Talkin' Socialism: J.A. Wayland and the Radical Press

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University Press of Kansas, Apr 6, 1988 - History - 288 pages
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.

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.

"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.

"Was it ultimately a good strategy to try to sell socialism through the techniques of modern capitalist advertising and promotion? What happened when socialism was brought into the new popular culture of consumption and mass media? Shore explores these fascinating questions in his thoughtful, well-written book."—Indiana Magazine of History.

"In examining the only mass circulation socialist newspaper in America, Shore illuminates the indigenous political and cultural roots of the socialist movement and aids us in understanding central aspects of the American political tradition."—Nick Salvatore, author of Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist.

"A sensitive, moving book. Shore's study is a vital chapter in the history of American literature and journalism as well as American radicalism-with peculiar relevance to our own times."—Sean Wilentz, author of Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850.

"Concern with the language of politics and the meaning of cultural messages characterizes this fascinating book."—Dissent.

"A considerable contribution, long overdue."—Journalism History.

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