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Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum

Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum
61 Main Street

About Us
The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum open to the public on Main Street in Dresden, New York. The carefully restored frame house contains historical artifacts and fascinating information about one of America's most powerful public speakers and the dramatic times in which he lived.

Robert Green Ingersoll was the best-known orator and political speechmaker of 19th Century America. He was a hero of the Civil War, raising a volunteer regiment, seeing action at the Battle of Shiloh, and undergoing capture by legendary Confederate strategist General Nathaniel Bedford Forrest. Nationally famed as an attorney, he waged a successful defense in the Star Route Trial, a postal scandal that was the Watergate affair of its day. But Ingersoll is best-remembered as an orator who could pack the largest theatres in the land at the then outlandish price of a dollar a ticket. Ingersoll would step into the spotlight without notes, without so much as a glass of water, and hold audiences spellbound for three to four hours. Mark Twain called Ingersoll the greatest master of the English language he had ever seen. Ingersoll criss-crossed the country, addressing packed houses on politics, ethics, human freedom, and religious topics. He was heard by more Americans than any human being prior to the advent of radio, motion pictures, and television.

Ingersoll was a progressive and an advocate of many of the social reform movements of his day. He spoke against slavery and in favor of women's rights. Known as the "Great Agnostic," he opposed the Religious Right of his day and challenged such church doctrines as eternal punishment for sin. A Republican activist when the GOP was the party of Lincoln, Ingersoll campaigned powerfully for every Republican presidential candidate but one from Grant to McKinley. His "Plumed Knight" speech nominating James G. Blaine for the presidency set a standard by which political oratory was measured for more than a quarter of a century.

Ingersoll was born on August 11, 1833 in a modest frame house in Dresden, New York. His father was a Congregationalist minister, who stayed in Dresden only briefly. The family left the house before Robert was one year old, heading west in a series of steps. Ingersoll entered the public eye as an attorney in Peoria, Illinois; he was appointed that state's first Attorney General, but was never again appointed to any public office because of his controversial religious views.
Ingersoll spent his most active years in Washington, D.C., and New York City. He died in 1899 in Dobbs Ferry, New York, on the Hudson River a few dozen miles above New York.