Jacob Abbott was born at Hallowell, Maine, on November 14, 1803. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1820; studied at Andover Theological Seminary in 1821, 1822, and 1824; was tutor in 1824-1825, and from 1825 to 1829 was professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Amherst College; was licensed to preach by the Hampshire Association in 1826; founded the Mount Vernon School for young ladies in Boston in 1829, and was principal of it in 1829-1833; was pastor of Eliot Congregational Church (which he founded), at Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1834-1835; and was, with his brothers, a founder, and in 1843-1851 a principal of Abbott's Institute, and in 1845--1848 of the Mount Vernon School for boys, in New York City.
He was a prolific author, writing juvenile stories, brief histories and biographies, and religious books for the general reader, and a few works in popular science. He died on the October 31, 1879 at Farmington, Maine, where he had spent part of his time since 1839, and where his brother Samuel Phillips Abbott founded in 1844 the Abbott School, popularly cailed "Little Blue." Jacob Abbott's "Rollo Books"--Rollo at Work, Rollo at Play, Rollo in Europe, etc. (28 vols.)--are the best known of his writings, having as their chief characters a representative boy and his associates. In them Abbott did for one or two generations of young American readers a service not unlike that performed earlier, in England and America, by the authors of Evenings at Home, Sandford and Merton, and the Parent's Assistant. Of his other writings (he produced more than two hundred volumes in all), the best are the Franconia Stories (10 vols.), twenty-two volumes of biographical histories in a series of thirty-two volumes (with his brother John S. C. Abbott), and the Young Christian,--all of which had enormous circulations.