Tales from the Trenches (19-18)



Appeal to Reason whole no. 755 (May 21,1910), p. 3.

by George D. Brewer

Fort Smith, Arkansas, May 7, 1910

Arkansas more than made good at the Debs meetings in Fort Smith and Texarkana on Saturday and Monday nights, May 7th and 9th [1910]. At Fort Smith there were 2,000 paid admissions to the park auditorium in spite of cold and rain. For two hours and ten minutes Debs kept the big audience warm with his unerring logic and irresistible appeals….


George D. Brewer as he appeared in 1903.

The only thing to mar the perfect joy of this meeting was the appearance of a park policeman who compelled an old colored comrade, Sam Pruett, from McCurtain, Oklahoma, to leave the auditorium before he had time to fairly get seated in the extreme rear. The policeman was simply enforcing one of the disfranchising laws which prevails in the Democratic South, prohibiting negroes from entering places of this kind.

Comrade Pruett had traveled 50 miles in a wagon to hear Debs, but, understanding that the Socialists were not responsible, he wended his weary journey home a better socialist than when he came. In this instance the effort of capitalism to keep the working negro in ignorance will react and make an otherwise lukewarm comrade into a militant agitator.

Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas, May 9, 1910

In many ways this was one of the most remarkable meetings ever held. Hundreds of people from a radius of 500 miles gathered to hear the message of socialism from the lips of the great-hearted Gene. One comrade came from West Texas, over 500 miles away; another comrade paid $30 car fare for himself and wife; one walked 16 miles to catch a train and then rode 90 miles, while another was three days making the journey in a wagon with his family. Not one but went home feeling fully repaid for all trouble and expense.

It seemed that ever conceivable obstacle arose to thwart the success of the meeting, but in spite of them all the comrades, after taking hold of the proposition would not let go, and by grim tenacity of purpose made out of what looked to be an inevitable failure a splendid success.

When the local was considering holding a Debs meeting a big “religious” revival was going on at what was known as the Torrey Tabernacle, and, knowing that this meeting was to close on Sunday night, May 8th, they interviewed the committee in charge of the tabernacle and promised its use. Highly elated over their success they immediately ordered advertising to that effect. No sooner, however, did they get things well under way than they were informed that just as soon as Rev. Torrey finished is services the destruction of the building would begin and that Debs would not be permitted to speak there.

Becoming uneasy the Socialists went to the members of the tabernacle committee to have verified the permission that had previously been given them. They were unable to get any satisfaction one way or the other. A very short time after, the committee emphatically denied having ever promised it to the Socialists and one man declared that he would spend $500 in necessary to keep Debs and the Socialists out of that hallowed place. So, after having been promised the tabernacle and advertising extensively throughout the country that the meeting would be held there, they suddenly found that the committee had reconsidered and would not under any consideration permit Debs its use. Fifty dollars, the price agreed upon, was no inducement, and on Monday [May 9], the date of the Debs meeting, the tearing down of the structure began.

The only meeting place at the late day available was the opera house and it was not until after a vaudeville show was over. It was 9:45 when Debs got on the platform, but he had a full house and all remained until he concluded at almost 11:30.

In the interval from 7:30 to 9:30 a splendid street meeting was held at which Comrades [Carl D.] Thompson, Corrigan, and I spoke. The Socialists of Texarkana came out all right, financially and in every other way, in spite of every handicap.

• • • • •

Update on the Debs Publication Project

As you are no doubt aware, I shut down the Debs blog for a couple months this summer. It was getting in the way of what I was doing; I do the blog when it helps the writing process and hit the brakes when it gets in the way. I’m now transitioning back into daily work on Volume 4: Red Union, Red Paper, Red Train (1905-1910), however, and it’s time to reactivate as a means of spurring my energy — probably for the rest of the year.

Here’s a quick rundown of where the volumes sit.

Volume 2: The Rise and Fall of the American Railway Union (1892-1896) is now headed for indexing. We had one enormous problem when all the footnotes went “missing” from the InDesign layout, then another problem when some footnotes were introduced improperly at the bottom of pages while others were correctly at the end of each year. So, that’s two big layout messes which needed to be cleaned up — now done satisfactorily, we all hope.


Cover art has changed from the first draft and cover content has likewise been updated nice and pretty. I dig it.

I’m not certain how long the indexing will take. After the final manuscript with the index rolls in, I will take one final quick glance and then we’re off to production.

This volume is scheduled for Dec. 3 release on the Haymarket site but I have a hunch this thing may not be out before Christmas. We’ll see. The wheels turn slowly in publishing and this project in particular is a marathon, not a sprint. Anyway, I will take the “over” on the December 3 projection, but I would love to be wrong…

volume3-coverVolume 3: The Path to a Socialist Party (1897-1904) is past the copyreader’s edit and in my hands for final revision. I’ve been moving slowly on this, well aware that Job 1 is getting the ARU volume through the works and Job 2 is making sure that the manuscript for the Red Union volume gets to the church on time. There is a chance that this one could appear fairly rapidly behind the ARU volume, but I wouldn’t plan on that.

To the right is a mockup of the cover, which uses the same (1904) photo of Debs that had originally been slated for the cover art for volume 2. We’re all so used to seeing pictures of Debs as an old man that it’s easy to forget that much of his activity was done when he was young and vital.

Haymarket has this one listed on their website with a February 4, 2020 projected release date. I would bet the farm that it will actually appear several months later than that. I should probably talk to the publisher about setting a more realistic date for May or June or something, some date midway between volumes 2 and 4.

Volume 4: Red Union, Red Paper, Red Train (1905-1910) is the volume I have been working on throughout 2019. I’ve got everything in the hopper through 1909 and am now picking my way through 1910, which seems to have been a pretty busy year for EVD. I’ve still got about 70 articles to sort through, of which I might type up 20 or 25. I probably do need to take another look at 1909 as well, it was pretty much a lost year for Debs with no speeches on the radar between the November 1908 election and August of 1909.

I know that he had problems with his throat during this interval. I wonder if he also had a nervous breakdown or something like that. It is really weird the way he shut things down, and its not like he was contributing a vast amount of thorough journalism either. I’ve only got 7 items up for 1909, with only 3 or 4 remaining to run down and the rest of the 65 or so pieces dismissed from inclusion.

I suppose I should do a full blog on that.

Beginning in October 1909 EVD is back in the saddle as a touring lecturer with the Appeal to Reason acting as booking agent and he was again working like a dog.

This volume might reasonably be expected in November or December 2020, just guessing.

By then I will be deeply into work on Vol. 5: Radical Leader at Zenith (1911-1916) or whatever it will be called. I still don’t 100% like that name, but it’s not totally terrible either.

The final installment will definitely be called Vol. 6: The Perils of Pacifism (1917-1926). The dividing line between those two volumes might shift one year depending on the amount of content.

These will release one per year.



The revised deadline for Eugene V. Debs Selected Works: Volume 4 is December 31, 2019. Here are some of the latest files typed up into editable form.

  • “A Workingman Has No Chance in Federal Court: Speech in Chicago” (Jan. 13, 1910) — 3,709 words
  • “On Ben Hanford’s Death: Telegram to the New York Call” (Jan. 26, 1910) — 347 words
  • “The More I Think of It, The Hotter My Blood Becomes: Letter to Fred D. Warren in Girard, Kansas” (Feb. 5, 1910) — 550 words
  • “First Speaking Tour of 1910” (March 5, 1910) — 893 words
  • “Prostitution of Religion” (April 23, 1910) — 510 words

Current word count, including the above = 273,640 words total, of which 254,924 words are tagged for possible inclusion in Volume 4. The book has a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words, which means we are already into the cut zone. I’ve got about two or three more weeks of work on 1910 and then I will double back to 1908 and work through Newspapers.com to see if there are any speeches which were extensively reported in the mainstream press that Constantine and Malgreen missed.

David Walters will be running all of this material up on Marxists Internet Archive in coming days.

To find it, please visit the Eugene V. Debs Internet Archive.



There has been a fairly vast amount of material digitized since the last installment of this blog. See:

Appeal to Reason (through 1910)

Chicago Daily Socialist (through April 1910)

New York Call (through 1910)

I’m currently working my way through the rest of 1910 for the Chicago Daily Socialist

About carrite

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