Bussey, Benjamin, 1757-1842.

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Benjamin Bussey was born in 1757 in Stoughton (later Canton), Massachusetts. He served in the American Revolution seeing service at Saratoga and rising to the rank of Quartermaster. About 1779 he went into business as a silversmith in Dedham, Massachusetts and he married in 1780. By 1792, when he moved to Boston, his business had expanded into trading in a variety of goods. He was highly sucessful and in the following years engaged in overseas trade as well. He retired from business in 1806 and bought an estate in Roxbury, Massachusetts, turing to his interests in farming and manufacturing. He established woolen mills in Dedham and bought extensive properties in Maine. In 1815 he built a mansion on his Roxbury property where he resided until his death in 1842.

In his will, Bussey gave his Roxbury property to Harvard University for the "instruction in practical agriculture, in useful and ornamental gardening, in botany, and in such other branches of natural science as may tend to promote a knowledge of practical agriculture, and the various arts subservient thereto and connected therewith." A number of years would elapse before Harvard could act upon the bequest. By 1871 the Bussey Institution had been established to carry out the terms of the will. The rest of Bussey's bequest was organized in to the Arnold Arboretum in 1872.

From the description of Records of the Benjamin Bussey collection, 1818-1840s, 1940s, 1990s, 2001 (scattered). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 175315567

Benjamin Bussey was a successful Massachusetts merchant who amassed the bulk of his assets in the decades after the American Revolution. Born in Canton, Massachusetts, in 1757 to Benjamin Bussey, Sr. (1734-1808), a ship captain and merchant, and Ruth Hartwell (1738-1776), he enlisted in the military at age 18 and fought in the Revolutionary war as a private and quartermaster. He saw action at Ticonderoga and Saratoga and was present at General Burgoyne's 1777 surrender. After the war, Bussey established a silversmith business in Dedham, Massachusetts. Shortly after, in 1780, he married Judith Gay; they had two children: Benjamin Bussey, Jr., and Eliza Bussey.

In 1790, Bussey left the silversmith trade and established a merchant business with his brother Jaazaniah. He moved to Boston in 1792, while his brother traveled to Europe to expand their shipping interests into France, England, and Holland. After his brother’s death in 1796, Bussey established a new partnership with brother-in-law Daniel Ingalls. By 1806, Bussey had amassed a great fortune and had become one of the wealthiest men in New England, owning large plots of land in Dixmont, Augusta, Newburg, Frankfurt, and Bangor, Maine, as well as factories in Massachusetts, including the Norfolk Cotton Company (purchased in 1819) and the Dedham Worsted Company (purchased in 1824). Poor health caused him to scale back his business activities, though he was involved with trading through at least 1813 and remained active in land and manufacturing dealings throughout his life. Bussey retired to Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he built an estate and a farm on a two-hundred-acre plot of land called Woodland Hills. Bussey spent his retired life as a philanthropist and a prominent member of Roxbury and Boston elite society. He entertained American dignitaries, such as the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette, President Andrew Jackson, Vice President Martin Van Buren, and Governor William Eustis. During these years, Bussey also became interested in promoting the education of practical agriculture, and he bequeathed his Roxbury property to Harvard, which would later become the Arnold Arboretum. Bussey died on his estate in Roxbury in 1842.

From the guide to the Benjamin Bussey collection, Bussey, Benjamin collection, 1767-1872, 1800-1847, (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Bussey, Benjamin, 1757-1842. Records of the Benjamin Bussey collection, 1818-1840s, 1940s, 1990s, 2001 (scattered). Harvard University, Arnold Arboretum, Horticultural Library, Jamacia Plain
creatorOf Bussey, Benjamin, 1757-1842. Letters received by Benjamin Bussey, 1797-1864; bulk: 1797-1830. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Benjamin Bussey collection, Bussey, Benjamin collection, 1767-1872, 1800-1847 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Bussey, Benjamin, 1757-1842. Benjamin Bussey collection, 1767-1872, bulk 1800-1847. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn General information about gifts to Harvard from Benjamin Bussey. Harvard University, Archives
creatorOf Bussey, Benjamin, 1757-1842. Letterbook : of B. & J. Bussey, Boston, 1795 April-Sept. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Bussey Institution. Records of the Bussey Institution, 1883-1994. Harvard University, Arnold Arboretum, Horticultural Library, Jamacia Plain
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Arnold Arboretum corporateBody
associatedWith Bainbridge, William, 1774-1833. person
associatedWith Bates, Joshua, 1776-1854. person
associatedWith B. & J. Bussey (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith Bussey Institution corporateBody
associatedWith Cochran, Nathaniel B. person
associatedWith Dearborn, H. A. S. (Henry Alexander Scammell), 1783-1851. person
associatedWith Hadrava, Norberto. person
associatedWith Hale, Sarah Josepha Buell, 1788-1879. person
associatedWith Hyslop, William. person
associatedWith Hyslop, William. person
associatedWith Knox, Lucy Flucker. person
associatedWith Knox, Lucy Flucker. person
associatedWith Lowell, John, 1743-1802. person
associatedWith Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Charitable Meetings Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Society for the Encouragement of American Manufactures. corporateBody
associatedWith Prison Discipline Society (Boston, Mass.) corporateBody
associatedWith Putnam, Oliver, 1777-1826. person
associatedWith Quincy, Josiah, 1772-1864. person
associatedWith Rawle, William, 1759-1836. person
associatedWith Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians and Others in North America. corporateBody
associatedWith Sumner, William H. (William Hyslop), 1780-1861. person
associatedWith Thatcher, Ebenezer. person
associatedWith Thatcher, Samuel. person
associatedWith Thatcher, Samuel. person
associatedWith Witherspoon, John, 1723-1794. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Dixmont (Me.)
Jamaica Plain (Boston, Mass.)
Roxbury (Boston, Mass.)
Florence (Italy)
Middlesex Canal (Mass.)
Boston (Mass.)
Roxbury (Boston, Mass.)
Thomaston (Me.)
United States
Belfast (Me.)
Great Britain
United States
Augusta (Me.)
Boston (Mass.)
Commerce--Political aspects
Jamaica Plain Boston Mass--History
International trade--History--19th century
Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815--Economic aspects--United States
Textile fabrics--Commerce
Wool industry--Massachusetts
International trade
Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815--Economic aspects
Music patronage--United States
Shipwrecks--Caribbean Area
Real property--Maine
Roxbury Boston Mass--History
Real property
Real property--Massachusetts


Birth 1757

Death 1842

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