Henry Bergh

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Henry Bergh (August 29, 1811 – March 12, 1888) founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in April, 1866, three days after the first effective legislation against animal cruelty in the United States was passed into law by the New York State Legislature. Bergh also prompted the formation, in 1874, of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC).



Bergh studied at Columbia College in New York, New York, after which he worked in his father's shipyard. After the shipyard was sold, Bergh received a share of the inheritance and set forth on a lengthy journey throughout Western Europe with his young bride, Catherine Matilda Taylor.

Bergh was appointed to the American Legation in Russia by then President Abraham Lincoln.

In 1874, Bergh was approached by a Methodist missionary named Etta Wheeler, who sought help rescuing a child named Mary Ellen Wilson from her cruel abuser, Mary Connolly. After Mary Ellen's story was heard, and she was subsequently rescued through Bergh's efforts, other complaints came in to Bergh. In response, Bergh himself, along with Elbridge T. Gerry and John D. Wright, formed the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) in 1875. Over the coming years, other SPCC organizations were formed, such as the Massachusetts organization in 1888, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC). [1]

He died on March 12, 1888.[2]


In the spring of 2006 at Green-Wood Cemetery, while making preparations to honor Bergh, the ASPCA discovered that his wife was also in that mausoleum. On May 6, substantive ceremonies were held before a large audience which was allowed to bring their pets into the cemetery - including dogs, for the first time in over a century. The NYPD Emerald Society bagpipers and ASPCA HLE Agents were there also. After a walk to Bergh's tomb, the bas-relief statue was revealed that now rests in front. At the same time as these ceremonies, in the cemetery's large chapel building an exhibit was opened celebrating the history of the ASPCA and Henry Bergh.

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