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Friday, September 27, 2013

From the Geil Archive (16)—The Simultaneous Coin Extractor

[a] Sydney....later RF
Click here for other posts written by Guest Contributor Julia Lacher:
               1-About Me                    2-American Flag               3-Simultaneous Coin Extractor

Julia Lacher is a proud native of Des Moines, Iowa, and graduated from Beloit College in May with a double major in Anthropology and History and a minor in Museum Studies. She is the only intern working with William Edgar Geil's papers at the Doylestown Historical Society who did not take Professor Rob LaFleur's class on "The Accidental Ethnographer," and is currently wondering what she got herself in to.
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Please note that all items marked "DHS" are property of the Doylestown Historical Society, and used with DHS permission. If you wish to use an image, you need permission of the Society. Please contact Robert LaFleur (, and he will put you in contact with the appropriate people.

[b] Headline DHS

In the summer of 1902, William Edgar Geil left the United States to bring his evangelism and preaching to the inhabitants of Australia. The Commonwealth of Australia had been formed only a year earlier in January of 1901, and Geil appears to have been eager to bring his special brand of evangelism to the new country.

Geil's gave a series of sermons in Melbourne, Sydney, Ballarat, Bendigo, Adelaid, Perth, and Brisbane called "The Simultaneous Mission." He spoke on numerous subjects: props, dancing, sinners, hell, aborigines, evangelists, and missionary work.
[c] Lecture DHS

His sermons were hugely successful, filling meeting halls, churches, and theaters to capacity and earning rave reviews from local papers.

However, it wasn't all rainbows and sunshine. This cartoon was published in a Perth, Australia, in the summer of 1902. The headline reads "Come and See Geil, the Simultaneous Coin Extractor," and features a drawing of Geil, dressed as a clown, surrounded by his colleagues. A collection box placed next to him bears a plaque that states "Place a coin in the slot and receive salvation/Notice - must be gold or silver coins - gold preferred/copper will not work." In addition, Geil is pictured holding a fat goose labeled "The Public."
[e] Personal DHS

One of the most striking images in this picture is that of Geil dressed as a literal clown. The comedic effect of his costume is heightened by its contrast to the dour, somber outfits of Geil's colleagues, who surround and applaud him. The clown costume is also there to signify Geil's American-ness -- he is literally wearing the stars and stripes. The artist of this cartoon obviously did not see Geil as a serious evangelist and interpreted the humor and Americanisms in Geil's speech as a cheap trick, designed to set him apart from the crowd of more subdued (but no less corrupt) preachers.

The fear that Christian preachers are there not to save souls, but to line their pockets, is not a new one. The idea that the church uses fear to rip off the devout goes back to the Medieval Catholic Church and the sale of indulgences. The cartoonist in this situation is playing upon such fears, portraying Geil as a masquerading clown whose purpose is not salvation but his own personal gain. The depiction of the public as a dead goose shows the artist's belief that the people are willing participants in their own deception.

Was Geil merely out to make a buck? Or was he sincerely invested in saving people's souls? Perhaps in the coming weeks we will get a clearer view of Geil's motivations, but it is likely we will never fully understand them. In the meantime, Geil was making plans to continue his missionary work in places even more far flung than the new commonwealth of Australia. 
[e] Far-flung RF

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