The Election of 1904 (18-26)


Gene Debs seems to have embraced his role as presidential nominee of the Socialist Party in 1904 less grudgingly than he did four years previously. He delivered an acceptance speech to the SPA’s nominating convention in May, sat out the hot summer months — presidential campaigns were much shorter in that era than they are today — and began to campaign in earnest on September 1 with a widely reprinted speech delivered at Masonic Hall in Indianapolis.

Eugene V. Debs opens up campaign in New York City with speech at

This is not a typo, the Socialist Party remained the “Social Democratic Party” due to ballot restrictions in New York and Wisconsin during the 1904 campaign. It also had a different name in Minnesota, the “Public Ownership Party.”

It takes a great deal of time-consuming detective work to determine EVD’s itinerary during the 1904 campaign — there was never anything so neat and easy as a list of scheduled speaking engagements as there was for the “Socialist Red Special” year of 1908, with the time of every scheduled whistle-stop speech minutely planned and publicized on a printed schedule. Instead, newspapers from around the country have to be searched and perused and the rough outline filled in and fleshed out.

In connection with volume 3 of the Debs Selected Works I have made some serious progress towards a definitive listing of Debs speaking appearances during the 1904 campaign.  The following list is nothing like complete, bear in mind, is “only” at the 401 million page mark with their searchable accumulation of digitized microfilm — en route to several billion pages a decade hence, I am sure. There is no doubt whatsoever that blank spots will be colored in and a few errors fixed as more source material becomes available. That being said, the following makes for a decent start at the effort to list every Debs speech during the 1904 Presidential Campaign…

I’ve worked really hard on this. It interests me.

My timeline as it currently stands follows…

•          •          •          •          •


• Sept. 1, 1904. — INDIANAPOLIS at Masonic Hall scheduled.

• Sept. 2, 3, 4, 5. — no information.

• Sept. 6, 1904. — NEW YORK CITY at Carnegie Hall, George D. Herron presiding. Debs claimed in Montana News published Oct. 5 (pg. 1) that “there was a line seven blocks long formed to enter Carnegie Hall to avoid a crush at the doors, and a detail of 100 policemen to prevent a jam. The great auditorium filled to the roof in a few moments and thousands could not get in.”
• Sept. 7. — BALTIMORE, MD.
• Sept. 8. — WHEELING, WV
• Sept. 9. — DAYTON, OH. — Spoke on a Friday night at the Park Theater.
• Sept. 10. — no information.
• Sept. 11 —  ST. LOUIS, MO. At Riverside park to at least 5,000 people at a socialist picnic at Riverside Park. Debs spoke for two hours, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
• Sept. 12— MEMPHIS, TN. Introduced by Fred Stanley of the Labor-Journal. The editor of the Memphis Commercial Appeal afterwards wrote:

“Mr. Debs is a man of vast strength of personal magnetism. Intensely in earnest, a man of the people, caring little for the effect of rhetorical graces, although possessed of these in no mean degree, he first attracts attention and then compels admiration on his own account, even where the listener quite disagrees with his peculiar political and economic views.

“Eugene V. Debs upon the lecture platform is a man of intense action. His long, angular form bends and sways, his long right arm crooks and lifts, his bony fingers shake and point as he strives with voice and gesture to drive his argument home to the intelligence of his audience and clinch it there. He makes an individual appeal. There is no broad shooting at a phalanx, there are no scattering volleys. It is a rapid succession of sharp-shooting, in which every word counts and every sentence nails an argument. And always he speaks to you, and you forget that there are others who are listening.” (Quoted in SD Herald, Sept. 24, 1904, p. 1.)

• Sept. 13.— CHATTANOOGA, TN. Accompanied by a workingmen’s band dressed in “white duck trousers and blue shirts.” Spoke for two hours at the Auditorium, starting at 8 pm. Introduced by Socialist Congressional candidate R.B. Taggart.
• Sept. 14. — ATLANTA, GA. Planned meeting site at the Wesley Memorial Tabernacle abruptly cancelled 24 hours in advance. Hall of Representatives in State Capitol  secured at last minute and Debs spoke to about 300 people there for two hours. Introduced by Rev. E.M. Skagen of the West End Episcopal Church and Max Wilk, secretary of Local Atlanta SPA.
Debs faces troubles for Sept. 15, 1904 Birmingham, Alabama Socia• Sept. 15. — BIRMINGHAM AL. Denied access to the city’s opera house, campaign was forced to rent a smaller hall on the edge of town — then were denied rental of chairs. Eventually were able to obtain raw planks, which were placed on top of chairs to fashion makeshift benches. Hall crowded to capacity and hundreds turned away.
• Sept. 16. – LITTLE ROCK, AR at Old Concordia Hall. Free admission. Arrived in town at 1:40 and was escorted to the Gleason Hotel by E.W Perrin, State Secretary of the SP of Arkansas. Spoke for two hours to an audience including many farmers. “The house was packed and jammed, no standing room even out in the corridor. Debs was lustily cheered to the echo.”
• Sept. 17. — PINE BLUFF, AR.
• Sept. 18. — FORT SMITH, AR. Spoke during the day at the park to about 2,500 despite a heavy rain.
• Sept. 19. — KANSAS CITY, MO, spoke at Convention Hall to a large crowd, estimated variously at 2,000 to 5,000 people for more than 2-1/2 hours. Admission was 10, 25, and 50 cents. Speech punctuated by applause. Shook hands and spoke to a crowd of people who surrounded him for more than an hour after the speech finished.
• Sept. 20. — WICHITA, KS at Toler Auditorium. 300 reserved seats for 25 cents, otherwise admission free. Introduced by Rev. Granville Lowther, Socialist candidate for Governor of Kansas. Stayed in the Hotel Carey in Wichita afterwards.
• Sept. 21. — No speech given: transit day. Was rumored to speak at the depot at EL PASO, TX, en route to CA. A crowd assembled, but Debs was not on the expected train, which was running three hours late. Another news report has him visiting Newton, KS on the 21st and leaving late in the evening straight for Los Angeles.
• Sept. 22. — Arrived in ALBUQUERQUE, NM at 10:40 am, where he was scheduled to speak for 20 minutes at the depot. “Repairs” had to be made on the engine and he wound up speaking nearly an hour from the back of a baggage truck. According to one observer, “Many of those present were old railroad men who were visibly affected at meeting their old comrade… We presented him with a basket of native fruit and were awfully sorry to see the train move out.” No night speech given: transit day.
• Sept. 23. — LOS ANGELES. Speaks to an audience filling the 4,000 seat Hazard’s Pavilion at 8 pm on a Friday night. Admission downstairs ranged from 10 to 50 cents. The (anti-union) LA Times refused to cover the speech the next day.
• Sept. 24. — SAN FRANCISCO. Speaks to 7,000 at Woodward’s Pavilion. Admission was 10 cents, reserved seats 25 cents.
• Sept. 25. —  no information.
• Sept. 26. — PORTLAND, OR. Arrived at the hall at 8:30 pm to a standing ovation lasting several minutes.

Chicago Inter Ocean editorial on Debs, pt. 1 -


• Sept. 27. — TACOMA, WA. At Lyceum Theater, which was packed “from gallery to parquet.” Those unable to obtain seats congregated outside. Topic: “Political Economics from a Socialist Standpoint.”
• Sept. 28. — SEATTLE. Arrived in morning from Tacoma. Called at Seattle socialist headquarters then went to visit a friend at Dunlap. Spoke for two hours in the evening at the “new” Armory located on 10th and Howell streets to a full house. Tickets were 10 cents. Scheduled to leave on the 10 pm train for Spokane.
• Sept. 29. — SPOKANE, WA at the Auditorium. Introduced by David Burgess of Tacoma. Addresses 1,500 people paying from 10 cents to 50 cents admission.
• Sept. 30. — WALLACE, ID to a large and enthusiastic audience.
• Oct. 1. — MiSSOULA, MT at Union Opera House, scheduled to start at 8:00 pm. Socialist candidate for Clerk and Recorder T.D. Caulfield presided and Debs spoke for nearly 2 hours. Debs’ train from Couer D’Alene was scheduled to arrive at 3:15 pm.


Impassioned anti-Debs editorial from the Chicago Inter Ocean (Dec. 2, 1904), one of the city’s three or four most important dailies. They did not like EVD, putting things mildly…

• Oct. 2. – HELENA, MT: Ten minute whistle stop scheduled for 2:15. LIVINGSTON, MT at night to a SRO crowd. Debs spoke for two hours. “We could have used a house twice as large and filled every seat.”
• Oct. 3 – BUTTE, MT at the Auditorium. Scheduled to start at 7:30 pm. As many as 10,000 people tried to attend, with thousands unable to get in. Spoke for more than an hour.
• Oct. 4. – POCATELLO, ID. speaks for an hour between trains at McNichols and Wright Hall. Speaks briefly with a newspaper reporter in Ogden, en route to SLC. Arrives in SLC late night Tuesday, Oct. 4 and stays at the Grand Pacific Hotel.
Oct. 5. – SALT LAKE CITY at the Salt Palace Theater. Scheduled to start at 8:00 pm. Topic; “Should the trusts own the government or the government own the trusts?”
• Oct. 6. —  no information.
• Oct. 7. (?) — DENVER at Coliseum Hall, which was packed to the rafters. [Denver more than 500 miles from SLC and more than 500 miles from Omaha].
• Oct. 8.— no information.
• Oct. 9.— OMAHA, NE at Washington Hall.
• Oct. 10. — DES MOINES, IOWA at the Auditorium. Spoke in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 1,500, each paying 10 cents admission.
• Oct. 11. — MINNEAPOLIS at the vast International Auditorium, with admission set at 10 cents. An outdoor meeting was held outside due to the 7,000 seat venue (extra seats having been added) being filled, with Carl Thompson, George Kirkpatrick, and Frank O’Hare addressing the outdoor meeting.
• Oct. 12. — ST. PAUL scheduled.
• Oct. 13.— DUBUQUE, IA. Admission charged, which did not deter it from being one of the biggest political meetings in the city’s history. Full transcript of speech run by the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald.
• Oct 14. — ROCK ISLAND, IL to a full house at the Illinois Theater.
• Oct. 15. — No Speech Given.
• Oct. 16.—TOLEDO, OH to a full house at Memorial Hall. Five hundred people turned away at the door. Introduced by Thomas W. Row of the American Flint Glass Workers Union.
• Oct. 17. – CHICAGO at the Auditorium with Ben Hanford to an overflow audience. Small admission fee charged. Overflow crowd in Congress Street outside unable to get seats listened to stump orators.
• Oct. 18.— CLEVELAND, OH at Grays’ Armory. Debs arrived slightly late and was greeted by an ovation from a crowd estimated at 3,000 to 3,500.
• Oct. 19.— NEW CASTLE, PA seceduled.
• Oct. 20.— PITTSBURGH, PA at Old City Hall, auspices of Allegheny Co. Socialist Party.
• Oct. 21. — READING, PA. At the Auditorium to “the largest and most enthusiastic gathering ever held in the city.”
• Oct. 22.—WILMINGTON, DE at Turn Hall in the afternoon scheduled.
• Oct. 23. Sunday — NEW YORK CITY at the Academy of Music. Debs said to be accompanied on his eastern tour by Stephen M. Reynolds, a Terre Haute attorney and friend. Debs spoke in the afternoon to 8,000 people, who packed the floor, three balconies, boxes, stage, and standing room. Before opening the line outside ran for three blocks; half an hour after door closed there were still hundreds outside, unable to get in. Music was provided by the Brooklyn Letter Carriers’ band with speeches by Dr. Gibbs of Worcester, MA; John Brown of Connecticut, and Com. Bach, SPA candidate for Lt. Governor in New York. When debs entered a ten minute ovation erupted with cheering, shouting, and the waving of flags and handkerchiefs. EVENING: BROOKLYN at the Majestic Theater.
• Oct. 24.M— no information.
• Oct. 25. U — JERSEY CITY in the evening. Overflow meeting outside was addressed by Comrade Keep. SECOND MEETING: NEWARK at the largest hall in the city to an overflow crowd.
• Oct. 26. W — NEW HAVEN, CT to a SRO crowd at Music Hall. A torchlight procession with music and banners marched past Debs’ hotel on the way to the hall. Rev. Alexander Iroine cll ed the meeting to order. Debs spoke for two hours. Afterwards he was swarmed and lifted onto the shoulders of the crowd, who cheered themselves hoarse.

• Oct. 27, 28, 29. — no information.

• Oct. 30, 1904. — BOSTON, MA. Afternoon. Speaks with James F. Carey of Haverhill. Packs out Faneuil Hall, with “several thousand people unable to gain admittance, according to the Boston Globe. Spoke for more than two hours, then addressed an impromptu meeting outside in the square, then was surrounded by a cheering crowd of 1,000 who accompanied him to his hotel.
• Oct. 30, 1904 — BOSTON afternoon and FALL RIVER, MA at night.
• Oct. 31.— BROCKTON, MA
• Nov. 2. — ROCHESTER, NY at Fitzhugh Hall scheduled.
• Nov. 3. — BUFFALO, NY, Concert Hall at the Teck Theater Building scheduled.
• Nov. 4.— MILWAUKEE at West Side Turner Hall, the largest hall in the city. Large attendance included a number of farmers who came to town for the speech. Overflow crowd and a scheduled overflow meeting held at Freie Germania Hall. Debs was accompanied by a number of campaign speakers, including Seymour Stedman, Victor L. Berger (running for Congress in the 5th District), Winfield Gaylord (running for Congress in the 4th District), William A. Arnold, candidate for Governorn, Rev. E.E. Carr, and others.
• Nov. 5. — RACINE, WI scheduled
• Nov. 6. — DETROIT at Light Guards’ Armory scheduled.
• Nov. 7. — TERRE HAUTE, IN to close the campaign.
• NOV. 8. — ***ELECTION DAY***

Unsurprisingly, the exhausted Debs barely wrote or spoke on socialist themes for the rest of the year. He spent  time at home in Terre Haute, recuperating. Things got so bad that Victor Berger’s Social Democratic Herald was reduced to running repackaged “reruns” of EVD’s material like recycled Peanuts strips…

Berger and Debs were very, very friendly from 1897 to 1904. VLB was a good newspaper man. He knew that Debs “sold” and he tried to get a Debs article into every issue.

From Debs’ perspective, the Social Democratic Herald was his old paper, The Railway Times, with a new name under new friendly management. He was happy to help.

Things changed between Debs and Berger in 1905…

•          •          •          •          •

My best work of the week…

Gorgeous Socialist political art from 1904. This is a rare image for this period of SPA history, most radical art was still drawn very crudely.

"The Double Headed Octopus" — Socialist 1904 political ca

•          •          •          •          •

Publishing update.

debs-layout.jpgVolume 1 has now moved to the next stage, which is page layout. We’re still fussing a little bit over such matters as whether to use footnotes, chapter notes, or end notes and the size and justification of the quotation text, but it’s starting to look like a real book.

As I expected (but maybe not Haymarket, who has this thing listed as “540 pages” on their website), things will come in just north of 700 pages by the time everything gets tuned up and an index is tacked on.

The reason that I’m not surprised: I have been doing my work as specially formatted 6 inch by 9 inch pages throughout the text compilation and manuscript process. Moreover, I have been approximating the point size used in a standard Haymarket book — so the 753 page manuscript ending up as a 715 page book is vastly more likely than the prospect of it magically shrinking to become a 540 page book… Besides, word count: 275,000 words is 700 pages, give or take.

Haymarket are the absolute kings of massive paperbacks, having a couple in their catalog with over 1,300 pages (!!!) and a couple others weighing in around 1,000. Consequently, producing a fat book is nothing that I feel badly about. The girth will raise the selling price a few bucks, that’s show biz — you get what you pay for.

From my perspective bigger is better when one has six volumes to work with and 12 or 15 volumes worth of material to choose from. Just save as much good stuff out there as you can, that’s the name of the game…


By the way, Haymarket Books is running a 50% off sale through most of the month of August, so this is a fine time to get over there and fill out that library!




The deadline for Eugene V. Debs Selected Works: Volume 3 is October 15, 2018. I had previously set a soft deadline of August 1 to finish the document compilation phase of the project, which means things are now moving into what our soccer friends might call “extra time.” As there is a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words, there will be a number of cuts made, as expected.

I am guessing there will be about two more weeks needed to get finished.

  • “The Class Struggle and Its Impediments” — July 30, 1904 — 1,190 words
  • “Moving Toward Socialism” — Aug. 30, 1904 — 1,767 words
  • “Socialists Making Unprecedented Gains” — Oct. 1, 1904 — 622 words
  • “Principle Shall Prevail: Campaign Speech in Milwaukee” [excerpt] — Nov. 4, 1904 — 4,238 words
  • “The Swing of Victory” — Nov. 9, 1904 — 396 words
  • “Known by Its Fruits” — Dec. 24, 1904 — 655 words

Word count:291,422 in the can + 8,868 this week = 300,290 words total.

The above material — along with fairly vast numbers of other Debs speeches and articles — is available for free download via Marxists Internet Archive <>

About carrite

Independent scholar from Corvallis, Oregon with a strong interest in early 20th century political history.
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2 Responses to The Election of 1904 (18-26)

  1. Magnificent web site. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to some pals ans additionally sharing in delicious.And naturally, thanks to your sweat!


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