Mapes, James Jay (1806–1866)
Professor of agricultural chemistry, member of various
learned societies, and one of the early American converts to
Spiritualism. Mapes was born on May 29, 1806, in New York
City. After leaving school he worked as a chemist’s clerk before
entering business for himself. He invented a system of sugar refining
in 1831, a machine for manufacturing sugar from cane,
and a process for making sugar from West Indian molasses. He
also invented a method of tanning hides, as well as improvements
in distilling, dyeing, color making, and other industrial
innovations. For his contributions, he received an honorary
A.M. degree from Williams University in 1840. He was also a
colonel in the New York state militia.
His conversion to Spiritualism was the result of an investigation
he initiated in order to save his friends from ‘‘running to
imbecility.’’ Cora L. V. Richmond produced for him phenomena
he could not explain. Then his wife, a woman of advanced
age with no talent for art, developed an automatic drawing
and painting mediumship. She executed in a marvelously
rapid manner several thousand watercolor drawings, which
met with praise. His daughter became a writing medium.
One of the early messages that came through his daughter
purported to emanate from Mapes’s father. It asked Mapes to
look up an encyclopedia, stored in a packing case 27 years before,
and there on page 120 he would find his father’s name
written. This was found true. With increasing interest Mapes investigated
Katie Fox (of the Fox sisters) and the Davenport
brothers, with whom he heard the first direct voice phenomena,
and the manifestations of ‘‘John King.’’ He followed every
new psychic discovery with keen interest. He died January, 10,