A photo of this chromolithograph of Henry Ward Beecher belongs to the Library of Congress.
Henry Ward Beecher (June 24, 1813 – March 8, 1887) was an American Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, and speaker, known for his support of the abolition of slavery, his emphasis on God's love, and his 1875 adultery trial… His rhetorical focus on Christ's love has influenced mainstream Christianity to this day.
By this time he had become the renowned preacher at Plymouth Congressional Church where he had presided since 1848. He had given his name to the "Beecher's Bibles" (Sharps Rifles) used in Bleeding Kansas. (Illustration below from Memorial of Henry Ward Beecher, 1887.)
Henry Beecher was perhaps “The Most Famous Man in America”, as the title of Debby Applegate's 2007 biography has it. But this is a little misleading, in that he was certainly less famous than his sister Harriet Beecher Stowe. Henry was one of an extraordinary generation of Beechers. His father was Presbyterian minister Lyman Beecher.
Lyman Beecher is perhaps most famous for being the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Charles Beecher, Edward Beecher, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Catharine Beecher, and Thomas K. Beecher. Here Lyman Beecher is shown flanked by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher.
Henry's brother James C. Beecher was a missionary to China at the beginning of the Civil War. He helped recruit and became Lt. Colonel of the 1st North Carolina Colored Regiment, which became the 35th Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry.
|James C. Beecher|
An historical marker in Paxico Kansas tells the story of Beecher's Bibles. (HMdb photo by William Fischer, Jr. March 13, 2014.)
1856 free-state colonists from Connecticut joined with earlier settlers to found the town of Wabaunsee, 15 miles northwest of here. Brooklyn abolitionist and clergyman Henry Ward Beecher helped raise funds to supply the settlers with the new Sharps repeating rifle for their defense during the sometimes-violent era of “Bleeding Kansas.” According to an 1856 New York Tribune article, Beecher “believed that the Sharps rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles.” Beecher's congregation also supplied the colonists with Bibles, perhaps leading to the widespread use of the term “Beecher Bibles” to describe the rifles. Wabaunsee residents soon became involved in the Underground Railroad, helping enslaved people to freedom in Canada. Between 1860 and 1862 the community completed the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church, now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The nearby Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie today interprets the history of this community.
Erected 2012 by the State of Kansas. (Marker Number 97.)
"Pinky" was a light-skinned 9-year old enslaved girl for whom Beecher solicited funds.
The famous Reverend Henry Ward Beecher gave a sermon on February 5, 1860, during which he impersonated a slave auctioneer and asked the congregation of Plymouth Church for offerings. His dramatic and emotional speech roused the audience, and people tossed money and jewelry into the collection plates. $900 was raised to buy freedom for a young slave girl known as "Pinky" (Sally Maria Diggs). At the end of the "auction" Mr. Beecher picked up a ring from the collection plate, a large fire opal, and placed the ring on Pinky's hand, saying "With this ring I do wed thee to freedom." The painter Eastman Johnson painted this portrait after seeing Pinky sitting on the ground looking at her "Freedom Ring." (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 21, 1934, p. 1) -- Brooklyn Public Library
Henry was nearly 17 when he met Eunice White Bullard, at Amherst College. (See The Washington Bee, Oct. 10, 1891.) They were married in 1837 after a 5 year engagement. Illustrations below come from A Biography of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher by William Constantine Beecher, et. al. 1888.)
Henry Ward Beecher writes:If CLEANLINESS is next to GODLINESS, soap must be considered as a means of GRACE, and a clergyman who recommends MORAL things should be willing to recommend soap. I am told that my commendation of PEARS' Soap has opened for it a large sale in the UNITED STATES. I am willing to stand by every word in favor of it I ever uttered. A man must be fastidious indeed who is not satisfied with it.
Called a hen “a most elegant creature.”
The hen, pleased with that.
Laid two eggs in his hat,
And thus did the hen reward Beecher.