The Little Blue Books
Pictured: Emanuel and Marcet Haldeman-Julius
Original housed at the Special Collections, the Axe Library, Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas
Emanuel Julius was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 30, 1889. He was the son of Jewish immigrants who fled to the United States to avoid persecution. Emanuel was harassed for being Jewish growing up, leading to a disdain for all religion as an adult. He left school at fifteen and worked a variety of menial jobs, eventually settling into working for Socialist newspapers. In 1915, Wayland invited Emanuel to write and edit for the Appeal to Reason. In 1919, Emanuel bought out the newspaper and press in an attempt to revitalize it.
While in Girard, Emanuel met Anna Marcet Haldeman, the daughter of Henry and Alice Addams Haldeman. Marcet’s mother was the sister of Jane Addams, co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, co-founder of the Hull House in Chicago, and the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Emanuel and Marcet married and chose to hyphenate their last names to demonstrate their commitment to equality.
One of the main goals of the Little Blue Book endeavor was to provide accessibility to classic and important literature. Each volume was printed in a small 3.5 x 5-inch format that kept production costs low and allowed readers to bring their books with them wherever they travelled.
These classic books became immensely popular. They were originally sold for twenty-five cents, but the price was quickly reduced to ten cents and eventually dropped all the way down to five cents. This endeavor allowed millions of people to read books that would have otherwise been unaffordable.
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Providing access to classic literature was not the only goal of the Little Blue Books. The Haldeman-Julius company also produced original works within the series. These books were typically about subjects that were seen as subversive or a threat to those in power. Some of these topics included self-improvement, birth control, sexual education, the hypocrisy of religion, labor law, and other similar topics. Haldeman-Julius devoted his life to trying to show Americans that their lives were harmed by political, economic, social, and religious restrictions that were engineered to create inequality, and he was successfully able to do so through the Little Blue Books.
Tolstoi's Short Stories
Meridel Le Sueur, the daughter of Marian Wharton and Arthur Le Sueur, claimed that the idea for the Little Blue Books came directly from the People’s College. While this assertion has not been verified, it appears that there is some truth to the story.
For example, the People’s College had previously published books in the same small format as the Little Blue Books, the most important of those being The People’s College Vest-Pocket Edition of the Report of the Industrial Relations Committee. Measuring about three inches by five inches, this book was created with the goal of distributing information about a Congressional committee to everyday working Americans. This is very similar to the Little Blue Books.
Another indicator that this idea stems from work done at the People’s College is that one of the original titles for the Little Blue Book series, The People’s Pocket Series (as pictured), seems to take its name from The People’s College Vest-Pocket volumes.