9:09 AM

Hello and Welcome back to my blog! I received a response back from the Massachusetts Historical Society Scholar Den Grodzin concerning my search for the Salesman's name. He has brought me closer to understanding much, much more about my salesman and the men he met. I asked if there is a copy of Rev Parker's Sermon and since I am a New Englander, I should make a trip up to the Massachusetts Historical Society this summer.
I still do not know my salesman's name but I know how empathic he was to the slavery issue. He writes in his journal so briefly about his visit to the journalist of the National Era in Washington DC and the visit to Rev Parker, but now I see since he is living in St. Louis, his personal thoughts are better left unwritten (I wonder if he is part of the anti-slavery movement in St. Louis).  I am pretty sure if he was still in St. Louis at the onset of the Civil War, he would have remained in St. Louis unlike so many men who left to join the Confederacy under General Price's (ex-governor of Missouri).
Since details were omitted, I had to think carefully what would he have seen and thought if he had the freedom to speak his mind and add those details to provide a story.
My next step is revising my Salesman's Journal: Glassware, Chinaware, Queensware and Pottery 08  working this new info in.... It takes time to digest this email from Dean Grodzins. 
In the meantime, I suggest re-reading the original and see how you would revise this piece. As for me, it is like getting hit by lighting, so I will tackle this in a few days. In the meantime, let me entertain you in the next blog with an article I wrote, Ft Pierre Sutlery 1855.

RE: Query
Dean Grodzins
Fri, Apr 23, 2010 6:45 pm

Elizabeth Isenburg --

Thanks for writing.  I don't seem to have in my notes the name of the salesman.  Parker rarely left accounts of his many visitors.  He does have a journal entry for Oct. 29, 1855, but apparently it only refers to him going to a play that evening and seeing the famous French actress Rachel.  I can tell you, however, that the salesman probably would have seen Parker in his library, on the top (fourth), floor of Parker's modest townhouse, and probably in the morning.  Note that Parker died a few years later with a library of over 13,000 volumes, most of them not in English.  There are descriptions of the library in several books.  I can also tell you about the fair the salesman mentions:  it was the Third National Agricultural Fair, sponsored by the U.S. Agricultural Society, which had opened on the Oct 23.  It was going on at this time on city lands south east of Harrison Ave.  What did your man sell, anyway?

I can tell you, too, the sermon the salesman heard:  “Of the Function of Productive Industry as an Educational Force--Development of American People.”  The topic was probably suggested by the fair, which was on everyone's mind (it was a big deal; Oct. 25 had been declared a holiday in the city because of it).  I have notes on this sermon, which follows a common theme in Parker's preaching, which is to treat every aspect of life as training for spiritual perfection.  I can also tell you what the service would have been like, if that would be of use to you.  It would have been in the spacious Boston Music Hall (the building is now the Orpheum Theater).  A couple of thousand people would have been in attendance.  But I'm not quite certain who among the notables would have been in there that particular day.  The abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and his wife often showed up, although they were not by their own lights actual members; other regular attendees at this time, who did consider themselves members, were the African-American historian William Cooper Nell (who also served as church sexton), and the woman's rights leaders Ednah Dale Littlehale Cheney and Abby May.

Are you sure, by the way, that your salesman didn't go to see Elizur (instead of Elizas) Wright?  Elizur was in Parker's congregation and is a pretty prominent figure:  a leading antislavery journalist, religious nonconformist, and later an important figure in establishing the modern life insurance business.  There are a couple of biographies of him available.

I have read many accounts of tourists going to see Parker preach, just out of curiosity.  I would suspect, however, that anyone who made a point to call on him the next day had antislavery sympathies; Parker was at this time at the height of his antislavery influence.  He was just about to publish (on Nov. 1), the _Trial of Theodore Parker_, an account of his being prosecuted for his role in the Anthony Burns fugitive slave case (1854).  Also, on Oct 21, Parker had given a speech at a big abolitionist dinner commemorating the 20th anniversary of the great Boston anti-abolitionist riot of 1835, during which Garrison was nearly lynched.  That salesman was possibly antislavery and from Missouri, on the border of Kansas, may be significant; Parker was at this time getting very involved in the effort to "save" Kansas for Free Soil.

At the same time, the salesman's interest in Parker may have been equally, or perhaps more, religious/philosophical than political.  Parker was the leading American theological critic of the miraculous authority, plenary inspiration, and factual accuracy of the Bible, and he found sympathizers across the country for his radical theological stand, even among those who rejected his politics. I've found slaveholders who admired him as a religious thinker. Also, there were Transcendentalist sympathizers in St. Louis, as I'm sure you know; Emerson and Alcott both lectured there at different times, though Parker did not (he did lecture as far west as Illinois).  I reflect on Parker's appeal as a religious thinker in my article, "Theodore Parker and the 28th Congregational Society," in the volume _Transient and Permanent_, and in the final chapter of my Parker biography, _American Heretic_.

Parker conducted an extensive correspondence, including with many people from "the West" (Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon, is a famous example).  I don't recall offhand that he corresponded with anyone in St. Louis, but he may have.  If I get the chance, I'll poke around a little.

Hope this helps,


Dean Grodzins
Visiting Scholar, Massachusetts Historical Society