Appeal to Reason
Julius A. Wayland, editor of the Appeal to Reason
Julius A. Wayland began publishing a Socialist newspaper in Girard, Kansas to build upon the sentiments of radicalism he saw in the area. The paper was originally published on August 31st, 1895, in Kansas City, Missouri. Wayland founded this Socialist paper at the behest of Mary Harris (“Mother”) Jones and three-white collar workers. After a brief pause in publication in 1896, he resumed printing in Girard, Kansas in 1897. Here he built the Appeal to Reason into a national newspaper that peaked at circulation of 760,000 copies a week, with special editions reaching 4 million readers. This made the Appeal to Reason the most circulated Socialist newspaper in United States history (and still is to this day). This excited the residents of Girard because it meant that their town was producing a nationally circulating newspaper, thus putting it on the map. Another reason for excitement was the jobs that it brought. The Appeal to Reason became Girard’s largest employer, employing over one hundred people who worked forty-seven-hour work weeks in some of the best working conditions in the country.
Appeal to Reason Office, undated
Along with creating fervor for Socialism through publishing Socialist ideals and writing about news stories from a working-class perspective, the Appeal also worked to educate people. Wayland believed that education was information and used the news stories that his paper published to investigate the underlying causes of the stories. One great example of this was the commissioning of Upton Sinclair to write a story about the meatpacking industry in Chicago. Fred Warren, an editor at the Appeal to Reason, commissioned the story in 1904 and the story was serialized in the paper through 1905. It was eventually published in book format as The Jungle in 1906 and enjoyed worldwide success. This helped legitimize the Socialist movement to the locals of Southeast Kansas and beyond by providing news that helped them understand and interpret the socioeconomic situation of the nation that they lived in. The Appeal to Reason was a newspaper that had the people’s interests in mind and worked to provide a better life for those of the working class, to which most local residents belonged.
However, printing the Appeal to Reason was not the only endeavor in Girard, Kansas, to support the working class. J.I. Sheppard (who would go on to be one of the founders of The People’s College) organized the “Appeal Law Class”. The People’s College Vest-Pocket Edition of the Report of the Industrial Relations Committee claims that “nearly five thousand men and women enrolled for this law course. Hundreds of them have graduated and are now practicing and occupying places of position and power.” Another example of this educational work in Girard was Walter Mills’ International School of Social Economy. This school moved from Chicago to Girard in 1901 to give work and financial support to those interested in learning how to promote Socialism. Wayland was extremely pleased with this move and dedicated the funds from the Appeal to Reason to the school. This school, along with the Appeal Law class, was the predecessor to The People’s College.
Above are examples of articles from the Appeal to Reason, November 16th, 1912