“The new professions”

In The Spiritualist Medium: A Study of Female Professionalism in Victorian America (1975), R. Laurence Moore of Cornell wrote:

In his journal, [Ralph Waldo] Emerson included the spiritualist medium among the new professions that he believed had emerged in America in the 1850. It was not a happy admission for him. The sudden and rapid proliferation of men and women who (for a fee) claimed to provide scientific evidence of an afterlife was in his mind anything but a sign of a spiritual awakening in the United States. His listing of the medium along with the daguerreotypist, the railroad man and the landscape gardener represented a troubled concession to the realities of a country that already had more than its share of hucksters and humbugs.

Here’s this entry, from August 1855, only a few years after the death of the brownie-fearing Russian statesman:

The new professions: The phrenologist; the railroad man; the landscape gardener; the lecturer; the sorcerer, rapper, mesmeriser, medium; the daguerreotypist. Proposed: The Naturalist, and the Social Undertaker.

Frankly, I don’t understand the Social Undertaker‘s role but the phrenologist is a familiar term, a classical example of a practicing pseudo-scientist. The mesmeriser had been familiar to the American public for at least a decade, as evidenced by the success of Edgar Allan Poe’s faux documentary story, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, published in 1845.

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