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Julius Wayland

publisher of two of the most popular Socialist jounals in the United States

Julius Wayland

Julius Augustus Wayland was born in Versailles, Indiana, on April 26, 1854. His father and four of his brothers and sisters died during a cholera epidemic when he was about four months old. He grew up in abject poverty, and after two years of schooling he was forced to find work to help support his family.

First employed as a printer's apprentice on the Versailles Gazette, he later worked for neighboring newspapers as a printer and typesetter. By 1872 he had saved enough money to become a part owner of the Gazette, and two years later he became sole proprietor of the paper.

Wayland converted to socialism after reading such books as The Cooperative Commonweath, by Laurence Gronlund, and Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy. When he expressed socialist views in his newspaper he so upset the conservatives in Versailles that a mob put a rope around his neck and threatened to lynch him. Soon after this incident he decided to move to Pueblo, Colorado.

In April 1893, Wayland began publishing the radical journal The Coming Nation. Within fifteen months the journal had a circulation of 60,000 and was the most popular socialist newspaper in America. The profits from this journal helped to fund the Ruskin Co-operative Association, a utopian colony located on 2,000 acres of land near Tennessee City, Tennessee. It was Wayland's intention to provide "every convenience that the rich enjoy, permanent employment at wages higher than ever dreamed of by laborers, with all the advantages of good schools, free libraries, natatoriums, gymnasiums, lecture halls and pleasure grounds." Wayland had difficulty making his community work, however, and in July 1895 he turned his land and his journal over to the Ruskin Co-operative Association.

Relocating to Missouri, he began publishing the socialist journal Appeal to Reason in August 1895. The journal contained a mixture of articles and extracts from books by such radical thinkers as Tom Paine, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, John Ruskin, and William Morris. In 1900 he moved his base of operations to Girard, Kansas. That same year he employed Fred Warren as his co-editor. A well-known figure on the left, Warren was able to persuade many of America's leading progressives to contribute to the journal, including Jack London, Stephen Crane, Mary "Mother" Jones, Helen Keller, and Eugene Debs.

By 1902, Appeal to Reason had more than 150,000 subscribers, making it the fourth most popular weekly in the United States. In 1904, Warren commissioned Upton Sinclair to write a novel about immigrant workers in Chicago meat packing houses. Wayland provided Sinclair with a $500 advance, and after seven weeks research he wrote the novel The Jungle. Serialized by the journal in 1905, the book helped increase circulation to over 175,000.

As the popularity of Appeal to Reason increased, so too did attacks on Wayland. His offices were repeatedly broken into in an effort to find evidence of criminal activity. The Los Angeles Times frequently published articles claiming that Wayland had been involved in cases of arson and murder, and in 1912 reported that Wayland was guilty of seducing an orphaned girl of fourteen who subsequently died during an abortion.

Depressed by the recent death of his wife and the continuing smear campaign against him, Wayland committed suicide on November 10, 1912. After his death, Wayland's children won considerable damages after suing the newspapers that had published untrue stories about him.

Eugene Debs

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This page was last updated on November 10, 2017.