• I am already finished reading microfilm for the first volume of the Debs Selected Works. That strikes me as being way ahead of the curve, I’m sure the feat won’t be repeated as rapidly for volumes 2, 3, and 4.
The thing is, a large part of Debs’s (gotta get used to that Haymarket House Style!) early writing happened in the pages of Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, the official journal of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, of which he was the paid editor for a dozen years. All those issues have been scanned by Google for their Google Books project, which means that material can be handled without leaving the laptop computer environment. Issues can be perused, articles selected and segregated, files prepared for Optical Character Recognition (OCR), output gathered, proofreading done, finished files assembled — no paper issues or microfilm necessary.
I have every known Debs article databased, which took me a long, long time — you’ve already heard me moaning about that. Now, fortunately, the dirty work is done and the benefits begin to accrue. During the tedious process of building the cumbersome database file I was spinning through Firemen’s Magazine and simultaneously skimming through and preserving individual pdf files of every potentially relevant article.
With several hundred potentially includable pieces neatly stored away, I launched an all out attack on everything else. I spun film frenetically, both the Papers of Eugene V. Debs microfilm and the runs I own of Railway Times, The Coming Nation, and Appeal to Reason. This is the phase that is now completed. Check that box.
• Next comes the OCR phase of the exercise. As this week began I had 259 remaining Firemen’s Magazine Debs article files to run through Optical Character Recognition. Since I’ve got 13 weeks until I turn into a pumpkin on July 1, this means that I need to make 20 files per week go away — about 3 files per day.
This was a pretty average week, pace-wise. I put in my 20 hours, something like that, and as I am typing this on Friday morning I have 22 articles in the can for 27,800 words. Another 11 files were rejected during the second reading, and the inventory of articles sits at 226. Assuming the file size and rejection rate I experienced this week are reasonable random samples of the remaining population, this means that there are something like 192,000 more words to come, for a grand total of 560,000 for Volume One’s 1877-1896 interval.
Simple math: the article “hole” for the book is 260,000, so there will be something like 300,000 extra words of text generated for volume 1. Keeping things in round figures, that means there will be about 750 bonus pages of edited Debs material generated.
• This begs the question: what the hell is going to happen to the reams of extra editable text that has been created?
My current thought, and don’t hold me to it, is that this material may well be published as an eBook placed into the public domain. Then it is just a matter of nature taking its course with the myriad of “print on demand” goobers on eBay finding the files and making hard copy books out of them and vending them to anyone interested. It’s not like more than a handful of people are going to want to track down that material in book form anyway, barring a strange and unexpected resurgence in interest in reading Gene Debs esoterica…
There is a certain brilliant simplicity to this idea as far as getting this material into print and distributed, it must be admitted. I’m still pondering things. Another alternative would be for me to become the “print on demand” goober on eBay myself, which would increase my control over the output at the cost of a pain in my backside. Option 3 would be to turn the production and distribution over to Marxists Internet Archive, who could make a few badly needed bucks at it, with me retaining a certain amount of control of the end product. There are cases to be made for all of these options.
• New additions to the library this week include huge microfilm runs of two important national news and politics magazines, The Outlook (1894-1935) and The Forum (1886-1940). Total tab for 59 reels of film, postpaid from Alabama: $55 — 93 cents a reel! That’s almost free. Also scored another lot of Pearson’s magazine from 1915, 1916, and the first half of 1917 — nice copies for about $3 an issue, postpaid, which is also stealing.
I also managed to pick up a 100 year old socialist pamphlet from Ohio that doesn’t appear in WorldCat, meaning that for the moment it appears to be the only specimen known. It wasn’t too big of a cash hit as these things go, $25 — which would be less than 25% of the cost of a unique sales tax token or 10% of the cost of a unique socialist political button, just guessing. Collector prices are what they are and “cheap” and “expensive” are relative. Twenty-five bucks for such a thing is really good value.
• “Pullman” — Jan. 1887 article — 1,225 words
• “The Chicago Anarchists” — Jan. 1887 article — 1,550 words
• “Politics”— Jan. 1887 article — 730 words
• “Abolitionists” — Feb. 1887 article — 1,275 words
• “Will Labor Organizations Federate?” — Feb. 1887 article — 1,125 words
• “Land, Labor, and Liberty” — Aug. 1887 article — 975 words
• “The Contemplated Treaty with Russia” — Aug. 1887 article — 2,350 words
• “Child Labor” — Sept. 1887 article — 1,350 words
• “Cooperation and Arbitration” — Oct. 1887 article — 1,025 words
• “Joining Labor Organizations” — March 1888 article — 1,000 words
• “Federation, the Lesson of the Great Strike” — April 1888 — 1,500 words
• “The Policy of the Order of Railway Conductors” — May 1888 — 2,375 words
• “The Great Strike” — May 1888 — 1,950 words
• “Federation of Labor Organizations for Mutual Protection” — June 1888 — 825 words
• “The Record of the CB&Q Strike” — June 1888 — 1,000 words
• “The Situation” — July 1888 — 1,300 words
• “The Common Laborer” — July 1888 — 650 words
• “Invincible Man” — July 1888 — 750 words
• “Home Rule in Ireland” — Aug. 1888 — 1,375 words
• “The Pinkertons” — Aug. 1888 — 1,425 words
• “The CB&Q and Pinkerton Conspiracy” — Aug. 1888 — 2,050 words
• “Equality of Conditions” — Sept. 1888 — 950 words
• “Federation” — Sept. 1888 — 1,160 words
• “Night and Morning” — Sept. 1888 — 1,725 words
….Word count = 338,505 words + 31,640 this week = 370,145 words