Samuel H. Parker was born in 1781 in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire to Matthew Stanley Gibson Parker and Ann Rust. His son James Cutler Dunn Parker (1828-1916) was a teacher and superintendent of examinations at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Parker worked as a bookbinder in Boston, 1802-1811. In 1811 Parker bought the Boston Book Store from William Blagrove. The store sold books, as one might expect, including "several hundred books of vocal and instrumental music, and some sheet music for the piano, ... pianos and other musical wares, mending glues, concert and theater tickets, new sheet music, and works of fiction." Around 1809-1816 he and booksellers Edmund Munroe and David Francis ran a joint publishing firm: Munroe, Francis and Parker. Parker also published titles under his own imprint, utilizing Munroe & Francis as printers.
In 1815 Parker and others founded Boston's Handel and Haydn Society.
In addition to publishing, he ran a library with both circulating and non-circulating collections. As of 1815, "Parker's reading-room is opened from 9 in the morning till 9 at night, and contains all the Boston papers, some of the principal Southern papers and magazines, English reviews, &c. A large collection of music, and some beautiful drawings, are kept for loan: to be increased every opportunity." By 1818 Parker's circulating collection, known as the Boston Union Circulating Library or the Boston Circulating Library held some 7,000 volumes, the largest of its kind in town. As proprietor of the bookshop and library, Parker benefitted from the efforts of his forebears who had built the enterprise over decades—William Martin, Benjamin Guild, William P. Blake, William Pelham, William Blagrove.
Through the years Parker conducted his business activities from several successive addresses in Boston: 3 School Street (1811); 4 Cornhill (1815); 1 Water Street (ca.1817); 12 Cornhill (1818); 164 Washington Street (1825–1832); 10 School Street, 141 Washington Street, then 107 Washington Street (all in 1834); 135 Washington Street (1838). A fire in 1833 caused his move to new premises on School Street.