• Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saints Movement (Mormonism), claimed to have been commanded by the Lord to "go to the Ohio" while he was living in Fayette Township, New York. He and his followers traveled the Erie Canal as part of their westward trek. Courtesy of Western Illinois University via Illinois Digital Heritage Hub.

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    Smith, Joseph
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    • WIU Libraries Archives & Special Collections--All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this image, contact the WIU Archives and Special Collections at malpass-archives@wiu.edu.
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    • Illinois Digital Heritage Hub
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    • Western Illinois University

  • Despite the implausibility of claims made by Hydesville, New York natives Margaretta, Kate, and Leah Fox that they could communicate with the dead, they are associated with the beginnings of modern Spiritualism. Courtesy of Hett Art Gallery and Museum at Camp Chesterfield via IUPUI University Library and Indiana Memory.

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    Fox Sisters, 1952
    • Date
    • 1952
    • Description
    • Color print of the three Fox Sisters (1952), taken from an original Currier and Ives print. "This portrait of Margaretta, Kate, and Leah Fox is a reproduction of a Currier and Ives print, dated 1952. Presented by Miriam Buckner Pond (author of Unwill... more
      Color print of the three Fox Sisters (1952), taken from an original Currier and Ives print. "This portrait of Margaretta, Kate, and Leah Fox is a reproduction of a Currier and Ives print, dated 1952. Presented by Miriam Buckner Pond (author of Unwilling Martyrs and wife of the grandson of David Fox, who was the only brother of the Fox sisters.) less
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    • Http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/
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    • Indiana Memory
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    • Hett Art Gallery and Museum at Camp Chesterfield
      IUPUI (Campus). University Library

  • This prohibition poster describes a lecture taking place in Lowville, a town in Lewis County, New York. New Yorker John B. Finch, Chairman of the Prohibition National Committee from 1884 1887 was one of the featured participants. Courtesy of New York State Library via Empire State Digital Network.

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    Prohibition
    • Date
    • 1885
    • Creator
    • Volunteer Lecture Bureau.
    • Description
    • Summary: A generic poster for announcing prohibition meetings. This one announces a meeting in Lowville on Oct. 13, 1885 with A.A. Hopkins and John B. Finch as speakers.
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    • This document or image is provided for education and research purposes. Rights may be reserved. Responsibility for securing permissions to distribute, publish, reproduce or use it in any way rests with the user. For additional information, see the Ne... more
      This document or image is provided for education and research purposes. Rights may be reserved. Responsibility for securing permissions to distribute, publish, reproduce or use it in any way rests with the user. For additional information, see the New York State Library's Copyright and Use Statement, available at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/scandocs/rights.htm. less
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    • Empire State Digital Network
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    • New York State Library

The Canal brought all kinds of people to upstate New York. Many of them were young, looking to capitalize on a growing national economy, and ready for a new spiritual revival. During the Second Great Awakening, evangelical religious fervor swept the country, especially the Northeast and Midwest, and new ideas and beliefs spread via the Erie Canal. New religious and utopian movements such as the Oneida Community, the Spiritualists, the Shakers and the Mormons, moved westward along the canal route, rapidly descending on port towns and then moving on. This fast-moving wave of spirituality and religious zeal, which converted so many so quickly, prompted observers to refer to the Genesee Valley as the “Burned-Over District.”

In particular, the Baptist and Methodist faiths gained large numbers of converts and new denominations emerged. Joseph Smith discovered the Mormon faith just outside of Palmyra. The Fox Sisters founded Spiritualism near Rochester. Evangelist Charles Grandison Finney held a massive religious revival in Rochester, New York, lasting several months, from September 1830 to March 1831. People used the Canal to travel from as far away as 100 miles to hear him speak.

The movement for the prohibition of alcohol also grew in popularity during the late nineteenth century, and long before national prohibition many canalside communities, such as Port Byron, voted to go “dry” and ban alcohol. Temperance grew out of the conviction that alcohol was promoting crime along the Canal and the movement found crossover support among abolitionists and women’s rights groups as well.