Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


First published by Julius A. Wayland at Kansas City on August 31, 1895, Appeal to Reason was a four-page socialist weekly. In February 1897 Wayland moved the paper to the southeast Kansas coal-mining town of Girard. There, drawing on the talents of some fine editors and numerous nationally known socialist thinkers and writers, the Appeal became the leading socialist publication in the United States, with a circulation of 760,000 at its peak in 1913.

Throughout its history, the Appeal highlighted the evils of capitalism and the promise of a socialist society. It fashioned itself the champion of a uniquely American brand of socialism and was tremendously successful because it combined this epigrammatic socialism with the right amount of muckraking, scandal, and circulation hustle. During the first decade of the twentieth century, American socialist leader Eugene Debs worked as a staff writer for Appeal to Reason, and the paper introduced its readers to Upton Sinclair's attack on poor and unsanitary working conditions in the meatpacking industry. A serialized version of Sinclair's The Jungle first appeared in Wayland's weekly, beginning on February 25, 1905.

Upon the death of J. A. Wayland by suicide in November 1912, Fred D. Warren, who had been working as editor for some years, continued publishing the Appeal. He was succeeded by Walter H. Wayland, son of the founder, Louis Kopelin, and then Emmanuel Haldeman-Julius. Appeal to Reason and its editors came under frequent attack by federal authorities during the years leading up to World War I. Some detractors labeled it the "Squeal for Treason," while Theodore Roosevelt branded it a "vituperative organ of propaganda, anarchy and bloodshed." Nevertheless, to the chagrin of many socialists, Appeal to Reason supported President Woodrow Wilson and the crusade to "make the world safe for democracy." It continued its advocacy of socialism and the international movement but changed its name to the New Appeal.

Soon after the war ended, the paper reverted back to its old title. It had, however, lost much of its zeal and readership and wilted under the anti-Red reaction of the early twenties. Appeal to Reason was discontinued in 1922, but its last editor, Haldeman-Julius, continued the paper's long-standing effort to educate the masses through his immensely popular Little Blue Book series, which brought quality literature to the public in inexpensive pocket books.

Virgil W. Dean Kansas State Historical Society

Appeal to Reason, Kansas City MO, Kansas City KS, and Girard KS, 1895–1922, Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka KS.

Shore, Elliott. Talkin' Socialism: J. A. Wayland and the Role of the Press in American Radicalism, 1890–1912. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988.

Wayland, Julius Augustus. Collection. Pittsburg State University Library, Pittsburg KS.

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