• July 1 is here — the deadline I set for myself several months ago for completion of the first phase of the first volume of the 4 book Eugene V. Debs Selected Works project. I began the week with only 4 more article pdfs to be processed from printed pages into editable text and quickly burned through those, leaving me a full week to ad lib.
The assembly of my database of Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine articles took a number of weeks, as you might recall, and generated a chronological listing that was very transparent in showing what was and was not chosen. As things transpired, there proved to be a couple gaps of coverage — runs of two or three or four consecutive issues during which very few or no articles were selected. I decided to look back and take another look at these “blank spots,” figuring that I may well have worked sloppily or overly fast on those issues and inadvertently skipped material that should otherwise have been included.
I concentrated on 1889, which seemed to significantly underrepresented in the article mix compared with other similar years. While that was true, now it is no longer the case. I may have rushed through this particular year before, but I feel that now the Debs material from 1889 has been carefully and consistently selected.
I’m not sure how many, if any, of the pieces I added this week will make the final cut for the book, probably one or two, but I certainly feel that the time has been very well spent pulling useful items from the trash heap, as a glance at the list of new titles created since last Saturday will indicate. All in all, it has made for an extremely productive week — a nice finish to the first phase of Debs Volume 1.
• On Thursday I goofed off for a couple hours in the afternoon spinning a random reel of Papers of Eugene V. Debs microfilm. (Never let it be said that middle aged men in Corvallis, Oregon do not know how to party!)
The result was my grabbing a very interesting article detailing the Socialists of Local Cook County, Illinois getting the “Red Special” train ready for the first time at the end of August 1908. A huge picnic featuring a speech by Gene Debs at Chicago’s Alton Park was planned, which would launch the SPA’s fall election campaign and Debs’s third run for the Presidency. Lots of interesting fine detail, here’s the piece if anyone wants it. Note that the Young Socialists were parading around in matching political armbands in 1908, a couple decades before such behavior gained decidedly noxious overtones.
Things got weird when I tried to figure out exactly where “Alton Park” was located. Virtually no references to any such place in Chicago exist, I found an account of a singing society that gathered four or five thousand people there and found an ad for a group called the “Free Sons of Israel” that were holding a picnic there in 1906.
Alton Park? There is a town by that name in Tennessee. Nope. The city of Alton, Illinois and village of East Alton, Illinois had and has parks — but those would have been about 250 miles away from Chicago, all the way across state on the Mississippi River, not too far from St. Louis. Too far away for a massive day excursion — so that’s out, too. The town of Portland, Michigan has an “Alton Park” — but that’s not in the right part of the state to be a quick hop from Chicago either. Adding to the mystery, The Encyclopedia of Chicago, which is stuffed full of detail about all things Cook County, provided nary a word of illumination.
Fortuitously, I’ve been corresponding with Jim Farr, a political science professor and historian from Chicago, over the last couple weeks about his project dealing with an obscure Chicago communist named Eugene Bechtold (I’m an expert on some of the weirdest things). I was able to turn the tables by asking him a question about his hometown: “So, where was Alton Park?”
The pop quiz stumped him, too! As of this writing, he sent out a query to local history-types for their input. We’ll figure this out, there has to be an answer…
ADDENDA: Carl Smith of Northwestern University responded to Jim’s query and has located Alton Park in the village of Lemont, Illinois — a suburb of Chicago located about 25 miles to the southwest. It seems to have been a privately-operated picnic grounds and was only around for a limited number of years, it would seem. Mystery solved.
• A total of 626,525 words of editable Debs text and footnotes has been generated for Volume 1 — with the available space limited to 260,000 words. A massive reading-and-chopping job lies ahead for David and me in July. In anticipation of this, I have been marking the ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL Keeper material in red on my database. I just ran a tally of these titles: they total 298,475 (!!!) words. This would indicate a need to chop 10% of the “absolutely essential” material and to completely ignore everything else just to get down to size.
I don’t really doubt that some of the “absolute essentials” will prove to be not such upon further review. And review them we must… That’s where I am starting — getting that material through the first reformatting and converted to a gigantic pdf.
• David is in Chicago at the ISO’s annual Socialism USA conference this week and I’m gonna be the busy Corvallis file conversion beaver… I’m already hard at work on the task even as we speak, working on 1887 at the moment.
• “Railroad Kings” — Dec. 1885 article — 1,510 words
• “Legislation, Law, and Free Transportation on Railroads” — March 1887 article — 1,330 words
• “The Situation in Europe” — March 1887 article — 200 words
• “Opposites” — April 1887 article — 1,450 words
• “Labor and Station in Life” — April 1887 article — 1,065 words
• “Labor Legislation” — April 1887 — 1,555 words
• “Time is Money” — March 1889 article — 1,335 words
• “Jay Gould” — May 1889 article — 1,640 words
• “Pin and Principle” — June 1889 article — 1,560 words
• “The Labor Press” — June 1889 article — 650 words
• “The Johnstown Horror” — July 1889 article — 1,570 words
• “The Reading” — August 1889 article — 1,065 words
• “Strikes” — August 1889 article — 1,600 words
• “The Sunday Question” — September 1889 article — 1,690 words
• “The So-Called Dignity of Labor” — September 1889 article — 1,800 words
• “The Limit of Endurance” — September 1894 article — 1,610 words
• “The Fourth of July” — September 1894 article — 2,480 words
• “Altgeld and Pullman” — October 1894 article — 1,500 words
• “A Larger Standing Army” — October 1894 article — 1,170 words
• “An Era of Bloodhoundism” — October 1894 article — 960 words
….Final score = 598,785 words in the can + 27,740 this week = 626,525 words
As always, the above material is either now up or will be up within the next week or so at the Eugene V. Debs Internet Archive on MIA, curated by David Walters.