RGI Museum Newsletter 2004



Sousa-Style March Unearthed

by Tom Flynn

In the heyday of John Phillip Sousa, just about any notable person, place, or object would sooner or later become the subject of a march. Marches were composed in honor of politicians, reformers, locomotives, even newspapers. Given Ingersoll’s renown – between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century he would be seen and heard by more Americans than any other human being – it’s rather surprising that there was never an Ingersoll March.

Guess what? There was. Museum supporter Martin Lifschultz presented the Ingersoll Committee with a genuine find – facsimile sheet music for a hitherto unknown 19th century grand march in honor of Ingersoll. The Ingersoll March (1882) was composed by George Schleiffarth (died 1921), a moderately successful John Phillip Sousa wanna-be. The U.S. Library of Congress lists 56 marches and other light popular compositions by Schleiffarth, plus another 11 he composed under the pseudonym George Maywood. The Ingersolia March is not listed among them. Nor is it described in any of the extant Ingersoll literature or in Gordon Stein’s bibliography.Robert G. Ingersoll: A Checklist (1969.

Published by Chicago’s National Music Company, the march’s title page conspicuously features a dedication to Robert J. Ingersoll, but there’s no disputing that the large gravure portrait below it depicts our Robert G. Ingersoll. Scored for piano, the march fills four pages of sheet music. The Ingersollia March won’t make anyone give up The Stars and Stripes Forever, but it’s a sprightly melody typical of the better 19th century Sousa imitators. The melody is packed with triplets (three-note phrases) to which an enterprising lyricist could easily have attached the word “In-ger-soll.” Alas, that never occurred: the published march has no lyrics.

Mobilizing the resources of the Ingersoll Committee, we laid plans for The Ingersolia March to be heard anew. Musicologist James Kurtz did a five-minute reference performance on piano. Calabasas, California, musician Robert Guillory is now in the process of orchestrating the march for multiple electronic synthesizers. The result will be a recording demonstrating how the march might sound if performed by a brass band or even a symphony orchestra.

We expect to receive the finished recording during the 2004 season. The next step will be to create a display of the sheet music at the Museum, flanked by a listening station where the piano and orchestrated versions can be heard. The sheet music and recordings will then be posted on the Museum website (check http://www.secularhumanism.org/ingersoll for a link later in the year). Finally, in 2005 the Museum orientation video will be re-edited to incorporate the march in its background music.

As always, the Robert Green Ingersoll Memorial Committee is indebted to our supporters and friends for bringing obscure or unknown Ingersoll materials to our attention – and to help us bring them back to life.

More Information Online

About American March Music


About George Schleiffarth


About George Maywood


Ingersoll Online Chronology Continues to Expand

by Doug Schiffer


Since last described in the Ingersoll Report 2 years ago (Vol. IX), the online Ingersoll Chronology Project has expanded substantially. At http://www.funygroup.org/Ingersoll, the Chronology is a website whose purpose is to bring together all known information on Ingersoll’s public life. I launched the Chronology in the spring of 2001; it now contains information on over 1280 lectures delivered by Ingersoll, 550 of them added in the last two years. In addition, the number of total events in Ingersoll’s life documented in the Chronology has more than doubled. These include newspaper interviews, as well as personal correspondence, travel events and political speeches.

Beyond simply listing events, the Chronology has new features that make visiting the website more interesting and fun. For example, there is now a “lectures on this day” feature that let you see every known lecture delivered on today’s date during every year of Ingersoll’s public life. You can also click on a link and the see the same for yesterday and tomorrow – or for any date in the year.

The page also displays three randomly selected period newspaper ads promoting Ingersoll lectures, randomly drawn from its collection of over 270 currently online. Every time you load the main page, you’ll get a new selection. Another new feature is the “Tours Table,” which displays information on about 100 different lecture tours that the Colonel made between 1876 and 1899.

People interested in particular questions about Ingersoll’s lecturing habits can find oodles of information on the Chronology statistics page. This page has the chronology broken down by several different categories. For example, there you can see events broken down by event type, state, year and lecture title. Clicking on links on the statistics page can show you the Chronology filtered for just a single type of selected event. The Lecture breakdown will let you see where and when Ingersoll delivered particular lectures, such as “The Gods” or “The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child.”

The Future of the Chronology

Immediate goals for the chronology include increasing the amount of live material online. When sufficient web storage can be located, I would like to post graphical images of all my source materials. This would let you read all of the press interviews and peruse contemporary newspaper coverage of most of the lectures now in the chronology. Images of Ingersoll’s letters to family, friends, and business partners could be made available as well. This would involve a substantial amount of storage space (estimated to be about 1 gigabyte). Individuals that would like to help fund the additional webspace – or who can donate such space – are invited to contact me at director@funygroup.org

Additions to the Chronology continue to be made. I welcome any corrections or additions that you can provide. I am particularly interested in finding someone from the Peoria, Illinois, area who could help me to improve coverage of Ingersoll’s early years as a lecturer (before 1879). All contributors will have their efforts cited on the web page, next to their contributions.

Online Museum, Freethought Trail Closer to Reality

by Tom Flynn

The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum is a small operation, with limited person-hours at its command. Sometimes that shows in the leisurely pace of our ancillary projects – but progress continues to be made year by year.

For several years now we’ve been talking about creating a virtual Museum tour online, so people unable to travel to Dresden, New York, can savor a Museum experience. Progress continues. We’ve created digital photographs of the complete museum interior and digital studio photographs of all of the principal artifacts. In addition, numerous clips of full-motion digital video have been made in and around the Museum – about a gigabyte of graphic and video files altogether. We are now awaiting completion of a global redesign of the Center for Inquiry and Council for Secular Humanism websites, after which work can begin on the “digital museum.”

Visitors to our current website will notice that we’ve added quite a few museum photos – just a sample of what’s waiting to go online once the redesigned website is ready to receive it.

Progress is more rapid on the Freethought Trail, our new unofficial tribute to the rich freethought and reform heritage of west-central New York State, where the Ingersoll Museum is located. During the 19th century the region within 100 miles or so of Dresden played much the same role that southern California would play in the 20th century. West central New York was a hotbed of social and political ferment, a home to reformers, rabble rousers, and even new religions. The Mormons at Palmyra and the Spiritualists at Lily Dale do a good job of showcasing their heritage; with the Freethought Trial we wanted to highlight people and sites – some well known, some very obscure – that reflect our nation’s under-appreciated freethought and reform heritage.

The Freethought Trial will be a literal (though unmarked) trail; armed with a map, a freethinker could probably visit all the sites over a summer weekend. Some of the sites are well known and feature museums or other interpretive centers; others are unmarked locations that are nonetheless of interest to those who know their story.

As this is written, we are in the process of collecting site photographs, directions, and hours of operation. Production of a Freethought Trail web page and brochure is anticipated during 2004.

What’s on the Freethought Trail?

In the list below, sites that include interpretive centers are marked with an asterisk (*).

Sites include:
► Rochester, home of suffragist Susan B. Anthony* and (briefly) anarchist Emma Goldman

► Corning, childhood home of birth control activist Margaret Sanger who heard an Ingersoll lecture in her teens;

► Dresden, birthplace of Robert Green Ingersoll*

► Elmira, site of Mark Twain’s grave, the octagon study in which Twain wrote much of his fiction, and a Twain statue and exhibit center*

► Watkins Glen, where in 1878 freethought publisher D.M. Bennett was arrested (he would be defended by Ingersoll)

► Ithaca, home of Andrew Dickson White, cofounder of the nation’s first secular university (Cornell) and author of the influential History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom*

 Seneca Falls, site of the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention and home of suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton*

► Syracuse, home of freethought activist C. D. B. Mills, father of suffragist Harriet May Mills

► Fayetteville, home of freethinker and suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage.


Journalist and historian Susan Jacoby praised the Ingersoll Museum in a 2001 article in The New York Times. Now she’s published Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, the definitive work on American irreligion. As would be expected, Robert Green Ingersoll is discussed at some length. Copies of Freethinkers (while supply lasts, autographed copies) will be for sale in the Gift Shop in 2004.

Emmett Fields of Bank of Wisdom has expanded and reprogrammed his Ingersoll CD-ROM. The second edition features the complete Dresden Edition and many other works – best of all, with Adobe Acrobat 6.0 it supports global search. For the first time you can search all 12 volumes of the Dresden Edition – or indeed, all of the numerous works on the disk – for a particular word or phrase. This powerful research tool will also debut in the Gift Shop in 2004.

Hours · 2004

The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum at 61 Main St., Dresden, N.Y. will be open from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day weekend through Hallowe’en (May 29 to October 31, 2004). Admission is only $1.00!