The Samuel Gray Society

dedicated to preserving the history of colonial America and its people


The Samuel Gray Society’s origins are difficult to trace, having been founded from a loose fellowship of sailors and post-revolutionary Bostonians who charged themselves with commemorating everyday heroism in the brotherhood of the working class.  Perhaps as a response to popular private organizations such as the Society of the Cincinnati and the Freemasons, the SGS was open to all interested men in the greater Boston area.  Early philanthropic support from John Gray’s Ropewalks, where Samuel Gray was employed until his death, allowed the organization to develop an official seal and host open meetings at local alehouses.  Originally sympathetic to the anti-federalists, the SGS attached itself to matters of local politics and class dispute.  Early associates included privateers, wheelwrights and blacksmiths, whilst few men of higher status were recruited due to the famously  untoward nature of many members.  Some early members were said to also be affiliated with the Sons of Liberty.

SGS original seal, 1789

The historic seal of the SGS combines a common rope tool with the two icons of the U.S. Great Seal of 1782, first employed by then Secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thomson.1 The seal was first struck in Philadelphia (possibly by engraver Robert Scot) and utilizes the olive branch and arrows to symbolize the power of war and peace.2  The arrows number 13, the original number of U.S, States.  The rope tool is an obvious reference to Samuel Gray, who was employed as a rope maker in Boston.  The SGS seal was struck by silversmith Stewart Lincoln, although the original die was later melted down during the Civil War.

  1. 1. “The Great Seal of the United States”, published by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Washington D.C., July 2003, pg. 3.

  2. 2.  Ibid., pg.4.

  3. 3.  Samuel Gray Society archives



After the loss of the original die, officers of the SGS established a fund to commission an official emblem for the organization.  A sub-committee was created to oversee the project, and after several months of input and debate, a sculptor was chosen to create “an object to unite the common man and to commemorate the life and passion of Samuel Gray in a most direct and accessible way.” Jonathan Doury was selected by the panel to create a wax pattern to be cast in bronze.  The emblem, shown here, is a handsomely detailed cast of the artist’s arm.  The hand is clenched as a symbol of strength and solidarity, wrapped in hemp rope like a boxer’s fist.  The bronze was cast at a foundry in Texas and shipped via railcar to its Boston audience.  The stone base is a solid piece of Northeastern                                                                                                         

Did you know?  The raised fist is an international symbol of solidarity.  Click here to read more

Shale, reclaimed from a 19th century rock wall in the Shawangunk Mountains in lower New York State.   The finished piece was instantly beloved by members and the public alike.  Upon seeing it, one member remarked that “it had power to challenge the grandeur of Philadelphia’s great bell.”  While such praise seems biased, the emblem has remained a powerful representation of the human struggle against tyranny and injustice everywhere.  Similar icons have been appropriated by unions and civil rights groups in their quests for equality.  The emblem, which today is housed in the SGS headquarters, is available for loan to historic exhibits and conferences across the United States, as a part of our educational mission and through the continued generosity of private donors and the NEI.

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