Saturday storm and stress (17-01)

I’m not exactly sure which day of the week will be most comfortable for weekly updates, but I suspect Saturday evening or Sunday morning will work fairly well. Here is a recap of the Sturm und Drang of the previous week…

• A revised draft of the book contract is in hand. There’s really not much disagreement at all between Haymarket on the one hand and David and me on the other, it is more or less a tidying process at this point, making sure the working titles are precise (even though they may be changed down the road), and taking care of housekeeping matters. About the most important thing remaining from my perspective is that there needs concrete language that there will be a hardcover version produced at a price that doesn’t bankrupt any library wanting to put such a thing on their shelves. I’ve got some proposed language in that regard and we shall see if it flies.

• On a whim I decided to tally up the number of words already in the can for Debs publications from the 1877-1896 period of the first volume. I was shocked to discover that for a volume with a hard cap of 255,000 words, I had already “spent” 157,500 words on 143 articles with another couple hundred pdfs and countless others on the launch pad. Plus an introduction and a scheduled 33,000 word section of testimony to a special committee (now ready to fly) and fully 77.5% of the book was accounted for. Yikes! Fortunately, we discovered this size problem early enough in the process that we could successfully make the case that another 20,000 words needed to be added to the book’s length. Still, even at 650 pages there will be some serious work with a machete needed to get Debs’ 14 years of journalism and two years of speeches and writings as a union leader hacked down to size.


• I’m a big fan of the Marx-Engels Collected Works in 50 volumes. One of the coolest aspects of that are the graphics of rare pamphlets and the like. I’m definitely very serious about gathering such things for the Debs Selected Works project. This involves tracking down and scanning up news magazines and the like, which invariably covered the massive Pullman Strike of 1894, the central focus of Volume 1. This week’s new arrivals include a couple of July 1894 issues of Life magazine, which was sort of a weak sauce bourgeois news weekly during this period. These ended up netting one really nice graphic, a double truck cartoon, lo res version shown above. The caption reads: “THE DOWNTRODDEN WORKING-MAN: While others are losing money in these hard times, he strikes for higher wages — and with tender solicitude for the property and the rights of others.” Of course, this is a flagrant misrepresentation of what the Pullman Strike of 1894 was actually about, but it does give the reader some sense of what the American Railway Union was up against in the court of public opinion. “Dictator Debs” was very unpopular indeed.

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