The Flamboyant Train and the Church of the Jackass

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George Francis Train (1829-1904) was a man of many titles. He was the “clipper ship” king, having organized the clipper slip line that sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco. He was Jules Verne’s inspiration as the “man who went around the world in 80 days,” having made his first of three trips around the globe in 1870. He was a the “Transcontinental Railroad” man having organized the Union Pacific Railroad. And he was a Copperhead, a Democrat who supported the Union but wanted a peaceful solution and sought to avoid war.

Most importantly, for Victoria Woodhull and Susan B. Anthony, he was a suffragist. He campaigned vigorously for women’s right to vote in Kansas in the 1860s. He funded Anthony’s paper, The Revolution. And despite running against Victoria Woodhull for President in 1872, he came to her defense when she was charged with obscenity, offering to put up the money for her bail.

When Victoria turned down Train’s offer for bail, he  then started his own newspaper and reprinted Biblical verses that had the same terms Victoria used in her articles. He was thrown in jail and the government declared him a lunatic. He spent his Sundays in his later years preaching in an empty New York building that he called, “Church of the Jackass.”

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