On the Campaign Trail (18-14)


I won’t say this was an off week for me, but it is a busy one in real life and I made a conscious decision to pour what limited time I had into typing up four rare background documents about the party controversy of 1900. Those don’t show up on the scoreboard but will be invaluable in the writing of an introduction and may be repurposed in a little project later.

I read quite a lot of Debs as well, sorting wheat from chaff and consolidating my database of Debs articles.

I have by now learned that just about everything by Debs that appeared in the Appeal to Reason during this period was a reprint from the press somewhere else — which means that, if possible, the original article remains to be located for use as a master source.  I have bumped into a couple cases in which the Appeal edited the original content for space.

•          •          •          •          •

The Electoral Debacle of 1900, Redux.


Debs for President poster from the 1900 campaign. This will be properly digitized as an illustration for Debs Vol. 3. An original copy of this in nice shape could easily be a $5,000 item to political ephemera collectors. Note the emphasis on location of party headquarters: “Chicago, not Springfield, dammit!!!”

I mentioned previously that the 1900 Debs/Harriman ticket of the two Social Democratic Parties very nearly got beat in New York state by an obscure Massachusetts machinist running on the ticket of the DeLeonist Socialist Labor Party. (DDL would have had fun with that…)

This got me interested in seeing just how bad the SDP’s electoral bloodbath was in other states. According to official results published by the Chicago Tribune on Dec. 20, 1900, Debs collected about 85,000 votes on just under 14 million votes cast — a bit over six-tenths of one percent. The SDP’s vote total was more than doubled by the tally for the Prohibitionists, the party which finished in third place.

In only one state did Debs and Harriman receive more than 2 percent of the vote — Massachusetts (2.3%). They received more than 1 percent of the vote in six other states — Washington (1.9%), Oregon (1.8%), Wisconsin (1.6%), Florida (1.5%), New Jersey (1.1%), and Montana (1.1%).

On top of the New York catastrophe, the tallies for West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where Debs had invested so much time on behalf of coal miners in 1897, had to be particular dispiriting. In Pennsylvania the Social Democratic ticket received just over 4,800 votes on almost 1.2 million cast, while in neighboring West Virginia the trouncing was even more complete, with Debs and Harriman winning just 220 votes out of about 220,000 — one-tenth of one percent!

The Social Democratic ticket was not on the ballot in 16 states, most notably California Maine, and Virginia. Had they been on the ballot in all 46 states, the SDP’s vote total likely would have been in the neighborhood of 100,000. They were expecting a million.

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Another year down…


Debs’s September 29 speech in Chicago that launched the 1900 campaign was reprinted as a campaign pamphlet. Only three copies of this have survived. This, actually, is not the worst situation — there are five or six SDP leaflets with zero surviving specimens known.

I am basically done with Debs for 1900 — there are a couple speeches that I may or may not type up. In general the coverage of Debs on the Presidential trail was light and spotty and there are only a couple good examples of campaign speeches. It was only a six week process (compare and contrast to the two years spent by many candidates today) and there doesn’t seem to have been a ton of advance planning of the events, which typically filled the largest halls in the towns he visited.

There follows a list of cities that Debs visited during his whirlwind 1900 campaign tour. I don’t recall what the total count of speeches was, something like 80 — there were a number of short whistle-stop addresses made at train stations that were not reported in the press, or which received coverage in small papers that either did not survive or which are not yet digitized and easily available.


29. — CHICAGO. Debs starts 1900 campaign with speech at Central Music Hall, Chicago. Joining him was Prof. George D. Herron. The widely reprinted speech was produced as a campaign pamphlet and is the best transcript of a speech from the 1900 election tour.

30. CHICAGO scheduled at New 12th St. Turner Haul, auspices Bohemian branches of Chicago, along with Victor L. Berger, A.S. Edwards, and several others.


1. BATTLE CREEK, MI to an “immense” crowd at the opera house.

2. FORT WAYNE, IN before a large crowd at the Princess Rink. Introduced by a SDP member named Dr. Rauch.

3. MARION, IN scheduled.

4. CINCINNATI, OH scheduled.


6. INDIANAPOLIS, IN arrives at noon from Louisville. Speaks at Masonic Hall in the evening with Sylvester Keliher in the chair.


8. — PANA, IL. Speaks to 600 people at 8 pm at the Hayward Opera House.

9. — ST. LOUIS, MO. Speaks at Lemp’s Hall. Later speaks to a crowd estimated as high as 6,000 people at the pavilion at Concordia Park. Preceded by a torchlight procession of 2,500. Speaks with Caleb Lipscomb of Liberal, MO, SDP candidate for governor of MO.

10. — KANSAS CITY, MO. G.C. Clemens, candidate for Governor of KS, also speaks to overflow crowd.

SEDALIA, MO. Five minute whistle stop speech.


12. FORT SCOTT, KS. Whistle stop speech. Speaks to about 200 at the Memphis depot.

12. WINFIELD, KS. Whistle stop speech. Three minute speech in a station.

12. WICHITA, KS. Speaks at Garfield Hall in the evening to an overflow crowd.

13. TOPEKA, KS. With G.C. Clemens, who introduced Debs. Met on stage by delegation of engineers and firemen, including founder Josh Leach of the B of LF. Crowd at the Auditorium estimated at about 1,500.

14. Afternoon: HERRINGTON, KS.

14. Night: ABILENE. “No political meeting allowed in KS on Sunday so Debs gave free lectures instead.” Title: “Ethics of Socialism.” Location: the Opera House.

ARMOURDALE, KS. Large open air meeting.

16. OMAHA, NE. Spoke for 2-1/2 hours.

17. CLINTON, IA. At least 500 people turned away from full house at the People’s Theater.

18. MUSCATINE, IA. Stein’s Hall, the largest hall in town, packed and hundreds turned away. Speaks with Charles L. Breckman, candidate for Congress and prominent Iowa socialist George A. Lloyd.

19. DAVENPORT, IA. Turner Opera Hall, 8 pm, capacity 1,800, packed to the rafters. Another estimate “at least 1,500.” Debs speaks for nearly 2 hours. A.K. Gifford presiding. The Vorwarts Singing Society sat on stage and sang several numbers. Charles Landon Breckon,SD Candidate for Congress from Muscatine, spoke.

20. BURLINGTON, IA scheduled.

21. SHEBOYGAN, WI. Born’s Hall, with Seymour Stedman and Howard Tuttle of Milwaukee, candidate for Governor. Large and enthusiastic meeting.

22. MILWAUKEE, WI at Pabst Theater. Filled to the rafters an hour early. Victor L. Berger presided. Debs spoke for two hours. Theater holds 2,400, an estimated 4,000 were packed in and hundreds more turned away. Overflow audience addressed by Chicago Socialist George Koop in the street.

23. CLEVELAND, OH at the Academy of Music, attended by 3,000 plus overflow. Max S. Hayes presided

24. WHEELING, WV at Arion Clubhouse. Debs speaks for 2:15.

25. PHILADELPHIA, PA at Academy of Music, packed hall with hundred turned away. J. Mahlon Barnes presided. Mother Jones also spoke

26. TRENTON, NJ where Debs spoke for two hours.

27. WHITMAN, MA spoke until 9:45 pm.

27. Later BROCKTON, starting at 10 pm after fast transfer from Whitman.

28. Afternoon: TAUNTON, MA, filling the largest hall in town.

28. BOSTON, MA Paine Memorial Hall, with Squire Putney in the chair, with FO MacCartney (Chicago) in one hall and Debs the other. Nearly 5,000 heard Debs, by one estimate.

29. ROCKLAND, MA Opera house packed. MacCarney presiding and making an introductory speech.

30. NEW YORK CITY at Cooper Union, audience estimated at 10,000.

31. ROCKVILLE, CT to overflow crowd.


1. HARTFORD, CT to overflow crowd.

2. ROCHESTER, NY at Fitzhugh Hall, “packed to suffocation.” Preceded by a parade of local unions.

[Nov. 2. SDP Election march in New York City, in which 5,000 participate, carrying red banners. March ends with a Madison Square Garden rally, addressed by Max Hayes and N.J. Giger of Cleveland, J. Mahlon Barnes of Philadelphia, and Ben Hanford, SDP candidate for Governor of New York.]

3. — Afternoon: TOLEDO, OH at Memorial Hall for two hours to an overflow crowd. Introduced by Byron A. Case, candidate for Congress.

4. — EVANSVILLE, IN to big crowd at Germania Hall.

5. — Afternoon: LINTON, IN.

5. — TERRE HAUTE, IN speech at the Casino to 1700 or 2000. Greeted at the depot by a band. Spoke for two hours.

•          •          •          •          •

A few observations about the 1900 campaign.

(1.) I’m not sure if it is Ray Ginger or Nick Salvatore — one of the major Debs biographers anyway — that indicated EVD was playing factional politics on the campaign trail, refusing to speak at events held under the auspices of the Springfield SDP. This is clearly incorrect. See, for example, Oct. 23, Cleveland, with Max S. Hayes presiding, and Oct. 25, Philadelphia, with J. Mahlon Barnes in the chair. Whatever Debs’s preferences and predilections, he clearly wasn’t trying to “freeze out” the Springfield crowd via a boycott.

(2.) The New York vote tally of just over 10,000 votes had to be a brutal shock after the party’s massive November 2 campaign event, with a parade of 5,000 and a rally at Madison Square Garden. One wonders if there might have been massive vote theft by Tammany Hall in the state; clearly the level of enthusiasm vis-a-vis the final count does not compute.

(3.) At a glance it seems that Debs spent an inordinate amount of time in Iowa and Kansas, concentrating 9 of his precious nights — about a quarter of his time — in those two states. Kansas has a strong tradition of support for the People’s Party and Debs honestly must of hoped to do well there, but Iowa remains a major mystery, since his first “Labor and Liberty” speaking tour in the state was more than a bit of a flop. One would have expected more effort in Massachusetts and New York, where the potential SDP voters were, rather seeing this much time wasted in the Midwest.



The deadline for Eugene V. Debs Selected Works: Volume 3 is October 15, 2018. I’m setting a soft deadline of August 1 to finish the document compilation phase of the project. This means there are now 12 more Saturdays after today to get the core content section of the book assembled, with a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words.

  • “Outlook for Socialism in the United States” — September 1900 — 3,127 words
  • “Crimes of Carnegie” — March 30, 1901 — 695 words
  • “The Climax of Capitalism” — April 27, 1901 — 785 words
  • “Altgeld, the Liberator” — March 18, 1902 — 665 words

Word count: 150,733 in the can + 5,740 this week = 156,473 words total.

I also typed up for background a 4,000 word account of the March 1900 Social Democratic Party convention in Indianapolis by one of the four dissident SLP members of that party’s joint unity committee to attend the gathering, and another 8,240 word account of the same gathering by Will Mailly of the Haverhill Social Democrat, a pro-unity member of the Chicago SDP that jumped for Springfield. Also a 1,275 word reply by the Chicago SDP Unity Committee majority to the Manifesto of the NEB sabotaging unity in 1900, and a 1,085 word set of minutes of the second meeting of the joint unity committee.


About carrite

Independent scholar from Corvallis, Oregon with a strong interest in early 20th century political history.
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