Pieces of History

Hat worn at centennial celebration, 1876, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Hat worn at centennial celebration, 1876, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Elmira’s Clairvoyant Physician and the Spiritualism Movement by Kelli Huggins, Education CoordinatorWhen I was researching alternative medicine providers for our upcoming medical exhibit, I came across Mrs. R.H. Wilcox, a clairvoyant physician.  Given my fondness for historical eccentric folks, this was a topic I couldn’t resist.  Mrs. Wilcox is a great lens through which to examine not only the presence and popularity of clairvoyants and mediums locally, but also within the larger context of the spiritualism movement.The significant number of clairvoyants in Chemung County in the late 19th and early 20th centuries makes a lot of sense because spiritualism originated in Western New York.  This area, known as the “burned-over district,” was the birthplace of several religions during the Second Great Awakening (1790-1840), including Mormonism, the Millerites, and the Oneida Community.  Spiritualism is traced back to the Fox sisters from Wayne County.  Beginning in 1848, the Fox sisters claimed to be able to communicate with spirits through mysterious “rappings.”  The sisters traveled around performing séances and became famous.  However, in 1888 they admitted they were frauds.  Still, spiritualism remained popular and many men and women claimed to have supernatural powers. (READ MORE)

Elmira’s Clairvoyant Physician and the Spiritualism Movement by Kelli Huggins, Education Coordinator

When I was researching alternative medicine providers for our upcoming medical exhibit, I came across Mrs. R.H. Wilcox, a clairvoyant physician.  Given my fondness for historical eccentric folks, this was a topic I couldn’t resist.  Mrs. Wilcox is a great lens through which to examine not only the presence and popularity of clairvoyants and mediums locally, but also within the larger context of the spiritualism movement.

The significant number of clairvoyants in Chemung County in the late 19th and early 20th centuries makes a lot of sense because spiritualism originated in Western New York.  This area, known as the “burned-over district,” was the birthplace of several religions during the Second Great Awakening (1790-1840), including Mormonism, the Millerites, and the Oneida Community.  Spiritualism is traced back to the Fox sisters from Wayne County.  Beginning in 1848, the Fox sisters claimed to be able to communicate with spirits through mysterious “rappings.”  The sisters traveled around performing séances and became famous.  However, in 1888 they admitted they were frauds.  Still, spiritualism remained popular and many men and women claimed to have supernatural powers. (READ MORE)

Charcoal portrait of Gen. Edmund O. Beers, 1875, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Charcoal portrait of Gen. Edmund O. Beers, 1875, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Embroidered handkerchief, c. 1875, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Embroidered handkerchief, c. 1875, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Pen holder, 1875, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Pen holder, 1875, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Ribbon from Active Baseball Club of Elmira, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Ribbon from Active Baseball Club of Elmira, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Occupy Washington with the Bonus Expeditionary Force by Rachel Dworkin, ArchivistIn 1924, Congress passed, over the president’s veto, the World War Adjustment Compensation Act which promised each veteran $1 for each day of domestic service (up to $500) and $1.25 for each day of overseas service (up to $625).  While veterans due $50 or less were paid out immediately, the rest were issued Certificates of Service set to mature in 20 years (with interest).  Then the economy crashed leading to the Great Depression and veterans asked if they couldn’t just have their money now and forgo the interest.  While the House of Representatives voted in 1932 to give them their money early, the Senate and President Hoover turned them down.  On June 17, 1932, the day the Senate voted down the bill, a group of veterans calling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force (a call back to the American Expeditionary Force of World War I) marched on Washington.  The 43,000 marchers, made up of 17,000 World War I veterans and their families, were the largest group ever to converge on the city up to that point.  Among them were Tom Jenkins, an out-of-work salesman and World War I veteran, and his wife, Idalene, of Elmira.  (READ MORE)

Occupy Washington with the Bonus Expeditionary Force by Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

In 1924, Congress passed, over the president’s veto, the World War Adjustment Compensation Act which promised each veteran $1 for each day of domestic service (up to $500) and $1.25 for each day of overseas service (up to $625).  While veterans due $50 or less were paid out immediately, the rest were issued Certificates of Service set to mature in 20 years (with interest).  Then the economy crashed leading to the Great Depression and veterans asked if they couldn’t just have their money now and forgo the interest.
 
While the House of Representatives voted in 1932 to give them their money early, the Senate and President Hoover turned them down.  On June 17, 1932, the day the Senate voted down the bill, a group of veterans calling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force (a call back to the American Expeditionary Force of World War I) marched on Washington.  The 43,000 marchers, made up of 17,000 World War I veterans and their families, were the largest group ever to converge on the city up to that point.  Among them were Tom Jenkins, an out-of-work salesman and World War I veteran, and his wife, Idalene, of Elmira.  (READ MORE)

Castor oil bottle sold by Meisel Brothers, Druggists of Elmira, 1874, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Castor oil bottle sold by Meisel Brothers, Druggists of Elmira, 1874, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Mercantile bill holder, 1872, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Mercantile bill holder, 1872, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Violet silk and black lace cape, 1870s, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

Violet silk and black lace cape, 1870s, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society