Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll, the great, progressive orator of the late 19th century, was born August 11, 1833 at 61 Main Street in Dresden, New York. . That’s 180 years ago this month. By chance I happened to be in the Dresden area on that August 11th weekend. Thanks to a timely tip from the Ingersoll Oratory Contest held in June, I knew of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden and stopped by to perused the collection of Ingersoll memorabilia and literature.
It gave some time to reflect on the life of this great human being who had so much to say on politics, the arts, science, and the intrusions of religion into these and other aspects of American life. I was familiar with many of Bob's writings, but less so on the details of his life in the Midwest, his wife and family and some famous people touched by Ingersoll's oratory - Walt Whitman, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison and Mark Twain. On Ingersoll death of heart failure in July of 1899 at the age of 65 Mark Twain wrote the following to Ingersoll’s niece:
“Except for my daughter’s, I have not grieved for any death as I have grieved for his.”
If you are ever in the Finger Lakes area of NY, I recommend a stop by for a chance to walk with an exceptional mind. There is also a video to see and it is also online.
I learned a bit of the history and effort to save this house as a museum and the story is told in the museum this way:
The house has been restored on three occasions. It was first restored in 1921 by a blue-ribbon committee whose members included Thomas Edison and Edgar Lee Masters. It operated as a community center until the Great Depression. It was restored in 1954 by atheist activist Joseph Lewis, and operated as a museum until the mid-1960s. It was near collapse when it was purchased in 1986 by the Council for Secular Humanism. After raising and spending more than $250,000, the Council rehabilitated the birthplace and in 1993, opened it as a museum. It is open weekends each summer and fall.
Thank you. Council for Secular Humanism and director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum Tom Flynn. Tom, BTW, will the speaker at the WASH MDC chapter meeting Dec. 14th which will be held at the Rockville library (2-4).
While you are in the area you might organize some of your tine along the Freethought Trail of update NY to peruse as you travel. This is a collection of locations in West-Central New York such as the Elmira home of Mark Twain, important to the history of freethought.
The Freethought Trail website is a project of the , a nonprofit educational organization based in Amherst, New York and we have (again) the Council’s Tom Flynn , along with Sally Roesch Wagner of the to thank for it.
From the museum site and
Photo by Gary Berg-Cross