elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,
elisa_rolle
elisa_rolle

Constantine Fondolaik & Henry Ward Beecher

Crowds of up to three thousand people crowded Henry Ward Beecher’s Brooklyn church in the 1840s to hear the pastor preach on sin. It was Beecher’s loveless marriage, however, that was truly hell. In 1875 a national scandal erupted when Beecher was tried for adultery. In that case, he was accused of an affair with a woman, but earlier in his life Beecher had been passionately involved with at least one young man. (P: LOC ds.03753. Cigarette card for Goodwin & Co. tobacco manufacturer shows portrait of Henry Ward Beecher, football player for Yale University (©4))

The great love of Beecher’s life was a Greek student he’d met at school named Constantine Fondolaik. Beecher was so enamored of the youth, whom he called “the most beautiful thing I had ever seen,” that he changed his own middle name to Constantine and, in 1832, had a contract drawn up in which they promised to love and watch over each other with eternal devotion. They maintained their romantic relationship into their college year and beyond, until Fondoliak died of cholera in 1842.

Decades later, Beecher recalled Constantine as “like a young Greek god. When we boys used to go swimming together, I would climb out on the bank to watch Constantine swim, he was so powerful, so beautiful.”

Some of Beecher’s biographers credit the passion of his early affair with Fondoliak for providing much of the fire for Beecher’s later religious preaching and activism.


Historical Picture Collection/Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database. Daguerreotype of Henry Ward Beecher
Henry Ward Beecher was an American Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, and speaker. At age fourteen, he began his oratorical training at Mount Pleasant Classical Institution, a boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he met a fellow student, Constantine Fondolaik, from Smyrna, Greece. Both students later attended Amherst College together. In 1832, had a contract drawn up in which they promised to love and watch over each other with eternal devotion. They maintained their romantic relationship into their college year and beyond, until Fondoliak died of cholera in 1842.

Henry Ward Beecher (June 24, 1813 – March 8, 1887) was an American Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, and speaker, known for his support of the abolition of slavery, his emphasis on God's love, and his 1875 adultery trial.

Henry Ward Beecher was the son of Lyman Beecher, a Calvinist minister who became one of the best-known evangelists of his age. Several of his brothers and sisters became well-known educators and activists, most notably Harriet Beecher Stowe, who achieved worldwide fame with her abolitionist novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Henry Ward Beecher graduated from Amherst College in 1834 and Lane Theological Seminary in 1837 before serving as a minister in Indianapolis and Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

In 1847, Beecher became the first pastor of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York. He soon acquired fame on the lecture circuit for his novel oratorical style, in which he employed humor, dialect, and slang. Over the course of his ministry, Beecher developed a theology emphasizing God's love above all else. He also grew interested in social reform, particularly the abolitionist movement. In the years leading up to the Civil War, he raised money to purchase slaves from captivity and to send rifles—nicknamed "Beecher's Bibles"—to abolitionists fighting in Kansas and Nebraska. He toured Europe during the Civil War speaking in support of the Union.

After the war, Beecher supported social reform causes such as women's suffrage and temperance. He also championed Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, stating that it was not incompatible with Christian beliefs. In 1874, Beecher's former associate Theodore Tilton filed adultery charges against him for an alleged affair with Tilton's wife Elizabeth. The subsequent trial, which resulted in a hung jury, was one of the most widely reported American trials of the century. Beecher's long career in the public spotlight led biographer Debby Applegate to call him "The Most Famous Man in America".

At age fourteen, he began his oratorical training at Mount Pleasant Classical Institution, a boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he met a fellow student, Constantine Fondolaik, a Smyrna Greek. Both students later attended Amherst College together, where they signed a "contract" pledging lifelong friendship and brotherly love. Fondolaik died of cholera after returning to Greece in 1842, and Beecher later named his third son after him.

Source: Stern, Keith (2009-09-01). Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals (Kindle Locations 2239-2251). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Further Readings:

Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1500563323
ISBN-13: 978-1500563325
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time

Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher



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Tags: activist: henry ward beecher, days of love
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