History of Chicago

Brief History of Spiritualism in Chicago, 1850s through 1870s.

Alfred Theodore Andreas, History of Chicago.  Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1884.

pp. 353-354:

    The first spiritualistic medium to arrive in Chicago was Mrs. Julia Lusk, of Milwaukee, in 1849, who was a “rapping medium.”  The raps made in the presence of this medium were very loud and distinct, resembling the fall to and roll across the floor of a heavy croquet ball.  Ira B. Eddy was her first convert in Chicago.  Having been educated to believe in orthodoxy, but being unsatisfied with certain of the doctrines, he felt greatly relieved in receiving by means of the raps negative answers to the two following questions: “Is there a personal Devil,” and “Is there such a place as hell.”  He then obtained a communication from a departed friend, and thus became satisfied at once that the dead still live and can communicate with the living.  He at once became a full spiritual believer.  Converts to Spiritualism were made slowly in Chicago in those days, but in November, 1852, when Mr. Eddy rented one of his buildings, No. 48 Clark Street, to Seth Payne for banking purposes, there were Spiritualists enough in the city to form a society, and to rent the hall in the third story of this same building for the purpose of holdings meetings and hearing lectures.  This hall was named by Mr. Eddy, who was the first president of the society, “Harmony Hall.”  Mr. Eddy remained present of the society one year, and was succeeded by Russell Green, who was assisted by A. J. and H. M. Higgins.  In about two years Mr. Green became tired of the expense of the meetings and resigned.  In 1852, about the time of renting Harmony Hall, a Mr. And Mrs. Herrick came to Chicago.  Mrs. Herrick was the second medium to arrive.  Among the lecturers on Spiritualism were Seth Payne, who though a good speaker was extremely radical; the Hon. Warren Chase; Mr. Hammond, of Rochester, N. Y.; and Mrs. Cora Hatch.  Mr. Hammond was the author of two books, one of them entitled “Thomas Paine in the Spirit World.”  Spiritualism caused considerable excitement in those years, especially in connection with Seth Payne’s bank.  In September, 1853, Ira B. Eddy was adjudged insane, and removed to an insane asylum in Hartford, Conn.  He was accompanied by Drs. John A. Kennicott, J. P. Lyman and J. W. Freer, afterward president of Rush Medical College.  One of the local papers in commenting upon this event, said: “This step has been deemed necessary in order to remove him from the influence of the Spiritualists of Chicago, by whom he has been surrounded for several months past.”  Seth Payne was also tried for insanity, but being notified, as Mr. Eddy was not, he obtained counsel, and in each of his trials the jury disagreed.  In December, 1854, Professor Spencer delivered a series of lectures at Metropolitan Hall, “on the exciting subject of Spiritualism, demonstrating the fallacies of the Spiritual religion by performing the tricks by which the mediums deceive the credulous.”  His lectures drew immense crowds, and awakened a great deal of interest.  Early in 1856 Andrew Jackson Davis came to Chicago to lectures under the auspices of Russell Green.  That portion of the Spiritualists who favored Mr. Davis’s peculiar doctrines were named by him “Harmonialists,” and the announcement was made in the Democratic Press of May 10, 1856, that “the Harmonialists will hereafter hold their meetings in Harmony Hall, 48 Clark street.”  During this same year Hon. Warren Chase also lectured on the Harmonial Philosophy.  At this time there were fifteen mediums in Chicago.  The audiences usually averaged about three hundred, but as many attended merely from motives of curiosity, and as there was no list of membership kept as in the churches, it was not known what proportion were believers in the doctrines.  From this time forward for two or three years but little of moment in connection with Spiritualism occurred, but about 1860 a revival of interest took place, and the history of the subject from this time to 1870 is replete with incidents.  Besides the lectures mentioned above there were a few others during the period covered by this volume.  On the 14th of January, 1857, George Leach lectured in South Market Hall on the claims of Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davis, and upon spirit manifestations.  Mrs. Streeter lectured in her spiritual capacity January 31 in a school-house near the American Car Works; Henry Weller lectured February 1 in Harmony Hall on the Philosophy of Intercourse between the Natural and Spiritual Worlds; Mrs. Seymour, a trance medium, lectured February 22 in Metropolitan Hall.  She was said to be the only medium in the West through whom the manifestation of writing upon the arm could be produced.  On the 15th of March J. White lectured in Harmony Hall on the Unity of Inspiration, Revelation and Science.  On April 18 A. B. Whiting, a speaking medium, lectured on Spiritualism.  He was a popular speaker and an able exponent of the Harmonial Philosophy.  Miss C. M. Beebe, of Boston, lectured in Light Guard Hall April 26 and 30.  Joel Tiffany, of New York, lectured in the same place May 10, and Dr. Brookie, of St. Louis, on the 17th.  From this time until 1860 there was comparatively little done in Chicago to disseminate the doctrines of Spiritualism.

p. 440:

    From the founding of the Harmonialists in 1856, but little of moment in connection with Spiritualism occurred for several years.  Lectures were delivered from time to time by Spiritualists from different parts of the country.  Among the speakers may be mentioned S. B. Brittan of New York, editor of the Spiritualistic [sic] Age; Andrew Jackson Davis and his wife, Mary Davis; S. C. Hewitt, of Boston; Thomas Gales Forster, editor of the Banner of Light; Father Phillips, of Cleveland; F. N. White, F. L. Wadsworth and J. P. Greenleaf, trance-speakers; Miss Ada L. Hoyt, rapping and writing test-medium; Hon. Warren Chase; and E. V. Wilson, the noted inspirational speaker.

    The great event of the year 1864 was the National Convention of Spiritualists, which met in August.  This was the first ever held in this or any other country.  A preliminary meeting was held on the 8th, and on the 9th the convention was permanently organized by the choice of the following officers:  President, S. S. Jones of St. Charles, Ill.; vice-president, Dr. H. F. Gardner, of Boston; Mrs. Laura Cuppy, of Dayton, Ohio; Ira Porter, of Michigan; and Miss Lizzie Doten, of Boston; secretaries, F. L. Wadsworth, of New York, H. B. Storer, of Boston, Miss L. Patterson, of Dayton, Ohio, and Mrs. Buffum, of Chicago.  The president, in his salutatory, said he had no creed, believing that creeds were no effectual bar against error.  A general discussion followed, in which almost every member participated.  On the second day, the subject of Spiritualism was largely discussed, as was also that of a permanent organization of Spiritualists.  On the last day of the convention, this question was settled by the adoption of resolutions in opposition to a general or national organization and in favor of local organizations.  On Sunday, the 14th, resolutions were adopted expressive of the sense of the convention on various topics after which the convention adjourned.

    On Sunday, February 20, 1865, Miss Emma F. Jay Bullene lectured in Bryan Hall, and on the 21st also, this time on Special Providences.  On January 7, 1866, Charles A. Hayden, one of the ablest of Spiritualistic speakers, spoke in Crosby’s Music Hall; and during the summer of that year, Miss Sarah A. Nutt lectured in the same place before the First Society of Spiritualists.  On April 5, 1867, Robert Dale Owen lectured in this city on “Spiritualism; Its Aspect as a Phase of Religious Sentiment.”  On the 19th of April, 1868, Mrs. Colby and Mrs. Augusta J. Babbitt, both trance-speakers, delivered addresses.

pp. 831-832:

    It is estimated that at the time of the great fire in October, 1871, the number of Spiritualists in Chicago was ten thousand, and at the present time thirty thousand.  There has not existed at any time a permanent organization of Spiritualists in this city, and hence the lack of statistics or authentic data.  Small societies have been organized from time to time, but their existence has been brief.  After the great fire, meetings were held in various parts of the city; but never at any time have the Spiritualists, as a society, owned any property for their specific purposes in Chicago.  At the present time, meetings are held in Madison-street Theatre, between State and Dearborn streets, at which paid speakers address the audiences.

    It may be stated here, that the Religio-Philosophical Journal, perhaps the chief organ of the Spiritualists in the United States, is published in Chicago, and has a circulation in the city and vicinity of about ten thousand copies. [. . .]

    The Religio-Philosophical Journal is a large eight-page weekly, established in 1865, and devoted to modern Spiritualism and general reform.  It was originally a chartered institution, incorporated under a special charter, but in 1866 it was wrested from the hands of the original managers, and Messrs. Jones & Bundy lost control of the concern.  In nine months’ time the new managers had wrecked the business.  This obliged an abandonment of the charter, and S. S. Jones then revived the paper and general publishing business as a private enterprise, associating Colonel Bundy with him.  Mr. Jones being the editor-in-chief of the journal, the business management devolved upon John C. Bundy.  On March 15, 1877, Mr. Jones was murdered in his office, and Mr. Bundy took possession of the paper and became its editor and manager, acting as administrator of the estate, and in 1879 became sole owner by purchase.  Like all newspapers, it had a struggle for life, but finally, in 1870, under good business management, became strong in circulation and financially healthy.  In 1871, the office was located at Nos. 187-189 South Clark Street, where the fire swept them out of existence.  Property worth over $20,000 was lost; the mail-list and books of account alone were saved.  Fifteen dollars was the total amount realized from insurance policies aggregating $7,000.  In about twenty-four hours after the loss, they had secured a place on the West Side, and had issued a small paper, and mailed it to their subscribers.  The enterprise shown by this management was rewarded, for subscriptions poured in from all directions, and delinquents sent in remittances to balance old accounts, until the winter following found them nicely situated and with more money than they needed, their subscription list meanwhile reaching twenty-five thousand copies.  This is the only paper in Chicago devoted to Spiritualism, and is an able exponent of the scientific and educated wing of Spiritualists.  The paper is well supported, and numbers among its friends the brilliant Rev. H. W. Thomas, D.D., Hon. W. K. McAllister, Rev. Robert Collyer and others.  It is unsectarian, non-partisan, and thoroughly independent, and lends its active support to any scheme adapted to the amelioration of man.  It has a national circulation, and nearly a thousand copies are taken in foreign countries, quite a number going to India, Australia, Russia, and a still larger number to England and Germany. [. . .]

    S. S. Jones [. . .] drew the charter of the Religio-Philosophical Publishing Association, and secured its passage through the Legislature.  Under this broad charter he organized an association for the publication of books and papers, and established the Religio-Philosophical Journal in May, 1865.  The institution flourished and gave excellent promise of success, but in the fall of 1866 a change of management threw the control into other hands, and Mr. Jones was retired.  Nine months thereafter the Religio-Philosophical Journal came into his hands once more, through the failure of the association.  In 1871 his office was entirely destroyed; but not in the least deterred, he immediately went to New York City and purchased a new outfit, and in five weeks sent his new paper full size to his subscribers.  During the interim, he had supplied his subscribers and friends with a small sized sheet.  His success was pronounced, and he flourished as a publisher until March 15, 1877, when he was foully murdered in his office at No. 394 Dearborn Street.


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