Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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COOK, Russell S., secretary of the American tract society, born in New Marlborough, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, 6 March, 1811; died in Pleasant Valley, New York, 4 September, 1864. His early life was devoted to study. On arriving at manhood he entered a lawyer's office in Syracuse, New York, but soon changed his choice of a profession and entered the theological seminary at Auburn, and, after graduation, was ordained pastor of the Congregational church in Lanesboro', Massachusetts, in 1836. In 1838, his voice failing, he became connected with the American tract society, and in May, 1839, was elected one of the corresponding secretaries, filling the office for eighteen years. His first efforts were directed to the expansion of the volume circulation, and in three and a half years he succeeded in distributing 800,000 volumes. In 1841, that he might meet the wants of remote neighborhoods, Mr. Cook began what was afterward developed into the system of American colportage. With this great work he was wholly identified, devoting to it his untiring energies: and so successfully that, in 1856, after fifteen years, the society had on its list 547 colporteurs, besides 115 students who labored only during vacations. Its current receipts had increased from $131,000 in 1839 to $415,000 in 1856. He established in 1843 the" American Messenger," a monthly publication, with a German edition, the "Bot-schafter." This was soon followed by the " Child's Paper," the first of illustrated papers for children. The monthly issue of these periodicals soon reached an aggregate of 500,000 copies. In 1853 and 1856 he went to Europe and established his system of colportage in Scotland. Failing health obliged him to give up his labors as secretary in 1857 ; but, somewhat regaining his vigor, he afterward became identified with various religious undertakings, and labored with unabated resolution to the last.
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