19th-Century Oration
ŠTed Schaar 2016

Leading by example

Another Ingersoll gem was published in Some Mistakes of Moses, a compilation of his lectures and speeches: "Why did he [Yahweh] fill the world with his own children, knowing that he would have to destroy them?  And why does this same God tell me how to raise my children when he had to drown his own?" 46

Lincoln speech

Given the much-heralded 1859
Abraham Lincoln stay at the Tallman house on North Jackson Street in Janesville, it was appropriate that Ingersoll give his speech on the Civil War president at the Myers.  A February 17, 1894 Gazette panel ad promoted his February 20 appearance.

In the speech, available online, Ingersoll recounts the characteristics and experiences of the Great Emancipator, just 56 when assassinated in 1865.  There are many powerful Ingersoll phrases and anecdotes, including one about Lincoln's experiences in New Orleans as a 22-year-old employee of a Mississippi River cargo boat:

"Among other places, they visited a slave market, where men and women were being sold at auction.  A young colored girl was on the block.  Lincoln heard the brutal words of the auctioneerthe savage remarks of bidders.  The scene filled his soul with indignation and horror. 

"Turning to his companions, he said, 'Boys, if I ever get a chance to hit slavery, by God, I'll hit it hard!'

"...Thirty-one years afterward the chance came, the oath was kept, and to four millions of slaves, of men, women, and children, was restored liberty, the jewel of the soul.

"In the history, in the fiction of the world, there is nothing more intensely dramatic than this.

"Lincoln held within his brain the grandest truths, and he held them as unconsciously, as easily, as naturally, as a waveless pool holds within its stainless breast a thousand stars."

Powerful oratory, a bit exaggerated—even florid—in the manner of the times (for a major dose, see Frank Lloyd Wright's Truth Against The World). Downtown Janesville on the upper end of Milwaukee Street with a cold, February evening outside, in the final decade of the nineteenth century.


Thomas DeWitt Talmadge, who also held forth from the Myers stage,  was a Christian clergyman renowned for scorching sermons.  A subsection of higherpraise.com titled "Greatest Preachers Profiles" proclaims:  “In 1869, he went to the Central Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, where he drew immense crowds because of his eloquence and his showmanship. His sermons were published weekly by a syndicate in over 3,000 newspapers.” 48

Another site, biblesupport.com, asserts, “...his speech was reminiscent of Shakespeare and Milton.” 

Talmadge, a crusader against sin
, was a believer in everlasting damnation: "’Oh, the insufferable pangs of hell!’ The lost soul will cry out: ‘I cannot stand this! I cannot stand this! Is there no way out?’ and the echo will answer: ‘No way out.’ And the soul will cry: ‘Is this forever?’ and the echo will answer: ‘Forever!’" 50

Eternal punishment for, at most, fewer than a dozen decades of innocent doubt? Of lack of faith in fallible human recordings of a deity's supposed rules?

At the very least it's fuel spent exorbitantly!

Tobacco targeted

Sometimes Talmadge focused on secular subjects as in the following comments about tobacco delivered at the Brooklyn Tabernacle:

"First of all, we must advise them to abstain from the use of tobacco because all the medical fraternity of the United States and Great Britain agree in ascribing to this habit terrific unhealth. The men whose life-time work is the study of the science of health say so, and shall I set up my opinion against theirs? Dr. Agnew, Dr. Olcott, Dr. Barnes, Dr. Rush, Dr. Mott, Dr. Harvey, Dr. Hosack—all the doctors, allopathic, homeopathic, hydropathic, eclectic, denounce the habit as a matter of unhealth. A distinguished physician declared he considered the use of tobacco caused seventy different styles of disease, and he says: 'Of all the cases of cancer in the mouth that have come under my observation, almost in every case it has been ascribed to tobacco.'"

Talmage offered this medical advice approximately 90 years before the 1964 US surgeon general's warning. 

Mark Twain

Twain’s world view was similar to Ingersoll’s:  “Man is a Religious Animal [capitalization Twain's]. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven....The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.” 51

A Tuesday, January 20, 1885, advertisement in the Gazette promoted the appearance of Twain and George W. Cable at the Myers that evening, "In readings from their own works." 

(Oddly the ad states. "Sale of seats will commence Saturday morning at 9 o'clock..."
52 which must mean the ad was reprinted from the previous week without updating.)

Cable, a novelist from New Orleans, was known for "encouraging racial equality and opposing Jim Crow" laws.

Ingersoll Lincoln speech ad
Public Domain Abraham Lincoln
Public domain.
Thomas DeWitt Talmadge
Thomas DeWitt Talmadge.
Public domain.

Mark Twain.
Mark Twain. Public domain.

George Washington Cable. Public domain.


Early Myers Attractions



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