Max O’Rell was born Leon Pierre Blouet in Normandy in 1847. He moved to Paris at the age of 12 and eventually graduated from the conservatoire and the collège in Paris and went on to take a B.A. degree in 1865 and a B.Sc. in 1866 at the Sorbonne. After 1866, he enrolled at the École Militaire which he left in 1869 with the rank of lieutenant in the French artillery, spending five months in Algeria and, after a short stay in the Versailles garrison, was called up to fight in the Franco-Prussian War. Wallace surely would have found this military career fascinating.
In 1885, he resigned his teaching post and began working full time as an author and lecturer. In seven lecture tours—including the one announced in 1895, he spoke over 2,600 times. Earlier in 1895, O’Rell and Mark Twain had a heated exchange about French morals that the world press documented even hinting at a physical altercation between the two men. Although he fell out of the limelight later in life, to American and British audiences, O'Rell served as a reference for everything French and he had great impact on public discussions of political, social and cultural matters. He continues to be of particular interest to cultural historians studying the presentation of gender roles.
Rose G. Kingsley (no image available) was famous first as the daughter of the Reverend Charles Kingsley, Canon of Westminster in the 1870s and widely known at the time as a professor, historian and novelist. Perhaps his most famous work was a tale about a chimney sweep entitled The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby (1863). Retaining its popularity well into the 20th century, the story demonstrated his concern for social reform and dealt with the scientific debate over human origins, as Kingsley was one of the first influential religious leaders to embrace Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. With a curious and learned father, it was no surprise that Rose Kingsley was an adventurous spirit.
Rose moved from England to Colorado Springs in 1871, just one year after it was founded. For a young woman raised in affluence, life on the frontier was challenging, but Rose soon helped establish the Fountain Colony Club for natural sciences which served as a vehicle to counter some of the rougher elements on the frontier. She soon began her own writing career with her book South and West which was published in London in 1874 and detailed her experiences in Colorado and New Mexico. The book was illustrated with sketches of local scenes drawn by Rose and hers are the first sketches made of Colorado Springs. By the 1890s, Rose was gaining notice for her books on nature and gardening.
The final speaker listed in the 1895 lecture program was Booker T. Washington. As the newspaper notice said: “The world is moving very rapidly these days, when an eloquent and brainy negro is named in the same list with eloquent and brainy white men as platform favorites.” Washington was born into slavery but went on to become an educator, author, fund-raiser, orator, and advisor to Republican presidents. As the first leader of Tuskegee Normal & Industrial Institute, he became the dominant leader in the African-American community in the United States from 1890 until his death in 1915.
|Booker T. Washington|
In this speech he advocated a “go slow” approach to integration to avoid a white backlash and emphasized the need for blacks to concentrate all their energies on industrial education, accumulation of wealth, and conciliation with the leadership of the South. He thought these skills would lay the foundation for the creation of stability that the African-American community required in order to move forward. He believed that in the long term "blacks would eventually gain full participation in society by showing themselves to be responsible, reliable American citizens." His approach advocated for an initial step toward equal rights, rather than full equality under the law. Ultimately this philosophy would put him at odds with many in the black community who felt disenfranchised and placed in subordinate roles in society.
Each of these speakers announced in the 1895 lecture tour was either at or approaching the pinnacles of their respective careers. Their names were widely known and their topics would have been of great interest. Given his broad personal interests Wallace would have certainly appreciated the opportunity to travel with and privately discuss the pressing issues of the day with this distinguished group. While Wallace was widely recognized as a gifted speaker, it is intriguing to wonder if sharing the stage with some of these other gifted orators inspired him to install the roll-out full length mirror in his Study that was under construction in 1895, so that he could practice his speeches and refine his presentations.
The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.