Ingersoll Day on August 11 each year celebrates the life of political orator Robert G Ingersoll. A great thinker, Ingersoll advocated for free thought and speech and was one of the most famous freethinkers of his time. On the anniversary of his birthday, we plan to do some free thinking of our own. Won’t you join us?
History of Ingersoll Day
Robert G. Ingersoll was born in Dresden, New York, to a preacher and abolitionist father; not much is known about his mother, except that she passed away when Ingersoll was young. His father’s views meant the family was forced to move frequently. Ingersoll grew up without much in the way of formal education, but he was still admitted to the Illinois bar in 1854. He later moved to Peoria, Illinois, and opened up a law concern with his brother. By all accounts, this venture was successful. He met and married Eva Parker, and they had two daughters. He even fought in the American Civil War (1861 – 1865), becoming commander of the 11th Illinois Cavalry.
The late 1860s saw Ingersoll join in politics himself; he held the position of the attorney general of Illinois, but only once. Back then, the ideology of Democrats and Republicans were switched at this time, so, although Robert was a Democrat early on in life, he later became a Republican because of his opposition to slavery.
His influence as an orator was recognized when he gave the nominating speech for fellow Republican candidate James G. Blaine. While the nomination went to another party member, this speech gained loads of prominence.
Upon moving to Washington D.C., he opened up another law practice which was again, very successful. He also began working on the lecture circuit, giving lectures on freethought, reason, and liberty for almost a quarter of a century. His most famous lectures were “Why I am an Agnostic,” “Some Mistakes of Moses,” and “Individuality.” He would gain a lot of prominence — and criticism, for his stance on religion, slavery, and the right of women to vote. He denounced religious speakers, yet counted many as friends too; he was openly friendly to people of opposing parties with the same progressive views as him and was even friends with American journalist H.L. Mencken and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader of the women’s rights movement. He was labelled the ‘Great Agnostic,’ and he was one of the most noteworthy freethinkers and lecturers of the 19th century.
Ingersoll Day timeline
He is born on August 11 in Dresden, New York.
Ingersoll becomes the Attorney General of Illinois.
Ingersoll gives the nominating speech for James G. Blaine at the Republican Convention; a most quoted line from this speech even earns Ingersoll the nickname 'The Plumed Knight.'
Steerforth Press releases a popular edition of Ingersoll's work, which has been edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic Tim Page.
Ingersoll Day FAQs
What did Robert Ingersoll Do?
He was an American politician and orator famously known as ‘the great agnostic.’ He believed in the scientific rationale above all else.
Who said the quote, “We rise by lifting others”?
American orator and politician Robert Ingersoll is the person behind this quote.
Was Robert Ingersoll an abolitionist?
Ingersoll’s father, John Ingersoll, was an abolitionist-sympathizing Congregationalist preacher. Ingersoll, however, famously did not support slavery and even gave lectures about this fact.
How to Observe Ingersoll Day
Read what he had to say
His thoughts on many matters can be found in various books, and his lectures and writings can be found online as well. Spend a little time reading about what this person born in a completely different century thought, and understand how his views can shape us even today.
Visit his museum
Specifically, the museum that was built in his birthplace in Dresden, New York. Called the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, this place showcases all his wit, originality, and Ingersoll’s role in shaping history.
Spread awareness about Ingersoll
A man this progressive — for his time, with the strength to share his opinions deserves a little recognition, and you might be just the person for the job. Tell people what you know about Robert Ingersoll, share his writings, and take some friends along on your trip to his museum.
5 Fun Facts About Robert Ingersoll
America's most successful orator
Various websites label him as the 19th century's most famous and successful orator.
He was paid the big bucks
Ingersoll received up to $3,500 for a single lecture at the height of his popularity.
One-time political leader
Ingersoll's strong views deterred the Republican administration from appointing him to any seat or post he desired.
His views did not waver
People would gather on the sidewalk outside his house and pray for him to convert; he never changed his stance.
He called Mark Twain a friend
In 1879, the famous writer, Twain, wrote “the organ of human speech was played by a master,” after hearing Ingersoll's lecture in Chicago.
Why Ingersoll Day is Important
We learn more about Ingersoll
Ingersoll was, by all accounts, a great person. He supported equality for African Americans, women’s suffrage, and even D.C. voting rights. It is said he greatly influenced the Golden Age of Reason that occurred in the U.S. in the mid-19th century, and we can see why.
We can learn from his writings
Ingersoll's words hold weight even today. Sample this: “Happiness is the only good. The way to be happy is to make others so. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here.” It’s difficult to argue with this sentiment.
Understanding the world around us
As modern people in a modern age, we can benefit from learning about another modern man who lived in a different time. Maybe by understanding him and his words, we can make sense of the world around us today.
Ingersoll Day dates