Who Was Sam Adams?

Updated on September 9, 2019
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New World history is a rich field that is constantly being analyzed for new material. The complexity of these tales never fails to amaze me.

Samuel Adams Beer

Even though Sam Adams went bankrupt as a beermaker, the Revolutionary hero is today portrayed on a variety of popular brews
Even though Sam Adams went bankrupt as a beermaker, the Revolutionary hero is today portrayed on a variety of popular brews

Samuel Adams

John Adams, second president of the United States, once stated that Samuel Adams "tempered a wedge of steel to split the knot of lignum vitae” that bound America to Britain.

Today, thanks to the 20th century activities of a Massachusetts beer brewer, the name of Sam Adams is now a household word. However, during his lifetime, the Boston merchant and beermaker was often eclipsed by the two other Adams's, John and Quincy, a father and son team, who would go on to become the second and sixth presidents of the United States. Interesting enough, Sam Adams was second cousin to John Adams.

Samuel Adams

Portrait of Samuel Adams, a Colonial beermaker, who became Governor of Massachusetts
Portrait of Samuel Adams, a Colonial beermaker, who became Governor of Massachusetts

A Family Business Honors a Revolutionary Hero

Samuel Adams's father, the Deacon Samuel Adams was a multi-talented man. Besides being a man of the cloth, he was a justice of the peace, a selectman, and a member of the colonial legislature. He also ran a malting house, an important place in Colonial America, where barley was converted to a malted sugar that could be used to make beer. Before the revolution, Samuel Adams inherited the malting business from his father, ran it into the ground, yet still, became the symbol of the craft beer movement that flourished in Boston in the latter part of the 20th century.

Samuel Adamsa beer Products Today

Today, Samuel Adams gets his name on many different types of beer
Today, Samuel Adams gets his name on many different types of beer

A Sixth Generation Beermaker Undertakes a Risky Venture

"This crazy idea of starting a small-scale brewery was not his idea of success." Jim Koch talking about his father's opinion of starting the Boston Brewing Co.

Jim Koch, (pronounced cook, not coke) the founder of the Samuel Adams Brewery, became the sixth person in a long line of beer brewers to make the popular hops and barley drink. His father, Charles Koch, thought Jim was nuts to undertake a small beer business venture, but against all odds, Jim Koch succeeded and started a new American Revolution, one of the successful small-time operator.

The Koch beermaking tradition goes back to St. Louis in the 1860s, when Jim's great-great grandfather began making Louis Koch Lager. Incidently, in 1984, the same family recipe was employed to make the Samuel Adams Lager that is still enjoyed today. This so-called craft business has also made Jim Koch a billionaire.

A Lousy Tax Collector

Before Samuel Adams entered politics, he was a tax collector in Boston. While employed in this manner, Sam did not particularly enjoy taking other people's money. So in many cases, he actually did not collect the tax that he was supposed to. This created many problems for the political body that had hired Sam. Called the Boston Town Meeting, they eventually billed Samuel, who paid what he could from his own pocket.

Following his unsuccessful stint as a tax collector, Sam was elected to the Massachusetts Assembly, despite the financial problems he created as a tax collector. It was in this political position that Sam Adams came into his own as a fiery, political voice, opposing British rule in the American colonies.

Opposing the Stamp Act

The Stamp Act was imposed by Great Britain over the Colonies in 1765. It's intent was to raise revenue to pay for Britain's Seven Year War, but in reality, all the act did was to enrage the Colonists. As a Boston Assemblyman, Samuel Adams became one of the most outspoken critics of the tax. Even though the Stamp Act was repealed the next year, Britain was not finished with trying to collect taxes in America.

A Lost Treasure of the Founding Fathers

The Sons of Liberty and More

The Sons of Liberty began in Boston after the Stamp Act was proposed. During this time of rising dissent, small groups of men from the city of Boston began to meet outdoors in public places, in taverns and in private.homes to express their collective disapproval of the Stamp Act.

Eventually, the groups grew larger and took to burning effigies of city officials, responsible for collecting the tax. Andrew Oliver was the most common target. In the worst incident a raucous mob, broke the windows to his house and busted into his wine cellar, where they liberated generous amounts of vino.

The Stamp Act was repealed, but the meetings and political discussions continued. All during this time, Samuel Adams was often the most visible member of this organization, due mainly to the blistering editorials he wrote for local newspapers.

The Boston Tea Party

During the Boston Tea Party, dissidents from the city of Boston boarded a cargo ship and tossed all the tea into the Boston harbor.
During the Boston Tea Party, dissidents from the city of Boston boarded a cargo ship and tossed all the tea into the Boston harbor.

The Tea Act Really Gets Things Going

If the Stamp Act was bothersome to the residents of Atlantic Seaboard, then the Tea Act of 1773 was incendiary. In the fall of 1773, tea shipments to the Colonies had already been blocked in New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, when a few Boston merchants attempted to import several shiploads of the popular beverage. The result of such an action was the Boston Tea Party, whereabouts several dozen protesters, including Samuel Adams, boarded the ships and dumped all the tea in the harbor. This action by the so-called "Sons of Liberty" helped push the Colonies to the brink of war.

Samuel Adams Speaks To the Continental Congress

Adams Gets a Reprieve from Troublemaking and Rebelrousing

In 1774, Samuel Adams was elected as a Massachusetts delegate to the First Continental Congress. This was a major lifestyle change for Samuel, for it now meant that the Boston ruffian would have to travel to Philadelphia and sit down with the likes of many well-refined New World gentlemen and draft a set of laws to govern the proposed new nation.

As part of the Second Continental Congress, Samuel Adams signed the Declaration of Independence, along with 55 others. But as fate would have it, Samuel Adams did not participate directly in the Revolutionary War, as a fighter. Instead he returned to the Bay Colony, where he served as a state senator, lieutenant governor and eventually governor.


The American Revolution, Samuel Adams, http://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/samuel-adams

Samuel Adams (Sr.) Heritage, http://www.samuel-adams-heritage.com/biography/family.html

The Sudsy History of Samuel Adams, http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/the-sudsy-history-of-samuel-adams

Jim Koch Learns He's a Billionaire, https://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/27/sam-adams-founder-jim-koch-describes-the-moment-he-found-out-he-was-a-billionaire.html

Sons of Liberty, https://www.bostonteapartyship.com/sons-of-liberty

5 Myths About Samuel Adams, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/five-big-myths-about-samuel-adams-in-the-history-channel-series

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Harry Nielsen


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