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News and information from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lecture honors DeGruson

For the 10th annual Gene DeGruson Memorial Lecture, organizers have schedule a speaker on a topic the lecture’s namesake would have loved.

The lecture, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 9, in Axe Library, will feature Dr. Sharon Neet, a professor of History at the University of Minnesota-Crookston. Neet, a colleague and friend of Gene DeGruson, will deliver a lecture titled “E. Haldeman-Julius: The Paper Giant.”

DeGruson, the curator of the Special Collections Department for Pittsburg State University for more than 30 years, was an expert on the life of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius and compiled the most complete collection of the editor’s papers and publications available. Neet, a leading scholar on the history of southeast Kansas, will honor DeGruson’s foundational work and bring to light new information and insights on the life of Haldeman-Julius.

When Emanuel Julius, an ambitious 26-year-old socialist journalist, came to Girard in the fall of 1915. His career had already taken him from his native Philadelphia to writing for the leading socialist newspapers of New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles. What attracted Julius to Girard was The Appeal to Reason, the most prestigious and widely circulated socialist newspaper in America. It didn’t hurt that the Appeal also paid higher salaries than the metropolitan dailies for which Julius had worked.

Within a year, Julius married a Girard banker and within five years he became the owner of the Appeal Publishing Company. Julius became one of the most significant publishers of the first half of the 20th century, printing books that would change the reading habits of America.

In 1919 the Haldeman-Julius Publishing Company began to produce pocket-sized books at a reasonable cost. By May there were 13 titles. The emphasis in the beginning was on socialism titles, but there were also literary works. Many of the early socialism titles were replaced with additional literary works, a number of “free thought” works, and several on sex, such as the writings of Margaret Sanger. By 1923, more than 500 titles had been issued and the “Little Blue Books” were selling thousands of copies annually by mail order throughout the nation.

At the time of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius’s death in 1951, the “Little Blue Book” series included just over 2,200 titles. Many of the titles were controversial at the time they were published and remain so even today. Included were books of skepticism and criticism of religion, government, and numerous other topics. Just as significant, however, is the record of important works Haldeman-Julius commissioned or supported. A series of philosophical essays first published as “Little Blue Books” later became Will Durant’s “The Story of Philosophy.”

Works by Anton Chekov, Leo Tolstoy, and other foreign writers were translated into the English language for the first time for the “Little Blue Book” series, and many Americans were introduced to such important authors as Margaret Sanger, Clarence Darrow, H. G. Wells, Havelock Ellis, and Bertrand Russell through the Haldeman-Julius publications.

---Pitt State---