Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Can You Help Identify These Fine Fellows?

Michael Whaley, of The Free Congregation (formerly the Freie Gemeinde) of Sauk County (Wisconsin), recently wrote to us at MKI:

"We have at the Hall an ellipsoidal framed piece that has seven cameo photographs pasted to an old thin-wood mounting board. The photographs are of good quality, but appear to have been cut out from some other source -- a magazine, perhaps. 

I can identify the man in the center: Eduard Schroeter, Speaker of the Freie Gemeinde von Sauk County from 1853 until his retirement in 1886; and, earlier, Speaker of the Freie Gemeinden of New York and Milwaukee.  [See: Berenice Cooper's 1968 article, 'Die Freie Gemeinde: Freethinkers on the Frontier.']

Three men at center

I also have a suspicion [the photos] have to do with the Bund von Freie Gemeinden von Nord Amerika."

And just today, Michael Whaley wrote to announce, "The portrait on the top left is of Michael Biron, founder of Der Freidenker (1871), and the 4th Speaker of the Painsville Freie Gemeinde (from 1897-1902) in Franklin Township, WI. The Painesville congregation is often identified as the first Freie Gemeinde in Wisconsin. It was organized in 1851 under the name "The First Free Christian Congregation," but in practice it probably came to more closely resemble other Freie Gemeinden (e.g., Sauk County's) during Christian Schroeter's tenure as the congregation's 3rd Speaker (1857-1890), as in 1872 it wrote a new constitution and renamed itself the Free Congregation at Painseville.

See http://www.painesville.bravehost.com/history.htm and http://painesville.bravehost.com/speakers.htm." 

Looking at the Cooper article, the fellow on the lower right might be a younger Friedrich Schünemann-Pott, speaker of the Freie Gemeinde in Philadelphia from 1854 to 1871, when he accepted a call from San Francisco. Schünemann-Pott also edited the Blätter fiir freies religioses Leben, from 1856 to 1872, a journal that, according to Cooper, "contains much valuable information about the Free Congregations, [including] letters from readers, reports of local activities such as reading circles, dramatic programs, concerts, lectures, and libraries, and articles on science, history, philosophy, and literature." Perhaps this image comes from one of the Free Thought journals?

We put the call out to the Wide World (webbed), asking if anyone can identify (definitively or as an educated guess) the other men featured here. Please contact Kevin Kurdylo at kkurdylo(at)wisc.edu or Michael Whaley at spikeyboy(at)earthlink.net

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