John Pierpont papers  1854-1861
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The John Pierpont papers are comprised of seven letters, all addressed to the family of friend and fellow Spiritualist, Asher Tyler, later president of the Elmira Rolling Mill, Elmira, N.Y. Though brief, these letters shed a highly focused light on a little known facet of John Pierpont's life, his belief in Spiritualism. The standard biographical works on Pierpont elide any mention of his dalliance with spiritual phenomena, despite the fact that he was an ardent and vocal supporter of the cause for over a decade. Spanning the years from his first investigations to his full, mature belief, these seven letters indicate something of the development and depth of Pierpont's commitments, with brief glimpses into his other reform activities.

The Pierpont Papers includes two letters from 1854, in which Pierpont appears to have been testing the ability of a clairvoyant medium, Mr. Potter, to read personality from a writing sample. According to Pierpont, Potter was successful in every regard, with the exception of an error in reading Pierpont's age. In the second of these letters, Pierpont reported that another medium, Mrs. Perkins, was able to discern Potter's influence on the writing sample, reading it like a palimpsest on a manuscript. For Pierpont, this provided convincing evidence of Perkins' authenticity. More impressive, still, was another of Pierpont's experiences with Mrs. Perkins, in which she was able accurately to diagnosed an illness afflicting Mrs. Tyler -- without seeing or knowing the patient -- and to prescribe medication that Pierpont was convinced would be efficacious (1857 June 21).

Perhaps the most interesting letter in the collection, however, is the letter in which Pierpont informs Tyler that he has volunteered for duty as chaplain of the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry. Equating the cause of abolition of slavery with a crusade against the devil himself, Pierpont also reiterates his unwavering commitment to the authenticity of Spirit communication.

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