Talkin' Socialism

J. A. Wayland and the Role of the Press in American Radicalism, 1890-1912

Elliott Shore

In this history of radical publishing at the turn of the century, Elliott Shore focuses on the Appeal to Reason, the flagship newspaper of J. A. Wayland's publishing empire. As modern periodical publishing came of age with the appearance of the first mass-circulation newspapers and magazines, so too did both populism and socialism in the United States. They drew strength from the same factors-the advance of technology, spreading industrialization, the growth and concentration of urban populations, and rising literacy rates. In the Appeal to Reason the two powerful and important forces—journalism and radicalism—came together.

Between 1900 and 1910 the circulation of the Appeal to Reason grew to more than half a million, placing it among the nation's leading weeklies. Its editors and writers included such prominent figures of the socialist movement as Eugene Debs and Upton Sinclair. Published for twenty-five years in Girard, Kansas, it was the most successful socialist institution in this country, unifying the movement from coast to coast.

“In what might be considered a companion piece to Nick Salvatore’s Eugene V. Debs, Shore has written a skillfully researched, penetratingly interpretive, and handsomely illustrated biography of Wayland that analyzes the role of the socialist press during an important period in the history of American radicalism.

—Journal of American History

“Shore has provided a wealth of new insights and a plethora of detail in chronicling not merely the rise and fall of the Appeal to Reason but also the dramatic life of its founder and guiding light. . . . An expert in the history of the alternative press, Shore displays considerable perception in handling this intriguing subject. . . . He has written a fine, worthwhile book that may help readers formulate an answer to the question, ‘Why is there no socialism in America?’

—American Historical Review
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The Appeal belongs equally to the history of radicalism and to the history of journalism. Shore examines it from both perspectives. He presents the inner workings of the socialist press and by focusing on Wayland, explores the possibilities of peaceful but fundamental change at the time when America became a mass consumer culture.

About the Author

Elliott Shore, a leading authority on the alternative press, is director of the Historical Studies-Social Science Library of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and editor of Alternative Papers: Selections from the Alternative Press, 1978-1980. He was for many years curator of the Contemporary Culture Collection at Temple University.