Tennessee Clafin (1844-1923)

William R. Howell

Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation

Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation
Pleasantville, United States

Tennessee Celeste Claflin, sister of the famous Victoria Woodhull, was a fortune teller, “table-rapper,” stockbroker, journalist, and healer. She advocated for the Free Love platform: the right to marry, divorce, and bear children without government interference. As a girl, “Tennie” practiced clairvoyance in her family’s medicine show. In 1868 she became the magnetic healer of the New York millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877). With backing from Vanderbilt, Tennie and Victoria founded the first female Wall Street brokerage firm. The elderly Vanderbilt promised to marry Tennie. When he died in 1877, Tennessee accepted a tidy $100,000 from the Vanderbilt family for promising she would not contest his will.


  • Title: Tennessee Clafin (1844-1923)
  • Creator: William R. Howell
  • Location: New York, New York
  • Physical Dimensions: Carte-de-visite (albumen), 4" x 2 1/2"
  • Provenance: The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation
  • Subject Keywords: Advocate
  • Type: Photograph
  • Date: ca. 1868

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