Short Biography

(From Council for Secular Humanism)

The Electrifying Orator

Between 1865 and 1899 Ingersoll crisscrossed the country on more than a dozen speaking tours. He would pack the largest theaters of the day at the then-substantial admission of $1 apiece. Ingersoll had numerous three- to four-hour lectures committed to memory. No human being had been seen and heard by more Americans – or would be until the advent of motion pictures, radio, and television. His subjects ranged from Shakespeare and Burns to religion, from political and moral issues to the lives of famous patriots and scientists. Among his best-known speeches were “The Gods,” “Ghosts,” “Humboldt,” “Shakespeare,” and “What Must We Do To Be Saved?”

Ingersoll was beloved by contemporary leaders in all walks of life. Among his admirers were president James Garfield, poet Walt Whitman, General Ulysses S. Grant, industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, inventor Thomas Edison, and preacher Henry Ward Beecher. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was especially impressed by Ingersoll. After hearing Ingersoll speak, he wrote his wife Olivia Langdon Clemens: “What an organ is human speech when it is employed by a master!”