Bennett lived in Cincinnati for a number of years in the 1850s, manufacturing proprietary medicines and becoming wealthy. He had been born two months prematurely in Springfield, New York, and had a lifelong limp. He made and lost money on start-up businesses and investments in metropolitan areas around the country.
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He shook off the celibate Shakerism in 1846, when he and Shakeress Mary
Wicks fell in love and decided to marry. Their marriage and apostasy shocked and demoralized the remaining believers for years.
For a decade during the Gilded Age, D. M. Bennett was arguably both the most revered and the most reviled publisher in America. His devoted subscribers to the Truth Seeker, numbering in the tens of thousands, practically venerated the Shaker-turned-freethinker.