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What Everyman Should Know: Emanuel Julius’s Radical Little Blue Books Pocket-Series
By Dylan Wheeler
In 1905, fifteen year-old Emanuel Julius was browsing through available titles in
Nicholas L. Brown’s bookshop located on Fifth and Pine Street in his hometown of
Philadelphia. A used pamphlet edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol
caught Emanuel’s eye, and he purchased the poem for only a dime. Ignoring the cold of
that winter afternoon, he crossed the street towards a nearby park, and sat under a tree as
he read Wilde’s ballad cover-to-cover. By the time he finished, the cold had turned
Emanuel’s hands blue, but he couldn’t be bothered. He was somewhere else entirely.
That ten-cent booklet stirred something within him that would determine the path of his
life. How wonderful would it be if thousand of such booklets were available? It is the
memory of that evening spent reading that inspired Emanuel to create the Little Blue
The series is comprised of thousands of titles, each printed in a small three
and a half by five-‐inch staple-‐bound booklet. At just twenty-‐five cents per booklet,
these tracts were the first form of affordable “paperback” literature for many in the
working class. Even the poorest Americans could now obtain extensive personal
literary and philosophical collections ordered simply through a mail-‐in subscriber
list. Thousands of works, both classical and contemporary, were compressed into a
small text block of roughly sixty-‐four pages. In fact, the booklets gained worldwide
popularity for their affordable price and transportable nature. How Emanuel
Haldeman-‐Julius came to achieve this feat leads to a story of a young revolutionary
dedicated to bettering his fellow man.
Emanuel Julius was born in Philadelphia, in
1889. He was the son of Russian-Jewish Parents who
had immigrated to America just two years prior. His
father, David Julius, worked as a bookbinder. 1 This
bookish profession created in Emanuel a fascination
for books from a very young age. However, his
family did not have much money, and it was difficult
for Emanuel to find books that he could afford. In
later recollections about his childhood, Emanuel
reflected, “seeing a book I could not afford to buy
was worse than being hungry and looking at a bun in
the bakery window.”
Emanuel was often harassed on account of his Jewish background, to the point
that he decided to leave his religious faith behind altogether. Instead, he adopted a new
belief, a faith in man. Socialism was rapidly expanding in the early twentieth century.
Between 1902 and 1912, over three hundred socialist newspapers spread across America
and published a wide variety of affordable literature. The pragmatism and focus on
everyday people of socialist print enticed Emanuel. Indeed, the movement’s convictions
soon became his own. Although his formal education ended at the age of thirteen,
Emanuel became an avid reader, and his passion for books and knowledge inspired him
to take up writing. His first article as a teenager, titled “Mark Twain—Radical,” was sold
to the International Socialist Review and earned Emanuel ten dollars.
1 His father’s name prior to his americanization was David Zolajefsky.
This success would lead Emanuel to obtain a job as copyreader at the socialist
newspaper Philadelphia Daily. There his talent for writing provided correspondent
positions with several other socialist papers, including: The Milwaukee Leader, Chicago
Daily World, Los Angeles Citizen, and the New York Call. In 1915, Emanuel’s reputation
as an effective writer landed him also a position at the Appeal of Reason, the Girard, in
Kansas, based socialist newspaper.
Appeal of Reason was one of America’s most popular socialist newspapers, with
nearly 700,000 subscribers by 1912. Founded by J.A. Wayland in 1895, the newspaper’s
name was inspired by the works of the English born, revolutionary Thomas Paine, whose
radical and elegance eloquence spurred the American Revolution with influential
publications such as Common Sense. Although Girard was largely a conservative town,
where people at first frowned upon what they perceived as the advent of a “wild eyed
fanatic” in J.A. Wayland. Such apprehensions were quickly laid to rest the moment the
newspaper became the largest employer of the town and important source of economic
However, when Emanuel Julius came to Appeal of Reason in 1915, the newspaper
had begun to experience a sharp decline in popularity. Just three years prior, J.A.
Wayland, the editor of Appeal of Reason, had committed suicide. Inside a book sitting on
the bedside table next to where Wayland had shot himself, he wrote the epitaph: “The
struggle under the competitive system is not worth the effort; let it pass.” Wayland’s
initial enthusiasm for the socialist cause had diminished in the face of an increasingly
unsympathetic public. Indeed, just year prior the Social Democratic party itself had been
split in two over the fundamental debate of whether or not America should enter the
Great War in Europe.2
Living in Girard, Kansas, Emanuel Julius met Marcet Haldeman, an aspiring stage
actress who belonged to one of the town’s most affluent families. Marcet, a fiercely
independent, well educated, and outspoken feminist, might have seemed intimidating to
most men. However, Emanuel quickly fell in love and married after only a six-month
courtship on June 1st, 1916. As a demonstration of their commitment to gender equality
and mutual respect, Emanuel and Marcet combined their surnames, which changes
Julius’s name into Emanuel Haldeman-Julius.
As the two newlyweds settled into married life, Appeal of Reason experienced a
severe loss of subscribers as a response to larger changing political attitudes in America
following the end of World War I.3 Julius saw the need to make drastic changes to the
failing newspaper. With the help of his wife and her substantial inheritance, he purchased
a controlling interest of Appeal of Reason in January of 1919.
Julius had learned from Marion Wharton, the head of the English department at
the People’s College of Fort Scott, just thirty miles north of Girard, that cheap literature
for college students was unavailable. In homage to the cheap booklet that Julius had
devoured in his youth, he started printing thousands of copies of Oscar Wilde’s The
Ballad of Reading Gaol to test the waters of the literary marketplace. He found out that
2 The Sedition and Espionage Acts passed by Congress towards the end of World War I and targeted dissent towards the government’s war efforts. As a result, many members left the socialist movement out of fear of being associated with the anti-‐ war rhetoric. 3 The paper had flipped its stance on American militarism to protect itself from the government’s wrath, and loyal subscribers saw this change as a clear sign that the editors were not fully committed to the ideals of socialism.
when he sold these copies alongside the Appeal’s standard publication for only twenty-
five cents, that these cheap Wild booklets were an instant success.
Emanuel soon conceived the idea of publishing a fifty-book series of classical
works, dubbed “The Appeal’s pocket-series.” The literary series, which only cost five
dollars, received over fi