Henry Ward Beecher

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This classic photograph of preacher, politician and fervent abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher was taken at some point between 1855 and 1865 by Mathew Brady’s studio. From an eyewitness account in the New York Times of a speech Ward delivered in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 17, 1865, less than three months after the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery, as countless former slaves who had been sold and sold again tried to reunite with family:

“Feeling was accumulating in the audience, and began to be heard in the low moaning and response, like the sound of the waves upon a distant shore; but when he spoke directly to the blacks before him, of their sufferings in the days gone by, and now of their release; of the loss of their children and of the return of so many, and exhorted them since God had done so much for them to wait with faith and patience for the remainder, and assured them that the morning was on the mountains and the day was at hand, they broke out all over the house in low ejaculations of praise and of thanksgiving. The day was at hand, and they saw it; and the suppressed tone was that of men who could not restrain their joy for the vision. There was no loud shouting, nothing boisterous; it was simply the overflow of deep feeling that could not be restrained. If any of you have open sins, he said, abandon them. If any harbor revenge, rid yourselves of it. I hear good things of you; do better. Mothers in Israel, I expect to hear still more worthy things of you. Fathers, I expect to hear of you counseling better things than ever before. Young men, I expect to hear that you are more virtuous and manly than those that have gone before you.

Many of you old saints will only look over into the promised land, and see it afar off, but your children will enter in. Israel is going to be free. [Cries of ‘Bless de Lord,’ ‘We believe it,’ and one voice near me broke out into a clear hearty laugh of joy.] Intelligence is coming, liberty is coming, virtue is coming.

It is not my joy that this family is down or that one, but this is my joy, that Charleston is free, and every man guiltless of crime can walk her streets unmolested. That our nation marked out for so great things is free. And brethren, consecrate yourselves to the service of Christ, live nobler lives. Bear the cross, it is not for a great white. Some of you are almost down to the river, and it is not half as deep as you think it is. They wait for you on the other shore; you that have showed kindness to the poor white prisoners; you that have borne stripes for it; your reward is waiting you on the further shore.

Sobs and ejaculations of praise swelled through the church.”

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Henry Ward Beecher: Congregationalist pussy hound. (Image by Mathew Brady.)

Connecticut resident Delight Beecher may not have been the most well-known member of her famous family, but she had an interesting life just the same. She was a part of the clan best known for celebrated preacher and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher (who was ensnared in an adultery scandal in the 1870s) and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Delight, who outlived both of her younger relations and never visited a dentist in her life, was the subject of a brief article in the May 18, 1901 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, on the occasion of having reached the 100-year-old mark. (She would live until 103.) An excerpt:

“Mrs. Delight Beecher Upson, a cousin of Henry Ward Beecher, celebrated the 100th anniversary of her birth at her home, in Burlington, near this city yesterday. The event was made the occasion of a public celebration.

Mrs. Upson delights in talking of her famous cousin, Henry Ward Beecher.

Mrs. Upson is well-preserved. Aside from deafness, her faculties are only slightly impaired. She prides herself on never having required the services of a dentist. Her physical endurance is remarkable. One day last week she walked to a neighbor’s home and back, a distance of half a mile.

Mrs. Upson’s mind is clear and she tells with precision important events of the earlier years of the nineteenth century. Her maternal grandfather served in the Revolution, and her nephews took part in the War of 1812. She has always been an ardent Congregationalist.

Two years ago Mrs. Upson visited Collinsville, where she saw a railroad for the first time in forty years.”

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“Just Enough Liebling” has a foreword by current “New Yorker” editor David Remnick. (Image by North Pointe Press.)

An indifferent student from a wealthy Upper East Side family, A.J. Liebling had an endless curiosity of all things, especially French food, press criticism and pugilism. “The University of Eighth Avenue” is a piece from the latter category though not from the New Yorker. It’s a great two-part story from a pair of December 1955 issues of Sports Illustrated, about an old-school fighter named Billy Ray, who was soon to turn 90. In it, Ray recalls the raffish, cold-blooded side of the 19th-century Brooklyn sporting scene. (Read the full article, part one and part two.) An excerpt:

“Ray grew up in the gracious old Brooklyn of Henry Ward Beecher, in which prizefighting was as much against the law as cocking mains or dogfights, but less frowned upon, since there were no Humane Societies needling the police to stop the fist fighters. Left to their own devices the police were lenient. ‘A fellow named Hughie Bart ran a great place around 1882,’ Mr. Ray said. ‘It was right across the street from Calvary Cemetery and there would be dogfights in the basement, rooster fights on an upper floor, and we would be fighting on the ground floor, all at the same time. Mourners would stop in on their way back, to take their mind off their loss. The gravediggers were old tads with beards. They’d sit in Hughie’s drinking between jobs, and when they were watching a fight you dassn’t quit, because they would split your skull with a spade.'”

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