to 1830 he served on Boston's board of aldermen. In 1833 Armstrong was offered the nomination for lieutenant governor by the state Anti-Masonic Party. Since he refused to subscribe to their view that Freemasonry should be abolished, he rejected the offer. He was, however, elected Lieutenant Governor on the Whig ticket, serving first under Levi Lincoln, Jr. and then John Davis. Whig newspapers used his working class roots to appeal to members of the Working Men's Party, a third party founded on labor issues, describing him in the 1834 campaign as "a Mechanic and Workingman".

When Davis resigned in March 1835 upon his election to the United States Senate, Armstrong served as the Acting Governor until 1836. In the 1836 campaign Armstrong sought the Whig nomination for governor, but it went instead to Edward Everett in a bid for support from members of the Anti-Masonic Party. Armstrong ended up running for reelection without party support, coming in a distant third behind Everett and perennial Democratic gubernatorial candidate Marcus Morton.

In contrast to his defeat at the state level, Armstrong was elected Mayor of Boston in 1836. One of the principal acts of civic improvement during his administration was the construction of iron fencing around the Boston Common and the widening of the promenade along Boylston Street. Although the contracts for the work had been drawn up by the preceding administration of Theodore Lyman, Armstrong oversaw the work, and also had the task of securing the relocation of remains in the Central Burying Ground that were affected by the work. This he accomplished, despite some resistance from several families, by offering at no cost several new granite tombs to the affected parties.

In 1839 Armstrong was elected to the Massachusetts Senate. In 1845 he joined the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, in whose affairs he remained involved until his death. He died in 1850 in Boston, and is buried in Cambridge's Mount Auburn Cemetery. He had married Abigail Walker of Charlestown in 1812; they had no children.

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Samuel Turell Armstrong's Timeline

April 29, 1784
Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
March 26, 1850
Age 65
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States