Friday, June 30, 2017

Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum

In my last post, I described visiting a couple sites on a self-directed tour of 'Burned-over District' sites of Western New York State.  Essentially a couple Mormon-run museums last Saturday morning as I made my way to the museum I really wanted to visit -- The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, NY.

If you think New York means only New York City -- you need to come visit.  

Upstate New York Barn

There is just so much farm land.

Fields of Upstate New York

Eventually, I got from Rochester through Palmyra (See the previous post) to Dresden (south of Geneva) on the shore one of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake.

This is an attraction you need to seek out, not something you'd just stumble upon.

I recommend parking at the Dresden Post Office and walk over.

Dresden, NY Post Office

Across the street to...

Birthplace of Robert Ingersoll

Robert Ingersoll Birthplace Museum

The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum is a small place.  He only lived here for four months, but it is the only building associated with Ingersoll that is still in existence.

They are open only on the weekends, noon-5pm during the summer, so plan ahead.  I got there a little after 1 pm and was the first visitor for the day.  And the staffer said attendance is always on the slow side unless they get a tour bus.  I told her about my self-guided 'Burned-over District' tour and she told me about the Freethought Trail of which this was the first stop.  This real tour trail looks fantastic -- it includes sites related to, well everything good about the 19th century: AbolitionBirth ControlFreethought / Atheism / Secular HumanismScientific Knowledge, and Woman’s Rights / Suffrage.  I'll definitely be visiting more sites on this trail the next time I visit the Rochester area.

In many ways, this is a traditional museum with plenty of placards that describe what you are seeing.

Interior view of Ingersoll Museum

Robert Ingersoll Birth room


There is a TV that plays a Center for Inquiry produced 15 minute video about the life of Robert Ingersoll (also on youtube).  As the only visitor, the staffer just turned it up loud and I could hear it walking around the displays.

Here are some of the items on display:

Christian or Sceptic - The Tug of War

Manuscript of Ingersoll's "Ghosts" lecture

"Some Mistakes of Moses" translated into Yiddish

Handmade German translation of Ingersoll's elegy for this brother Ebon

Robert Ingersoll w/ grandchildren

If you don't know who Ingersoll was -- do yourself a favor and read up on this lost genius.  I suggest "Ingersoll the Magnificent" by Joseph Lewis or "The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought" by Susan Jacoby.  If you are lazy pick up this audio CD and give a listen to a couple of his lectures presented by a modern actor.  With small exceptions, his lectures hold up remarkably well.   You can't fault him for thinking the universe was steady-state...  Buy it here: 2-CD Set: Lectures by Ingersoll

Robert Green Ingersoll - "About the Holy Bible" & "Why Am I Agnostic"

Part of the reason why popular culture has forgotten about this incredibly influential lecturer is he didn't publish any books nor create any sort of foundation to carry on his legacy.  We are all poorer for this.

"No good God could enjoy himself in heaven with millions of his poor, helpless mistakes in hell"

See all my photos from the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum and check out my write-up of visiting some LDS siteson in the same area.

Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum

Burned-over District Museum self-tour

Last week I was in Rochester, NY visiting my folks and got to thinking how I grew up right in the middle of the 'Burned-over District' and it was not covered in the public schools. Sure, there was some discussion of the "Second Great Awakening", but not in making the local connection.

Heading back home on Saturday I decided to do my own 'Burned-over District Museum self-tour'

First Stop: Joseph Smith Family Farm and Sacred Grove

Joseph Smith Farm & Sacred Grove

This is where the founder of the Mormons / LDS lived when he claimed to have a visit from the Angel Moroni who lead him to golden tablets that he later "translated" with the help of 'seer stones' (that even have names!)

The first stop is the Welcome Center where they had a married couple be my tour guides - "Sister Rowley" and her husband "Elder Rowley".  Of course Elder for the man and Sister for the woman.

Welcome Center

They did some probing to see how familiar I was with the LDS and what my interests were. The off to the first stop --

Joseph Smith family farmhouse

This structure is actually a reproduction on the same location of the original.  It was built to the 1800s building design and the interior was based on the diary of Emma Smith.

Back of the Joseph Smith family farm

The back view shows the "very same door that Joseph Smith looked out and saw the Angel Moroni"

Unlike most museum reproductions where are not description cards around and all information is provided by the tour guides.

See the rest of the images here: Burned-over District self-tour (20160724)

Burned-over District self-tour (20160724)

The next stop was the "Grandin Print Shop", where the Book of Mormon was first published.

Grandin Print Shop

This is also now a Mormon owned location and is in downtown Palmyra.  Unlike the Smith Farm, this one is more museum-like with some more descriptions of the objects on display.  They also assigned me a LDS tour guide.

20170624-2017-06-24 11.08.36

While the original Grandin Print Shop was only one section of the building, the LDS Church owns most of the building.

This is the business section of the print shop on the first floor where you can see example of what kinds of books were on sale.  Most books had the cheaper paper binding like on these top shelves.

Example of 1800s book store

They have a clipping of the first advertisement for the Book of Mormon.  The guide said it is the from the first page of the BoM. I said it was smart using that, why take the effort to write a separate copy just for the advertisement.  He reminded me that Joseph Smith didn't write it, but translated the word of God. I didn't mention that it says "Author and Proprietor Joseph Smith" not "translator". Ok. Whatever.

First Ad for Book of Mormon

One of the few original items of historical note is this 1830 first edition of the Book of Mormon.  The guide said there are 700-800 copies still in existence (out of the original run of 3000).

First Edition Book of Mormon

At this point, the tour guide asked me what my religion was. "Atheist." To which he said I was a "very curious person".  I took it not as "weird" but "inquiring and interested in stuff" since we were having a great talk about history up to this point.

The second floor is a reproduction of the working print shop. It is a little hard to see in the photo below, but on the left is where the print was set.   On the right are completed broadsheet paper used to print 16 pages at a time (8 each side)

Panorama of the 2nd floor print shop

The third floor was primarily displays of the LDS theology related displays.  I asked the tour guide about just where all the Lamanite / Nephite history took place.  When I was growing up it was assumed to take place in Western New York State, but lately it appears to be thought to be somewhere in Mesoamerica.  The was diplomatic and said The Church doesn't have an official view and research continues.  We agreed in many ways it doesn't really matter where it was since it was theological.  (And because it didn't really happen)

As mentioned before see all my photos here: Burned-over District self-tour (20160724)

As a bit of a palate cleanser, I then headed to Dresden, NY on Lake Geneva to visit the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Podcasts I listen to

This week I'm remote teleworking this week in Upstate New York and listened to a bunch of them during the long drive from NH.

Below are a list of my recommended podcasts.


* MSNBC Rachel Maddow (audio)
* NPR's On the Media

* Best of the Left Podcast

* Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean » Podcast

* NPR Programs Fresh Air Podcast

* Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

* StarTalk Radio

* Political Wire Podcast

* History of Philosophy

* Friendly Atheist Podcast

* TheThinkingAtheist

* The Majority Report with Sam Seder

* Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter

* Reveal

* Open Source with Christopher Lydon

* Snap Judgment

* The Dave and Gunnar Show

* Open Source Security Podcast
* Hanselminutes

* Welcome to Night Vale
* Two Brews

* Alice Isn't Dead
* BeyondPod Blog

* Reasonable Doubts Podcast

* Science Friday Audio Podcast

* Waking Up with Sam Harris

* The New Stack Makers
* The New Stack Analysts
* The New Stack @ Scale

* The Herd Mentality

* Word of Mouth

* WBUR-FM: On Point with Tom Ashbrook | Radio Broadcast Podcast

* UC Classics Ancient World Podcasts

* The Godless Spellchecker Podcast

* Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria

* The Wonder-full Podcast

* Software Engineering Daily

* Good Fortune - The Immoderate Stoic

* Outside/In

* Syscast: talking linux, open source, web development and system administration (DevOps)
* Seneca Letters From a Stoic Podcast: Stoicism | Philosophy | Business

* Seneca

* Stoicism by STOCK, St. George William Joseph

* The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast

* Pod Save America

* Pod Save the World