Historic Ingersoll Museum to open May 23; Enters Its Sixteenth Season

For Immediate Release: May 13, 2009
Contact: Henry Huber, Assistant Director of Communications
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

Freethought Trail, Newly Installed High-Definition Video Launches Spring Tourist Season

The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, N.Y., kicks off its 16th season at noon Saturday, May 23. The museum tells the life story of Robert Green Ingersoll, nationally famed freethinker and agnostic orator who was born in Dresden in 1833.

New for the 2009 season is a professionally produced 14-1/2 minute orientation video produced in High Definition (HD) Video. Visitors will view the presentation on a 47” flat screen, featuring an image quality four and a half times sharper than regular broadcast television. This marks the first time an orientation video in HD has been presented at a historical attraction in the west-central New York region. The video was produced by Inquiry Media Productions, funded by a grant from James Hervey Johnson Charitable Educational Trust.

“The video is titled ‘Robert Green Ingersoll: The Most Remarkable American Most People Never Heard Of,’” commented Tom Flynn, director of the museum and editor of the secular humanist magazine Free Inquiry. “Ingersoll was probably the best-known and most controversial person in post-Civil War America, in part because he spent more than thirty straight years on the lecture circuit. Yet he’s almost forgotten today, and for one reason, because he challenged religious orthodoxy.”

2009’s tourism season also marks the premiere of the Freethought Trail, an informal historical trail featuring New York’s “hidden heritage” of emancipation and reform. The Trail brings together 47 visitable sites in Rochester, Elmira, Syracuse, and points in between. Trail sites range from museums to historical markers to unmarked locations whose hidden heritage may be known only to Freethought Trail users. Each site is described in words and photographs, and directions are provided from one Freethought Trail location to another, enabling visitors to plan their own self-guided tours along the Trail. The Freethought Trail’s newly redesigned Web site (www.freethought-trail.org) helps tourists plan the journey, allowing site goers the opportunity to navigate the trail by location, by name, by cause, and by type of site. In addition, Freethought Trail brochures will be distributed at tourist sites from Rochester to Syracuse and from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania line. The James Hervey Johnson Trust provided funding for the project.

“The Freethought Trail isn’t a formal tourist trail that attractions must join and pay a membership fee,” commented Flynn, who co-conceived the trail with historian Sally Roesch Wagner, director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville. “We’ve included any attraction, marked or unmarked, that we believe will interest visitors who appreciate the region’s history of radical reform. Some site’s managers may not be delighted to be included on the Trail. For that reason we emphasize that inclusion on the Freethought Trail does not imply that a particular attraction endorses it.”

Highlights along the trail include:

•    ROCHESTER: The site where Frederick Douglass gave what is widely considered to be the greatest of all anti-slavery speeches is now a city parking structure (Corinthian Hall).

•    PALMYRA: The print shop that produced the first edition of the Book of Mormon (site of a museum run by the Mormon church) is also the place where freethinking newspaperman Obadiah Dogberry (a pseudonym for Rochesterian Abner Cole) read proofs of the Book of Mormon while they dried, and ran a historic exposé of the new scripture in the Palmyra Reflector, even before Mormon prophet Joseph Smith could release the finished book.

•    CORNING: The birthplace of birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger – indeed, the entire immigrant neighborhood where she grew up – is now the parking lot of a Wegmans supermarket.

•    WATKINS GLEN: The village’s main public park and a distinguished but unmarked downtown building were the sites of a historic 1878 convention of freethinkers. At this convention freethought journalist D. M. Bennett and two others were arrested for selling a marriage reform tract by agents loyal to decency crusader Anthony Comstock. This arrest led to a chain of events that involved agnostic orator Robert Green Ingersoll and President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Other locations along the trail include Elmira, featuring a Mark Twain exhibit in Hamilton Hall, and Seneca Falls, long known as the birthplace of the woman’s suffrage movement. Visitors to this area can tour the Women’s Rights National Historic Park, the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House, and National Women’s Hall of Fame.

The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum is located in Dresden, N.Y., on the west shore of Seneca Lake off State Route 14 about 11 miles south of Geneva. Hours are from noon to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, from Memorial Day weekend to Halloween. Suggested admission is $2. Persons interested in scheduling group tours should call 1-716-636-7571, ext. 213 during business hours. The Web site, with photographs, history and driving directions, may be explored at:




Robert G. Ingersoll Memorial Committee, a project of the Council for Secular Humanism

P. O. Box 664

Amherst, NY 14226-0664

(716)636-7571, ext. 213

FAX (716)636-1733

The Council for Secular Humanism is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization promoting rational inquiry, secular values and positive human development through the advancement of secular humanism. The Council, publisher of the bimonthly journal Free Inquiry, has a Web site at www.secularhumanism.org.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.