Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Cyrus Reed of Reed Opera House was also a Spiritualist

July 26th, 1920

Back in July of 1920, the downtown Armory, where the Grand Hotel is today on Ferry and Liberty, hosted

The most gigantic Show of Mystery ever staged...a full Spiritual Seance, demonstrating the Ouija Board, Materialization, Spirit Slate Writing, Astral Dead, Trance Seance and the great Spirit Cabinet Mystery.

It was a spectacle and entertainment, much more like a magic show than a religious ceremony. You could take it seriously if you wanted, but you could also just wink and nod and go along for the ride.

In the Sunday paper, the Mill published a note about a different spiritualist and his presentation in 1886.

The column was part of a tease and promotion for a Halloween fund-raiser for the Mill, a mobile tour and podcast on downtown spooky history. The main information was presumably in the audio materials and tour booklet, and the piece published in the paper had to talk around that a little, not give away too much.

In the Sunday paper

As the piece is promoting the tour and podcast, like the ad from 1920 they focus on entertainment and spectacle.

Salem was on the circuit for many famous mediums and Spiritualist lecturers. Can you imagine queueing up in front of the Reed Opera House (at that time the performance mecca in the city) on a warm June night in 1886 to see the famous mind reader and spiritual medium J. Randall Brown, fresh from performances in San Francisco.

But Spiritualism was not merely fringey. It was important for women, like Lucy Rose Mallory, who started a Spiritualist newspaper here that grew to be distributed world wide, and offered a space for accomplishment, leadership, and politics. There was meaningful overlap between Spiritualists, Temperance advocates, and Suffrage advocates, and there were home-grown Spiritualists who were not dependent on a traveling circuit, even if they might welcome it also.

August 27th, 1886

Men may have traveled and made it a money-maker on tour, but there were also local men involved. We see this in the figure of C. A. Reed. I have not had a chance to look into this closely, but I believe that Cyrus A. Reed, who had been Adjutant General here in Oregon in the 1860s, and built the Reed Opera House a few years later, and still later was known as Colonel Reed, is the same and was a prominent Spiritualist in Oregon. Just a month or two after the Seance discussed in the history piece, Reed was a speaker at a local meeting at New Era.

August 24th, 1907

Two decades later, near the end of his life, he was still speaking at Spiritualist meetings, this one in Portland.

July 11th, 1910

Interestingly, his obituaries seem to be silent on his Spiritualism, instead focusing on his painting. The Reed Opera House's bio is also silent on it. There are details to confirm here, but this looks like a significant set of omissions. His first bride was a teen, quite young, and her mother disapproved, yet he also assisted with Susan B. Anthony's talk in 1871. He looks like a character worthy of more research.

Lucy Rose Mallory and Cyrus A. Reed together are evidence for a network of leading citizens, maybe not of the very first rank, but certainly not marginal either, who were involved in Spiritualism. It wasn't just a sideshow for cranks, and more Salemites participated than most of us might think. 

The focus on entertainment for Halloween and fund-raising is understandable, but it also sells Spiritualism a little short as a voluntary association and site for political networking.

The seances and meetings weren't just entertainment and there is a more interesting history to write! 

No comments: