Those of you who might be interested in hearing about the leader of the golden age of the Free Thought movement in the U.S. (late 1800’s), please read on.
We decided to go to Dresden NY today, located on the west shore of Seneca Lake, to visit the Robert G. Ingersoll Birthplace Museum which was recommended to us by our CNY Humanist Association. Ingersoll (1833-1899) was an orator, attorney, Union Army colonel and freethinker. He was the most celebrated orator of The Gilded Age and the most remarkable American most people have never heard of.
In a time before radio or television, audiences numbering in the thousands crowded auditoriums to hear him speak. His admirers included Walt Whitman, Thomas Edison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass and many other luminaries of his day. His personal crusade to free people from shackles of all kinds (mental, physical, social, etc.) led him to be an outspoken champion for freedom from religious dogma and superstition.
He lectured on numerous topics including women’s rights, politics, literature, evolution, religion, science and the rights of the oppressed. With the change in times and the rise of religious fundamentalism, Ingersoll’s name and work were suppressed.
Fortunately, today’s freethinkers are rediscovering and reclaiming the works of this extraordinary intellectual giant.
Ingersoll was born in this Dresden NY house but only lived there for 3 months. His father was a Presbyterian minister who was stern, uncompromising, and preached Abolitionist sermons so fiery that the family moved around a lot since the congregations found his father’s preaching excessive. Robert would make his name as a resident of Peoria IL, Washington DC and New York City. Yet this house in Dresden remains the only residence associated with Ingersoll that is open to the public as a memorial to him and his message.
It’s a small museum but the books in the gift shop are excellent on Ingersoll and the subject of secular humanism. They are usually bought up very quickly especially if a large tour group visits.
I asked the museum lady how well received the museum is by the residents in the area, since they seem to be very conservative and very religious (we were in a few stores in the general area, stores like Ollie’s, where gun books, bibles, and religious thought books were prevalent). She said some locals do come around once in a while out of curiosity to argue with the director of the museum but mostly, people from out of the area come and visit who are familiar with Ingersoll and the free thought movement.
“THE TIME TO BE HAPPY IS NOW. THE PLACE TO BE HAPPY IS HERE.”
NO GODS. NO MASTERS. ROBERT GREEN INGERSOLL
Thanks to CNY Humanists member Christine Klik-Zalewski for contributing this review!