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Growth. Although the revolutionary period as a whole was a time of religious disaffection, two groups in particular resisted that tendency. Along with the Methodists, the Baptists laid the groundwork in these years for the spectacular growth that they experienced in the early national period. In 1740 there were only thirtythree Baptist churches in the New England colonies and few elsewhere. Most of these predated the Great Awakening, and they did not adhere to the revivalistic principles that soon became popular. Many were so-called General Baptists, who were much less rigid in their thinking about salvation than most of their Calvinist neighbors. By 1784 there were more than 150 Baptist congregations in New England alone, with more than 8,000 communicants, and by 1790 Virginia had more than 200 churches. Most of these were of a different character than the General Baptists. These were the Separate Baptists, named this because many emerged during the revivals as believers separated from their old churches and formed new congregations on strict Calvinist principles. The experiences of these groups were so fundamental to the patterns of religious development in America that they deserve to be examined in detail.

Baptist Beliefs. Baptists were distinguished from other Protestants by the way they baptized converts. Instead of sprinkling the head of newborn children with water as a sign of welcome into Gods community, Baptists believed in immersing converts completely in water, following the biblical example. They also rejected the idea of baptizing children since they thought that baptism should mark a persons free acceptance of Gods presence in their life, something only an adult was capable of doing. By having only full believers as members, Baptists hoped to purify the church even further than their Puritan ancestors had been able to do. This was a controversial position since many people were eager to have the churchs symbolic protection extended to their children. To many, leaving their children outside the church was tempting fate even if they agreed that people should eventually come to their own acknowledgment of sin and acceptance of Gods forgiveness. The difficulty of accepting these beliefs kept the numbers of Baptists small in the American colonies before 1750. The Baptists also highly valued the independence of their individual congregations. They disliked the efforts of Congregationalists to place some general authority in groups of neighboring ministers joined in regional consociations, or the similar practice of Presbyterians who organized churches under regional governing bodies called synods. For Baptists each congregation stood apart from all others and could follow its own way. They also rejected the need for an educated clergy, opening the way for greater lay authority over religious matters.

New England. Baptists grew dramatically in the years after the Great Awakening of the 1740s. Many of the people touched by the intense religious feelings of that period continued their spiritual journeys after the mass experiences of the revivals faded away. They were encouraged by the revivals emphasis on personal religious experiences of conversion, which they called the New Birth. These people, called New Lights, found themselves increasingly unable to share worship with their Old Light neighbors who remained untouched by the experience of rebirth in the spirit that was the key feature of a successful revival. Many decided to separate. In town after town in New England and in the Middle colonies, the church broke into two groups, often after intense disagreements over theology and church property. Many of these Separate Congregationalists eventually embraced Baptist principles, and they continued to search for the purest church possible. Across the colonies at least 130 new Baptist congregations formed in this way. They were helped in this process by Baptists sent after 1762 from the Middle colonies, including James Manning, Hezekiah Smith, and Samuel Stillman. These men were college-educated ministers and brought with them organizational experience that New England Baptists lacked. They were instrumental in establishing Rhode Island College (later Brown University) in Providence in 1764, an important step in providing a more-able ministry for the spread of Baptists during the early national period. They also helped form the Warren Association in 1767, a loose association of Baptist congregations. Despite the independence of those congregations, they needed a forum for the discussion of theology and disputes and the coordination of various religious efforts, including the campaign for greater religious liberty. The Warren Association was the first such body in New England. By 1780 it had thirty-eight members, and there were four other such groups in New England.

Isaac Backus. The best illustration of the growth of Northern Baptists in the years following the Great Awakening and during the Revolution is the career of Isaac Backus. Backus had experienced conversion during the revivals of the Great Awakening and became a New Light Congregational minister in the small town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, in 1748. He gradually became a Baptist, following the logic of his reading of the Bible, but for a time he refused to impose this belief on his congregants. Although he tried to foster tolerance in his church, dissension followed, and in 1756 he and some of his congregation formed a separate Baptist church. Backus served that church for fifty years. In keeping with his separatist and Baptist origins, the great theme of his lifes work was promoting the sanctity of an individuals conscience. He worked to bring his congregants to an interior awareness of Gods power that would lead them to baptism and struggled against many obstacles in the path of his vision of true religion.

Church and State. Those obstacles included the colonial and, later, state laws that tried to ensure religious conformity. During these years Congregationalism was the established religion in New England, except in Rhode Island. It was supported by taxes that paid ministers salaries, and there was only limited toleration for dissenting groups. Baptists were exempted from the taxes, although they had to petition for the privilege of not paying them, a time-consuming process that often went against them despite the letter of the law. Backus fought those restrictions and in the process became an important early spokesman for American religious freedom. In 1769 a long series of disagreements over the tax involving the Baptists of Ashfield, Massachusetts, provoked the Warren Association to form a committee to attack the problem in an organized way and petition the government for redress. The matter eventually reached the king, who decided in favor of the Baptists in 1771. This case was only one of many, however, and by 1773 Backus led the Baptists in endorsing broader opposition to the system of limited toleration. Backus began to argue that governments should never be allowed to interfere with church matters and to consider religious liberty as a natural right, not a privilege granted selectively by the state. Backuss tract, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty (1773), made the case for the separation of church and state. Backuss vision for the new order was not a secular one, however. He considered the separation necessary in order to promote true religion, which in his experience was being held back by the state. Instead he offered a picture of a voluntary religion, where true believers would come to embrace their faith in the absence of any influence other than Gods spirit. At this point the cause seemed stalemated since the legislature would not change the rules and the Baptists were reluctant to appeal to the king, given how unpatriotic that would seem. The same year, though, saw the Boston Tea Party, and in 1774 the First Continental Congress met to deal with the growing crisis. Backus made the Baptists appeal to Congress. Congress was not able to respond immediately, but Backuss efforts helped put religious liberty at the center of the goals of the Revolution. The Baptists supported the Revolution as it advanced, and Backus had greater success when it came time to form the new state governments. Backus worked hard behind the scenes of the Massachusetts constitutional convention in 1779 to insure the protection of religious liberty. The final version did protect individuals right to their own beliefs but still allowed for religious taxation, and so the fight continued. It lasted beyond Backuss death in 1806, and the final dismantling of this system came only in 1833. Despite this delay, Backuss defense of religious freedom and the separation of church and state was crucial during the formation of the new nation. Only Thomas Jefferson had a comparable influence on this issue.

Baptists during War. The Baptists were the main beneficiaries of the revivals that took place during the war years in New England. From 1778 to 1782 a revival called the New Light Stir replayed the emotions of the Great Awakening across the mountainous terrain of the Northern frontier areas. It was fueled by the uncertainty and social disruption of the war. People in the area were finding it difficult to cope with these problems without the help of religion, and churches were only poorly supported in this sparsely settled land. Baptists tried to fill the gap. The Warren Association sent four missionaries north in 1778 in response to a request from Baptist elder Caleb Blood of New Hampshire. Their success prompted four more to arrive in 1779, and by 1780 the Baptists had six new churches along the northern reaches of the Connecticut River and informal meetings in at least a dozen other towns. Even further north Baptist itinerant minister Samuel Shepard reported that some hundreds of souls are hopefully converted. The years 1780 and 1781 saw record numbers of baptisms in the churches joined in the Warren Association, which nearly doubled its membership in these two years, as it forged one of the most successful domestic missionary efforts ever pursued. As early as June 1780 a new association formed in Shaftesbury, Vermont, to provide structure and moral guidance to the new frontier churches. Before 1778 New England Baptists had founded a total of fifty-three churches; thirty-six more emerged from 1778 to 1782, indicating the power of this revival movement, and the appeal of Baptist thought and practice, especially on the frontier.


Roman Catholics accounted for fewer than thirty-five thousand of the roughly four million people living in the former colonies at the end of the War for Independence. It was not until 1790 that an American bishop was appointed and the church began a period of growth that would make it the largest single religious group in the United States by the time of the Civil War. Despite their small numbers, Catholics had a large role to play in the emerging American culture, even if that role was not exactly welcome. Prejudice against Catholics was strong in colonial America. In part this was because of the old rivalry between all Protestants and the Roman church they broke away from. Many American Protestants, especially those in New England, were descendants of Puritan settlers who had a special animosity toward Catholics. To the Puritans the Catholics stood for the elaborate religious ceremonies and the hierarchy of bishops that had been at the heart of their original quarrel with other English Protestants and had motivated their move to America. Sermons denouncing the Pope were a staple of Puritan literature despite the lack of any real threat to American Protestantism from Catholicism in this period. Nevertheless fears about Catholics came to the forefront several times in the revolutionary era.

In 1756, during the Seven Years War, 454 French Canadian Catholics arrived in Philadelphia. They were part of a group of 6,000 Catholics who had been forced to move from their homes in eastern Canada by the British, who were trying to break up potential French allies. Their arrival caused an uproar in Pennsylvania, still reeling from Frances devastating victory over General Braddock at Fort Duquesne, near present-day Pittsburgh, a few months earlier. The colony quickly filled with rumors of popish plots to seize power. A special census of Catholics in the colony revealed only around 1,300 potential enemies, but it did not alleviate fears. Only the Quaker dominance of the legislature kept restrictions on Catholic religious practices from being enacted. Tensions flared again in 1774, when Parliament passed the Quebec Act that guaranteed religious freedom for Catholics in Canada. The Continental Congress quickly condemned this act in the Suffolk Resolves of September 1774. Anti-Catholicism was in the press as well. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, later the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, used letters in the Maryland Gazette in 1773 to mount a defense of Catholics ability to be true patriots, against attacks by Daniel Dulany, an ally of the unpopular royal governor. There were bad feelings in the army too. George Washington intervened in 1775 to stop the troops from burning the Pope in effigy as part of a traditional Guy Fawkes Day celebration. Still hoping that the Canadians would join the American fight, he said, To be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused.

Source: John Tracy Ellis, American Catholicism, second edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), pp. 2840.

Southern Baptists. Baptists grew even more dramatically in the Southern colonies in the revolutionary period. Preachers from New England helped spread the Baptist principles they had just embraced as they traveled through the Chesapeake Bay colonies during and after the Great Awakening. Shubael Stearns was one such person, heading south from Connecticut in 1754 and founding six churches in northern North Carolina. In 1758 they associated together in the Sandy Creek Association. Stearns and his fellow itinerants aggressively promoted their beliefs along the coast and into the backcountry. In newly settled areas, with immigrant populations, they offered discipline and a sense of belonging through conversion and baptism. That sense of orderliness was comforting to many, especially since it was attuned to life in these areas. Baptists did not value the trappings of more-formal religion, and they had egalitarian principles, such as allowing lay preaching, that appealed to men and women trying to make new lives for themselves far from established towns. Baptists also innovated to maintain this appeal. They developed new rituals, such as laying hands on the sick and washing each others feet, that were based in the Bible and also emphasized the interdependence of their members. Baptists grew steadily, as small groups of neighboring families were converted by itinerants. The first Virginia church came in 1760, and they moved north of the James River into more-settled parts of the Tidewater area in 1767. Between then and 1774 fifty new churches formed, as Baptists took the lead from Presbyterians as the religion of the evangelical South.

Conflict with Anglicans. Baptist growth in the South was also encouraged by the weakness of the Anglican Church there. It was much less able than New England Congregationalism to resist the challenge presented by the Baptists. Given the few Anglican ministers available, for example, the Baptist practice of lay preaching was much easier to promote. Baptists offered an alternative to an establishment that was often absent, and in many places were the first religious authorities on the scene. They were not afraid to explicitly reject the restrictions the colonies tried to place on them. They failed to apply for preaching licenses, and they freely attacked the Anglican ministry as immoral and ineffective. They were often jailed for disturbing the peace in these ways, although this hardly affected their popularity. Aside from the formal challenges Baptists presented to Southern laws on religion, they offered a broader cultural challenge as well. The statutes were also fiercely resisted by Anglicans and their gentry allies. As Baptists gained strength during the 1760s, they began to be more critical of the gentry lifestyle. They considered the dancing, gambling, and horse racing that was the basis of polite Southern society to be immoral. These activities, once the signs of social order, came to be seen as disorderly. Baptist preaching focused on a new kind of order, one based on the moral rules contained in the Bible. Many people came to prefer this kind of order, especially as the political challenges of the Revolution began to emerge. Then, Anglican gentry were associated with the immorality of British imperial rule while the Baptists seemed to stand for the republican virtue that was the basis of the new nations existence. The end result was that the Baptist challenge to Anglican religious authority came to be part of a larger effort to establish a more open society, with more opportunities for people from lower social levels to have important public roles to play. Just as the uneducated preacher was a valued member of the Baptist order despite his lack of a college degree or training in genteel manners, so could every farmer be a valued republican citizen. The logic behind Baptist beliefs ultimately would find its parallel in the democratic society that developed in the early nineteenth century and in the antislavery movement that led up to the Civil War.

Methodist Rivals. Baptists prevailed against an established church that was further weakened by a revival movement that emerged from within. This was the Methodist movement, and by the 1770s Methodists were rivals of the Baptists as well. Although both groups shared an emphasis on conversion through emotional preaching and ecstatic experience, there were important differences between them that over time let them appeal to somewhat different groups. The Baptists never left the path of strict Calvinism, and always adhered to the doctrine of Gods election of the saints and the inability to earn ones salvation. The Methodists placed more stress on behavior and free will. They emphasized the discipline of a godly life, a factor appealing to the slowly emerging middle class, with their need for thrift and industriousness. Even more important, Methodists were centrally organized. While Baptists expanded through individual missionary efforts sponsored by one or a few churches, the Methodists arranged for itinerant ministers to cover the backcountry in an orderly way. This systematic recruiting effort brought thousands into their meetings, and laid the basis for the huge revival meetings on the frontier in the 1790s and early 1800s. Baptists did not lose their appeal by not following these methods. They always remained true to the ideal of the independent congregation. After the end of the Revolution, with egalitarianism sweeping the country and the beginnings of a more democratic society, this form of organization had tremendous appeal to many people. As the new nation moved west, Baptists and Methodists together led the way to founding a godly nation.


Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, 17401790 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982);

Donald Mathews, Religion in the Old South (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977);

William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Pietistic Tradition (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967).

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Colgate, William (Bill Colgate)

Colgate, William (Bill Colgate)



Actor and voice performer.


Television Appearances; Series:

Voice of Mr. Mole, a recurring role, Franklin (animated), Nickelodeon, between 1997 and 2004.

Pecola, 2001.

Multiple roles, Little People: Big Discoveries (animated), 2002.

Voice of Apollis, Power Stone, 2002.

Voice of Mr. Dickenson, Bakuten shoot beyblade (animated; also known as Beyblade, Beyblade G Revolution, and Beyblade V-Force), Fox Kids Channel, 2002-2004, then Toon Disney, 2004-2005.

Voice, Jane and the Dragon (animated), 2006.

Voice of Vector, Skyland, 2006.

Television Appearances; Movies:

OPP officer, The Last Season, CBC, 1986.

(As Bill Colgate) Bluffing It, ABC, 1987.

Maynard, Split Images, 1992.

Charlie, Bonds of Love, CBS, 1993.

Jim Sharp, Gregory K (also known as Gregory K: A Place to Be and Switching Parents), ABC, 1993.

Red, Spenser: Ceremony, Lifetime, 1993.

Isaac Bunnel, Mary Silliman's War (also known as The Way of Duty and L'appel du devoir), Lifetime, 1994.

Caseworker, Hidden in America, Showtime, 1996.

Reverend Hunter, White Lies, CBC, 1998.

Svenson, Pretend You Don't See Her (also known as Mary Higgins Clark's "Pretend You Don't See Her" and Mary Higgins Clark: Ni vue ni connue), PAX, 2002.

Mitch Martin, Crossed Over (also known as Destins croises), CBS, 2002.

Dr. Goldberg, Behind the Red Door, Showtime, 2003.

Clayton, Brave New Girl, ABC, 2004.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Dr. Seawell, Thanks of a Grateful Nation (also known as The Gulf War), Showtime, 1998.

Richard Nixon, Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot, NBC, 2001.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Lieutenant Askew, "If the Shoe Fits," Alfred Hitchcock Presents, USA Network, 1987.

"Domestic Spirits," Diamonds, CBC, 1987.

Glenn Laxer, "The Waiting Chair," Street Legal, CBC, 1988.

Danny Cox, "Pressure," E.N.G., Lifetime, 1992.

Jim Anderson, "Hunters," Forever Knight (also known as Nick Knight—Der vampircop), CBS, 1992.

Ratcliffe, "Steve Sessler," Top Cops, 1992.

Sheriff Jenkins, "The Hit," Counterstrike (also known as Force de frappe), 1993.

Sanford Jones, "Stark in Love," The Hidden Room, 1993.

Professor Perry, "Cave Man," Tales from the Cryptkeeper (also known as New Tales from the Cryptkeeper), 1993.

Staff Sergeant Dietrich, "Fit Punishment," Street Legal, CBC, 1993.

Larry Briggs, "In the Beginning," The Mighty Jungle, The Family Channel, 1994.

Edward Feldstone, "Nanno," RoboCop (also known as RoboCop: The Series), syndicated, 1994.

Josef, "Language of the Heart," Picture Windows, Showtime, 1995.

Voice, "The Mystery of the Stone Circle/The Big Apple Christmas Caper/Who's Too Scared to Masquerade?," The Busy World of Richard Scarry, 1996.

Bartender, "Escape," Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, 1996.

Shadowy man, "Brainwash," La Femme Nikita (also known as Nikita), USA Network, 1997.

Voice of Gaston, Anatole, CBS, 1998.

George Hall, "Thank You Very Much," Relic Hunter (also known as Relic Hunter—Die schatzjaegerin and Sydney Fox l'aventuriere), syndicated, 1999.

(As Bill Colgate) Superintendent, "Heroes: Part 1," Blue Murder (also known as En quete de preuves), 2001.

(As Bill Colgate) Nick Jabbarian, "Missing Persons," Blue Murder (also known as En quete de preuves), 2001.

Jamie Vallente, "Our Lady of Chestnut Street/It's All in Your Mind Control," The 5th Quadrant, 2002.

(As Bill Colgate) Voice of Johnny B. Dead, "Warren's Nightmare," Monster by Mistake, 2003.

Detective, "Vanishing Point," Odyssey 5, 2003.

Charles Wiley, "Political Agenda," Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (also known as Sue Thomas, l'oeil du FBI), PAX, 2004.

Israel Hands, "The Not-So-Jolly Roger," Time Warp Trio (animated), 2005.

"Patient X," 1-800-Missing (also known as Missing and Porte disparu), 2005.

Janitor, "Ready for Love," The Jon Dore Show, 2007.

Television Appearances; Other:

Bob, Shania: A Life in Eight Albums (also known as Shania—Une vie en huit albums), 2005.

Chet Greenfield, Warehouse 13, 2008.

Film Appearances:

(AS Bill Colgate) Gem club gambler, The Big Town, Columbia, 1987.

Jimmy, Landslide, Samuel Goldwyn, 1992.

Statistician, Searching for Bobby Fischer (also known as Innocent Moves), Paramount, 1993.

Voice of pilot, Pushing Tin (also known as Turbulenzen-und andere katastrophen), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1999.

Tom Peterman, Fall (also known as Fall: The Price of Silence), Annex Entertainment, 2000.

Mr. Sergei, White Knuckles, Tulchin Entertainment, 2004.

Armitage, The Last Hit Man, Peace Arch Releasing, 2008.



(As Bill Colgate) Voice, Far from Home: Canada and the Great War—Sam's Army (documentary), National Film Board of Canada, 1999.

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Origins. Roger Williams and his fellow refugees from Puritan Massachusetts formed what is generally called the first Baptist church in America in 1639. They baptized each other by immersion after each had undergone a conversion experience. They came by their belief in adult baptism and separation of church and state on their own and were not influenced by the English and Welsh Baptists that had emerged from the English Reformation.

Variations. General Baptists, who believed in free will, emigrated from England, as did Particular Baptists from Wales, who believed in predestination. Some Puritan congregations came to believe in adult baptism and proclaimed themselves as Baptists. General (or Six Principles) Baptists were strongest in Rhode Island and formed a Rhode Island Yearly Meeting in early 1700 to serve as an advisory body to those churches. In 1701 the Particular Baptists formed the Philadelphia Baptist Association, which consisted primarily of Welsh Baptists in the area. They worked closely with the Presbyterians, whose beliefs on predestination and an educated clergy comported with their own. The Philadelphia Baptist Association soon attracted other newly organized churches in Virginia and North Carolina, many of which were composed of General Baptists from England, who modified their practices and beliefs to better conform to the Association. Later they changed their name to Regular

Baptists to distinguish themselves from the evangelical Baptists spawned by the Great Awakening.

Great Awakening. Baptist congregations remained small and weak until the Great Awakening when conversion came to be viewed as the decisive Christian experience, leading many to reject the baptism of infants too young to have undergone conversion. The revivalists also protested against an educated ministry and a tax-supported clergy, which hit a responsive cord in New England, Virginia, and other areas with established churches. In New England, New Light members separated from their congregations and formed voluntary churches which entered into the Baptist fold, where they could continue their emphasis on revivalism. The most influential leader in this region was Isaac Backus, who was converted in 1741 and launched a half-century of service as a pastor, evangelist, and historian in the cause of Baptists and religious freedom. These efforts bore fruit throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as itinerant evangelicals spread their message southward.


Jon Butler, Power, Authority, and the Origins of American Denominational Order: The English Churches in the Delaware Valley, 16801730 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1978);

Robert G. Horbert, A History of the Baptists (Philadelphia: Judson, 1950);

Norman H. Maring, Baptists in New Jersey: A Study in Transition (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson, 1964);

William McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 16301833: The Baptists and Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).

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baptists formed one of the main protestant dissenting groups, holding that baptism should be undertaken by adults who could understand the ceremony and its significance, and that it should involve total immersion in water. These views may have been inherited from the 16th-cent. anabaptists, but baptists managed to shed the odium which had attached to the earlier group. The first baptist community was established in London in 1612 and the movement spread rapidly, in Britain and in the American colonies. The writings of John Bunyan in the Restoration period gained for baptists widespread respect. They did little more than maintain their numbers in early Hanoverian England but in the early 19th cent. expanded greatly and by 1851 had more than 2,700 congregations in England and Wales. Of these the large majority were Particular Baptists, who had retained a Calvinist outlook, as against the General Baptists who had moved towards unitarianism. Baptist churches and educational institutions are extremely strong in the United States.

J. A. Cannon

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Colgate, William

William Colgate (kōl´gāt), 1783–1857, American manufacturer and philanthropist, b. England. Arriving (1795) as a youth in the United States, Colgate learned candlemaking in Baltimore and New York. He established (1806) a tallow factory in New York, later engaging in soapmaking. In 1847 he moved his factory to Jersey City and by 1850 began producing fancy soaps and toilet preparations. He helped organize several Bible societies, including the American Bible Society (1816), and contributed amply to the institution later called Colgate Univ.

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